This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The nuns of the Holy Family Academy

Recently a car problem gave me an opportunity to pass by Beaverville, site of a grotto and an impressively large and beautiful church. On the way back from Onarga where I dropped off a son to pick up his repaired car, I stopped to take a closer look at the grounds around St. Mary's Catholic Church.

On my last visit I had noticed a large cemetery behind the church, but did not have time to look at it. On this visit I did. I was impressed with its size. The number of graves seems large relative to the size of Beaverville. Most of them have French names, as you would expect from this history of the town, which was established by French settlers in 1843.
There was a clear contrast between the older gravestones and the newer ones. You can see newer, simple grave markers above, and the older, taller markers below.
I thought this marker unusual enough to photograph. What I found most interesting, though, were more than 40 small markers in two rows at the front of the cemetery.
Below is a view with the back of the church visible. They were the graves of nuns who had staffed the Holy Family Academy for its many years.
Below is a close up one one. This woman died when she was only 36. I think the top name is here professed name, and the bottom name is her birth name.
Not in the cemetery, but near the main street of Beaverville is a marker for the school. It reads, "Holy Family Academy 1895-1969 Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary." The phrase after the date is the name of the religious order to which the nuns belonged.
Remnants of the sidewalks and foundations of the school, which was demolished in 1976-7, are still visible. A small gazebo is visible in the background.
I wonder if it was part of the school complex.
Maybe I could find out if I went to the 13th annual Founders' Day celebration at St. Mary's on September 13, 2009. It is a fund-raising event for the restoration of the church. In addition to a Mass in the church at 10, it includes:
9:00-9:45 coffee and rolls in the parish hall
10:00 car show, craft fair, farmers' market & flea market
11:00 kiddie barrel rides
11:00-3:00 pork chop/chicken dinner $10
noon bingo
1:00 bean bag tournament and kiddie tractor pull
1:30 church tour
2:30 entertainment in the church featuring cast members of County Theatre Workshop's summer production of "Some Enchanted Evening" and St. Mary's Souls of Harmony
We are approaching the centennial of laying of the cornerstone of the church. The cornerstone was laid August 29, 1909.

To get to Beaverville from Rensselaer, go west on SR 114. When it ends at U.S. 41, keep going straight, through Morocco, past Willow Slough, and across the Illinois state line. Just keep following the same road, even when it takes a turn to the north for a few hundred yards. Eventually it will end in Beaverville.


Salt Water said...

Nice post. Found it on the "Next blog" link. Sad for me your nuns are the first I've seen in awhile. I do like living nuns, but we have none here. Best wishes.

Angie said...

Nice post. I am the Development Director at a small Catholic school in Chicago and I just got off the phone with an alum who attended Holy Family Academy. I had never heard of the school so a quick Google search lead me to your blog. The order of nuns that ran HFA also ran our school many years ago: The Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary. It's a small order. I'm sure many of the nuns who taught at Holy Family Academy still live in the motherhouse in Kankakee.

Thanks for the informative post! said...

From 1962 to about 1969, Holy Family Academy (HFA)housed a group of Cuban young girls that came to the United States through the Pedro Pan program of the Catholic Church.
I know because I used to visit them there. I have a list of the 1964 graduating class.
If you are not aware of the Pedro Pan Exudus of over 14,000 children out of Cuba from 1960 to 1962, go to

bernadette pabon said...

I am writing the memories of HFA if anyone is interested let me know. Bernadette Pabon

Kathleen Powell Cronin said...

I attended Holy Family as a boarder for 4th & most of 5th grade in 1943-45. My sister, Mary Ellen Powell graduated in 1943. I remember almost every inch of the school - many good memories.