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             The History of Catholic Education in Mitchell

For over 100 years Catholic Education has played in integral role in the religious formation, and the academic and personal development in students.  This opportunity for growth has been made available because of the generosity and commitment of the Presentation Sisters, dedicated priests, and caring parish families. 

In 1886 meetings were held to build a Catholic school to be under the direction of the Sisters of Charity from Fond du Lac, WI.  On May 23, 1886 the school cornerstone was placed.  The school was opened on September 6, 1886 with 46 students.  In 1895 four Benedictine sisters from Yankton were sent to staff Holy Family School.  They taught there for three years.   In 1898 the Presentation Sisters of Aberdeen sent four sisters to continue Catholic education in Mitchell.

In 1912 a decision was made to tear down Holy Family School and build a new one.  The Notre Dame Academy was started in 1912.  The first graduating class of 1914 consisted of two members.

In 1918, Notre Dame Junior College opened in Mitchell.  The East wing of the Notre Dame Academy building was added in 1921.  The Presentation Sisters nurtured these schools for many years by providing nuns for teachers, administrators, and helping in the overall operations of the building.  As time passed, the Sisters envisioned a growing need for expanding the opportunities for college students.  These needs were met by merging Notre Dame Junior College with Presentation Junior College of Aberdeen in 1951.   Notre Dame Junior College graduated 1,376 students during its 29 year existence in Mitchell.

In 1954 the Holy Family gymnasium was built across the street from the school, and new additions to the Notre Dame Academy building were completed in 1955 and 1960.  In 1962, the steady growth of the Mitchell community led Holy Family parish to split.  Holy Spirit Parish was formed and in 1964 Holy Spirit School opened its doors to students in grades one through eight.  

Notre Dame High School moved to the former public high school building on East Fifth Street in the winter of 1963.  Students from both parishes took advantage of this opportunity to continue their Catholic education at the new location.  Financial woes began to plague the high school operation in the late sixties, and in 1970 the difficult decision was made to close Notre Dame High School. 

In 1987 Holy Family and Holy Spirit Schools joined to form the Mitchell Catholic School system. With the departure of the Presentation Sisters from Mitchell, the schools would be without religious sisters for the first time since the school’s inception.

Over the next several years, Holy Family and Holy Spirit schools streamlined their operations by eliminating grades seven and eight while adding preschool services.  The Holy Family site housed grades three through sixth, and the Holy Spirit site housed Preschool –second grades.  Combined school enrollment at that time was 293.

In 1999 Holy Family and Holy Spirit parishes made the decision to combine the Catholic School System into one facility; with the encouragement from the Bishop, Pastors, parents and school personnel.  An intensive fundraising campaign was launched to fund the new construction.  On May 1, 2000, the new John Paul II Elementary school held its groundbreaking as an addition to the Holy Spirit School.  Holy Family School was closed and classrooms were moved into the new John Paul II facility.  On January 2, 2001 all students started school at John Paul II Elementary School. 

In 2005 the abandoned yet venerable Notre Dame Academy was demolished to make way for the new addition of Holy Family Church. 

Today strong Catholic Education opportunities are still available because of the faithful support of the Holy Family and Holy Spirit parishes along with the administration, staff and families of John Paul II School.

If you would like more information on how you can support the continuation of Catholic Education in Mitchell contact Nicole Fuhrer, Development Director for the Mitchell Foundation for Catholic Education
at 605-999-9127 or


    The Mitchell Foundation for Catholic Education was originally the

Notre Dame  Foundation, formed in 1991. The purpose of this

Foundation is to create a sound financial base, through an endowment,

to support Catholic education in  Mitchell.  In addition, through its

financial resources, the MFCE intends to  support the spiritual,

educational, and 
social well-being of our Catholic faith community.

Over the past 19
years  the Foundation has seen many changes
including the name. Our 
purpose is the same, the goal of building a

solid Catholic education for
our faith community.

    Guiding the Foundation is a board of Holy Spirit

Holy Family laity and clergy. This board oversees all investment

activity by the Foundation, providing expert and sound leadership

for the 
Foundation’s assets. The Foundation’s ministry is to enhance

stewardship of the Catholic community whereby the faithful share

expertise, time, talent, wisdom, and financial resources.

We wish to 
continue to financially assist and  lead the

John Paul II Elementary School,
the Faith Formation Program,

and the Parishes of Holy Family and Holy 
Spirit to new

heights of Catholic excellence.

"The Cornerstone"
by John C. Green

Get your lasting keepsake of Notre Dame Academy, Mitchell South Dakota,
painted by John Green, a famous South Dakota artist.

Purchase a signed, numbered, and limited edition 16" x 20" print
by calling any of the following Mitchell framers:

James River Gallery - Jim Piper 605-996-5075
Tumbleweed 605-996-1214
John Paul II School 605-996-2365

MFCE office 605-999-9127

Prints are available as follows:

Prints #2 - #10 $90 Only at James River Gallery
Prints #11 - #25 $60 Tumbleweed and James River Gallery
Remaining prints $30 All Places

Fundraiser sponsored by the
Mitchell Foundation for Catholic Education

Notre Dame Crest