On Saturday August 19, 2023 the Plainfield, CT Historical Society sponsored a gathering of former teachers, students, parents, friends and employees on the front lawn of St. John’s Catholic School to remember and honor an “old friend” St. John’s School that is scheduled to be demolished soon to make way for the new fire department in town.
St. John’s School was founded by the parish and administered by the Daughters of the Holy Spirit since 1929. Previous to that the Daughters, who lived in Moosup, had been traveling to Plainfield since 1907 to teach in the parish and minister to the parishioners. From the time the school was built the Sisters worked with the parish to offer quality Catholic faith based elementary level education to the residents of Plainfield. Sr. Lesley Despathy was the last DHS Sister to administer the school leaving in 1991. In 1993 St. John’s, following the latest trends among Catholic elementary schools, merged with All Hallows School in Moosup. While the merger brought new hope to the Catholic school communities in the area, the doors closed for one last time on both campuses in June of 2009.
Time and New England’s extreme weather conditions gradually caused the school to fall into disrepair. Eventually the Plainfield Fire Department purchased the well situated site and will construct a new home out of which it will serve the local community.
Saturday’s ceremony was brief. Ruth Bergeron, President of the Plainfield Historical Society, was mistress of ceremonies and invited other guests including the pastor of the parish, the Rev. Greg Jednacki who offered the invocation and closing prayer, Mr. Tom Sinkiewicz, also from the Historical Society, Mr. Travis Irons from the Fire Department and the DHS in attendance, namely Sr. Lesley Despathy and Phyllis Viens, who taught at the school for many years.
Comments from the participants reflected the fact that the gathering was bittersweet in many ways. It allowed time for processing the final passing of a longtime friend that provided life building experiences for thousands of students and their families over the years. The event also afforded the opportunity for teachers to visit their beloved classroom one last time and to begin the grieving process in a concrete way. These precious moments also elicited beautiful and fond memories of new life and deep and lasting friendships that were born and cultivated on this campus.
As we take a last look at the building that meant so much to so many, we say goodbye, old friend, thank you for being there for us when we needed you, thank you for helping us grow, and thank you for the memories that will live on forever in all of us. We know that this hallowed ground will continue to serve the people of Plainfield through the first responders who will be working here. May they all be blessed as we were as the Spirit of new life fills their hearts and their lives well into the future.