Opened as St. Mary's Seminary in East Providence by the Sisters of Mercy in 1874, St. Mary Academy – Bay View began and continues as a private school for young women.
The focus on single-sex education is rooted in the belief of Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, that “there is nothing more conducive to the good of society than the education of young women.” Continued research supports this value.
In 1874, the Howard Mansion in Riverside, Rhode Island, was purchased by the Sisters of Mercy, under the direction of Mother Mary Bernard Read. The mansion was to be opened as a boarding school for girls. Sister Mary Juliana Purcell was named the first directress, taking charge of students from age five through 18.
Fire destroyed the nineteenth-century building in 1948, making construction of the present complex a necessity. St. Mary Academy – Bay View opened for the first session in the present high school building on January 31, 1949.
In January 1967, St. Mary Academy – Bay View was separately incorporated. The entire elementary school moved to St. Joseph Hall in 1968. The boarding school closed in June 1979. The elementary school was coeducational for many years. In 1970, when grades 7 and 8 became part of the high school, education for boys was formally phased out. By the academic year 1995–96, boys were no longer part of the makeup of the elementary school.
In the spring of 1991, after a year of intense preparation and visitation, the United States Department of Education recognized St. Mary Academy – Bay View as a Blue-Ribbon School of Excellence. Because the level of students continued to become stronger and stronger, by 1996–97, the curriculum no longer included a level-three placement. The Blue-Ribbon School of Excellence was renewed in June 2002.
The Board of Trustees was formed in June 1991. In September 1991, a proposal on reconstructing the Academy was presented to the Board of Trustees “that the elementary and high school combine into one institution—pre-Kindergarten through grade 12 under the direction of a president.”
The proposal became a reality; the elementary and high school combined into one institution. The first president was named in the spring of 1994, began her term of office in the fall of 1994 and was installed the following spring.
In the spring of 1996, for the first time in the history of the Academy, a laywoman (a Mercy Associate) was appointed by the president of the Academy to serve as principal of the Middle and Upper Schools. At the same time, a new focus was established—the Middle School concept. After considerable time spent in workshops and courses, the Middle School became a reality in September 1996.
As part of Bay View’s former strategic plan, Bay View 2000, a facilities study was initiated in September 1997 that resulted in the development of a master facilities plan for the entire complex. The master facilities plan was a multi-phased one. The first phase included construction of an Athletic Wellness Center, which supports the preschool through grade 12 physical education and athletic programs. Subsequent phases included the renovation and relocation of the kitchen, dining room and Upper School Library, installation of a sprinkler system, dedicated exits for early childhood classrooms, renovation of Middle School classrooms, replacement of the central heating plant and underground storage tank, replacement of the Mercy Hall elevator and creation of a new main entrance and reception area.
In July 2017, Sister Marybeth Beretta, a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy, was appointed as the third president of the Academy. As a Sister of Mercy, she has devoted herself to values inspired and grounded in Mercy. She is an experienced leader with exceptional skills in the areas of strategic planning, finance, facilities management and school operations. She will continue to lead Bay View forward as it continues to foster academic excellence and empower young women in the tradition of the Sisters of Mercy.
The Sisters of Mercy are an international community of Roman Catholic women who dedicate their lives to the Gospel of Jesus and take vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and service. Inspired by the life of Jesus and by their founder Catherine McAuley, Sisters of Mercy envision a just world for people who are poor, sick and uneducated and commit their lives to God and their resources to serve, advocate and pray for those in need around the world. In addition to the three vows (poverty, chastity and obedience) all Catholic sisters take, Sisters of Mercy also take a fourth vow of service.
All Sisters of Mercy worldwide trace their roots to their founder, Catherine McAuley, an Irish Catholic laywoman. Catherine recognized the many needs of people who were economically poor in early nineteenth century Ireland and determined that she and women like her could make a difference.
Spending her inheritance, she opened the first House of Mercy on Lower Baggot Street in Dublin, Ireland on September 24, 1827, a place to shelter and educate women and girls. Catherine's original intention was to assemble a lay corps of Catholic social workers. Impressed by her good works and the importance of continuity in the ministry, the Archbishop of Dublin advised her to establish a religious congregation. Three years later on December 12, 1831, Catherine and two companions became the first Sisters of Mercy.
In the 10 years between the founding and her death, she established 14 independent foundations in Ireland and England. Today, nearly 3,000 Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and more than 3,000 lay Mercy Associates make a difference in the lives of others in North, South and Central America, the Caribbean, Guam and the Philippines.
The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas sponsor more than 200 ministries including elementary and pre-schools, secondary schools, colleges and universities; healthcare facilities; social centers; retreat centers; housing and justice ministries.
Whenever you find a Sister of Mercy, you will find a woman committed to the welfare of the people in the community in which she works and lives.
For more information, visit www.sistersofmercy.org.