The Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul taught at Sacred Heart School in Batawa, Ontario from 1946 to 1975.
Batawa was established as a factory town by the Bata Shoe Company in 1939. Father Dostal, s.j. was appointed pastor of Batawa in 1941 and he held masses in the office hall of the shoe factory until the church was built in 1943. The children of Batawa attended public school in Frankford. Father Dostol wanted to set up a Catholic school in Batawa and in 1946 he asked Archbishop O’Sullivan if he could ask for two Sisters of Providence to staff the school. The Archbishop referred him to the General Superior and with her consent Sister Mary Dorothea, Superior and Sister Mary Constance were sent to teach while Sister Mary Polycarp was to give music lessons to paying students.
Sacred Heart Convent, Batawa, Ontario. (SPSVPA 014-202.3.4-3 )
For the first month the Sisters lived at St. Peter’s convent in Trenton and Father Dostol picked them up at 7am each morning to drive them to Batawa. This proved to be a bit dangerous as one snowy morning the car ended up on the Trent River. Luckily no one was hurt! The Sisters moved into the rectory in Batawa in October when Father Dostol moved to the basement of the church. They lived in the rectory until 1950 when Sacred Heart convent was built on land leased from Mr. Bata at a cost of $1 a year for 20 years. Over the years the Sisters were constantly plagued by frozen pipes and problems with the sewers. They gradually fixed up the house and the grounds with the help of the local people.
The population of Batawa was a very mobile one, consisting of many nationalities. At various times priests of their particular nationality came to minister to the Czech, Slovene and Hungarian people.
Sisters standing outside Sacred Heart Convent, Batawa.
The Catholic school began in Sacred Heart Hall with two classrooms in 1946. Over the years it was staffed by a number of Sisters. The enrollment of the school grew slowly. The parish priest hoped that by having the Sisters there, the Catholic parents would be encouraged to move their children from the public school in Frankford to the parish school. A two-room school was built in 1951. It was opened in 1952 but was not big enough to accommodate the primary grades which remained in the church basement until 1959. An addition was made to the school in 1968.
Over the years, the Sister who taught music had an important role to play. Not only did her private music lessons bring in an important source of income for the mission, but she also served as organist and choir director for the parish. In the early days the music teacher was asked to teach music in the public school too.
The Sisters were actively involved in parish life, including teaching catechism to children who attended the public school and preparing all the children for the reception of the sacraments. They were also involved in the Legion of Mary and the Catholic Women’s League.
The Sisters withdrew from Batawa in 1975 due to various factors. Upon the retirement of the parish priest in 1975, Sacred Heart Church Batawa became a mission of Frankford and the Sisters had to travel for Mass and around that same time the Bata Shoe Company did not renew the Sisters’ lease on the land for their convent. Negotiations took place for the sale of the convent to the Bata Shoe Company and the Sisters left Batawa in November 1975. The Catholic Women’s League hosted a farewell tea for the Sisters in June 1975 and the Bata Shoe Company gave each Sister a memento of her time in Batawa. In all, thirty one Sisters served the community of Batawa over the course of twenty-nine years.
Farewell for Sisters in Batawa in June 1975. Front row, left to right: Sr. Mary Agnes Clare McConville, Sr. Mary Bridget Sloan, Sr. Mary Rose of Viterbo Whalen, Sr. Margaret McDonald, and Sr. Marian McCallum. Back row, left to right: Sr. Reinalda Kloosterman, Sr. Mary Leo MacDonell, Sr. Yvonne Patry, Sr. Mary Helen Rita Gawley, Sr. Mary Florence Howell, Sr. Mary Denise Closs, Sr. Mary Fitzpatrick, Sr. Mary Carmel Rose Desjardins, and Sr. Mary Ryan. (SPSVP 014-126.96.36.199)
Enjoy photographs of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul’s twenty-nine years of service in Batawa, Ontario.
Sisters who served in Batawa
List of Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul who served from 1946 to 1975 in Batawa, Ontario by school year.