Phoenix - St. Catherine of Siena School
In the summers of 1948 and 1949, Srs. Mary Felix Clarey, Rita Marie Hokamp, Olivia Hamilton, and Marie Elizabeth Leonard commuted from Chandler, Arizona to teach CCD classes to the children of St. Catherine of Siena parish in Phoenix.
In 1949, Sr. M. Macaria Nestor became the principal of the new parish school. Srs. Marie Kathleen Galvin and Barbara Ann Kuenzig signed on as teachers. School opened on September 12th with around 100 students in attendance. The Sisters’ old friend, Father George Feeney, was pastor. For the first 18 years working in the parish, the Sisters of Charity lived in an old Nurses’ barrack.
The Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill would go on to serve as principals, teachers, religious education directors, and administrators within the parish.
In the Annals of St. Catherine’s Convent, a funny story from 1955 is told. “An amusing incident happened in one of the classrooms during Sister Cecelia’s visit. Sister asked a little youngster what Pennsylvania was noted for and the child replied that they make Sisters there.”
The catechetical efforts of the Sisters were further extended to San Carlos Indian Reservation, the parish at Avondale, and St. Theresa’s Church in Phoenix.
In 1962, the Sisters of the West changed their habits from black to white. On January 20th of 1963, the St. Catherine’s Sisters wrote, “After several months of sewing on white material the anticipated day arrived. We donned the white habits for the first public appearance. It created a stir among the Sunday congregation even though many had known of the change. We experienced another “habit day” and had to get accustomed to seeing each other in white. It is hoped that the color will be more practical for the western missions.”
Students at the school in 1983 may recall the day that a Newscenter 10 helicopter landed on the playground of St. Catherine’s school. Sr. Alice Ruane, who worked as the parish director of religious education, was treated to a helicopter ride – a lifelong dream come true!
The Sisters at St. Catherine’s, as with all of the Sisters of Charity missioned to the Southwest, embraced the cultural heritage of the region. On December 12, 1986, Sister Jeanne Bartholomeaux wrote, “Celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe was a celebration that brought together every organization, every age in the parish. School and R.E. (religious education) children made decorations and luminaria. Each parish group marched to the Church in procession with banners and symbols. The Guadalupanas presented a pageant retelling the story of Juan Diego and Our Lady’s appearances. A special reception followed in the Parish Hall with pinatas and songs from the 'Posadas.'”
The Sisters withdrew from St. Catherine’s in 1988. Fifty-one Sisters of Charity were missioned to St Catherine School during their 40-year tenure. Sr. Mary Denise Diethrich served as the last principal.