During the 1963-64 school year, a workforce of 700 Sisters of St. Joseph provided education to 27,200 pupils in 60 diocesan elementary schools and 3,150 students in four high schools (1,400 students at Nazareth Academy alone). Those numbers represent just a moment in time, but their significance grows when you understand that the SSJ have been serving as educators in the Rochester area for 160 years.
Education was one of the earliest SSJ ministries in the Rochester Diocese, dating from 1854 when the first four Sisters opened a school at St. Mary’s Parish, Canandaigua, after a difficult journey from the Missouri frontier. When the Diocese of Rochester was formed from the Diocese of Buffalo in 1868, Bishop Bernard McQuaid asked the Sisters of St. Joseph to help build a system of parochial schools. In support of that vision, the SSJ served in 80 diocesan elementary schools over the next decades.
Beyond that, they have been administrators and teachers at six high schools, a conservatory of art and music, two nursing schools (one at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Elmira and one at Good Samaritan Hospital in Selma, AL), several specialized programs (the Home of Industry, Holy Childhood School, Nazareth Model School, St. Joseph’s Early Childhood Center, Trinity Montessori School), and Nazareth College. In order to prepare teachers for this extensive and varied work, the Congregation opened its own Normal School in 1898 and took responsibility for teacher training.
The SSJ ministry of education continues today. Each day this week, we will shine the spotlight on a Sister working in a Rochester school, each one writing a new chapter in the long history of SSJ service in local Catholic education.
Pictured below: Dismissal at Sacred Heart Cathedral School with Srs Ruth Agnes Kesselring and Julie LeVeque, ca. 1965. Sister Mary Anne Laurer at Nazareth Elementary School, ca 1980's