Memory of Sister Jolita at the heart of St. Joseph fundraiser to benefit students

By Bill Brewer

In the 15 years since Sister Mary Jolita Hughes passed away, family and friends of the Religious Sister of Mercy, as well as supporters of St. Joseph School, have been keeping her memory alive through the Sister Jolita Supper and Sing-Along fundraiser.

Now, as the fundraiser for St. Joseph School is in its 15th year, those same family members, friends and school supporters want to mark the anniversary by highlighting how the money raised has benefited students at the North Knoxville school.

The most recent edition of the Sister Jolita Supper and Sing-Along, held March 12 at the school, raised some $14,000, $13,000 of which goes to the school for student needs. Each year the fundraiser gives $1,000 to St. Patrick’s Well in Clonmel, Ireland, where there is a memorial for Sister Jolita, and the money is used to assist with upkeep of the holy well and memorial.

The annual fundraiser, led by Sister Jolita’s siblings, Mary Catherine Willard and Therese Hurley, is held on the Saturday either prior to St. Patrick’s Day or on the Irish holiday and attracts hundreds of attendees looking for a traditional dinner of Irish stew, salads with fresh greens, and green cake. It has raised tens of thousands of dollars since its inception.

“I am pleased with what it has done. Nearly all of the money goes to the school for use toward students, and only $1,000 each year goes to St. Patrick’s Well,” Mrs. Willard said. “We have wonderful help from so many volunteers who assist us. There are family members, families from the school, and others. We certainly couldn’t do it without the volunteers.”

In addition to St. Joseph, Sister Jolita taught at St. Dominic and St. Mary schools in the Tri-Cities and was principal at St. Mary.

“She was such a good influence on all those children at St. Joseph, and her former students really think highly of her,” Mrs. Hurley said. “We want Sister Jolita to be remembered for what she did for that school.”

Mrs. Hurley also was pleased with the event, especially the silent auction that drew dozens of donated items.

“Everybody had a good time. People donated a lot of nice things for the auction. I think it was a big success. I’m pleased with how much money was raised for the school,” she said. ■

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