Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sisters in school

THE STORY IS OFTEN TOLD how in June 1925 Archbishop Cantwell asked Mother Margaret Mary Brady to start a college, and the Mount's doors opened for business just a few months later.

His concern was good Catholic higher education for all the young ladies graduating from St. Mary's Academy. Mentioned less often was the number of nuns who needed schooling. The Sisters of St. Joseph were a large and growing order, and they had plenty of company in the sisterhood ranks, so almost immediately the new Mount St. Mary's College started classes on Saturdays and during the summer for Sisters of all orders in L.A.

The photo at the top shows an early Mount summer session held at St. Mary's Academy (the College moved to Chalon in 1930). Most of the nuns would be heading into the archdiocese's parish schools so teacher training was the main curriculum.

The smaller photo is the summer of 1947 or '48 at Chalon with more students and more different kinds of habits -- some years there were as many as 30 orders represented. State education requirements mandated that religious teachers have a bachelor's degree, so even Sisters with years of classroom experience found themselves on the other side of a desk. It was not uncommon for a high school teacher to spend six or seven years earning a B.A. part-time.

These sister-oriented programs also laid the foundation for the Mount's own development and growth. In the mid-1950s, Countess Estelle Doheny loaned No. 2 Chester Place to the Mount for weekend and evening classes for teachers. No. 2 became Medaille Hall, and the CSJs' established presence on the property led a few years later to the opening of the Downtown Campus, now known as Doheny.

My thanks go to Sister Mary Therese Sweeney, CSJ, of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange for the excuse to dip into the Summer School photos. She's writing a book on the history of her community, and in helping her the last couple years I've learned a lot about the "parallel universe" of Mount graduates who were Sisters.

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