Book Excerpts


Mother of Mercy School, Little Washington, North Carolina

Published by: RoseDog Books

On August 30, 1927 four IHM Sisters arrived in Little Washington: Sister M. deChantal McHale, superior, Sister Sergius O'Donnell, Sister Gertrude Marie Jelley and Sister St. Ann Quinn. With their arrival, the school, which housed a chapel and the sisters' residence, became the Catholic Church of Little Washington. On the eleventh of September 1927, Bishop Hafey dedicated these areas and reserved the Blessed Sacrament for the first time in Washington, North Carolina. Although priests had come from Baltimore, Charleston, South Carolina, New Bern and Wilmington, North Carolina, to minister to the needs of a few white Catholics from time to time, provision could not be had for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament.

Reverend Charles Hannigan of New Bern was given charge of the Little Washington mission which consisted of nine persons--four sisters and five lay persons, all of whom were converts to the Catholic faith. They were Mr. David Keyes and his wife, Stephen Bonner and his wife and Mrs. Louisa Little. Father Hannigan went from New Bern to Little Washington twice a week. Once again, the deprivation of daily Mass and Holy Communion was the greatest hardship experienced by the sisters.

In October 1927, Bishop Hafey purchased the Mallison Home on North Market Street for the convent. The sisters moved into it on January 10, 1928. Reverend Mark Moislein, CP, a golden jubilarian in his seventy-fourth year of life, arrived to act as pastor for both black and white peoples of Washington, North Carolina. Through his zeal and the dedicated work of the sisters the school soon had to be enlarged to provide for all of the students. Not only was their work of education thriving, but they were also attracting converts to the faith. In one year, by May of 1928, four of the non-Catholic students were baptized.

Bishop Hafey visited the school frequently and was deeply appreciative of the work being done. True to IHM heritage in music, the sisters prepared the children in Gregorian Chant, and on December 8, 1927, the first Gregorian Mass ever sung in North Carolina was sung by all-black, all-Protestant students of St. Joseph's School choir in New Bern. Bishop Hafey commented that he wished it were possible to take that choir to every church and chapel of the Raleigh Diocese and particularly to the Raleigh Cathedral.

The peak enrollment of 113 students was reached in 1968, but fell to 69 by 1972. Due to lack of enrollment the elementary school was closed in June 1973; the high school, which had opened in 1933, had already closed in 1969. The sisters received great praise from the bishop and from the people for the 46-year IHM presence and work in Little Washington. (9)


9. Annals of Mother of Mercy, Little Washington, NC. Archives, IHM Generalate.