Book Excerpts


Sacred Heart of Mary Elementary School, Jermyn, Pennsylvania

Published by: RoseDog Books

Sacred Heart of Mary parish school began with the groundbreaking ceremony on March 17, 1930. The John Gibbons Company was general contractor for the building of the school, an eight-classroom brick building. Bishop Thomas C. O'Reilly dedicated the school on August 25, 1930. The following week the first community of sisters arrived and was welcomed to their new convent home by a committee of ladies from the parish who had furnished the convent and who had prepared a delicious meal for the sisters. This first community included Sister Hyacinth Tierney, superior and principal, Sister Inez Farrell, Sister Euphrasia Kelly, Sister Anselmo Murray, Sister Maria Catherine Walsh, and Sister Florita Waters.

The school opened formally on September 15, 1930, with 250 students registered in five grades. In a letter to the Bishop, Reverend Thomas M. Jordan, pastor, wrote that all but one Catholic family in the parish were sending their children to the parochial school. Father Jordan was an outstanding scholar and educator, hence made the school and the progress of the students his special concern. Each morning he visited the classes for religious instructions. One of his favorite questions, to the delight of the youngsters, was, "What question would you like to ask the professor?" He accomplished much for the parish and the school in his seven-year pastorate, but because of poor health was transferred to St. Dominic's Parish, Parsons, Pennsylvania, where he died February 9, 1942. (26)

Another zealous pastor, Reverend John A. O'Neil, succeeded Father Jordan in January 1938. Under his leadership the large debt was significantly reduced. He continued as pastor until 1971 when he became pastor emeritus, being succeeded by Reverend William J. Egan, who was followed by Reverend William P. Ward in 1974. (27)

During the school year 1961-1962 all eyes were focused on the progress of the beautiful new cinderblock and brick convent which was taking shape from August 1961 through March 1962. Hopes had initially been raised that the completion would come at Thanksgiving time, then for December 8, then for Christmas. But, as with most construction projects, there were delays. These delays only heightened the atmosphere of joyful anticipation that culminated on March 17.


The record states, finally, the long line of trunks being moved across an improvised plank from the back door of the old house to the new one gave sure proof that the long awaited day had arrived. March 17 found the Sisters in corps pushing, carrying, dragging, and balancing anything that had to be moved from the old house. Mr. Pidgeon, our sexton, and his crew managed the heavier articles.

Late that night this congregation of movers could be found nestled snug in their new beds, in roomy new cells, in a beautiful new convent complete excepting the chapel and many little odds and ends left by the workmen.

Within a matter of days, the old house which was now in our front yard, was demolished and removed. (28)

Sunday, March 25, was the open house for the parishioners; so one can imagine the activity in the new convent as the five sisters prepared for this event scheduled for eight days from their moving in. This, and the open house on May 27 for the IHM Sisters in the area, were successful in every way. Some 115 sisters attended a catered buffet supper that was provided in the church auditorium. The new split-level convent, which according to the architect, Mr. George Murray, was to be "monastic, sufficient and convenient," (29) was also beautiful in its simplicity. The enrollment of Sacred Heart of Mary School, Jermyn, hovered around the 200 mark for the twenty-year period 1955-1975, with a low of 185 in 1960 and a high of 219 students in 1956. By 1975-1976 when a decision had to be made about the continuance of the IHM Sisters in the school, the enrollment was eighty students in six grades. Partly because of this, and partly because of the personnel shortage in the Congregation, the announcement of the sisters' withdrawal from Sacred Heart of Mary in June 1976 was made by Father Ward on October 25-26, 1975.

Father Ward, realizing the needs in his parish for religious education for the children after the sisters would leave, wrote to Sister Anne Fulwiler, superior general, requesting the assignment of two sisters to continue to live in the convent in Jermyn and to serve the parish as CCD coordinator and visitor to the elderly and sick, as well as to take the census and provide some of the liturgical music. (30) While it was not possible for the Congregation to respond with two sisters, the request was looked upon favorably as a way to continue the forty-five year presence of IHM Sisters in the parish. Plans were for a sister to be appointed as CCD coordinator and to reside with our sisters in nearby St. Thomas Convent, Archbald, Pennsylvania. (31) This was confirmed by Sister Anne Fulwiler in April 1976, (32) but as it turned out, the Congregation was unable to provide a sister as CCD coordinator for Sacred Heart of Mary Parish. (33)

Father Ward's remarks regarding the closing of the school reflect his gratitude for the work of the IHM Sisters in the parish:

This parish owes a great debt of gratitude to the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who are now in their 45th year of service to this parish and its children . . . The closing of a parish school is a difficult and painful decision. We must prize the graces we have received in its forty-five years of service. We are all challenged to face the future with courage and dedication in the religious education of our children. Our faith tells us that God will provide. (34)

26. Notes of Sister Immaculata Gillespie. Archives, IHM Generalate.
27 Bulletin of Sacred Heart of Mary Church, October 26, 1975.
28. Annals of Sacred Heart of Mary Convent, Jermyn, Pa., 1961-1962. Archives, IHM Generalate.
29. Ibid.
30. Rev. William P. Ward, Pastor, Sacred Heart of Mary Church, Jermyn, Pa. Letter to Sister Anne Fulwiler, Superior General, July 31, 1975. Archives, IHM Generalate.
31. Sister Mary Martin O'Dea, Sector Superior, Letter to Reverend William P. Ward, February 11, 1976. Archives, IHM Generalate.
32. Sister Anne Fulwiler, IHM. Letter to Reverend William P. Ward, April 14, 1976. Archives, IHM Generalate.
33. Annals of Sacred Heart of Mary Convent, Jermyn, Pa., 1975-1976. Archives, IHM Generalate.
34. Bulletin of Sacred Heart of Mary Church, Jermyn, Pa., October 26, 1975. Archives, IHM Generalate.

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