Palo Alto Co, Iowa USGenWeb Project

From the Emmetsburg Democrat, Thursday, March 19, 1931:


A Short Sketch of St. Mary's Academy

The founding of St. Mary's in 1888, was at the suggestion and earnest request of Bishop Hennessey, later archbishop, who was fittingly named the apostle of religious education in the central west. Probably no other prelate in the church did more for Catholic education than did this intellectual giant, this pious, zealous member of the American heirarchy. His record in scholarship and eloquence in the Baltimore council, held in 1884, some 47 years ago, is given well deserved mention in Catholic history and in the literature of our country.

St. Mary's established in 1888 and opened in 1889, by the late Very Rev. J.J. Smith, was one of the pioneer Catholic schools in the present diocese of Sioux City, which was created in 1902. About that time with possibly one or two earlier dates, schools were established at Ft. Dodge, Boone, LeMars, Sioux City, Alton and possibly in Carroll county. The attendance probably did not exceed 1,000. The last Catholic directory lists in our diocese 72 parochial schools and an attendance of 11,125. The total number of such schools in the United States is 7,500 and the attendance 275,000 which shows an enourmous growth in Catholic education. The good Sisters of the many teaching orders do not, as the large majority of people know, receive a cent in compensation for their services except for clothing, board and incidental traveling expenses. There are from 70,000 to 75,000 engaged in this great work. Many of them continue in their labors for 35 to 50 years. Ladies of their ripe scholarship, mature judgement, energy, tact and zeal could easily earn in the world's activities at least $100,000 annually. Brief mention is called to these figures simply to show what genuine sacrifices are made by these quiet unpretentious ladies for the cause of religion, education and humanity.

The Sisters of Charity, which is unsurpassed by any religious teaching order of women in the United States, have ever since been in charge of St. Mary's and all of our older people knowing them, as well as the young ladies and gentlemen who were under their charge in the school rooms, can never fully value what they have done to promote education, clean, elevating, manhood and womanhood and dependable citizenship.

It would take an hour and longer to go over the number of the teachers in the school rooms and the Conservatory of Music of St. Mary's and list the young men and the young women who are its graduates. We have in our possession the names of all who have finished their courses in the institution. They number 416. Perhaps four of not five times as many attended the high school from time and also the grades who were not able to finish their courses.

The list shows many matured men and women who have won distinction from San Francisco and Los Angeles to New York City and from Texas, Louisiana, Florida and other southern states all the way to the Canadian line. There is scarcely a city of any size in our land -----------they are not active in callings of usefulness and honor. We might mention several Catholic priests who went forth from St. Mary's and a much larger number who are filling high positions in the several religious orders. We could mention lawyers, doctors, musicians, nurses, bankers, public officials, and hosts of others but it would be impossible to do so within our limited space.

St. Mary's football teams who have won state and district championships are recognized from Sioux City to Dubuque and from Algona and Mason City to Des Moines. Even Tuffy Griffith was ready when he played against them to take off his hat to them.

One of the regrets is that the people of our community did not, when St. Mary's was established, put equally as large a sum into a brick school building as they did into their large church and its rich furnishings. They should all have come across with five times the generosity, the Catholic spirit and the real punch that they manifested when propositions were put up to build a larger, finer educational structure. Where there is a will there is a way. The work could easily have been done. It should have been done.

No Catholic pastor in our state has worked with more earnestness, determination, and unselfish generosity than has, since coming to Emmetsburg, the exemplary, pious, persevering, self-sacrificing rector, Very Rev. J.G. Murgagh, St. Mary's under his watchfulness, his wise leadership, his prudent direction, is bound to flourish and increase in membership.

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