Holy Name School survives ups and downs – celebrates 100 years

Through 100 years of challenges, growth and demographic change, Holy Name School in Omaha endures as an anchor of stability for its neighborhood and a place of faith and opportunity for underprivileged students. 
Former principal Sofia Kock, who served from 1996 to 2015 and has been a Holy Name parishioner for more than 40 years, said she has seen many changes in the parish and the school.
For years, the school educated the children of predominantly white, working class families. The parish had a small town atmosphere, with many families living in the parish for generations. Some of those families are still there, she said.
Now, the student body is quite diverse, Kock said, including Hispanic, Sudanese and other African-American students.
“As the neighborhood started to change, I credit the good people of Holy Name for recognizing the change and for being open and welcoming to new families,” she said.
“They welcomed those who were non-Catholic, those of different racial make-ups or ethnic backgrounds. They truly opened their doors and said, ‘Come on in, we want you here,’” she said. 
Tanya Murray, who took the principal post this year, said the school has 247 students, from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, many from low-income families.
Nearly half of the students are African-American, 13 percent are Latino and 5 percent are Sudanese. Thirty-one percent of the student body receives some form of tuition assistance. In addition, 25 percent have scholarships from the Children’s Scholarship Fund of Omaha and 20 percent receive other scholarships. 
While she was principal, Kock said, the school made a major effort to bring in Hispanic families who had embraced Holy Name Parish after St. Therese of the Child Jesus Parish closed. That effort is ongoing.
“When the parish began to be recognized as a Hispanic option, that population swelled,” she said. “A whole different culture has arrived, and the school is eager to participate in that.”
Holy Name Parish and School are critical to the stability of the neighborhood, Kock said.
“The school gives people in that neighborhood an alternative to public education,” Kock said. “Some parents are looking for something different, and Holy Name, being smaller and private, provides that option.”
As part of a faith-based education, all students participate in religion classes, where love of God, self and neighbor are taught, she said. With parental permission, non-Catholic students also participate in prayer, the Mass and other Catholic traditions. 
Throughout this year, Holy Name School has been celebrating its legacy – with a dinner in April, when the Redemptorists and the Servants of Mary, who helped found the school, were inducted into the Holy Name Hall of Fame; a June Mass, dinner and dance that drew more than 450 alumni and guests; and an all-school Mass Aug. 29 with Archbishop George J. Lucas.
Murray said the 100-year anniversary has been a good opportunity to bring back generations of alumni, some of whom have relatives attending the school.
“Seeing so many people who are passionate about their love for and connection to Holy Name makes me so glad to be a part of that,” she said. 
Over its 100 years, Holy Name School has faced ups and downs.
Redemptorist Father Louis McKeone, pastor of the newly established parish, pressed the need to establish a school in 1918 in the largely undeveloped area of then-northwest Omaha. 
Classes began Sept. 3, 1918, with 28 students. In 1923 a high school was added, operating until 1926 when it closed temporarily, then reopened in 1927. 
Through the decades, both schools grew and thrived. The current school building was constructed in 1923 and expanded in 1927. But in the 1970s and 1980s, mounting expenses increased financial pressures, finally causing the high school to close in 1989.
The grade school also faced challenges, but survived through various fundraising efforts, and now through membership in the Christian Urban Education Service (CUES), which also supports Sacred Heart and All Saints schools in Omaha.
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