Province History Part VI  

    
 Ventures in Education
In 1928 permission was granted to the Daughters of the Holy Spirit to open a high school for girls at the Provincial House. The venture was approved by the Bishop and welcomed by the pastor of St. Mary of the Visitation Church in Putnam. The school would accept only freshmen the first year, both boarders and day students. Before the school could actually be opened there were a number of important issues to consider. The first was one of space. A building project was thus launched, part of which was a wing for the new high school.  Once all was in place – physical amenities, curriculum, and staff, Putnam Catholic Academy was ready to open on September 17, 1928. Soon after, the school was approved by the Catholic University of America and by the Connecticut Board of Education.

By the late 1950’s growth in enrollment and the need for more updated facilities prompted the construction of a new school building on Maple Street next to St. Joseph Villa which was the infirmary for the Sisters. Ground was broken on October 1, 1961 and by spring of 1962 the school was completed and the ready to greet the students in September.

The situation, however, began to change, and by 1969 enrollment had decreased considerably. There were more diocesan schools being built: fewer teenagers were going to boarding schools and tuition costs had to increase to assure the continuation of quality educational staff and programs. Yet to raise the tuition too high would have been self-defeating. The Putnam area at this time, was economically depressed. Many of the textile mills which had been the economic backbone of the town had moved to southern states.  The flood of 1955 had destroyed the railroad bridge, curbing most train traffic through the town. In 1968 PCA became a coed secondary school in an effort to increase enrollment by attracting a new population. The expected results did not come immediately and  in May of 1969 came the devastating announcement that the Academy would close. However, a last minute heroic effort on the part of the administration and the board of education  prevented this from happening. Life thus continued for a time at the school but a long term solution to the basic problems was not found and In the spring of 1977 the closing of the school was announced. The last graduation was held in June, 1977.

The school building and the adjacent Villa were finally purchased by Wellspring Incorporated in 2002 and  a high school for boys, Putnam Science Academy was opened. In 2015 the property was sold to another non profit and continues to function as a high school for both young men and women.

Another venture into the field of higher education occurred when Mother Louis du Sacre Coeur realized her dream of establishing a college for women. After getting the approval from the General Council and Bishop McAuliffe of Hartford, land was purchased in South Woodstock, CT. The college opened in September 1941 as a two-year college called “Ker-Anna”. However, many young were not attracted to the two-year college but rather wanted a full four-year program that would give them a degree. Such a program was thus established with the school offering Bachelor of Arts and/or Bachelor of Science degrees. At the same time the name of the college was changed to “Annhurst”. Official state recognition and a charter were granted in May, 1944. Over the years the college grew quickly in academic programs and in the extent of its beautiful campus. Eventually, however, this period of growth waned and Annhurst began to suffer the same problems faced by the elementary and high schools of the period with increased costs and lower enrollment. To solve this, the controversial decision was made to turn Annhurst into a co-ed college.  For a few years a small number of young men joined the female population on campus. Unfortunately this did not provide the desired outcome, and on February 5, 1980 the announcement was made that Annhurst would be closing. The last graduation was held on May 25, 1980. When the college was officially closed on July 1, 1980, some of the Daughters on the staff took the opportunity to move into new ministries or to retire. A few did find teaching positions at such institutions as Our Lady of the Elms in Chicopee, MA and Salve Regina in Newport, RI.

Much of the campus eventually came under the ownership of Data General, a school to prepare workers in the computer field.The Hyde School now occupies that section of the campus. The library and academic building was purchased by the town of Woodstock for use as a Middle School.

In the 1950’s Bishop Flanagan of Norwich, sought to establish a diocesan high school in the New London area. His vision actually included two separate schools – one for boys, one for girls. To staff the girls‘ school he asked for Daughters of the Holy Spirit. This was the start of St. Bernard’s High School, established in New London. The school was successful  and went coed in 1958. The Bishop’s wish came true when two new schools were constructed and opened in Norwich and Uncasville respectively, the first for girls and the latter for boys. But by the late 1960’s  for financial reasons, the schools were consolidated anew in the Uncasville/Montville facility where it remains in operation. Today there are no longer any Daughters working at St. Bernard’s High School, but graduates are carrying on what they learned from the Daughters.

In Bridgeport, Bishop Curtis wanted to establish a high school for girls in his diocese. Thus, in 1964 Cathedral Girls’ High School was opened with Daughters of the Holy Spirit on the staff. For a few months the Sisters lived at the DHS convent on Pequonnock Street.  Then, they lived for a few more months on the third floor of the school which was still empty. Finally, their own quarters were ready and they moved into a convent in a building which was shared with the Sisters of Mercy. The school grew. At the same time a boys’ school, Kolbe, was struggling due to low enrollment. In view of this, Cathedral High School was transformed into a co-ed school called Kolbe-Cathedral High School in 1976. The Daughters remained present in the school until 1985. Today it continues to function, the only inner-city diocesan high school in the region.

Over the years Daughters of the Holy Spirit have also served with other religious in diocesan secondary and elementary schools.  Among these are schools in California, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York State.
We trust the photos will ring’ a bell and touch a special place in the hearts of many of our readers. We would appreciate your sharing your comments with us by writing to Sr. Marian St. Marie at marianst.marie@gmail.com.

 

 

 
 

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