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Homecoming, 84 years after graduation

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At the end of this school year, the last Holy Cross sisters teaching in Virginia will retire.

It’s difficult to quantify how many thousands of lives the sisters have touched since they began teaching in Alexandria a few years after the Civil War ended. They founded a girls’ school, St. Mary’s Academy, which closed in 1990; a parish school at St. Mary Church in Alexandria; and taught catechism at the parish’s missions.

For a powerful tribute to the work of the Holy Cross sisters, you need look no further than Marion (Roland) Conrad, 102, a graduate of St. Mary’s Academy class of 1932.

Conrad, a lifelong Alexandria resident until she moved to Virginia Beach at age 95, recently made the long trip back to Alexandria to attend a St. Mary’s Academy reunion. The night was filled with the fond reminiscing expected at a reunion. Conrad, whose three sisters and daughter also graduated from St. Mary’s Academy, told stories including how she couldn’t attend her own graduation ceremony in 1932. The night before the graduation, at the baccaulareate dinner, Conrad became ill. The doctor paid a house call and diagnosed rheumatic fever, so Sister Osmana Kane accepted the diploma on her behalf.

Eighty-four years after graduation, and 26 years after her alma mater closed, Conrad still felt it was important to honor the Holy Cross sisters and the school. That’s the power of a Catholic education.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016