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Saint Joseph High School for Girls

[Editor’s Note: The following history of Saint Joseph High School for Girls was written by Marguerite B. Lyons and is taken from the souvenir program celebrating the 60th anniversary of Saint Joseph High School in 1988.]

St. Joseph High School for Girls
Marks 60 silvered, Gilded and Bejeweled Years
By Marguerite B. Lyons

Grateful men and women in all walks of life come together or join in spirit today, to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of St. Joseph High School for Girls, since 1975, known as St. Joseph Regional High School.

They come especially to give thanks to Almighty God for having been given the inestimable blessing of a Catholic, bilingual education and they come to thank and pay homage and reverence to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate of the St. Jean Baptiste Province, whose foresight and untiring efforts made it possible to realize their people’s dream for an institution of higher education for their children.

They come also to thank, pay their respects and show their great love and esteem for the dedicated, zealous and erudite Sisters of Charity of Ottawa, (Grey Nuns of the Cross) and the Marist Brothers who served as members of the school’s faculty throughout the years.

A parochial, bilingual high school for the youth of their parishes had been the dream of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate for many a decade, but insurmountable obstacles and the fast approach of a devastating depression halted steps to realize this never-fading dream.

Faith in God, confidence in His Divine Providence, and trust in St. Joseph, patron of their first parochial school in Lowell, gave the Oblates the needed assurance to launch what was considered a pyramidal and extremely risky enterprise in those days of great fear and uncertainty during the bleak and dim years of the second decade of this century.

It was in 1928 that the prayers of parents who had lived in hope to see the day when their children could pursue higher education in a Catholic, bi-lingual school were answered.

The late Rev. Louis G. Bachand, O.M.I., who lives on in the memory of a grateful people, is remembered as the champion of the cause of higher education of that time, and as the beloved founder of St. Joseph High School for Girls.

Father Bachand was a deeply religious priest, a pastor of God’s people in the fullest sense of that word, and he was an advocate and leader of the multi-faceted Franco-American cause throughout New England. A brilliant scholar, he was an eloquent orator, a convincing preacher, a great educator and an administrator par excellence.

Father Bachand was an inspiration to youth. He was outstanding among his brother-priests in the community of which he became provincial. He was a constant example of christian living for people in all stages of life, a prudent and wise counsellor, a defender of the poor, the helpless, the unfortunate and dejected and he was a friend to all.

Dauntless in the face of challenge, Father Bachand was endowed with that unmatched courage and leadership needed to undertake the establishment of a Catholic, bi-lingual high school at this particular time which marked one of the most difficult financial crises in our history.

Responding as they always had to the appeals of the Oblates, to work with them in their numerous parishes in Canada and the United States, the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa, then known as Grey Nuns of the Cross, graciously and most generously answered Father Bachand’s request for sisters of this illustrious congregation to staff the new high school.

Mother St-Bruno, superior general of the Grey Nuns at that time assigned Sister Marie-Anais, one of the most promising educators in the community, to found St. Joseph High School for Girls in September of 1928, and teach its initial freshman class.

The lack of funds to build, rent or buy a building made it imperative for St. Joseph High School for Girls to open in one of those four large classrooms on the fourth floor of the parish elementary school building on Moody Street built in 1883.

Sister Marie Anais, a young, petite, ultra-feminine, highly distinguished nun with a dynamic and magnetic personality lives on vividly and gratefully in the memories and hearts of all who had the great privilege of having her as a teacher.

She is remembered lovingly as an exemplary woman of the Church, as a worthy daughter of Blessed Marguerite D’Youville and as an outstanding teacher, endowed with the rare ability to impart knowledge at every student’s level of understanding.

In the eyes of all her students and of all who knew her, Sister Marie Anais was the prototype of the perfect religious as well as that of a ‘ ‘dame accomplie”, in whom everyone could see a virtue or a quality to emulate.

That Sister Marie Anais was the perfect influence and model of edification that she was, could no better be proven than by the fact that six members of that first freshman class of 1928 entered the religious life. Three became Grey Nuns of the Cross. One joined the Missionary White Sisters of Africa and one entered a community of contemplatives. All of the others in that class proved themselves a credit to St. Joseph High School for Girls as each one became a very valuable asset to the profession or vocation of her choice.

Sister Marie Anais was an idealist who could make her students reach for the stars. She instilled the love of God, fidelity to his Church, the love of country and of ethnic heritage in all her students.

She demanded the maximum of her students capabilities but was extremely sensitive to the special needs of some, and to these, she gave generously and limitlessly of herself .

In 1929 the general administration of the Grey Nuns of the Cross assigned Sister Antoinette de Florence, to assume the responsibility of heading the fledgling high school as its first principal. She also taught its first sophomore class in the school’s new location, a two-story family dwelling neighboring the then Franco-American Orphanage on Pawtucket Street. This site became inadequate after the first graduation (in 1932) when enrollment had doubled, so the high school classes were resumed at St. Joseph elementary school where they had begun.

Ever-growing enrollment at St. Joseph High School for Girls made it imperative to seek a building large enough to accommodate the student body of 1937.

Rev. Lucien Brassard, O.M.I., present dean of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, then provincial bursar assumed the responsibility of that task and during the summer of 1937, he saw to it that classroom furnishings, textbooks and other equipment were moved to the Marist Brothers Residence at the corner of Moody and Pawtucket Streets.

In the first stages of its existence, St. Joseph High School for Girls offered a strictly classical bi-lingual curriculum. Later the curriculum was expanded to offer a full-scale commercial course.

From the year of its inception, St. Joseph’s High School for Girls, and during the years of SJHS for Boys, the Oblates have always been the Catechetical Instructors and have been available as counsellors and guidance directors at all times.

In 1966, SJHS became a co-educational institution, the site of which was the renovated College St. Joseph on Merrimack Street. Direction of the school was entrusted to the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa.

In 1975, when St. Jean Baptiste parish found it impossible to continue its financial support, it became necessary to make changes. The school then became known as St. Joseph Regional High School and opened its doors to boys and girls of the entire Greater Lowell area. Since 1975, when the school became non-affiliated with any specific parish it has been operating under the administration of a board of directors consisting of local professional and business men and women and it is staffed by a faculty of Sisters of Charity of Ottawa and lay teachers.

Looking back over its 60 silvered, gilded and bejeweled years St. Joseph High School under the direction of the Beloved Sisters of Charity of Ottawa can certainly glow in its well earned and deserved reputation of being an institution of high school education second to none, equal to the very best, and superior to many.

Since its first commencement in 1932 there has been representatives of about every class who can be counted among the 60 young women who have become members of religious communities and congregations. The majority of these religious vocations went to the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa. The others have joined several other communities. Of the graduates who are now Sisters of Charity of Ottawa, two have become provincial superiors of their congregation, three have returned to their Alma Mater as its principals, and 23 have returned as members of its faculty. Since 1975, when the school became non-affiliated with any specific parish it has been operating under the administration of a board of directors consisting of local professional and business men and women and it is staffed by a faculty of Sisters of Charity of Ottawa and lay teachers.

The record shows that 120 graduates of SJHS, following their college education, have joined the ranks of teachers throughout the country. It shows that 110 have chosen careers in the field of medicine, and a score or more are engaged in Social Work. Of the 28 graduates who have responsible positions in administration, three have returned to Lowell, where one is administrator of St. Joseph Hospital, one has served and one is presently serving as administrator of D’Youville Manor. Hundreds of SJHS graduates are in important positions in the various fields of the business world as well as in the arts and on the political scene, and hundreds have served in the armed forces.

Another very important group, in which the greatest number of SJHS graduates will be found is in that ultra special vocation of parenthood, a vocation that provides the daily opportunity to share with their children the treasures of the Catholic and bi-lingual education, the sense of values, the appreciation of ethnic cultural and heritage, the spirit of patriotism and the wealth of knowledge they received at their beloved Alma Mater.

[Editor’s Note, 12 March 2003: Bear in mind that what you have just read was written in 1988. St. Joseph Regional High School, along with a number of other Catholic secondary schools was absorbed and metamorphosed to become what is now known as Lowell Catholic High School and located at 530 Stevens Street in Lowell. For more information, please click on to their web site at the address , which follows:]