When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in late August 2005, many of its victims fled to shelters in Shreveport in Caddo Parish (County) in the northern part of Louisiana. Hundreds of the evacuees were young Catholic students who were suddenly not only without a home, but without a school.
Sister Carol Shively, an Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph and superintendent of schools for the diocese of Shreveport, sent word to the local shelters informing the hurricane victims that if a student had been in a Catholic school in the New Orleans area, that student was welcome in the Shreveport Catholic School system. The student would not have to pay for any tuition, fees or supplies, and his or her uniform would be provided. Breakfast would be served at most of the schools, lunch at all of the schools. When asked why she made such a generous offer, Sister Carol said, “It just came as an inspiration to me. I felt we had to do something. I know it’s going to be very expensive, but we’re going to do this no matter what.”
School board president Milton VanNatta remembers Sister Carol’s pledge to open the schools to the hurricane victims. He says, “When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Shreveport saw a tremendous influx of displaced students. Sister Carol immediately started calling organizations around the country seeking aid. At the school level, she gave us one mission – take in as many students as you can and we will make it work. When I was called by the principal, my first response was, Yeh, she’s not the one paying the bills! But, after years of working with Sister Carol, I knew if anyone were to pull this off, she would get it done. So I put my faith in God and His direction of Sister Carol, and told the principal to open the doors and we would see what happened. It took more resolve than I knew I had to stand before our school council in those first few months and say I had every confidence in the world that we would be fine. Sister Carol said we would be fine. She delivered. Boy, did she deliver! Money for tuition for displaced students, book bags, supplies, everything. At times, her office looked more like Office Depot.”
All totaled, the Shreveport Catholic School system, under Sister Carol’s leadership, took in 850 students and educated half of them for the rest of the school year, the other half until they returned to the New Orleans area or to areas where their families relocated. Since then most of the students who completed the entire school year in Shreveport have returned to their homes in the Gulf area, but 150 of them have remained in Shreveport, they and their families becoming permanent residents of the area.
Sister Carol’s opening of her arms to the devastated victims of Katrina came as no surprise to those who know her. She has spent her entire adult life teaching and administering to Catholic children.
Sister Carol is a native of Lebanon, Kentucky, in Marion County, the older of two daughters born to John and Annette Shively. Her father was a construction worker.
Her formal schooling began at the Calvary Elementary School in Calvary, Kentucky, where Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph taught her for six years. The Maple Mount Ursulines continued to play a role in her education. Over half the staff was filled by Ursulines at Saint Charles Junior High in Saint Mary, Kentucky, where Sister Carol attended seventh, eighth and ninth grades. There were 10 Ursulines on the faculty at Marion County High School when she attended school there. The assistant principal at Marion County High was Sister Mary Carl, also an Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph.
Following her graduation from high school, Sister Carol was accepted at Mount Saint Joseph and in August of 1977 began her postulancy at the Mount as well as her freshman year at Brescia College.
Her first teaching assignment was teaching all subjects to fifth graders at Saint Romuald in Hardinsburg, Kentucky, where Sister Pat Rhoten was the school principal. Sister Pat is presently a teacher at the Saint John Berchmans Cathedral School in Shreveport, where Sister Carol is superintendent of schools.