For 50 Years, ‘It’s (Been) a Girl Thing’
Benedictine Abbot Emeritus Vincent de Paul Bataille (center) of Marmion Abbey celebrated the anniversary Mass, along with several other area priests. Abbot Vincent’s history with the all-girls school extends back to 1965 when he would come to say morning Mass for the Springfield Dominican sisters. (Observer photo by Amanda Hudson)
A poster announcing its 50th year hangs on the front wall of Rosary High School in Aurora. (Observer photo by Amanda Hudson)
September 14, 2012

AURORA—“There are so many memories,” began Springfield Dominican Sister Mary Joseph Weigand, founding principal of Rosary High School, whose reflections were read after the Opening Jubilee Celebration Mass on Sept. 9 by Sister Mary Dominica Brennan, OP, also a Rosary founder.

Memories were recalled throughout the Mass and reception that followed. It was the first of many events planned for this upcoming school year. (Watch What’s UP for more events).

Benedictine Abbot Emeritus Vincent de Paul Bataille of Marmion Abbey celebrated the Mass with several other area priests. He recalled “my own good experience since 1965” with the school and the Springfield Dominicans. His earliest memories included celebrating early-morning Masses for the sisters and the smell of coffee that would beckon from another room.

Abbot Vincent shared in his homily about the foundation of the Dominican Order and their commitment to Veritas (Truth). The Dominicans of today, he said, continue to contemplate the truths of life and faith and then teach what they have learned.

50 years recalled

In the year 1962, the Beatles were turned down by Decca Records, he said to laughter from the crowd, and the Dick Van Dyke show was a hit. Average annual income was $5,556, tuition at Harvard was $1,525, and gas was 28 cents a gallon, he added.

But “the biggest marvel” of all, he said, happened on Sept. 4, 1962, at the old Holy Angels School where classes began for 43 girls taught by three Springfield Dominicans — Sister Joseph, Sister Dominica and Sister Alphonsus Ligouri.

“How many young women learned the Catholic faith from the Dominicans” and their co-workers? Abbot Vincent asked. Over the 50 years, many have come and gone, he added, naming “a good Sister Marilyn” as one of many who stood out in his memories.

Many lives were touched and changed by the sisters as well as lay teachers and staff, Abbot Vincent said, concluding simply that “the Aurora community is better for their presence among us” as he led all gathered in a gratitude-filled round of applause.

Sister Mary Joseph’s shared memories included beginning school in six classrooms that had no chalkboards, no ceiling tile and no doorknobs. Only one room had electricity. Each freshman and sophomore had a desk, but “pick up your desks” was the directive whenever they moved to another class.

Members of the class of 1967 enjoyed their former principal’s reflection as it brought back their own memories.

“We all comprehended (her memories) of moving desks,” laughed Mary Lou Scanlon. “What she didn’t tell you is that we shared the bathroom with the workmen!”

Her classmate Mary Pat Esposito said, “It was so fun! It was an adventure!”

Joanne Newton, also from that class, said, “I’m in awe of all these nuns here. They were such incredibly talented teachers.”

Sister Mary Frances Gorman of that class of 1967 said she joined the Springfield Dominicans after hearing her teachers laughing in the hallway while she was doing homework in a classroom. The sisters were practicing square dancing in order to teach it in physical education class. “I was a goner,” she said with a grin, describing other moments when the sisters became real people to her — people who liked to have fun.

Sister Mary Joseph’s reflection credited the parents of those early students for their “trust, loyalty and support (which) became one of the strongest and enduring legacies” of the school. She credited also  the classes of 1966 and 1967 and those early teachers as women who set the bar high for the school.

“They developed our Rosary spirit, which continues today,” she said, adding that the simple goals of that beginning must continue today: “to provide a strong, excellent, Catholic, Dominican education.”
The early challenges had an impact, Sister Mary Joseph said as she looked to the future. “We became better, stronger and more creative.

“As you meet the challenges of 2012 and beyond, you will become better, stronger and more creative.”