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1947 - "God's Country"

With re-awakened consciousness of the multiplied mercies of God during the past year, January 1, 1947, dawned upon us with promise of His continued Providence. For Sister Serafica, New Year's Day meant a trip to Denver for rest and medical attention. For the other members of St. Mary's community it meant a few more days of pleasant relaxation before the boarders returned on January 5. The usual organizing and brushing up of knowledge preceded the semester examinations. The Reverend Father Schneider, diocesan superintendent of schools, sent out examinations for the elementary grades in January. This was new. Previously, diocesan examinations came only in May. Now they are to be semi-annual.

At the end of the semester, the assistant pastor of St. Patrick's, who is also religion instructor in the high school and director of both high school and grade athletics, was transferred. He, the Reverend Father Raymond Lisco, went to Boys' Town to be assistant to Father Flanagan. Father Cyril Werner, former assistant at Holy Angels, Omaha, came to replace him. It was a critical time. Basketball was in mid season and all the preparations for Monsignor McNamara's golden jubilee had begun. Father Werner met all expectation, however, and went about very quietly and unobtrusively completing unfinished business.

The O'Neill people gave Father Lisco a purse in appreciation of his work among them; the students expressed their appreciation and said their farewells at the Freshman formal, held at the close of the semester. This formal dance was an otherwise gala affair. Colorful formals against a winter scene for a background gave a pleasing effect. Song and gifts and good wishes made the farewells less somber.

The boys closed a rather mediocre basketball season according to form. They were eliminated from the County Tournament after the first game.  In the District Tourney, also, they met the powerful quintet from St. Joseph of Atkinson and dropped their first game. Prospects for next year's basketball team are only slightly better.

February must have rivaled the famous Nebraska winter of '88. It was a month of blizzards. Boarders from country homes near O’Neill were snowbound over the week—ends. They began to expect heavy snowstorms on every Wednesday or Thursday. Father Mullen from Maryknoll, was doing some recruiting out our way and reached O'Neill in time to be snowbound. We didn't mind because the children enjoyed his vocation talks and wanted to keep him longer. Mother Erica, enroute to St. Francis, stopped here between buses and found that it would be several days before traffic could be resumed on account of the storms. In this case, too, her loss was our gain.

In the extra-curricular schedule February offered the Junior Class play, "Our Judy", which displayed a great deal of talent and brought satisfactory financial returns. The play was novel in that it was student directed and was well done. The proceeds, nearly one hundred dollars, were used to install fluorescent lighting in the commercial rooms.

Then came a pre-Lenten dance, sponsored by the sophomores, who used a Valentine theme. Jerry Tomjack and Mary Devine Brennan were the traditional King and Queen of the evening, the central figures in a beautiful coronation ceremony.

March 4, 1947, will always be a red letter day in the annals of St. Patrick's Parish. St. Mary's, too will long remember it. That day was the fiftieth anniversary of our Monsignor McNamara’s ordination. Preparations for a fitting celebration had been afoot since the first of the year. Monsignor sensed it and threatened to go to Canada, but nevertheless enjoyed the bustle of preparation which was supposed to be secret but somehow always reached him. Little ones were practicing dances and jubilee songs, grown-ups were concerned about printed souvenirs, the reception and a suitable gift.

The day was a perfect one, calm and almost spring like. His parishioners flocked to the Jubilee Mass, at which Father John O'Brien of Emmet preached. Officers of the Mass, besides Monsignor, were lifelong friends of his.  All the priests of the deanery and many friends from Bloomfield were present at the Mass and at the dinner which followed. All of Monsignor's one time assistants were also present. The dinner was served for nearly sixty guests in the Academy dining room. At 2:00 o'clock, the children of St. Mary's presented a program to honor the respected Jubilarian. This was held in the public school auditorium, Monsignor appreciated his many gifts and tokens of reverence and affection, but he was especially touched by the spiritual bouquets presented by the children, the Alumni, the Sisters, and by the priests of the deanery.

Vocation Week this year was a week of prayer and daily visits. Vocations was the theme of Religion and English classes, where the "whiteness of the harvest" was emphasized. The Sodalities featured the ever popular question box.

Then, as though March had not offered enough variation from routine, along came the senior play, "My Dear Son", presented on the Feast of St. Patrick. Monsignor was highly pleased at our resuming an old tradition. He considers such an endeavor a fitting way to observe a Lenten holiday. The next week brought more histrionics when nearly fifteen seniors and juniors, and their sponsors, went to the district declamatory and one- act play contest in Atkinson. One superior and an excellent in declamatory rewarded our efforts. The one-act play, our first attempt, was rated good; excellent criticisms and pointers for continued endeavor were given.

The assembled Sodality was privileged in late March to hear a most interesting talk given by Mrs. Dodendorf of Columbus, Nebraska. Mrs. Dodendorf has a hobby of collecting rosaries. Her collection consists of nearly five hundred rosaries, each of which has an interesting background. The rosaries are labeled, but she knows them by sight and the stories are written only in her memory.

The climax of this busy month, Sister Emunda’ s music recital, was a star attraction, most of her pupils are grade children, little ones whose fond mamas and papas crowded into the school assembly to hear them play. Little ones are a wonderful drawing card. The assembly was filled to capacity and everyone enjoyed a pleasant evening with the little musicians.

A full month became heaped up and running over when forty of our Sodalists and their moderators spent two days in Omaha at the Eastern Nebraska Sodality Conference. Many boys attended this year, and they came home with the determination to learn more about their Sodality and its aims, so that it might become a working force in their lives.

April presented a dignified and solemn opening with the celebration of Holy Week and Easter. But even then music was in the air. April is Music Contest time. The contest itself was a two day affair with twenty some schools participating. Thousands of students visit our city those two days. The contest centers are like bazaars except in the auditoriums proper, where the judges require silence and quiet attention. St. Mary's fared well this year with more than fifteen superior ratings. There was a void this year, though. St. Agnes was not with us because contests have been revived in their part of the State.

A benefit dance, sponsored by O'Neill's business men, was held at Danceland. The proceeds went to the new hospital fund. Conservative O'Neill will not break ground for the hospital until materials are more easily available and labor is less costly. The contributions continue to come in slowly. Something over sixty thousand dollars is now on hand.

A colorful May time climaxed a year's activities. May Day was Russia Day for the Sodalists, Girls and boys united in a perpetual Rosary, pleading with our Lady for the conversion of Russia.

The superior musicians, voice and instrumental, were privileged to attend the National Music Contest in St. Joseph, Missouri, on May 10. Sisters Flores and Emilia accompanied them. In spite of the fact that other States sent only the contestants left after a state elimination contest, and Nebraska entered all its district winners, St. Mary’s came home with a goodly number of high ratings. One student, Kathleen Flood, was rated highly superior and received congratulatory messages from important personages, among them the governor of the State.

May 16 saw a music recital for all the other music students who had not been entered in contests. They too, must learn poise and stage presence because responsibility will rest upon them later on.

On May 14, the annual Junior-Senior Banquet and Prom were held in the dining room and gymnasium. The Prom setting was a park scene in which wild plum blossoms in profusion lent beauty and fragrance. This proved to be the prettiest setting in years.

Early May also witnessed the appearance of St. Mary's first annual, a project upon which the students had worked since March. It was an inexpensive yet satisfying achievement and the twenty pages of pictures should be a lifetime treasure for the students.

Sister Leonita's First Communion class was the largest in the history of the parish. Forty-four little ones celebrated their Great Day on Mother's Day, May 11.

In order to keep our required 180 teaching days intact and still be able to close school on May 25, it was decided to hold class picnics on Ascension Day. The Juniors and Seniors went to Niobrara State Park; the sophomores to Lake Andes, in South Dakota; the Freshmen to Long Pine's Hidden Paradise. The weather was favorable and a kind Providence held His protecting hand over the children until had them safely back to their homes.

The Alumni Banquet was another of the closing events of the year. This is always held on the Sunday before graduation. This year's attendance was nearly one hundred and fifty. New officers were elected and the Alumni president for 1947-1949 is Mrs. Bessie McLeod Lohaus.

Graduation week was crammed with activities. Monday evening the entire school took part in the May crowning ceremonies. Betty Gallagher, student choice for the Queen, had the honor of crowning the statue of our Lady. The Sodalists closed the evening with their Spring formal. On Tuesday evening the boarders did their official packing. On Wednesday evening the elementary school held their closing exercises. Thursday night was senior class night. Friday morning was graduation in the parish church. Thirty five seniors received their diplomas and left St. Mary's for good. On Saturday the teachers breathed a tiny sigh of relief, brushed up on their knowledge of theology, and packed for vacation schools. Sister Fides left on Monday for Creighton University to get the laboratory equipment "warmed up" for a busy summer. Other teachers went two by two, or three, to the towns and villages round about where the children eagerly awaited them. The first week of their absence was marked by a heavy snowfall and freezing weather that destroyed all prospects for fruit, and made the farmers start over with their planting. Sisters Agnesine, Electa, and Antonella went to Ewing where the enrollment amounted to eighty four. Sisters Jolenta and Casilda gave instructions at St. John's to nearly sixty children. Sisters Emilia and Flores drove to Emmet daily to instruct about thirty children. Sisters Leonita and Ferdinand let their light shine in Amelia among fourteen children. When the regular two weeks' sessions were over, Sisters Electa and Antonella trekked to Coleridge, over eighty miles away, for another week of instruction among forty some children. The total number of First Communicants, prepared by our vacation school teachers and the respective pastors, was 36.

Other Mission activities that were carried on day by day throughout a busy school year were numerous. The little ones brought their pennies and nickels daily for the ransom of pagan babies. Grades One and Two also purchased readers and First Communion books for the children of St. Francis Mission. The combined contributions of the school children to the Bishops' Relief Drive was over one hundred and twenty dollars. The seventh and eighth grade bazaar and paper sales brought in two hundred sixty five dollars for mission purposes. The freshmen, seeking an outlet for their zeal for the Missions and their interest in Catholic Action, held a bazaar which netted over a hundred dollars. This money, plus their daily sacrifice money, purchased vestments for a poor parish, and paid for supplies and postage for over one hundred relief packages for Europe. All the classes contributed used clothing and occasional other useful articles while the day student Sodality purchased ten beautiful, though slightly outmoded coats. These hundred packages do not include the parcels being packed by Mother and the Sisters at more or less regular intervals. These latter were financed for a long period by a benefit from the Junior Class, and are being continued from alms from the house.

New purchases made during the year include lockers for the day pupil girls in the upper classes, a set of maps for American History, swings, and playground equipment for the elementary grades, and Venetian blinds for the guest department and for the library.

After vacation schools close there is usually a day or two of rest. Those days are used for preparing for college. This year the teachers were taking turns in the kitchen because our efficient cook, Sister Ludgardis, had gone to Minot for retreat. Sister Laurita went to St. Joseph Hospital, Alliance, for rest and surgery. Sister Adeltrude, enroute from St. Francis, visited at St. Mary's for several days, after which she and Sister Agnesine left for Loras College, Dubuque. Sister Casilda joined the community at St. Elizabeth, Denver, while attending Loretto Heights. Sister Flores, accompanied by Kathleen Flood, went to St. Mary College, Xavier, Kansas. To replace Sister Flores at the organ during the summer, Sister Spes from Holy Rosary mission came to spend the summer with us.

All but two of the summer school students had reached their colleges before the spring floods struck Nebraska, many Nebraskans had never seen as much water in all their lives as they saw in one day of those hectic flood times, neighboring ranches and even villages were under water, roads, and bridges were washed out, railroad tracks and trestles had spread, Railroad transportation was held up for a week at a time while repairs were being made;  bus traffic on all but the southern lines was resumed after three or four days. The cloudbursts were accompanied by violent winds, and in some areas, by hail. This year Nebraskans have had enough moisture, but things can never be all rosy for them. They call this God's country, and He has His Own way with it. There were late frosts, floods, hail, and wind storms. Few and fortunate were the people who escaped all of these disturbances in the elements.

The one day for which all June, 1947, will be memorable, is June 22. On that day all of Catholic O'Neill joined in congratulating the Reverend Eugene Gallagher, SJ, who celebrated his First Solemn Mass in St. Patrick Church. Father Eugene is a graduate of St. Mary’s; in fact the first thirteen years of his educational experience were spent here. The Alumni therefore, gave him an elaborate reception in the Academy gymnasium. The dinner, at which seventy guests were seated, was served in the dining room.  With the Alumni helping on every side, nothing was left undone to make it a perfect day.

Much of the work of the bucket brigade had been done before the children left for their homes; the college Sisters had most of theirs done before they left; the other third was quickly disposed of when three girls came to help the stay-at-homes. That done, the Sisters at home could settle down to restful, though very useful vacation days. There were ripping and sewing parties that lasted for the greater part of the summer; there ware rhubarb and bean parties on occasion; there were real parties, too, on the greater feast days, June gave promise of a pleasant vacation.

The garden flourished. The park looked luxuriant and well groomed what with the new caretaker and all. Mr. Peter Felde had gone to the beet fields at the end of May, and Mr. James Murphy came to replace him. Expert tree surgeons were hired to trim and treat the large trees in the front yard, and the trees will need two summers to recuperate.

July was a peaceful and unruffled month. There were weekly letters back and forth from the college Sisters. They were working hard, and the weather was not too sultry. Sisters Emilia and Leonita, at home, were turning out sleeves, pockets, caps, aprons, and even habits on assembly line scales. More and more nooks and corners were being put in order. Not that the quiet and calm caused any uneasiness, but there is nothing like being ready at all times for anything.

Sister Ferdinand, having dental work done at home, pursued an extension course in Physiology and Hygiene to qualify for a certificate. Sister Laurita came home after more than a month away, all rested and repaired, ready for another school year.

July 16 was the red letter day of this month. Our delegates to the General Chapter of the Congregation had flown to Holland in June. The elections on July 16 gave us a new Mother General in the person of Mother Ignace. We joined her whole Franciscan family that day in wishing her well and daily we shall invoke for her the guidance of a special Providence in her arduous task.

Early June had been wet and chilly; by contrast August was dry and hot. Blistering winds dried up the countryside. Worried farmers as well as the parched earth pleaded for rain. Crops and hay suffered; many feeders were forced to sell their stock.

Heaven rained down dew in a spiritual manner, however, during the annual Retreat, conducted this year by Father James Bartholomew, from Trinity College, Sioux City. The six days were spent under Mary's own mantle and the result is an enthusiasm for the scapular, for Fatima, for any share in Mary's crusade for souls.

Sister Serafica's father, mother, and other relatives spent a few days with us and experienced the difference in temperature between Minot and O'Neill, though reports had it that even Canada had its 104 degrees in August.

Sister Leonita's mother and little Mary Ann visited for week. Mrs. Eager spent most of her visit at the sewing machine making dresses, play suits, and pajamas for our little ward, Patricia Morrison. Her visit was deeply appreciated by all of us.

Shortly after Retreat, the Hargarten's came, mother, father, and Father Joseph. It was a happy time for all, though the changes hovered in the air. And when Sister Leonita and our cook, Sister Ludgardis, were ready for their trip to Alliance where obedience was calling them, the Hargarten's packed them in and made it a family tour.

Mother Agnesine, newly appointed for Immaculate Conception school in Rushville, went to Marycrest first to assemble her community and her household furnishings and then on to her new home.

To replace these valued members of our community came Sister Edward from the hospital kitchen in Alliance, Sister Marianne for the second grade, and Sister Mary George for commercial.

In the last week of August while the teachers were at home  ruling record books, arranging dormitories, and becoming re-acquainted with spellers, three of the high school teachers were privileged to attend Father Lord's "six days you will never forget" at the Morrison Hotel, in Chicago. An important phase of that splendid, soul stirring week was our meeting Sisters Angela and Dilecta from Columbus – and Rosary. About the Sodality Convention itself, it is impossible to give the highlights. Every class seemed as important as the next, whether it dealt with convert making, Sodality organization, youth leadership, visual instruction in religion, racial tolerance, or vocation clubs, each had its particular value. Even if the gleaning of knowledge and inspiration meant milling about in, and rubbing elbows with some 4000 other members of the Mystical Body it would have had priceless value for any religion teacher, in fact for anyone who makes any contacts with children.

The arrival at home on Sunday gave us a few hours respite before registration on Monday morning. Boarders came in on Tuesday, September 2, and the end of the week found us with 170 high school students fifty of which were Freshmen, and two hundred were elementary students. The boarders totaled 78 and many applications had been rejected for lack of classroom space as well as of teachers.  We could easily employ two lay teachers if they were available.

The very first week of school witnessed a general meeting of the Sodality. The Office was sung by the entire student body on the First Friday. The convent chapel can no longer accommodate the group and the parish church has now become the regular meeting place.

The day pupils' Sodality sponsored a midday lunch on two different occasions and cleared enough money to install fluorescent lights in the junior and senior classrooms.

Mother Immaculata made a rapid trip to Denver at the end of September and was back for the Feast of St. Francis.

In the upper classes a study of Franciscan lore, end of Franciscan philosophy culminated in a series of papers written by the students for OUR SUNDAY VISITOR. These were especially requested by its editors. To celebrate the Feast of St. Francis, the students enjoyed a full length movie on the life of our Father and Founder. Though the dialogue was Spanish, the children found it easy to follow because of the English captions. To them—and they have seen pictures like a repeat of the SULLIVANS and THE JOLSON STORY—St. Francis is still the picture of the year. When the experiment was repeated by showing THE VIRGIN OF GUADALUPE, it proved successful again, but ST. FRANCIS is still uppermost in their scale of values.

Mr. Ted Alexander, a rural entertainment promoter from Lincoln, in connection with our own County Agent, came in early October and taught our children square and circle dancing. That took their fancy to such an extent that they wanted to sacrifice their dinner hour to continue the fun. Mrs. Carroll Stewart, of the FRONTIER staff, takes time out every Friday afternoon to teach calisthenics to our girls.

Football holds the limelight for the boys. Father Werner did not feel capable of coaching the squad and confided the job to a city business man. This man, Mr. Al Sipes, was capable, but as his business increased he found less and less time to devote to the boys. Considering their handicap, the squad did fairly well—losing and winning an equal number of games.

The high school teachers attended the State Teachers’ Convention in Norfolk on October 23 and 24. The inspiration derived was well worth the time spent. The boarders were grateful for a long weekend and only seven spent it here.

October brought us two banquets and all the trimmings.  At one we seated 180 Catholic Daughters of America. Two weeks Iater we entertained 268 Knights of Columbus and their ladies. Sister Edward, alone at her post as chef, smilingly agrees that it is a good financial project and she dreams of financing a new stove. The twelve other Sisters and the forty some children who set up temporary tables, lay covers, serve, and wash dishes for these crowds agree to let her dream but pray that no nightmares may result.

The State inspector of secondary schools made us a flying visit in late October. He seemed highly pleased with his cursory inspection and gave us a satisfactory report. Our application to join the "charmed circle", the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges, though completed and acted upon, has not been definitely accepted. Perhaps another inspection is in order.

A series of skits by the Freshmen, who show decided dramatic ability, together with a two hour bazaar netted over a hundred dollars to be used for postage on European relief packages or for similar charity. Throughout the year, the elementary grades as well as the Freshmen are decidedly Mission minded. The upper classes are eager to share in the rewards, by sincere participation in all projects. The grades have already ransomed four pagan babies, the fifth and sixth grades have joined Colum's China Dima parade, and many appeals for money and clothing are being answered by the seventh and eighth grades.

An All State music clinic for vocal and instrumental students drew eight of our children and their teachers, Sister Flores and Mr. George, to Kearney on November 21. No ratings are given at such a meet, but nationally famous directors work with large groups and demonstrate what can be done. Both teachers and students derive help for their future efforts.

Three of the seniors took the preliminary Pepsicola Scholarship examinations on November 21, and all declared it was truly an elimination test. They had never seen anything so hard.

The Health Department of the State of Nebraska initiated a project of taking chest X-rays of every citizen over twelve years of age. It is a free service and is not compulsory. The X-ray unit is mobile, and the office address is wherever the trailer parks. The unit visited O'Neill in November, and both schools cooperated one hundred percent. Thus far no active cases of tuberculosis have been reported among the children.

Mother Immaculate anticipated the celebration of her Nameday by some ten days. During the carefree interval of Thanksgiving vacation, the Sisters gave vent to their inclination to celebrate. From waffles to Bunco, it was a day of light, yet grateful hearts.

On November 25, the day on which the Archdiocese was to solemnize the Feast of St. Cecilia, its Patronal Feast, our Most Reverend Archbishop James Hugh Ryan, educator, writer, philosopher, passed to his eternal reward. The Right Reverend Monsignor Nicholas Wegner, chancellor of the archdiocese, was appointed administrator until the elevation by the Holy Father of a new Archbishop.

The strains of THE GYPSY TROUBADOUR opened the homiest of months. This operetta was presented on the public school stage on December 4, and on the evening of the fifth. Returns, both cultural and financial, were highly satisfactory. It will be possible to make partial payment on two pianos being ordered for the music department.

December 8, our Lady's Day, was the opening date of our basketball season. Our boys met the St. Joseph quintet from Atkinson, and Mary bowed to Joseph. The second game, more evenly matched, was with our O'Neill neighbors and we lost by a smaller margin. The next game was a victory and the season ahead looks hopeful.

Reception into the Blessed Mother Sodality took place in St. Patrick Church, at 7:30 on Tuesday evening, December 9. Fifty candidates, the largest class in memory, pledged their loyalty to their Queen and their Mother. An informal party in the Academy gymnasium followed the ceremony.

The boarders' formal Christmas banquet set the keynote of the last week of school before the holidays. Mrs. Rasley gave a free show, PINOCCHIO, for both schools. Mr. Downey came to take class and group pictures for souvenirs or for the school annual; the seniors had their graduation pictures taken; the seniors calling cards came; Santa Claus was in evidence everywhere.

Each elementary grade had its classroom program, and mothers and fathers were visiting school that week to see Johnny and Mary personifying the Holy Family or the shepherds and the angels. The age old story became new again, as the children’s hearts were being prepared for another Christmas.  On Thursday of that last week, the Freshmen, directed by Sister Emilia, presented Sister Ligouri’s RACHEL THE LEPER MAID. It was colorful, clearly presented, and well received. The play put everyone, into the proper mood for the finale caroling for Monsignor, Father Werner, and the Sisters; the exchange of gifts; and the well wishes and leave takings.

The holidays, scheduled to last from December 19 to January 5, are restful, quiet, glad, and holy days. As there's nothing in the world like a Convent Christmas, so there are no days more deeply appreciated by the Sisters than are these holidays. The spiritual significance of the Season is climaxed by a day of real retreat on the last day of the year, conducted in 1947 by Father Malachias Kain, OFM, from St. Elizabeth, Denver, with such a farewell to an old and well filled year, our welcome on January 1 to a New Year is happy and trustful—though the undertones of the New Year bells sound only deepest gratitude for the past and humble confidence in the future.

Heartfelt greetings to all our Sisters, East, West, and everywhere, from

Mother M. Immaculata

Sister Electa

Sister Emilia

Sister Antonella

Sister Jolenta

Sister Flores

Sister Brigid

Sister Fides

Sister George

Sister Edmunda

Sister Casilda

Sister Edward

Sister Bruno

Sister Andrea

Sister Laurita

Sister Maxine

Sister Serafica

Sister Ferdinand



Sister Marianne


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