The Cistercians came to Texas with a vision: to build a secondary school that would combine academic excellence with Christian faith, morality, and spirituality.
The Cistercians' outlook on life serves as the basis for their educational philosophy. Foremost in their minds was the conviction that the search for God was the purpose of every human life. They also sought to promote true human values and integrate every variety of learning into the journey toward God.
The Cistercians' philosophy accounts for a number of innovative practices. They committed themselves to a rigorous, integrated 8-year curriculum for grades 5-12 in theology, language arts, math, science, history, and the fine arts. Such a curriculum implied that serious academic work should begin at age 10. It also created continuity in a student's education from childhood through adolescence.
To organize and administer the school, the Cistercians introduced the Form Master system. A Cistercian priest was assigned to each of the entering classes to oversee their personal, academic and spiritual growth for the full span of eight years. The Form Master sought to create a community among the students and their parents, a sense of identity and family for each Form. He personalized the counseling of students and offered parents a partner with a long-term view of a child's development. At the same time, unity and consistency in instruction and discipline were assured. Finally, the Form Master built strong, permanent ties between the Abbey and the School. The very nature of monastic life made this system possible, for the monks have bound themselves to the Abbey by a vow of stability.