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Students make final visit to Mt. Nazareth Academy

| Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
Sister Florence Pawlicki (left) chats with former student MaryAnn Dobbs of Detroit in the chapel at Mt. Nazareth Center in Ross Township on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. Dobbs attended the former Mt. Nazareth Academy in the late 1950s.The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth invited alumnae of the school and others with ties to the order to visit the building one last time before it is transferred to the new owner.
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
Mt. Nazareth Center in Ross Township, the provincial house of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, has been the site of many ministries over the years, including a girls high school and a preschool. The Sisters invited alumnae of the high school and others with ties to the order to make a final visit to the building Nov. 23, 2013, before its new owner, Presbyterian SeniorCare, converts it into housing for senior citizens. The sisters' preschool, however, will remain.
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
Janet Brannigan-Crogan of London, England, reflects on her time at the former Mt. Nazareth Academy in Ross Township in front of the dorm room where she slept.. She graduated in 1967. The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth invited alumnae of the school and others with ties to the order to visit the building Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, before its transfer to the new owner. Brannigan-Crogan traveled to the event from Michigan.
Randy Jarosa | For the McKnight Journal
Judy Dobies of Pittsburgh (left) meets up with classmate Audrey Grebb of Virginia while touring the former Mt. Nazareth Academy in Ross Township on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. They are members of the Class of 1970. The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth invited alumnae of the school and others with ties to the order to visit the building Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, before its transfer to the new owner.
Randy Jarosz | For the McKnight Journal
Grace (Bajoras) Berard of Pittsburgh's Sheridan neighborhood, a member of the former Mt. Nazareth Academy's Class of 1952, tours the building in Ross Township on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth invited alumnae of the school and others with ties to the order to visit the building one last time before it is transferred to the new owner.
Dona S. Dreeland | North Journal
Mt. Nazareth Academy classmates (from left) Eleanor (Buczynski) Smith, Susan Piechocki, Bernice (Pillart) Dumitru and Nancy (Nowakowski) Robinson gave an impromptu performance of their school's alma mater during a reception Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth invited alumnae of the now-closed school and others with ties to the order to visit its Ross Township building one last time before its transfer to the new owner.
Dona S. Dreeland | For the McKnight Journal
Carol Suwalski McGuigan (left) and Suzanne Kakol, who both grew up in Pittsburgh's Polish Hill neighborhood, have been friends since they met each other in the first grade. McGuigan still lives in the family home, and Kakol now lives in Irwin. The women have good memories of their high school days at Mt. Nazareth Academy in Ross Township from 1966 to 1970, when the school closed. The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth invited alumnae of the school and others with ties to the order to visit its Ross Township building on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, before its transfer to the new owner.
Submitted
Dr. Kamthorn Sukarochana, 84, of Ross Township, initiated a sale of rum and apricot-brandy cakes to benefit the Woodlands Foundation, based in Bradford Woods. The fundraiser is in its 10th year.

They came to remember and to say, “Goodbye.”

“I never knew there was a tree until (attending the school),” said Nancy (Nowakowski) Robinson, who returned to the former Mt. Nazareth Academy, now Mt. Nazareth Center, in Ross Township on Nov. 23 to visit with her high school classmates.

The space that once served as the academy and has been the provincial house for the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth will be converted into senior citizens housing by Presbyterian SeniorCare.

The Mt. Nazareth Learning Center — the sisters' preschool — and the chapel will remain. Housing and office space for the sisters will be built on the campus.

The sisters invited alumnae of the high school and others with ties to the order for an afternoon of tours, a reception and a Mass.

The four-story red-brick building once housed 100 sisters from the province of Ohio, Michigan, Alabama and Pennsylvania. Postulants and novices also boarded there. Today, six sisters live on site.

Sister Kathleen Matuszewski and Sister Gerri Wodarczyk, facilities managers, both are pleased the order's mission to support and nurture families will continue.

“We saw the writing on the wall,” Sister Kathleen said.

“We've been trying to sell the place for more than six years. No matter how many are here, you still have to pay the heat and light.”

Robinson, 68, who grew up in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, was quite familiar with concrete. For the Polish-American teen, Mt. Nazareth was the only choice for secondary education. Even in the 1960s, ethnic groups often attended separate elementary and high schools and followed the order of sisters who first taught them, Robinson, now of Irwin, said.

Half of the 22 girls in her 1963 graduating class joined the order.

Sister Kathleen and Sister Geraldine have called Mt. Nazareth Center home since the late 1960s. Both attended classes and took their vows there.

“I never had my own bed until coming here,” said Sister Kathleen, who grew up in a large family in Cleveland.

Sister Gerri, who had lived in Erie, felt a call to an early religious vocation. What she found at the academy was a solid college-preparatory program that led to a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's degree in spirituality.

Sister Kathleen earned a bachelor's degree in education and a master's degree in special education.

Carol (Suwalski) McGuigan and Suzanne Kakol, both 61, were raised on Polish Hill, another Pittsburgh neighborhood. They continued their friendship at the academy from 1966 to 1970, when the school closed.

“We met in the first grade,” said McGuigan, who still lives in her family home. “We may not talk for a while, but when we get together, it's like we never were apart.”

She remembered Sister Alberta, the art teacher, and Sister Gemma.

“We had a lot of fun,” said Kakol, now of Irwin. “At the end of the year, we wore our messy clothes and cleaned.”

She also remembered when the sisters baked apple pies and sold a piece for a nickel.

They knew everyone in their 31-member class.

McGuigan turned all of her home-economics lessons into a successful cake and candy-making business. Kakol was a nurse for 30 years.

Anastasia (Krzeminski) Lane, 71, now of Shaler Township, remembers taking two streetcars from her home in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood to Bellevue to catch yet another bus to the school.

Robinson smiles when she thinks of the big blue bus that took her to and from the campus. As she and her classmates traveled, they sang and did homework.

The start of each day was a happy one.

“We were loved by the Sisters at Holy Family at Mt. Nazareth,” Robinson said.

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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