The Oblate Sisters at St. Peter’s
“The coming of the Oblate Sisters of Providence” was the answer to the fervent prayers of St. Peter Claver’s congregation
During the pastorate of Father John LaFarge, S.J,, the Oblate Sisters of Providence were invited to St. Peter Claver Mission. The day that the Sisters arrived in Ridge, November 5, 1924, was a highlight in the history of the parish. Three Sisters, Mother M. Celestine, Sisters M. Martin and M. Techia were the first Sisters appointed for the work. The day following their arrival, the Sisters opened school at one o’clock p.m.. Seventy-five children were present.
After living in the sacristies of the church, towards the end of February 1925, the Sisters moved into their new convent built by Father LaFarge. School closed on June 10, 1925 and shortly afterward the Sisters returned to the Mother-house. When school reopened on September 8th, the sixth grade was added. Mother Katherine Drexel, foundress of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Cornwell Heights, was contributing to the financial support of the school. This support continued until 1941.
In 1928, the grade school burned down. When five Sisters returned in September, they courageously opened classes in the hall, where it was very inconvenient. The Oblates made the best of the situation, rearranged things somewhat and got the school going long enough to prepare the children for Confirmation which was given by Bishop McNamara on November 14, 1928.
There were no classes during November because of the severity of the weather, the hall being without facilities for heat of any kind. Father Thibbits, without delay, planned and began the building of a new school. Bishop McNamara laid the cornerstone of the new school building on November 16, 1928. The next day he blessed the convent which also had been enlarged. There were eight grades in the new school which opened on December 3, 1928.
Due to the depression the Institute was closed. In September 1938, the Institute reopened full-time under the title of St. Peter Claver High School. In 1952, the Oblate Sisters assumed responsibility for the operation of the high school. The Convent was enlarged to accommodate more sisters. The Oblate Sisters of Providence taught at the Cardinal Gibbons Institute (also known as Cardinal Gibbons High School) from 1952 to the last graduation class in 1967.
In June 1967, the Cardinal Gibbons Institute was closed due to newly enacted Maryland State laws regarding segregation in education. In Decembver of that year, the last two Oblate Sisters were withdrawn from the parish.
The Oblate Sisters of Providence who taught at the Cardinal Gibbons Institute from 1952 to 1967 were:
- Sister M. Michelle Bell
- Sistem M. Charles Jackson
- Mother M. Anselm Bentley
- Sister M. Paul Lee
- Sister M. Carmela Ducan
- Mother Miriam Rogers
- Sister M. Frances Gilpin
- Sister M. Thomas Taylor
- Sister M. Acquinis Huesner
- Sister M. Guadalope Valdes
The following Oblate Superiors were stationed at St. Peter Claver Convent and School:
- Mother M. Celestine Micheau (1924-1927)
- Mother M. Caillus Dedaux (1927-1928)
- Mother M. Damian Fassitt (1928-1935)
- Mother M. John Berchmans Thompson (1935-1941)
- Mother M. Andrew Payne (1941-1943)
- Mother M. Gabriella Jones (1944-1946)
- Mother M. Eucharia Carrere (1946-1952)
- Mother M. Cyprian Jones (1946-1952)
- Mother M. Anselm Bentley (1952-1961)
- Mother Miriam Rogers (1961-1965)
- Mother M. Theophane Bennett (1965-1966)
- Mother M. Carmel Curtis (1966-1968)
Historical related pictures may be seen in the Musuem Photo Galley.
The Oblate Sisters of Providence was founded in 1829 by their foundress, Mother Mary Lange, O.S.I. Today, we are praying to God through the intercession of Mother Mary Lange that she will be cannonized a Saint. The Oblate Sisters of Providence was the first congregation of women of African descent.
On November 5, 1924, the Oblate Sisters of Providence arrived at St. Peter Claver’s Parish. The next day school was opened with 75 pupils in grades 1 through 5. The first teachers were Mother M. Celestine, and Sisters M. Marte and M. Thecla. They did not have a convent so they lived in the sacristy.
May 30, 1928, grade school was destroyed and the convent was damaged by fire. While a new school was being built and the convent restored and enlarged, the nuns held classes in the Sodality Hall.
December 3, 1928, a new first through eight grade school was opened. March 14 1952, the Oblate Sisters assumed responsibility for the operation of the Cardinal Gibbon’s Institute, which was the high school. In 1965, St Peter Claver Parochial School closed because progress of integration of diocese schools led to decreased enrollment.
Although, the Oblate Sisters of Providence are no longer with us they should always be remembered. These women were dedicated because of their love of God. They had strong faith, hope, and perserverance.They gave their strengths to us, who were poor,neglected and needed guidance.
We shall be eternally grateful to the Oblate Sisters of Providence.