Thursday, August 24, 2006
St. Joseph to hold reception for nuns
By SUE WATSON
Sr. Mary Monica Boll SCN and Sr. John Loretta Mueller SCN will be honored for their service to the Holly Springs community at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church Sunday, Aug. 27, in the fellowship hall following mass which concludes at 11 a.m.
The community is invited to attend mass and the potluck lunch and visit with the Sisters before they return to Nazareth, Kentucky, in a few weeks.
A potluck supper is also scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 26, following 5 p.m. mass. The potluck is expected to begin around 6 p.m.
Boll came to Holly Springs in the fall of 1979 to take the position of director of the Holy Family (Cadet) Child Care Center, according to Audrey Peterson, who joined Cadet in 1972 and became the program director for Christian Development Inc., in 1973.
Boll continued as director of the child care center until 1992 and then turned her efforts to full-time work with the Marshall County Literacy Council, a non-profit group now in its 25th year.
Sr. John Loretta Mueller came to Holly Springs in 1999 as a volunteer working with New Hope Village and at St. Joseph’s Parish.
Mueller worked with parishioners and provided space for many gatherings of people of many faiths for prayer and fellowship, according to Sr. Ramona Schmidtknecht SSSF. She also helped provide the foods for these prayer meetings and gatherings, many of which were held at St. Joseph’s Church. She also drove people to physician visits.
Mueller later was a caregiver to the Sisters of Charity in Holly Springs.
With Boll’s and Mueller’s retirement, once again there will be an absence of Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Holly Springs, whose presence goes back as far as 1868, Peterson said.
“They were here during the Yellow Fever epidemic and six died,” Peterson said.
Sr. Jeanne Mary Wathen SCN, who spent a year in Holly Springs in 2004-2005 teaching adults religious education, researched the beginnings of the order of Sister’s of Charity of Nazareth.
Over a dozen Sisters came in 1868 to set up Bethlehem Academy, a school for young girls, which flourished and was doing well until the Yellow Fever Epidemic in 1878.
All 13 Sisters of Charity contracted the fever and six died, but they were left without a priest and the Mother Superior called the Sisters back to Kentucky sometime after the epidemic which lasted just over two months beginning in September and ending in early December, according to historic records available on the Internet.
Bethlehem Academy was closed and the Sisters left in 1893, according to a historic account brought to the newspaper this week by J.R. Dunworth.
The Yellow Fever Martyrs’ monument and graves of six nuns with the order of Sisters of Charity, remain as a reminder of their service to others, along with that of Father Antonio Oberti, who also died during the epidemic. An estimated 300 succumbed to the epidemic in Holly Springs. Oberti and the six nuns died between September 1 and October 11 or 12, 1878.
The first nun to return to Holly Springs from Sisters of Charity of Nazareth was the late Sr. Joseph “Jobe” Beatrice Eyl, a nurse who was hired in 1977 by Peterson to provide health services. Shortly thereafter, the late Sr. Francis Rita Ballard SCN arrived in Holly Springs and served as secretary to Sr. Jobe. She later became very involved with literacy, tutoring numerous adult learners at the SCN house and at the literacy house. She was also a good cook and in latter years studied painting.
On April 12, 1979, her birthday, Boll joined Sr. Jobe and Sr. Francis Rita and the three lived together.
The SCN house was joined in later years by Sr. Paula Merrill, a nurse practitioner who now works in Durant, Miss.
Sr. Carolyn Maria Clark (retired) joined the Holly Springs group and helped with household concerns, cooking, cleaning, sewing and canning and seeing after the yard work. Her favorite flower was the rose and she planted and kept up a very large bed of numerous varieties when they lived on Swaney Drive. The roses provided fresh flowers for many houses and tables in the community and for alters at the church.
Sr. Carolyn also helped babysit small children for parishioners and worked for a time at McDonald House in Memphis.
The home of Sisters of Charity in Holly Springs was a frequent gathering spot for other nuns visiting the city as well as a setting for religious and secular holiday celebrations with always a mixed group of the religious and lay people gathering at the table for potluck dinners and lively conversations.
The nuns were known for their baking and cooking of traditional foods which were served at their home or in the houses of other religious, in the homes of parishioners, or at potluck lunches and holiday celebrations at St. Joseph’s.
Boll worked full-time with literacy beginning in 1992 after serving as a teacher trainer and volunteer at the literacy council a number of years. At the time, the literacy council used the Laubach method to teach basic literacy, also commonly referred to as the “each one teach one” method. As a teacher trainer, Boll recruited and trained scores of volunteer teachers for the literacy effort. She worked many nights with adult classes at the literacy house after spending full days there teaching and directing the center.
Boll initiated the annual literacy Christmas Cookie sale as a way to make money for the literacy council and recruited scores to bake cookies for the sale. The SCN nuns baked over a hundred dozen cookies themselves for the sale each year. The cookies were sold by the dozen around town by literacy volunteers. The Holly Springs community was generous in buying the cookies for the betterment of the community.
Literacy Council classes were initially held at the Marshall County Library, but as participation grew classes were held at St. Joseph’s family life center until the late Holly Springs Mayor, Eddie Lee Smith, leased a house owned by the City on South Spring Street to the Literacy Council for $1 a year.
Boll was instrumental in convincing the mayor to provide the literacy house for a center for both adult basic education classes and GED training.
Peterson said Boll will likely be remembered most for her role in setting up the literacy council along with Lucy Carpenter and Rev. Leona Harris.
Boll served on many local committees and boards and was very active in St. Joseph Church.
“She ministered well and faithfully,” Peterson said. “She’s a good lady who was always baking late in the night for anyone who needed it.”
Boll is also known for her fairness, according to Landry Hearn who worked with her at the Cadet Child Care Center.
“She was a wonderful, kind person to work with,” Hearn said. “She didn’t show favoritism; she showed respect for all. That’s what I love about her.”
Literacy Council member and volunteer Dot Green said, “Sister and literacy were synonymous and the literacy council became what it was because of Sr. Mary Monica.
“We owe her a lot, for sure. She’s a dear, sweet person and she kept us going and meant so much to Marshall County and everybody who knows her, especially to Dewey (Green) and me.”
Although literacy was supported well by volunteer help from the community and local leaders who served faithfully on the board of directors, the order of Sisters of Charity of Nazareth became the backbone of the literacy council these many years.
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