Sister Rosemary Hayes, SHCJ (Mother Francis Jerome)

It was during my preparation for final vows that summer of 1952 that I learned I would be traveling to Pasadena, California to assist Sister Anne Marie Erst, who would be the principal, in the founding of a school in Assumption B.V.M. Parish. Although I was from the mid-West (Waukegan, Illinois), Pasadena seemed like the end of the world to me. I did not then know that ministry on the continent of Africa was in my future. My three days and two nights on the Union Pacific and the porter who felt responsible for Mary Joel and me, is still something I recall. I also remember the loving welcome I received, not only at Mayfield on Bellefontaine where I would be a member of the community, but also from Father Timothy Crean, who asked me four years later when I was leaving, how old I was when I arrived. “You looked as if you should have been in the eighth grade,” he added.

I loved Assumption from the very first day. My first and second classroom was beautiful – everything so new. The boys and girls were so excited about the first day of school as I was. So many important events (to primary grade children) followed that opening day: Our Guardian Angel Party, then dressing as Saints for Halloween. One little freckled face youngster from my class stopped the traffic on East Orange Grove when he crossed the road dressed as a “Perfect Scarecrow.” The first and second grade boys and girls took parts in the Christmas Tableaux, and the little girl who portrayed Our lady sent me a letter twenty-five years later, thanking me, and telling me I was the only “Sister” she ever had as a teacher. Then, I am sure we all remember the air raid drills when the entire school went under the benches in church – the only place we could find shelter away from glass.

That first year we had no auditorium or stage, but that did not stop Mother Anna Maria from beginning practice for our operetta – THE FROG PRINCE. The green lunch benches became the stage and our wonderful Parents made a screen of flowers for the backdrop. Every day, after school, we practiced, and it was during one of the practices that word came of my father’s death on May 5th. I had permission to fly home for his funeral on the 11th, my feast day, – I was then known as Mother Francis Jerome. As I was leaving for my first flight, the Grandfather of one of my first grade students presented me with a box of cacti blossoms from his cactus Farm across from Assumption Church. A gift for my mother! First Communion was scheduled for Mothers’ Day and I would miss it, but the children were prepared by the time I had to leave, and Mother Anna Marie took over for me. On my return I was told the children remembered everything I had taught them and the occasion was beautiful.