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Remembering Dougherty

Presentation Presence 1907-1973

Dougherty, “The Garden Spot of Iowa,” first welcomed the Presentation sisters in 1907. At that time the Holy Ghost sisters, who had run the school since 1897, decided to concentrate their efforts in the Dubuque area.

According to an early annalist, “To the credit of their former teachers, be it said that the sisters found a well-trained, carefully instructed group of children in St. Patrick, Dougherty.” This small town boasted a mile-long main street, with the business area and the Church at opposite ends, and “just an inviting bit of country road without even a sidewalk” in between.

Sisters Mary Fidelis Martin, Loyola Murphy and Dorothy Delaney ventured to this small town to spread the spirit of Nano Nagle in Cerro Gordo County in north central Iowa. They found a convent/school building ready for them and students ready to learn.

Father Patrick O’Reilly, pastor in 1907 when the sisters arrived, saw to the needs of the newcomers and assisted in the religious instruction of the students. The fact that many of the students traveled a good distance to attend St. Patrick School was evidence of the value their parents placed on Catholic education.

The zeal of the early pioneers had kept alive the faith they had brought with them from Ireland, and they worked to ensure that instruction in that faith was available to their children. Further evidence of this zeal was shown in the prompt replacement of the school and church, both of which were destroyed by fire in 1895.

Illness visited the little community, causing Sister Fidelis to resign early in the second semester. Her death in May of 1908 left two grieving sisters to carry on the work for the remainder of that first school year.

By 1917 more space was needed and two more schoolrooms plus extra living space for the sisters were added to the existing structure. This building saw more additions over the years, and served the needs of the school until 1965 when it was replaced by a brick structure. A separate convent had been built in 1956, and so the new building was used strictly for school.

St. Patrick High School was accredited by the state of Iowa in 1923, and was maintained until 1964. From 1968-1973 the grade school was consolidated with Rockwell, and in 1973, the Dougherty center closed due to lack of students. A total of 74 Presentation sisters ministered in the school during its 66 years of operation.

Sister Mary Ita Sullivan was assigned to Dougherty from 1917-1919. In an interview for an oral history tape, she gave a job description for Sister Mary Loyola Murphy who was middle grade teacher, local superior, principal, bursar and general administrator. “You see,” she commented, “in those days it was not a matter of multiple choice, but multiple jobs!”

Sister Fleurette Einikey, on the same tape, tells of Sister Clementina Mackey who was compassionate, and “listened to a person’s heart.” Sister Clementina kept her Irish heritage alive with sayings such as this one referring to her five-foot status, “I’m every inch of it.”

Sister Pauline O’Connor was, according to descriptions from her contemporaries, able to corral the most boisterous of second graders. “One week under her guidance and one would note the primary students marching in to attend daily Mass with eyes lowered and hands folded.”

Sister Sacred Heart Rooney was the first Presentation vocation from Dougherty, and the first to enter the newly-erected motherhouse at 1229 Mount Loretta Avenue in Dubuque. Eleven other young women followed her example over the years swelling the ranks of those who follow Nano Nagle.

Jim Boyle, a graduate of St. Patrick, describes the sisters in the following manner: “Dedicated teachers they surely were; and living saints, maybe, for they didn’t go raving mad working under excessive class loads and crowded room conditions.” Of Sister Mary Scholastica he noted: “Sister Scholastica…did a remarkable job of introducing students to instruments and getting them to harmonize as a unit of 26 pieces….Methinks a special crown in heaven awaits all teachers of ‘beginners’ band.”
St. Patrick’s in the Roarin’ Twenties

After the closing of the school, the sisters maintained their presence by conducting weekend renewal programs for several years. These included visiting the sick and elderly, religious education classes grades 1-12, liturgies, adult discussion groups, inservice for religion teachers, music and pot luck dinners.

On July 28, 2012, a final liturgy was celebrated in the parish, bringing to a close a span of 155 years of church ministry in the area. Parishioners looked back on the history of the parish with gratitude for the blessings received during those years.

Left photo: St. Patrick School in Doughtrey, Iowa.

Right photo: Left to right: Sisters Sacred Heart Rooney, Walter Marie Murphy, Margaret Donnelly, Marie Louise Murphy, Juanita Boom, Ellen Murphy, Michael Rottinghaus, Jean Murphy, Anthony Rottinghaus, Paschal Cunningham, Louise Scieszinski and Xavier Corrigan- all women who entered the Sisters of the Presentation from Dougherty.

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