The possibility of St. Joseph's Academy originated in Lyons, France, when Mother St. John Fontbonne, the Superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph, responded to an appeal in the mid-1830s from Bishop Joseph Rosati of St. Louis to send teachers to the mission territories of Carondelet and Cahokia. In particular, he requested sisters to teach deaf children. Immediately upon arrival, the sisters opened a convent school, followed by St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf in 1837 and St. Joseph’s Academy in 1840.

Providing a French education for girls, for several years the Academy was known affectionately as Mother Celestine’s school, for its founder. In the spring of 1841, the Academy moved from log cabin lodgings to a three-story brick building that still stands today at the motherhouse, and over time, built a reputation of excellence that continues today. Although the Academy has moved twice since its humble beginnings in Carondelet, it maintains the identity and Core Values established those many years ago.

Our Mission

St. Joseph's Academy is a college preparatory high school sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Our mission at the Academy is to provide quality Catholic education for young women in an environment that challenges them to grow in faith, knowledge, and respect for self and others. Our community expects these young women to make a profound impact in the world.

The SJA Story

List of 6 items.

  • Philosophy

    Jesus said, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets also." (Mt 22:37-40)

    St. Joseph's Academy bases its philosophy on the teachings of Jesus Christ. Wishing to follow the commandments given to us by Jesus, we strive to provide an environment where each student can develop as a whole person and where she can be guided toward service to God and neighbor.
    Every aspect of the SJA experience affirms the love of God for each individual and awakens an ardent response to that love from her. This community encourages young women to examine their hearts, to understand their emotions as powerful gifts, and to discern the way to use these gifts for good. SJA acknowledges the uniqueness of each individual and strives to nurture the integrity and autonomy of its students. Administration, faculty, and staff understand that by their actions they demonstrate responsible behavior and commitment to Catholic values. Interactions with adults and with other students foster growth in self-awareness, understanding of others, and decision-making.
    As a reflection of the mind of God, the human mind deserves our deepest respect and most careful nurturing. Together, we create a community of learning where students can develop their abilities and find encouragement and appreciation for their diverse gifts. Our curriculum prepares students to function successfully in a complex society, to act ethically, and to confront injustice in the contemporary world.
    The second great commandment of Jesus echoes in the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, the exhortation to "reach out to the dear neighbor." Jesus would have us love our neighbor as ourselves; to do this, our students develop a love for self. Our responsibility as a community is twofold: first, to help our students grow in self-respect as well as respect for others, and second, to provide opportunities and to challenge our students to serve others at school and in the larger world.
  • Our School Motto: Not I, But We

    In the mid-1970s, then Principal Sr. Mary de Paul Berra coined the school motto “Not I, But We.” Derived from the call of Father Jean Pierre Medaille, co-founder of the order of the Sisters of St. Joseph, to "serve the dear neighbor without distinction,” it continues to serve as a challenge and an affirmation to the members of the St. Joseph’s Academy that we are part of a community, here at school, and of a larger community. Each day, the St. Joe girl is called to live out Not I, But We in all aspects of her life.
  • History

    In the mid-1830s, the Sisters of St. Joseph in Lyons, France, led by Mother St. John Fontbonne, responded to a request for teachers from Joseph Rosati, bishop of St. Louis, that appeared in the Annales of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith.

    In 1836, six sisters made the arduous journey to the villages of Carondelet and Cahokia outside the fledgling city of St. Louis, half of whom established their little congregation on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River at what is still the motherhouse of the order today at 6400 Minnesota. Two more sisters, specially trained to teach deaf children, many of whom had lost their hearing to diphtheria and scarlet fever, arrived a year later While eventually leaving Cahokia, within a few years at Carondelet, the sisters had established a co-ed school for young children; the St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf; and in 1840, St. Joseph’s Academy, an elementary and secondary school for girls, all on a shoestring budget that called for great sacrifice and with the aid of generous benefactors.

    For the first few years, a log cabin, eventually expanded, served as both schoolroom and residence for the sisters and students, some of whom were boarders. Soon, several buildings were constructed, including the three-story brick edifice, completed in the spring of 1841, that housed the Academy. Only the Academy of those early buildings survives today, the cabin and other structures destroyed in a series of fires in the mid-1800s. Because the Academy offered a “French” education, for its first few years it was often referred to by the name of its founder as Mother Celestine’s school. Within twenty years, by the time of the Civil War, it was attracting students from thirteen states. While the Academy eventually discontinued its elementary program, it continued to board students until 1933.

    The Academy was chartered as an approved educational institution by the state of Missouri in 1843 and in 1913 was affiliated with both the University of Missouri and Catholic University. In 1922, it was fully accredited with the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

    By the early twentieth century, it was clear that the Minnesota property could no longer accommodate the needs of both the motherhouse and its growing schools. In addition, the order had decided to establish a college for women and in 1908 purchased sixteen-plus acres in Clayton, Missouri, that is still home to Fontbonne University. In 1925, the Academy, with an enrollment of more than 100, and the young College, established in 1923, moved to the newly constructed Fontbonne campus located at Wydown and Big Bend boulevards. For the next thirty years, both the College and Academy enjoyed success and growth. Many Academy traditions established at Carondelet were continued, while others were established at Fontbonne. The price of success, though, was that within twenty years, it was clear that the Wydown campus was not large enough to serve both the high school and college, and in 1946, thirty-seven acres were purchased in the quasi-rural location of Frontenac on Lindbergh Boulevard.

    In 1955, the new St. Joseph’s Academy opened with 400 students, and for the first time in its history, had a campus and an identity all to itself. At the time of its opening, it boasted the latest in modern technology and design, housed in four buildings built for 500 students on a spacious campus. To accommodate increased enrollment and expanded academic and co- curricular programs, these facilities were enlarged in 1985 with the addition of the three-story Carondelet Hall.

    In 1993, St. Joseph’s Academy was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. The award was granted based on measurements of effective schooling that included leadership, teaching environment, curriculum and instruction, student government, parent and community support, and organizational vitality. In 2003, the Academy became one of the first schools in the St. Louis area to integrate a one-to-one laptop program. In 2005, it was named by Sports Illustrated magazine as having the Best High School Athletic Program in the State of Missouri.

    At the turn of the new century, the Academy again expanded its facilities with the construction in 2004 of the Student Life Center, which boasts a state-of-the-art gym and physical training center, 700-seat performing arts theater, a multi-use commons, four classrooms, choral room, and music practice rooms. Renovations in the existing main building also created a new guidance department suite as well as other improvements. Outdoor athletic facilities have also been expanded in recent years, including a new eight-court tennis complex, enhanced softball facilities, and a lacrosse field. Most recently, in 2013, the Sisters of St. Joseph transferred the convent to the school for its use.
  • History of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet

    In 1650, six women joined together in community under the patronage of St. Joseph in Le Puy, France, in what became the order of the Sisters of St. Joseph. They were neither educated nor wealthy, but worked to support themselves by making lace, a common trade in that region of France. Henry de Maupas, Bishop of Le Puy, and Jean Pierre Medaille, a Jesuit priest, are the order’s founders. Devoted to the needs of ordinary people, the sisters lived uncloistered among the people and offered their lives in love and service to the "practice of all the spiritual and corporal works of mercy of which woman is capable and which will most benefit the dear neighbor."

    This group of women grew in number and service until they were forced to
    disband during the political turmoil of the French Revolution in the 1790s.
    Mother St. John Fontbonne, a heroic woman who narrowly escaped the guillotine, herself, rebuilt the order in Lyons, France, following the end of the Reign of Terror, and it was she who responded to the appeal from Bishop Joseph Rosati of St. Louis for missionaries to teach poor and deaf children. Among the first six sisters who made the journey to Carondelet were two of her own nieces. The community established at Carondelet was the first for the sisters in North America and the cradle of the American congregation.

    Two of the sisters began St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf in 1837, still located in the St. Louis area. The roots those pilgrim sisters put down continue to grow today. In countless locations, the sisters minister in schools and universities, parishes, health care facilities, clinics, retreat houses, and neighborhood outreach centers.

    Besides Missouri, province houses were established in New York, Minnesota, and California. During the middle of the twentieth century, vice province houses were established in Hawaii, Japan, and Peru. Currently, there are twenty-two congregations represented in the United States Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

    The St. Louis Province of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet maintains the distinction of preserving the site of the original foundation in Carondelet. With the spread of the Sisters of St. Joseph throughout the United States, headquarters for the St. Louis Province remain to this day at the original site at 6400 Minnesota Avenue in the City of St. Louis, home to the first St. Joseph’s Academy. The original Academy building of 1841 is still in use as office and community space. Although the Academy relinquished its Carondelet location in 1925, the St. Louis Province continues to sponsor the school.

    In concert with other units of the congregation, the sisters of the St. Louis Province work to form loving relationships with God, themselves, the community, the Church, society, and all creation through the ministries of prayer, direct service, consciousness-raising, and systemic change.

    Visit the Province website at for information about Province activities and tours of the motherhouse at Carondelet.
  • Traditions

    St. Joseph's Academy has many traditions that are important to our community and deeply rooted in our history. The spirit of these traditions dates back to that of those young pioneer sisters who were inspired by faith and a desire to serve where needed. In fact, the school’s tradition of “serving the dear neighbor without distinction” is one of its oldest. For decades it has been most dramatically witnessed in such programs as Mission Week and Senior Projects, but being of service has been part of the Academy’s core identity in every era in ways large and small. In this tradition, as in so many others, students and staff are joined in their efforts by parents and by alumnae, who treasure their own experience of Academy traditions.

    Special events are also a rich part of school tradition. Class Day enjoyed a history of almost 100 years before being transformed into Baccalaureate Mass. Many school dances date to the Fontbonne years, including Winter and Prom, with the Father-Daughter Banquet, in a league of its own, dating to the 1940s. The distribution of a school ring can be traced to the 1920s, with the actual ceremony as we know it today evolving over the course of many decades. Graduation has been held in the outdoor theater since the school’s first year at Frontenac.

    Other long-standing traditions give way with the times, such as May Crowning, which was celebrated on all three campuses from at least the 1890s to the 1960s, and the Horse Show, which enjoyed a nearly fifty year run. Still other traditions are tied to a particular grade. For decades freshmen have worn a special hat during orientation week, beginning with the beanie, and seniors have been granted special privileges. The Academy also began a winning tradition in athletics when it captured its first State Championship in 1975.

    Traditions are the ties that bind today’s school community to those who came before – sisters, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, alumnae. Today's students, faculty, administration, parents, alumnae, and alumnae parents are guardians of St. Joe’s traditions, protecting a rich heritage, even as we add new chapters to the SJA saga.

    Find out more about traditions such as Mission Week, Father-Daughter Dance, Our School Song and Junior Ring by looking under the Student Life section of this website.
  • Graduate Profile

    The Graduate Profile describes the student at the point of exit from St. Joseph’s Academy.

    1 Corinthians 12: 4-7
    There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them for some benefit. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

    The St. Joseph’s Academy graduate:
    • Will manifest a Catholic Christian spirit, which reaches beyond herself, to serve the dear neighbor without distinction.
    • Will be mindful of being in right relationship with God, self and others as a means of living out our motto: "Not I, but We".
    • Will respect the spirituality of all cultures; that is, hers will be an ecumenical spirit.

    Wisdom 7: 22-23
    For within her wisdom is a spirit holy, unique, unsullied, lucid, invulnerable, benevolent, sharp, irresistible, beneficent, loving to all, steadfast, dependable and almighty.

    The St. Joseph’s Academy graduate:
    • Will manifest intellectual curiosity which will lead her to be a life-long learner.
    • Will reflect intellectual leadership which motivates her to be tenacious and responsible with her education.
    • Will develop sensitivity to other cultures and the interpersonal skills needed to work with others.
    • Will maintain the values and critical thinking skills needed in discerning the ethical and moral use of knowledge.

    Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17
    Sisters and Brothers, You are God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But each one must be careful how he builds upon it, for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.

    The St. Joseph’s Academy graduate:
    • Will respect her body as a precious gift from God and treat it accordingly.
    • Will recognize the importance of eating healthy, keeping weight within an appropriate range, and maintaining a proper amount of physical exercise and getting the hours of sleep necessary for a well- functioning body.
    • Will walk with confidence which enables her to look another in the eye when speaking.
    • Will strive to maintain a balance between academics and co-curricular activities in order to put equal emphasis on sharpening both mind and body.
"Reach Out to the Dear Neighbor"
St. Joseph’s Academy is a private, Catholic high school for girls in St. Louis, Missouri, sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Our mission is to provide quality Catholic education for young women in an environment that challenges them to grow in faith, knowledge, and respect for self and others. Our community expects these young women to make a profound impact in the world.

St. Joseph's Academy

2307 South Lindbergh Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63131
Phone: 314-394-4300
Fax: 314-965-9114
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