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Anniversary of our first mission

Room 201 at St. Joseph School before the fire.

Room 201 at St. Joseph School before the fire.

The Sisters of Providence have a long history of mission work in Jasper, Ind. This week marked the 172nd year the school has been in operation. St. Joseph school located in Jasper, Ind., was the first establishment of the Sisters of Providence outside of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Mother Theodore was asked in 1841 to provide three sisters for Father Kundek’s school, but she thought it best to wait until the following year. One sister chosen for the mission knew German, as this was essential for the German settlers in Jasper.

Mother Theodore accompanied the three sisters and asked to begin the mission on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph. After the death of Father Kundek, the St. Meinrad Benedictines were placed in charge of the parish. The school grew and prospered and the school’s golden jubilee was celebrated in 1894.

St. Joseph differed from the congregation’s other schools in that it was a public school. In 1917 the sisters received word that in the future every teacher in the country who had taught in a public school for 35 years would benefit from a retirement fund, and would then retire from the public schools. A new school building was completed during the 1926-27 school year.

Beginning in June 1942 the Benedictines withdrew, and diocesan clergy were assigned.

In 1943 the Jasper City Schools took over providing the salaries, including the principal and the three sisters who had been designated as parochial school teachers.

The original St. Joseph School in Jasper.

The original St. Joseph School in Jasper.

On Jan. 4, 1949, lightning struck the school which resulted in a fire that caused much damage. Students were temporarily accommodated in the rectory, convent basement and high school. These events caused school to start a week late the following year. A new school building, which is the current school building, was dedicated Oct. 16, 1959.

By the 1973-74 year 14 sisters were at the convent which dwindled to seven the following school year. After this, two sisters lived in apartments and served at the school. The last year for a Sister of Providence at the school was 2001-02.

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Paul Beel

Paul worked for the Sisters of Providence for 10 years, first as a Systems Analyst in the Information Technology department and as a photographer/digital media/web developer in the Missions Advancement office. He is a graduate of Indiana State University with a degree in electronics technology.

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2 Comments

  1. Maggie Birge on August 9, 2014 at 6:23 am

    I was born and raised in Terre Haute and attended St. Benedict and St. Patrick grade schools and Schulte High School. However, I have lived in Jasper for about 20 years of my adult life, and my husband (a Jasper native) and all seven of my children attended St. Joseph School. I’m confused by what you refer to as a new school being dedicated in 1959. St. Joseph’s was rebuilt by the fall of 1949. That building still stands and is now used as the parish center for St. Joseph’s Church. The building I think you are referring to was an additional structure that was built nearby and used as a middle school in its early years. It has always been strictly a public school, known as Tenth Street School, and has never been associated with the parish in any way that I know of. Because St. Joseph’s was a public school, it then became a first through fifth school and the children transferred to the new school for grades six, seven, and eight. With the construction of a new middle school several years ago, Tenth Street School is now strictly an elementary school.

    • Paul J. Beel on August 18, 2014 at 9:19 am

      Hi Maggie, you are correct, except that the Tenth Street School was associated with the parish. Here is an excerpt from the St. Joseph Parish history book to better explain.

      “The need for additional classroom space was felt as enrollment continued to grow. A new elementary school building adjacent and to the south of St. Joseph School was financed by St. Joseph Parish at a cost of $390,000 and was ready for occupancy at the start of the 1960-61 school year. Facing 10th Street, the building was known as the Tenth Street School to distinguish between the buildings. The two buildings then housed students in Grades 1 through 8. Jasper superintendent of schools Bernard A. Gallagher announced that Sister Francis Lucille Cunningham would be principal of the Tenth Street School whose faculty would consist of a combination of Sisters of Providence and lay teachers. There were 1,086 children enrolled in Grades 1 through 8.”

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