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1948 - "Prayers for Russia"

The hymns of gratitude for a grace-laden 1947 were still echoing thru the halls of St. Mary’s and in every grateful heart which 1948 dawned upon us with God’s pursuant blessing and omens of busy days to come. The students were back in their classrooms just three days when the glamour of the stage beckoned.  The Juniors Thespians put on their annual play, GREEN MIDNIGHT, on January 8. Despite numerous obstacles and many unavoidable delays the play was a real success.  Mrs. F.J. Kubitschek directed and staged the play and once again proved herself a friend in need.

Semester examinations came and went uneventfully for all except for the occasional laggard.  Basketball was a give and take proposition all season- with our boys usually giving!  The sport proves its worth more in the training and the physical outlet it provides the boys than in any scoreboard victory achieved.  Otherwise the time and effort put into the activity might not be justified by our past three year record.

February is the month of important dates, none so important this year as the third, fourth, and fifth, the student Retreat days.  The Reverend Thomas C. Donahue, SJ, an unusually good youth leader from St. Louis, was the “sky pilot” during those eventful days.  The recording Angel alone can vouch for its lasting results.

The St. Valentine and pre-Lenten dances merged this year, and the Sophomores sponsored a colorful event, including the crowning ceremonies for the student elected King and Queen of Hearts.  Daniel DeBacker and Eileen Stanton took the honors this year.

On Friday, February 13 – and Lent had just begun – Sister Edmunda was stricken with paralysis of the right side.  The condition was serious, as Sister became completely helpless and need day and night nursing.  On Wednesday following, Sister was conveyed by ambulance to St. Joseph Hospital, Alliance, where she could be given constant and competent attention.  Mother Immaculata and Sister Fides accompanied Sister to the Hospital.

Someone had the god fortune to discover a not-too-busy carpenter in town, and before spring weather and building rush had set in, St. Mary’s had added to her interior furnishings! A double amount of wardrobe space in the young ladies’ dormitory, stools for each alcove, and vanity stools; a complete floor to ceiling arrangement of library shelves; a cupboard space for Sister Brigid’s classroom, and a variety of other needed equipment. The wood was knotty and insufficiently aged, but the need had become too urgent to wait longer.

March is always welcomed by the children as the month of Monsignor’s birthday.  As usual, fine gifts of candy and fruit were provided for every child, time was called out of school, and Lenten abstinence was waived until those goodies had been disposed of.

On March 7, Father Lord and Father Bowdern held a Youth Rally in Sioux City and nearly forty St. Mary’s students participated.  Such inspiration brings dividends in Catholic Action, and in a desire to attend the Summer School of Catholic Action, if possible.  Three students plan to be at the Denver Summer School in late August.

The Senior class play, THE MUMMY AND THE MUMPS? was produced on March 11.  Financially it proved more successful than usual because this play has great popular appeal.

Mother Erica had arrived on March 11 for visitation, and had the opportunity to view our school at its busiest.  Everybody found time or made it so that we could enjoy Mother’s visit to the fullest extent.  When the week was over our theme song became “Backward, turn backward!”

On March 17, the Feast of St. Patrick, O’Neill celebrated in a variety of ways.  St. Mary’s chose to make use of the spirit of festivity and the Lenten indult by projecting an “Irish Fair” – just an old fashioned bazaar and benefit, with Irish trimmings.  The effort was successful and three hundred dollars was realized.  This sum was added to our Chapel repair fund.

On the feast of St. Joseph the school attended nine o’clock Mass in a body.  Three budding orators attended the District Declamatory Contest in Atkinson and won honors.  In the evening, the one-act play rated two or excellent.  All contestants were pleased with the outcomes because declamatory contests are fairly new endeavors.

On March 24 school recessed for Easter until March 31.  This opening day was eventful too, because it marked the installation of our new Archbishop, the Most Reverend Gerald T. Bergan.  Mother Immaculata and Sister Jolenta attended the installation ceremonies and Holy Mass at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha that morning.

“There’s music in the air” all through April, and weeks before.  On Thursday and Friday, April 15 and 16, District Three holds its contest here, with St. Mary’s and O’Neill High as host schools.  St. Agnes, Alliance came again this year thirty-three strong and carried off their full quota of superior ratings.  Several other Catholic schools participated this year and all were fairly successful. The crowds moving in and out during those two days number somewhere in the thousands, which is a record for O’Neill.

Then to climax these cultural activities the superiors in music and declamatory were invited to participate in the State Fine Arts Festival in Lincoln.  Again a large percentage came through with flying colors.  April came to a close with a dance sponsored by the Boys’ Sodality. 

The 16 mm. movie program continued throughout the second semester, with a picture every two weeks.  For the high school this showing is always in the evening.  Films for classroom showing, especially in Science and Geography, proved most interesting and instructive.

May 1 was First Saturday and the usual May Day prayers for Russia took on special significance.  The day students’ Sodality girls have adopted the First Saturday as their general Communion day and they follow up the devotions in honor of our Lady of Fatima.

May 2 was our First Holy Communion Day for the little ones of the School and parish.  It was a happy day for 16 little boys and 17 little girls.

An unusual occasion was the Jubilee celebration for Sister Bruno and Sister Cassilda.  The former was commemorating 50 years of consecrated life and the latter 25.  The actual anniversaries come in August, but it was considered wise to celebrate while school was still in session, so that the children might learn from such a Feast the esteem in which a religious vocation is held.  The High Mass in St. Patrick’s Church, the procession of 50 little ones, and the tableaux and music later in the morning helped to instill the real meaning of Vow Day.  The next day was the Feast of the Ascension, so we had a little breathing spell to enjoy a second Jubilee day.

On Sunday, May 9, the Catholic Daughters held a Communion breakfast in the Academy dining room.  The boarders served about 60 guests.

On May 14, Sister Flores’ little musicians gave a piano and vocal recital.  The assembly room is always crowed with fond parents and relatives on such an occasion.

On May 19 the Junior-Senior Banquet and Prom was held with an early dinner in informal dinner clothes and the formal dance later in the evening.  Johnny Mullen’s orchestra played for the occasion. The theme followed throughout the evening was “At the End of the Rainbow.”

May 19 the whole school participated in the beautiful May procession and the crowning of our Lady in St. Patrick’s Church.  Father Werner gave a short but inspiring talk and the service closed with Benediction.

The next day all the High School classes, except the freshmen, set out on their all-day picnics.  The Sophomores went to Long Pine, the Juniors and Seniors to Niobrara State Park.  The Freshmen who had spent a day at Long Pine on May 11, stayed home at school and incidentally did a little house cleaning during free periods.  The upper grade children had also held outings but the younger children have an outdoor party on our grounds.

On Friday a little time had to be taken out of school to carry and arrange tables in the gymnasium for the Alumni Banquet.  Sunday’s gathering consisted of some one hundred eighty guests.  Alumni members had been asked to bring husbands or wives and the suggestion was well accepted.  It proved so popular that it was decided to make it traditional.

The art exhibit was open to the public on Sunday, may 23, and St. Mary’s was open house all day.  On Monday, May 24, grades one to seven displayed their vocal and dramatic abilities by staging an operetta “Spring is Here” as their closing exercises.  Eighth grade graduation took place Tuesday, May 25.

Wednesday evening the Seniors gave their class night program in the public school auditorium, and Thursday morning, May 27, the graduation exercises were held in St. Patrick’s Church.  Reverend Daniel Twohig of Lynch was the guest speaker for the occasion.

Most of the housecleaning had been done by the students before they went home.  The dormitory wardrobes had been re-finished, the window frames varnished, and the radiators silvered.  Even the gymnasium was scrubbed and sealed by Sister Electa and her boys before school closed.  Thus the sisters could go off to their vacation schools without the anxiety that those at home would be burdened by extra cleaning.  Sisters Jolenta and Marianne went to St. John’s to teach about sixty children; Sisters Casilda and Emilia presided at Emmet over twenty children; Sisters Ferdinand, Electa, and Antonella taught at Ewing, where 82 children were enrolled.  After these two week sessions, the college Sisters packed up for another type of school and Sisters Electa and Antonella taught a week’s vacation school at Coleridge.

Before too many Sisters had departed for their summer assignments, St. Patrick’s parish witnessed another First Mass.  The Reverend Peter O. Price, SJ, another St. Mary’s Alumnus, was ordained on June 16, and said his First Solemn High Mass in O’Neill on June 20.  His brothers, Father Bartholomew Leahy preached the sermon and presided at the dinner which followed.  The Sisters and students served dinner to 70 guests in the Academy dining room.  The Alumni Association sponsored the reception held in our gym from two to five in the afternoon.

The festivities only half over, Sister Flores sped away to St. Mary College, Xavier, Kansas.  Sisters Fides, George, and Laurita had already begun a strenuous summer at Creighton University. Sister Emilia became her traveling companion because she needed medical care.  Sister Ferdinand returned to her college at St. Ambrose, Davenport, Iowa, and Sister Marianne accompanied a pioneer group to Briar Cliff College in Sioux City.  This is a new venture and seems a satisfactory one; the courses are helpful and the traveling distance much shorter than usual.

Sister Andrea and Edward decided they needed a change of scenery and had the privilege of keeping their Retreat at Marycrest in Denver.  With their halos shined and adjusted they were back in about ten days.  One glimpse of Denver was insufficient for Sister Edward and in July she went back, this time for medical attention.

Sisters Hilga, Eileen, and Aloysius visited with us one day enroute to Briar Cliff. Sister Spes became a very useful summer visitor by presiding at the organ in the parish church for all weddings and Requiems.  Besides serving in this official capacity, Sister was a grad help all summer.  St. Mary’s offers orchids to her and to the Holy Rosary community that lent her to us.

Early June had been extremely hot and dry.  Pastors and people, even the vacation school groups, prayed fervently for moisture for the parched earth.  The prayers rising humbly from many hearts were answered by an abundance of rainfall through two weeks of June and off and on at almost regular intervals through July.  May God be praised, the crops are promising as never before.

Sister Bruno became a long suffering patient in early July.  Painful carbuncles on her knee dept her completely inactive for many days.  It was with new youth and vigor that she rejoined the Community after that experience.

Sister Serafica went to St. Catherine’s Hospital, Omaha, on July 13, for surgery, and Sister Antonella left on July 19 for treatment of a stubborn case of Bell’s palsy.  The latter had an opportunity to visit the Creighton students in action, but returned in a few days for a rest.

Then before too many days, college examinations were over and the Sisters were welcomed back for a short respite before Retreat.  Sister Spes remained long enough to welcome her Sister and tot offer congratulations at our comic Community graduation exercises held for Sister M. Fides, MS. Sister Flores, in the meantime, kept Retreat in Denver and helped to solemnize the ceremonies of reception and profession at Marycrest.

Sister Carmen and Sister rose of St. Francis Mission, Sister Spes of Holy Rosary mission, and Sister Clotilda of St. Joseph Hospital, Minot, North Dakota, helped to swell our Retreat crowd. Fr. Malachy Kane, OFM, of St. Elizabeth, Denver, conducted the Sisters’ Retreat and everyone was happy over the re-finishing he accomplished in our souls.  A beautiful Holy Hour closed the eight day “treat”. The Retreat prepared us for sacrifice, and sacrifice was asked of us.   Our Mother Immaculata was transferred to St. Elizabeth, Denver.  She was to be accompanied by Sister Maryanne.  Sister Electa, whose roots had grown in the soil of “little Ireland” for twelve years, who had seen children come and go, who had toiled long and unselfishly for St. Mary’s, was called to St. Agnes Academy.  Sister Christiana of St. Agnes came to fill her place; Sister Rosalie of St. Francis came for Sister Maryanne, and Sister Rosemarie came as most welcome help as sacristan, portress, and dormitory Sister.

The day Retreat closed our Mother made plans to leave – but on second thought, remained to introduce our new superior, Mother M. Boniface of St. Francis Mission.  With every wish for renewed health and vigor we bade farewell to Mother Immaculata.  Her work in Denver is light and less strenuous and in comparison with her heavy responsibilities at St. Mary’s, almost a vacation.

Sister Rose Held, enroute for Denver after her Retreat here, was accompanied by Sister Antonella.  The latter, with Mother M. Agnesine, of Rushville, attended a six day Guidance Clinic at Loretto Heights, conducted by Father Gerald Kelly, SJ, of St. Mary’s Kansas.  The week of August 30 was Father Lord’s famous Summer School of Catholic Action in Denver.  Sisters Emilia and George attended from St. Mary’s.

In the meantime, school had opened.  Registration days were August 30 and 31.  School began on September 1.  Mrs. George had joined our faculty and five regular classes opened.  The Commercial classes could not operate in the absence of Sister George. Miss Lou Birmingham helped in Sister Emilia’s place.  The boarder enrollment was unusually heavy – there were ninety five on September 1.

The roofing project, which meant replacement of all the slate on the Academy wing running north and south, and the part over the little girls’ dormitory (the extreme east of the old building), had been started in July. The job was still incomplete, and work was being done in September. The falling slates were dangerous, but slateless roofs proved a worse hazard when the rains came.  Late summer had been consistently dry and when rain surprised us in the middle of a September night, we had indoor floods! It was like a heavy downpour in the study hall.  About 20 girls heard the shuffling of furniture and came to the rescue. The 60 desks were removed, the pianos covered, and the students and Sisters mopped and poured our water for hours.  Noah had fewer worries that we.  But finally the rains ceased, and the children changed from soaking pajamas to Sisters’ nightgowns, and retired for a long sleep.  The Sisters kept to schedule all next day and survived.  When the roofers returned they were truly sorry and amended their lives as well as our roof.  By October 15, the roof replacements were complete and the debris had been cleared away.  Every penny we had managed to hide was also whisked away by roofing expenses.  Our financial status became so low that when the laundry equipment broke down, our exchequer was empty.  We had to call upon the Alumni Association for aid.  As a result, Sister Andrea now has a new Bendix – a washer, rinser, and wringer combined.

Sister Edward, too, had made improvements in her department.  A new walk-in cooler was eventually installed in the kitchen and the approaches from the back of the kitchen were closed.  Now all traffic must come one way, and is under Sister’s watchful eye.  The old south cellar is transformed into a lunch room for the hot lunch children, since both other dining rooms are needed to accommodate the borders.

Repair seemed to be the order of the day.  Mr. Sargent, a local carpenter, mended and painted all the screens for our 600 some windows.  Architects, engineers, and insurance men may call this a more than million dollar establishment, but it is the poor daughters of Mother Magdalen who lean hard on their Lord to keep the house in a state of repair. 

The State Inspectors, both in the academic and professional training fields, mad their scheduled visitations and fund all to their satisfaction, except the overcrowded classrooms. We, ourselves, are not too unhappy about that situation because we feel the need of working to our utmost capacity.

The Meisner players had a mishap on the way from Omaha and arrived too late to include our children in their audience. Those who could still go at 4:00 o’clock reported that THE IMAGINARY INVALID was done in their usual professional style.  This was on November 2.  On the same day Sister Emilia and the Freshmen gave a Mission benefit party.  The children brought the refreshments from home, and all income was clear profit.  It was a worthwhile enterprise.

The football season was more successful than last year’s though the boys did nothing startling.  Mr. Gene Wolf and John Baker helped with the coaching.  To close the season the Alumni played our boys at a homecoming event on November 14.  Our trained players nosed a victory by two points.  Ila Carter was crowned by the football captain queen of the occasion.  The day closed with a social evening in the gym. 

On the following day, Brother Eymard of the Holy Cross teaching brothers, visited our school and gave a vocation talk.

On the same day the matinee for SUNBONNET SUE was held.  Both the daytime and evening performances of the operetta were well received.  The best musicians were selected for clinic work in the State festival held on November 19, in Omaha.  A terrific blizzard, the worst since 1888 the settlers say, opened up on November 18.  Stores were snowed under, cars were completely covered, roads were blocked, communication lines were down, electric power was off for several hours, our boarders were snow-bound over the week end – and the second day of the blizzard we had no school. Traces of that snow remained thru the winter. The musicians who had traveled to Omaha, as well as Father Werner, who took them in his car, were stranded away from home for days.  Father had his Sunday Mass in Norfolk, while Monsignor had to say three Masses here.  In spite of every difficulty people dug themselves out so rapidly that on the following Wednesday all the children could go home for the Thanksgiving holidays.

Immediately after the holidays, mother Boniface and Sister Antonella visited the Grand Island Federal Housing Project to examine and bid on an allotment of beds and dressers.  Both are sorely needed in our large family of boarders. Our bid, though fairly high, was over-reached and we are still hoping for another chance.

The Juniors wanted to impress O’Neillers as well as their school mates by attempting a production of Thorton Wilder’s classic drama, OUR TOWN. On December 13, they staged what has since been the talk of the town.  It was splendidly done and financially it was also a success.

That barely over, the Christmas festivities began.  Mrs. Rasley invited both schools to a free showing of a cartoon picture, a musical skit, and a long feature.  That was on Tuesday, December 14.  On December 16, the boarders had their annual formal Christmas party.  There is variety here that all enjoy.  The girls are high class young ladies for an evening.  Monsignor McNamara and Father Werner are guests, and the Sisters serve.  It is memorable for the children.

The next week opened with the Freshmen staging tow one-act Christmas plays for the Seniors, who they entertained at a Christmas party.  On Wednesday evening, Sister Flores’ music pupils have a two hour recital that doting parents enjoyed to the full.  The next morning, the elementary school stages a group of Christmas numbers showing both talent and practice.  In the afternoon the classes sang carols for their teachers, presented gifts to Monsignor, Father Werner, and to Mr. and Mrs. Ira George.  The gift exchange took place in the classrooms, and in a threatening storm, the children set out for their homes and all arrived safely for a “white Christmas”.

St. Mary’s was snowed under both literally and figuratively.  God’s goodness overflowed upon us, people showered gifts upon us, and Christmas was the most generous ever.  The heavy snows continued, and many country people were unable to be present at the Christmas Masses.  The fierce winter gales made the coal collection more welcome than ever. It totaled over twelve hundred dollars and while our hearts were filling with gratitude for that help, Christmas gifts, both financial and spiritual kept pouring in.  Father Eugene Gallagher, SJ, was able to spend Christmas at home.  St. Mary’s then, was privileged to have two Masses in our chapel.  The Christmas spirit pervades the Season, and in an atmosphere of joy, and peace, and gratitude we enter the last day of 1948.  This is a day of recollection conducted this year by Father Joachim, a Franciscan from Quincy, Illinois. The chord of gratitude for a year replete with blessing ends this piece, and strikes the keynote for 1949.

Mother M. Boniface

Sister M. Casilda

Sister M. Antonella

Sister M. Rosalie

Sister M. Brigid

Sister M. Andrea

Sister M. Emilia

Sister M. Serafica

Sister M. Maxine

Sister M. Bruno

Sister M. Jolenta

Sister M. Flores

Sister M. Fides

Sister M. George

Sister M. Christiana

Sister M. Edward

Sister M. Laurita

Sister M. Ferdinand

Sister M. Rosemarie






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