Sisters of the Sacré Noms de Jésu et Marie (SNJM)
From a prior ‘Bit of History’ on the 100 yrs of St Mary’s Parish:
“ The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (Sacré Noms de Jésu et Marie)…religious educators - have been the heart and mind of St. Mary’s School education since its founding in 1954.”
When did they come here – from where? Some of that history from the SM School 50th Anniversary story, with added information from Sisters Kate Ondreyco and Nicki Thomas, follows…
Photo of the Sign at the Los Gatos Convent
Strawberry Day, San Francisco
On May 10, 1868, six Sisters of the Holy Names arrived in California. These young women traveled by ship and train from Eastern Canada, arriving in San Francisco where they were warmly welcomed by the Sisters of Mercy - with Strawberries and Cream
. That year, Father Michael King and the friends and parishioners of St. Mary's Parish in Oakland raised money for the support of the Sisters of the Holy Names and their education ministries. They settled on the shores of Lake Merritt (Oakland) opening the first school, the Academy of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (now the site of the Kaiser Center). In 1931, the Academy of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart became Holy Names High School which re-located to the Oakland Hills. Later, College of the Holy Names opened at Lake Merritt. When the College moved from Webster Street to Mountain Boulevard, the name was changed to Holy Names College - 1971. It was re-named Holy Names University in 2004. This heritage of education extended to Los Gatos in the 1950’s. And, The “Strawberry Day” tradition continues today at the Convent in Los Gatos and in other places where the Sisters of the Holy Names live and work.
The CONVENT of the HOLY NAMES, LOS GATOS
In Los Gatos, in 1945
, the Sisters purchased “the Villa
” for use for vacations and retreats (in the area of upper College Avenue, Prospect and Kimble
– not far from the Jesuit Novitiate). These two acres were originally part of the Kimble tract
(note ‘Kimble Ave’). In the 1930s it was the home of the Moshe and Marutha Menuhin
Family. This is where their son, Yehudi – world renown violinist and conductor - and his sisters, Hepzibah and Yaltah
, both concert pianists, lived and practiced in their early years.
, the Sisters bought the Van Druten
residence, and, in 1949
, the Henry Clay Smith
home and five acres of gardens. However, the combined land was not sufficient for the proposed structures. In 1950
, the Chiodo
estate of 8.9 acres with its valuable gardens became available for purchase by the Sisters. Construction on the Convent buildings began in August of 1950
. The buildings were designed by Wilton Smith and John Minton and constructed by Robert McCarthy Company from San Francisco. The Los Gatos site covered 17 acres including Villa Holy Names.
In February 1952 t
he novices and postulants moved in. The official opening of the convent at 200 Prospect Avenue
was March 4, 1952
. Shortly after, the administration, novitiate, senior Sisters, and infirmary moved to Los Gatos.
St. Mary’s School
In May, 1954
St. Mary’s School opened – a collaboration of Fr Doherty and the SNJM – and a continuation of the Holy Names Mission of Education. Seed money for the school came from Parishioner Agnes Stadler - $2,000 in $1 bills collected during her monthly “circles.” Over 30 SNJM Sisters have been educators at SMS. The Principals are shown in the prior ‘Bit of History.’ Sister Arthur Mary
(Sister Gemma Fisher) was the Founding Principal. All of the Principals have been Holy Names (SNJM) sisters. Sister Nicki Thomas
is the current – and longest serving - Principal.
The entire history of the St. Mary’s School and Staff can be found in the 50th Anniversary “Yearbook” (2005). The 2005 SMS database of faculty includes Sisters: Gemma Fisher, Mary Gabriel Kennedy, Mary Nessi, Catherine Rose Holzman IHM, Mary Thomasine McMahon, Bernice Breen, Rita Callahan IHM, Jane Lewis, Sally Thompson, Mary Theresa Rose, Marilyn Murphy, Joan Doyle, Anne Dineen, Helen Garvey, Grace Briare, Rosemary Delaney, Nicki Thomas, Patricia Doyle, Linda Fuselier, Carol Sellman, Molly Jo Neville, Frances Franey, Shirley Sexton, Domenica Maria Valle, Lolita Krebsbach, Genie Rohner, Inez Sherwood, and Betty Shields.
And, Sister ‘Annie’ was in control of the playground in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Sisters of the Holy Names (SNJM) started instruction St. Mary’s School, Los Gatos, in 1954 - well before the mid-point of our Parish Centennial. Part I of their story touched on their arrival in San Francisco (1868) - marked annually by “Strawberry Days”; the heritage of SNJM Catholic education in the Bay Area; the convent in Los Gatos and SM School - and the list of Sisters who have taught here. That is a lineage that goes back to French Quebec – 200 years ago. Below is a brief history of the Founding of the SNJM. There are indeed ‘French Connections’… Bob Bresniker
From Marseille to Quebec - The Founding of the Sisters of the SNJM
In 1843 Eulalie-Melanie Durocher (Do-row-shay
), Mother Marie Rose
, founded the congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary - more correctly in French, Sacré Noms de Jésu et Marie
- at Longueuil in the French Province of Quebec.
Eulalie (Oct 6, 1811) was the youngest of 10 children; she was educated by the Sisters of Notre Dame. In 1831 she became a housekeeper for her brother, a parish priest and helped teach local youngsters. After Bishop Ignace Bourget of Montreal failed in his efforts to set up a branch of a teaching order from Marseilles, France
, she volunteered to establish a similar community. The SNJM flourished in the face of adversity, but, it took its toll on her health – she died Oct 6, 1849.
Eulalie was the daughter of Olivier and Genevieve Durocher - married Jan 20, 1794 at Parish St Jean, Ile-d'Orleans
. Sheryle and Bob Bresniker took this photo of the church on Oct 8, 2011. The 200-year birthday of Marie Rose was being celebrated that week on this island off Quebec Cite’. French immigrants founded St Jean Parish in 1679
. The church was built in 1732 - with a walled cemetery overlooking the St Lawrence River. Marie Rose Durocher is commemorated in a stained glass window in Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal. The College Durocher, St Lambert, Quebec, is named after Marie Rose, as is the Eulalie Durocher High School in Montreal. Blessed Marie Rose Durocher, SNJM
, was beatified in Rome by Pope John Paul II on May 23, 1982, and her remains are now at the Cocathedral of Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue, in Longueuil.
The French Habit
Kathy Cusick, whose eight (8) children attended SMS from 1959-1974, said in Feb 2005:
“… it was a special experience for me to get to know these lovely women who were teaching my children. …” Sisters in full black and white habits were in the mind’s eye of a young Kathy.
From the LGWT March 2001, SNJM Cover Story: "Our habit was one of the best," Sister Christina
says. They were fashioned after dresses widows wore in Marseilles, France.
Before World War I, women were all wearing long dresses, so nuns didn't stand out as much… Sister Mary O'Brien
recalls the day she got her habit: "I danced around in it. I was so excited
… All of a sudden something came over me. I felt this is it, and this was it, and I knew it." (Sister Mary O’Brien passed away this year - 2012, having spent 71 years in religious life.) Photo from the LGWT March 2001, Sister Mary Gabriel Kennedy, SNJM. One of the first teachers at SM School Sister Nicki Thomas,
May 2005 - On dropping … the nun’s ‘habit:’
“… As a postulant, I did wear the floor length ‘old fashioned’ postulant outfit with a little veil that still showed our hair
. When I worked here in 1966, I was a postulant; however, the modified habit did come while I was in the novitiate, which was from 1966-1968…”
Marie Rose Guild
Marie Rose continues on. Over the last half-century, the Marie Rose Guild – including women from St. Mary’s Parish – has supported the sisters at the SNJM Convent in Los Gatos. ‘We work on projects for our Boutique, the Strawberry Luncheon (May 17 this year) and Christmas Tea. Proceeds benefit the Sisters’ Retirement Center… ‘
The mission of the Sisters of the Holy Names goes on today not only in Los Gatos and the Bay Area, but elsewhere in North America, South America and Africa. If you’re interested further, contact Sister Kate Ondreyco, Director of Development in the Regional Office, Los Gatos, firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Mary’s School and the SNJM: The Tuition – Reasonable,
The Education – Priceless
This is an excerpt from the 50 Year History of St Mary’s School – SMS – 2005 – Bob Bresniker
Just as the Jesuits of Santa Clara College played a vital role in the first 50 years of the Catholic Mission church of Los Gatos, another Catholic Religious Order - the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM - Sacré Noms de Jésu et Marie), also religious educators - have been the heart and mind of St.Mary’s School education since its founding in 1954. Previous Bits of History have touched on a few of the graduates of SMS – Jim Farwell, Jim Kilkenny, and the Cusicks (one of the “19 families with 7 or more children that attended SMS”).
Now, here’s a ‘Bit’ on the SNJM Principals who have made SMS the school it is today (Photo 2004):
More on the longest serving – and current – Principal Sister Nicki Thomas (photo 2008) – from an e-mail interview during the SMS 50th project:
Sister Shirley Sexton (1975-1982) &
Sister Nicki Thomas (1988-Present)
- Sr. Nicki is the current Principal
Sister Joan Doyle (1967-1971, 1982-1988) &
Sister Joan Marie Neville (1971-1975)
- Sr. Joan served two terms
Sister Andrew Marie (Sr. Marilyn Murphy) (1963-1967)
- Sr. Andrew Marie is a graduate of University Avenue School in Los Gatos
Sister Gertrude Theresa (Sister Jane Lewis) (1961-1963)
Unavailable: Sister Vincent Marian (1958-1961)
- Ms. Joan Donohue
Sister Arthur Mary (Sister Gemma Fisher) (1954 - 1958)
- Sr. Arthur Mary is the Founding Principal
Besides playing a fine Bass at St. Mary’s liturgies - and making those neat dough figurines - what can you tell us about yourself?
On her education:
Grew up in Berkeley. Went to School of the Madeleine in Berkeley for grammar school, then Holy Names High School in Oakland and then Cal Berkeley until I entered the convent in 1966.
About Father Mark Catalana (part of the SMS “Family Tree”):
Mark graduated from St. Mary's in 78. I was his 8th grade teacher. He was a good student.
On those famous dough figures seen at the Country Faire:
I am part of a cottage industry with the Sisters of the Holy Names - and we make figures out of Fimo clay which we sell at craft shows on weekends.
On the SMS Mascot and SM sweatshirts:
When I came as the 8th grade teacher in the late 70's we were the Cougar's. I actually designed - with the student council - what I thought was the first sweatshirt, which had this cartoon-like Cougar on it...
On dropping religious names – and the nun’s ‘habit.’
I think it happened in 1968. As a postulant, I did wear the floor length "old fashioned" postulant outfit with a little veil that still showed our hair. When I worked here in 1966, I was a postulant; however, the modified habit did come while I was in the novitiate, which was from 1966-1968. I was called Sister Jean for awhile.
On her vows:
I made promises in 1969, which was something that was done in lieu of temporary vows for only a couple of years. I made my final vows on August 18, 1974.
Technically, The Holy Names sisters are not nuns. (Nuns are really only the monastic orders such as Dominican, Franciscan.)
On St. Mary’s and teaching:
I worked here for the school year 1966 – 1967-- I taught Religion (first) at St. Mary's. I was the 8th grade teacher here from 1977 - 1982. I left to work at Santiago de Compostella Parish in a developing part of South Orange County from 1982 - 1988. While there I worked as youth minister and then also Director of Religious Education. I was there for the building of its first church. The church took a long time and ended up costing two million dollars, almost a million over budget! There was no school and no facilities, so all religious education classes were in private homes. Until the church was built a Jewish Temple was used for high school classes. There were several hundred students in the program. I returned to St. Mary's in 1988 as principal.
Like the stones from Los Gatos Creek used in the base and walls of Forbes Mill - the Sisters of the Holy Names, the ‘Sacré
Noms de Jé
su et Marie’ - were among those who provided and shored the foundation for our school and in turn St. Mary’s Parish of Los Gatos.