The History of
Saint Edward Catholic Church
“I loved her and sought her from my youth, and I desired to take her for my bride, and I became enamored of her beauty....”
--Book of Wisdom 8:2
The prospects of work and free land brought an influx of German immigrants to Little Rock in the 1800s. Flocking to Saint Andrew’s Cathedral as their house of worship, the numbers grew, and so did the need for another church. In 1883 the Most Reverend Edward Fitzgerald, bishop of Little Rock, heard the pleas and sanctioned a new parish. A two-story frame building to be used as a church, school, and rectory was begun and the church was dedicated August 26, 1885, under the title of Saint Edward, King and Confessor, in honor of Bishop Fitzgerald.
During the succeeding years the parish grew and in six years the church had become insufficient for the numbers and new construction was needed. On November 10, 1901, Father Fintan Kraemer, O.S.B. laid the cornerstone for the present church and on July 4, 1905, the new church was dedicated. The main altar, crafted in Germany, is of hand-carved oak and onyx-inlay. The statues on the main alter—Saint Edward, Saint Catherine and Saint Henry—are of hand-carved wood and painted. The statues marking the 14 stations on the Way of the Cross also are made of German craftsmanship. The church is of Gothic design and its architect was Charles L. Thompson. The pointed arches, the soaring lines, the slender columns have a close kinship with the many European cathedrals. Saint Edward’s school opened in 1885 with 64 pupils. After a series of lay teachers, the Olivetan Benedictine Sisters of Jonesboro took over the school in 1892. Classes have been conducted in three different buildings until the current building was dedicated in 1955. A new wing and gymnasium were added in 1963 and the enrollement, bolstered by busing of students from Little Rock Air Force Base, hit an all-time high of 363 in 1964. St. Edward's School seeks to offer high quality academic programs, which are integrated with religious truth and values. Students are prepared for life in today's Church and society and for leadership in society and the Church of tomorrow through a strong, basic and contemporary curriculum by instruction and formation in the beliefs, values and traditions of Catholic Christianity. The development of the whole person of the student, spiritually, intellectually, personally, socially, and physically is the focus of Catholic Education. The teachers, as partners with the parents, play a significant role in this educational ministry as they daily witness to the meaning of mature faith and Christian living. They are selected with care and are challenged to on-going professional and spiritual growth. Broad goals of the Catholic school are to teach the Gospel message, to build a faith community and to be of Christian service. Specific goals flow from the fundamental understanding of the school as a Christian educational community.
Our mission is to teach Catholic doctrine and to develop strong Christian values that give children a knowledge and love of God and their community. To achieve this we follow the directives of the American Bishops, to educate the whole child. This approach considers each student's mental, physical and spiritual well-being as well as his or her intellectual development with the end goal being the development of a responsible, moral and caring individual within the faith community and the world at large. To provide for the worship of God, a church of great majesty, splendor, and tradition has become an architectural achievement on campus.
Like those same German immigrants at the turn of the century, Saint Edward’s parishioners today have found the need to expand. With the restoration of the church completed, the parishioners turn their attention to the school.
In order for the school to meet the ever changing educational needs of modern students, a school addition was completed in September 2007. This addition includes four new classrooms, a top-of-the-line science lab and computer lab, and a media center. Other benefits of the expansion include an improved and relocated school office, teacher's lounge, and a large multi-purpose room for both school and parish use. A virtual tour of the updated school is available on the school portion of the St. Edward website.
Saint Edward's Parish sits in the middle of progress and expansion in downtown Little Rock-the River Market District, the President Clinton Library, the new headquarters of the Heifer Project, renovated buildings, new buildings all lie in wait. The Capital city is undergoing a cultural explosion unlike any seen before. With a modern and more appealing campus Saint Edward could not only benefit from this phenomenon, but with its multicultural and ethnic makeup could very well be a leader. But just as at every stage of its history, the future of Saint Edward lies in the people. The German immigrants had the vision and hard work to begin the parish. The Spanish-speaking parishioners have shared their culture and devout Catholic faith. Most recently it has been the sacrifices of the whole parish that made the renovation of the church and the creation of the new school building possible. The future of St. Edward now lies in you.