Sisters taught at site in Chattanooga 1937-2003
By Bill Brewer
The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who have served as teachers in the Diocese of Knoxville, are providing scholarships for students at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Chattanooga.
Cissy West, development director for Our Lady of Perpetual Help, said the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary were the first teachers at OLPH, sending four women religious from St. Joseph’s Convent, Mount Carmel, in Dubuque, Iowa, to begin the first classes for grades one through eight in September 1937.
“Those sisters were Sister Mary Emanuela Manning, Sister Mary Consolita Boyer, Sister Mary Madaleva Weisbrook, and Sister Mary Carmelette Kennedy,” Ms. West said. “Over the years, the BVM sisters sent 63 of their order here to pray, teach, and live out their faith, until the last two, Sister Frances Schaeffer and Sister Helen Sherrard, retired and left the convent on our grounds in the summer of 2003.”
And while they may have been gone from OLPH, the sisters were not forgotten. According to Ms. West, OLPH students and the BVM sisters have become pen pals.
“Since then the students of OLPH have stayed in touch, sending Valentine cards to the Motherhouse in Iowa each year. Beginning in the school year following the sisters’ final departure, OLPH established the BVM Award in tribute to their legacy. One student from each grade who shows faithfulness and love to God, to those in the community, and to all of God’s people is honored each year with this distinction,” Ms. West said.
She explained that as vocations to religious life decreased and fewer of the BVM sisters continued in the classroom, the order sought other ways to continue their educational mission.
“In 2017, they established an endowed scholarship fund with the help of their donors and the BVM funds for mission. Their goal is to establish a scholarship in each of the 37 dioceses in 22 states where the BVMs formerly served,” Ms. West said.
“Late last fall OLPH principal Paul Jette was contacted by the development office at Mount Carmel and informed that the school had been selected as a recipient of one of these endowed scholarships. Beginning in the fall of 2020, we will be able to offer this scholarship to one or more students (depending on demonstrated need) from OLPH Parish each year, and the recipient can be considered for one-time renewal,” Ms. West added.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help is one of three diocesan schools in Chattanooga, joining St. Jude as feeder schools to Notre Dame High School.
The school, which is pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, has grown from 60 students in 1937 to more than 275 in 2019. It is located on the campus of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church on South Moore Road off Interstate 24.