SOMERVILLE, NJ - The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary will end their association with Immaculate Conception School and Immaculata High School after 61 years and will be reassigned to other responsibilities at the end of the school year.
The Sisters had met with Msgr. Seamus F. Brennan last month to inform him of their decision, which was based on numbers – too few sisters for too many commitments.
Students, faculty and parents were stunned by the news, which was formally delivered to Brennan in a Jan. 8 letter from Sister Mary Ellen Tennity, IHM General Superior Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The monsignor, spiritual head of the Immaculata community, which includes the elementrary school school, high school and church on Mountain Avenue, reached out the students and their families the following day:
His letter reads:
“Dear Parents and Alumni of Immaculata High School,
“I was recently notified by Sister Mary Ellen Tennity, General Superior of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), that the Sisters, who have been a part of the Immaculate Conception family since 1957 and Immaculata High School since 1962, will be reassigned from our community as of June 2019.
“Sister Mary Ellen explained that the number of religious Sisters available for the order’s many commitments has diminished, necessitating consolidations that limit the number of convents and schools where they are assigned.
“While we will deeply miss the Sisters, the strong Catholic foundation they built will continue to serve Immaculata and Immaculate Conception Schools well into the future.
“Thanks to their charism, firm commitment to Jesus Christ and their daily devotion to Mary Immaculate, we will retain an enduring and visible Catholic identity, a continued commitment to prayer, regular participation by the school community in the sacraments, and the highest standards of academic excellence.
“Our schools will continue to flourish. The IHM Sisters have served generations of Immaculate Conception and Immaculata families, and we will pay them fitting tribute before the school year ends.
“Those currently assigned to our schools serve in a variety of roles, and we are most grateful for their many years of loving, dedicated, faithful service to our children, and their great witness to faith in Somerville and the surrounding communities.
“I want to express my deepest thanks to the four Sisters who serve at Immaculata High School today and to all the sisters who have taught at our schools over the years. The strong faculties and staffs of Immaculate Conception School and Immaculata High School are the backbone of these institutions, and are committed to faithfully sustaining the Catholicity of the schools and honoring the legacy of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
“The Sisters have committed to continue to pray for us, and I have assured them of our continued prayers for them. We will forever hold them lovingly in our hearts.
Sincerely, Msgr. Seamus F. Brennan
The letter to Brennan from the General Superior of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary reads:
“Dear Msgr. Brennan,
“The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary extend greetings for blessings and peace to all who are a part of Immaculate Conception Parish! I appreciate your meeting with Sister Stephen Anne and me in December.
“The purpose of the meeting was to convey our decision to withdraw from Immaculata Faculty House as of June 2019.
“The essential reason for our leaving is because we have too few Sisters for our many commitments. To continue our mission requires our limiting the number of convents and schools in which we are stationed.
“In this way, we hope to stabilize our Sister personnel, not only to adjust our present numbers, but also to strengthen our apostolic presence and provide quality community life for our Sisters.
“There are, of course, many reasons why we are reluctant to leave Immaculata High School, Immaculate Conception School and Immaculata Faculty House. It has been a blessing for us to have lived within the parish for the past 61years. The Sisters who have been missioned at Immaculate Conception and Immaculata High School, as well as the entire Congregation, have been nourished and enriched by their association with the parishioners, parents, children, teachers and staff.
“We hold in memory the priests of the parishpresent and former-who have faithfully supported and provided for us spiritually and materially. To all of these, we express our thanks. May I acknowledge with pride and much gratitude the services of Sisters Virginia Quinn, Mary Catherine Chapman, Regina Karen McNeill, Dolores Margaret Murray, Mary Ann Besitka, Lorraine Marie DeArros, Theresa John Talbot, and Ruth Bolarte who are currently missioned at Immaculata Faculty House.
“The Sisters' zeal and generosity is a cherished blessing for our IHM Congregation. We know that their hearts are saddened by our withdrawal from the convent.
“Finally, we thank God for all the blessings He has bestowed on us and the people of Immaculata High School and Immaculate Conception School and Parish. We place you and all the people of Immaculata High School and Immaculate Conception School under the patronage of our Blessed Mother and promise our prayers.
“Sincerely, in the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Sister Mary Ellen Tennity, IHM
General Superior Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Joan Silo, Head of School at Immaculata, assured students, faculty and parents that the schools will continue to abide by their strong heritage and association with Sisters.
Silo was hired by the parish to head the school last year and began work in September, 2018.
“Though deeply saddened by this news, I am honored to have the opportunity to help lead our community through this transition and build upon the rich heritage that was originally planted by these Servants back in the early 1960’s when they helped then Father Eugene Kelly open the doors of Immaculata High School for 215 freshman and sophomores, she wrote in a letter to the parish community.
“Having had the opportunity to work with the Sisters currently serving here, Sr. Virginia, Sr. Dolores, Sr. Karen, and Sr. Mary Ann, even for a short time, has given me significant insight into their order, charism, and spirituality, and how much they have and will continue to impact our community.
“They have assured us of periodic visits and of their continued support through prayer. As Immaculata High School continues to grow, evolve, and reach new heights, we will always feel and recognize the love, commitment, and fidelity by all of the IHM Sisters who have walked our hallways.
“The strong foundation built by the Sisters and the energy and dedication of today’s faculty and staff ensures that Immaculata High School’s future is bright and promising. We are visioning for Immaculata to become the premier educational institution in the area and are preparing for a strong upcoming school year.
“ To secure our premier status, we need all hands on deck and all members of our school community trumpeting the many benefits of our school. Your endorsement to family, friends and neighbors can stem the tide of misinformation and will go a long way to educate those who may know little about our school and the excellent opportunities it offers our children.
“ I consider this announcement from the Sisters a charge for all of us to carry on the great legacy that has been built here. I also consider this a call for prayer and support of future vocations to religious orders and the priesthood. We must let our children know that we not only support, but encourage these vocations should God be calling them to this life. Join me in beginning this new chapter in our long legacy. Help assure that our mission, core values, and Catholic identity will continue to be strong, evident, and effective."
With “Creative Hope,
Joan M. Silo, Ed.S. Head of School