The Benedictine School was established in 1959 in the rural farming community of Ridgely, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. However, the school dates its history to 1891, when the Sisters of St. Benedict began a school for “young ladies and little girls” known as St. Gertrude’s Academy. The school was operated continuously for more than sixty years until decreasing enrollment and few candidates for the novitiate led the order to consider alternative uses for the property.
During the 1950’s, the sisters recognized the need for a school to train and educate children and young adults with developmental disabilities – well before the general public’s awakening to the fact that people with developmental disabilities are capable of learning and flourish when given the opportunity to learn. In 1955 the Sisters admitted a group of 12 girls with developmental disabilities on a trial basis. This pilot program’s immediate success inspired them to continue with a full-time commitment toward children with developmental disabilities. The first class of 19 students (17 girls and 2 boys) started in September 1959. Since then, Benedictine programs and services have grown to support nearly 200 children and adults per year in achieving their greatest potential.
As students graduated, parents asked the Sisters to start an Adult Program. In 1982, the first residential group home was built in Annapolis. Over the next several years, what is known as the Open Community Program grew with group homes in Annapolis, Caroline and Talbot counties in Maryland as well as in Delaware. An adult vocational program offering day habilitation and supported employment services grew from the vocational training areas the Sisters started for students in the School’s transition program.
Over the years, The Benedictine School and Adult programs and services have grown and evolved, adapting to the changing needs of the population Benedictine serves. In June 2013 the Sisters of St. Benedict completed a historic transfer of ownership of Benedictine to the Board of Directors. Although for the first time in Benedictine’s history executive leadership is a lay person, Benedictine’s commitment to the legacy of excellence and progressive services initiated by the Sisters of St. Benedict over half a century ago will never change.