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Final Grand Reunion Convened by the Marywood Seminary Alumnae

Some say that spending time looking back into the past could impede one’s progress in moving forward. That sure didn’t seem to be the case judging from the high spirit of camaraderie experienced during the recent Final Grand Reunion convened by the Marywood Seminary Alumnae.

Remembering is what everyone did on that beautiful June 9–11 weekend. And even more—the members dedicated a memorial tribute to their grade and high school, Marywood Seminary. Destroyed by fire in February 1971, the Motherhouse of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters ceased to exist—but only in its brick and mortar form.

You see—its graduates determined never to forget the lessons, leadership, wisdom and spiritual guidance gained during their years there. They decided to leave written legacies of their experiences dating all the way back to the 1930s. These stories are housed for all time within the granite memorial which is situated on the site of their school, an area now known as the Marywood University Commons. Surrounded by engraved pavers, benches and a fountain, placed approximately where the Seminary chapel’s altar stood, the location is very special indeed to the Seminary’s graduates. A copy of each legacy story was also presented to the IHM Congregation.

And what did these written legacies—these "looking into the past" exercises—reveal? From the Class of 1938, Geraldine O’Brien Whitney of California, a boarding student from Brooklyn wrote, "From the day I walked on that campus I was happy." What followed were four pages of absolutely vivid memories of the sisters, her classmates and hilarious experiences leading to graduation. She also included forty photographs from the period. Jayne Smyth Jurich of New York, a boarding student from the class of 1947, wrote, "Singing Wednesday nights during World War II, Sister Benedictus always began, ‘Alright now, this one is for the boys!’ Regularly, there was a general practice with postulants, novices, professed sisters, college students and us. It was sacred music in our magnificent chapel." From the class of 1949, Ellen Raftery Koehne of Maryland, another boarding student wrote, "We were a close knit group. Many of us had lost one or both of our parents and the sisters provided the affection and care we missed."

From the class of 1954, a legacy story submitted just before her passing, Patricia Murray Martin, a day student, wrote, "We lived on Woodlawn Street for thirty-five years and were witnesses to that terrible freezing cold February 21, 1971 night when my beloved Seminary was destroyed by fire. From my bedroom window, I saw the blazing sky while hearing the sirens. Tears were shed as I stood near the rubble that once was a chapel dear to my life. My pride as a seminarian soars. My gratitude is constant. ‘Memory is the treasure and guardian of all things’ -Cicero. I guard them well."

A legacy story submitted from Hawaii by Jean Swift, D.O., a day student from the class of 1968, related that Sister Joseph "terrified and inspired me with her direct, low tone and absolute assurance that I should pursue a career in medicine." Of Sister Kevina she writes, "She told us about her work with the local farm workers whose only source of running water was a pipe sticking up from the earth. It was the crack in our cloistered Sem experience which let the light into the future. Once you knew, there was no un-knowing ever again." Now a doctor and member of the National Health Service Corps, Jean continues, "I still believe in service to those less fortunate and keeping my eyes and heart ever open to the beauty of our natural world."

From Maria Nese of Texas, the class of 1972, a day student and junior at the time of the fire, was written "It was very empowering to be in an all girl school surrounded by a college campus." She recalled the huge chapel pipe organ, the antique desks with the hole for the ink wells and polished wood lining the halls and banisters. She summarizes with seven words that reflect how she felt about Marywood Seminary by quoting words from a Miranda Lambert song, "It was the house that built me."

Their stories were numerous, highly individual, very touching and reflective of the inherent role played in each of their lives by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

If anything, it would seem that this "looking back" by the Seminary alumnae, who relished the chance to recall their school memories, has actually renewed an even stronger spirit among them.

It would also seem that memory comes in technicolor, surround-sound and is multisensory as students recalled racing to classes with the air breezing past them, feeling the cold, smooth surfaces of the slate blackboards on top of which were beautifully painted words from scripture, scenting the freshly cleaned wood which lined the hallways and alcoves, and hearing music everywhere both sacred and secular, practiced to perfection for competitions, or simply for the devotion and discipline of it. Remembering made everything come alive.

At this recent convening of the alumnae, the term "Association" was dropped from its title – meaning no more need for a treasury or officers. Make no mistake—know that whenever one or more members come together in the future under the flagship of the Marywood Seminary Alumnae, to support a charitable cause or aid a community event—the group’s name and spirit will live on.

As Sister Maryla Farfour, their beloved moderator and constant guide throughout the years, so aptly termed their unity, it’s "The Sem—The Ties That Bind."

Reunions revitalize people.

SEM Final Grand Reunion Photo - June 2017

Seated, L- R: Michelle Gerrity Druther; Sr. Maryla Farfour, Moderator; Nada Jennings Gilmartin, Chairman of 2017 Grand Reunion; Marie Matuszewski Scott.     Standing, L-R: Ann Marie Gilgallon Mariani; Ann Lavelle Powell; Catherine Walsh Clarke; Marguerite Nardone Gruen, President; Elizabeth Small Murray, Recording Secretary; Jo Ann Kelly Ratchford; Joyce Ludgate Welby; Roseanne Brutico, Corresponding Secretary; Sr. Ann Monica Bubser; Pat Hennigan Rosetti; Sr. Katie Clauss; Nan O'Donnell Wandalowski; Mimi Hoffman; Marjorie DeSanto Barlow

SEM Capsule Monument

This Memorial marks the location of the Motherhouse of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
in which was housed Marywood Seminary Grade and High School. Enclosed within this Memorial are the written legacies of the members of the
Marywood Seminary Alumnae Association.
Final Grand Reunion – June 2017
in thanksgiving for our spiritual and educational guidance under the care of the Sisters.
1902 - 1971