Immaculate Heart Sisters to Leave Cathedral School

ARLINGTON — The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary will withdraw from St. Thomas More School and Convent in June 1998 after more than 50 years of dedicated service to the Arlington Catholic community. Sister Marie Angela, I.H.M., superior general, informed the Arlington Diocese of her community’s decision in an Oct. 4 letter to Father Dominic P. Irace, rector of the Cathedral Parish. The decision was based on the advancing age of the Sisters and the declining number of new applicants. "In the past three years, we have found it necessary to withdraw from 40 schools in which we have taught for many years," said Sister Angela. "In the next three years, we will need to withdraw from 45 additional schools, at the rate of 15 per year. "These withdrawals will affect equally every diocese in which we serve, so that no one diocese is unfairly affected," she said. Sister Angela said the I.H.M. community staffs 100 schools with 180 sisters. "If we subtract 100 principals needed to head these schools, we are left with 80 sisters in teaching roles, less than one per parish," she said. The I.H.M. Sisters also staff St. James School in Falls Church, St. Michael School in Annandale and Bishop Denis J. O’Connell High School in Arlington. No announcement has been made concerning the status of these schools. The Sisters began their mission at St. Thomas More on Aug. 22, 1945, the first feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. There currently are seven Sisters stationed at St. Thomas More Convent: Sisters Patricia Micklos, Carmel Regina Shields, Patrick Marie Doherty, Clare Immaculate McCrosson, Christine Mary Remington, Patricia Helene Earl and Maria Angelica McGovern. Two other Sisters, Marie Aileen Stephenson and Mary Arthur Hoagland, recently left St. Thomas More Convent and returned to Camilla Hall in Immaculate, Pa. Sister Aileen died Oct. 14 after a long battle with cancer. "The primary concern that determines our leaving is to make certain that the school continues in our absence," Sister Angela said. "We are joyous that you have expressed a firm commitment to keep the Cathedral School open and operating to the fine standards that have become its hallmark. The school’s well-educated, well-prepared and apostolically zealous lay faculty "provides a healthy nucleus for a transition," she said. "The relationships that have been forged over these many years between and among our Sisters and the faculty have been mutually enriching," Sister Angela said. "Indeed, they have only served to advance the mission of St. Thomas More School as an authentically Catholic school." I.H.M. officials met on several occasions with Father Irace and Dr. Timothy McNiff, diocesan superintendent of schools, to discuss the needs and concerns relating to the staffing of the school. "For so many years we have been blessed with the presence of ‘our Sisters’ that it will be difficult not to see their smiling faces or experience the help and willing assistance they gave so freely," said Father Irace in an Oct. 12 letter to all his parishioners. "They lived a life of witness and an example of love in this small part of God’s kingdom on earth called the Cathedral Parish," he said. Father Irace said one reason the Sisters chose the Cathedral School over their other three missions in the diocese was the belief that the school was organized and blessed with a faithful staff and that they could continue to carry out their educational mission. He credited Sister Carmel Regina, I.H.M., the school’s current principal, with the school’s success. "Upon my arrival four years ago," Father Irace said, "she has been ardent in joining me to insure that the Cathedral School would be spiritually, physically and financially solvent. "I could not have ever asked for a better or more dedicated principal," he said. "We have seen many wonders happen during her tenure." Father Irace assured his parishioners that the school will continue its direction under new leadership during the 1998-99 school year. "There is no doubt in my heart that the path given us by these dedicated servants of Jesus and Mary will continue to be one that will lead the children entrusted to our care to become a future generation of believers educated not only in mind, but in heart and soul," he said. Sister Irene Loretta, I.H.M., will be coming to Virginia on Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m. to personally address the parents of the school children and to answer any questions they may have. "We thank God for all the good years and for all the blessings He has bestowed on us and all the people of this wonderful parish in the Diocese of Arlington," Sister Angela said. "We again place you in our prayers under the patronage of the Blessed Mother." Copyright ?1997 Arlington Catholic Herald, Inc. All rights reserved.

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