Catholicism in Waterflow, New Mexico dates from February 22, 1912, when the first Mass was celebrated there in makeshift quarters. Three young men, Joseph and Lorenzo Stallings of Kentucky and David Watson of Georgia, Catholics, were among the pioneer settlers of the region. They called on the Franciscan Fathers at Farmington for help in establishing a church at Waterflow, called “Kentucky Mesa.” Sacred Heart Church was dedicated May 16, 1917. It was a mission church of Farmington but began to have a resident pastor in 1945.
Requested to start a school by their fellow Kentuckians, the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph established Sacred Heart Academy in Waterflow, New Mexico in 1919. The Academy began in 1919 with the first few grades and more were eventually added. By 1930 the school was operating with the full 12 grades. The attendance increased and boarding pupils were also admitted in 1926. In the 1950s the Shiprock Mission of Christ the King ran its school bus each day to Sacred Heart Academy with many Navajo and other day students.
Speaking of the Academy’s early years, the pioneer sisters encountered such obstacles as transportation difficulties, financial reverses, and a certain amount of religious hostility. Sister Mary Michael Barrow wrote in Candles of the Lord about the New Mexico missions, “The almost daily sandstorms that came in certain seasons, and the constantly howling winds were not so pleasant, but after all there was a certain attraction too, especially in the sandstorms. If one drew on her imagination just a little, one might picture herself in the vast Sahara, rather than the good old U.S.A.”
In the early 1960s the sisters were facing serious financial difficulties in their operation of the Academy, which received its main support from student tuition and fees and other contributions. Many families were unable to pay tuition fees. In addition, the county fire inspector demanded extensive remodeling to bring the buildings up to safety codes. Continued operation of the Academy was seen as a financial impossibility. The Ursulines decided to close the Academy and sell the property. By the time the Academy closed in 1964, 188 students had received diplomas from the school.