In 1953, the members of the Catholic Chinese Community of Cebu City approached Fr. Paul O’Brien, the Superior of all the Jesuits belonging to the former missions in China, requesting him to supply manpower for the establishment in Cebu City of a middle school for the education of their children.
With Php 300.00 in his pocketbook, Fr. Francisco Heras, S.J. was sent to Cebu to establish the school for the Chinese Catholics. The Augustinian Fathers of the Colegio San Jose Recoletos generously gave the new school assistance and legal status by affiliating it with their college and by providing it with its first Principal and a contingent of lay faculty members. On June 14, 1954, the Sacred Heart Chinese Academy Colegio de San Jose Recoletos was opened for boys and girls at the corner of Mabini and Manalili Streets in Cebu City. It was the first school opened by Jesuits outside Mainland China and the first Catholic Chinese school in the Philippines.
In 1955, Sacred Heart School of the Society of Jesus was established as an independent school. This is the year marked as the official opening of the School. On March 7, 1956, the School moved to Mango Avenue in Cebu City. That same year, Sacred Heart School was granted recognition by the Chinese Embassy.
The Girls Department, under the charge of the sisters of the Hijas De Jesus, moved to new a school building in Don Jose Avila Street in 1958. Sacred Heart School then evolved into two allied but independent schools, Sacred Heart School for Boys (SHS-B) run by Jesuits and Sacred Heart School for Girls (SHS-G) by Hijas De Jesus. The first batch of eight SHS-B high school graduates received their diplomas in 1959.
In the 1960s, Sacred Heart School for Boys expanded its facilities. From a single wooden schoolhouse, it added four concrete school buildings of two to five floors.
On the 25th of February 1965, Sacred Heart School for Boys became a Filipino School approved by the Bureau of Private Schools to teach the regular curriculum prescribed by the government with a Chinese Language and Arts program.
During the 1970s, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus visited Sacred Heart School. Under his leadership, the Jesuits defined themselves, their lay collaborators, and their students as men and women “…engaged, under the standard of the cross, in the crucial struggle for faith and justice…” (SJ, 32nd General Congregation). Jesuits and their associates are to work towards being “men and women for others.”
On January 24 – 25, 1972, the High School Department had its preliminary survey visit of the Philippine Accrediting Association for Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU). The Grade School followed with its preliminary survey of PAASCU taking place in February 19 – 21, 1975. To this day, the School continues to provide quality education recognized by the PAASCU.
On April 26, 2013, PAASCU granted the Level III Re-accreditation status to the Grade School Department
In 1981, Pope John Paul II visited Cebu. His first public activity in the province was to celebrate the Holy Mass at the gym of Sacred Heart School for Boys. The School was distinctly privileged to receive such honor from the visiting Pope.
On December 1988, Sacred Heart School – Boys was integrated into the network of Ateneos run by the Jesuit Philippine Province together with other schools for Chinese-Filipinos run by the Society of Jesus, namely, Xavier School in San Juan, Metro Manila and Santa Maria Catholic School in Iloilo. These three schools along with Ateneo de Manila, Ateneo de Naga, Ateneo de Cagayan (Xavier University), Ateneo de Davao and Ateneo de Zamboanga formed the Jesuit Basic Education Commission (JBEC) to help and learn from one another as Jesuit Schools.
In 1998, Sacred Heart School started accepting girls again in the Early Education Department and officially used its corporate and legal name, Sacred Heart School of the Society of Jesus or Sacred Heart School – Jesuit (SHS-J). In the years that followed, other grade levels were opened to co-education. In 2006, the first co-ed batch graduated from SHS-J.
Sacred Heart School – Jesuit moved to a new and bigger home in Canduman, Mandaue City in 2007. Equipped with world-class facilities, the new campus serves to enhance its work to educate the hearts and minds of young men and women for God’s greater glory.
After three years of prayerful reflection and consultation with various sectors of the school community, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved to revise the name of the school to Sacred Heart School – Ateneo de Cebu (SHS-AdC) on March 4, 2010. The revised name brings together the cherished tradition of Sacred Heart School – Jesuit and the Jesuit brand of education more popularly known in the Philippines as the Ateneo educational system. The rich legacy of both SHS-J and the Ateneo will propel the whole school community for greater heights and deeper commitment to live out its core values of Christ-centeredness, Competence, Conscience, Character, Community, Compassion, and Culture, especially among the Chinese-Filipino community.
On its sixtieth anniversary, 1955 – 2015, Sacred Heart School – Ateneo de Cebu continues and pledges to pursue its mission and vision of forming men and women for others with a passion for excellence, leadership and service as it bridges the Filipino and Chinese-Filipino communities and brings life to its motto, LUX ORIENS, “A Light Arising in the Land of the Morning”.