Vince LaBarbera
Freelance Writer
March 19, 2013 // Local

St. Joseph School, Monroeville, closes centenary year celebration

Vince LaBarbera
Freelance Writer

Gathered at the centennial celebration of St. Joseph School, Monroeville, were (from left) Stan Urbine, eldest living graduate of the school (1931); Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades; Carolyn Kirkendall, former principal (27 years); Father Lourdino Fernandes, pastor; Dr. Mark Myers, superintendent of Catholic schools; and Stan Liponoga, present principal.

By Vince LaBarbera

MONROEVILLE — A Mass at St. Rose of Lima Church, Monroeville, was celebrated last year on March 18 by the late Bishop Emeritus John M. D’Arcy to begin a centennial year celebration of the parish school, named in honor of St. Joseph. At a luncheon after Mass, Bishop D’Arcy said, “You have been an inspiration to the whole diocese. This community has refused to believe that the town of Monroeville is a dying town. This is an extraordinary event.”

This past Sunday, March 17, a closing Mass of centennial year celebration was celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. And although the Mass was held on the feast of St. Patrick, the two Sunday dates were chosen since they were closest to the feast of St. Joseph on March 19.

The theme of the year-long commemoration was “Celebrating the Past, Building for the Future.”

At the beginning of the Mass, Bishop Rhoades said there was much to celebrate: the centenary of St. Joseph School, of course, the election of a new pope and, as evidenced by so many in the congregation wearing green, the feast of St. Patrick.

Back in the 1840s, he related, there were priests who would come to the area to celebrate Mass in the homes of families who were of French, German and Irish origin. Turning to Father Lourdino Fernandes, pastor of St. Rose, Bishop Rhoades jokingly asked, “There’s a little bit of Irish in you, isn’t there?”

Citing St. Rose of Lima as “one of the truly historic parishes of our diocese,” Bishop Rhoades began his homily by pointing out that the parish was established by our first bishop, Bishop John Luers, in 1868, just 11 years after the diocese was established.

“Today as we celebrate the closing of this year-long centennial of St. Joseph School, it is good to give thanks to God for the many generations who received a solid Catholic education here in Monroeville,” Bishop Rhoades continued.

“We think back when the (present) school was established 100 years ago,” he said. “The bishop at that time was Bishop Herman Alerding.”

It was a time when communities were growing rapidly because of immigration throughout the northern half of Indiana, which comprised the diocese.

St. Joseph School at St. Rose Parish

“I think it’s good today, and as you have, I’m sure, throughout this centennial year, to renew our commitment to the important and holy mission of Catholic education here in Monroeville, “Bishop Rhoades emphasized. “And the future looks so bright, especially with the purchase of the new school. I know it hasn’t been the easiest process, but thanks be to God, it’s coming to fruition. And I’m really grateful for your strong support of St. Joseph School. I’m grateful to Father Lourdino; to the principal, Stan Liponoga; and to Carolyn Kirkendall — thank you so much, too, for being such a wonderful principal for so many years. The teachers and the staff of the school, you have my appreciation as well. Dr. Mark Myers is here, our superintendent of schools, thank you! And I pray that many more children will continue to receive a strong Catholic education at St. Joseph’s School,” Bishop Rhoades said before reflecting on the Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Lent (Cycle C, Jn 8:1-11), “A woman caught in adultery.”

When asked about the transition from the previous principal’s position of 27 years to the current administration, Liponoga said, “It has been exciting! The first year of an administrator is an educational year. This year I have learned the great spirituality of our students, staff, parents and parishioners (and) the great love and support St. Joseph School and St. Rose Parish has for this community,” said Liponoga. “Each student and teacher has the highest expectations for each student, and we continue to raise the bar.”

“We have 82 students this school year, and our current classroom capacity is 126 students. Therefore, our goal is the additional seats to pass along our Christian values, Catholic identity and high academics to more students,” he related.

“There have been Nostalgia Days throughout the past year — multi-year reunions of classes that celebrate the memories of the past, present and future of St. Joseph School,” said Liponoga.

“St. Joseph School is undergoing a major revitalization this year,” he continued. “We are in the process of purchasing a beautiful new facility.”

“We are on a mission to provide an excellent education not only to the Catholic students in Monroeville but to all students in Monroeville,” he said. “The possibility of relocating is very high,” he concluded.

There are various accounts of when the first school was erected, possibly as early as 1898, and named St. Rose Academy. The present school building was built in 1911 and has been remodeled numerous times.

The school was renamed in honor of St. Joseph by Father Charles Marr, pastor from 1909-22, in thanksgiving for prayers answered in defraying debt incurred by remodeling the educational facility. The School Sisters of St. Francis staffed the school when it opened in 1912 and continued their educational and spiritual guidance until 1972 when the school began to be staffed solely by lay teachers and lay personnel.

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