Jackson Walnut Park Celebrates Sisters of St. Joseph

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Jackson Walnut Park Schools honored the Sisters of St. Joseph who founded Jackson Walnut Park Schools in the mid-1960s and who have continued their sponsorship of the schools since. The celebration was held on February 13.

Sixth-grade student leaders welcomed their guests to the schools’ new Student Center for a presentation and luncheon. Among the many CSJs attending was Sr. Francis Marilyn DeCoste, the first principal of Jackson School and a Sister of St. Joseph for 65 years.

The student leaders thanked the Sisters for sharing their charism and mission that emphasizes love and service of the “Dear Neighbor” without distinction, a mission, the students said, they “carry out daily, connecting neighbor to neighbor, and neighbor to God.”

A prayer of thanksgiving was followed by a slideshow and student narration that recounted the history of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph dating back to its founding in 1650 in LePuy, France, the courageous 49-day voyage across the Atlantic to New Orleans by six Sisters in 1836, and the arrival of four Sisters in Boston in 1873. Four days after the Sisters settled in Jamaica Plain, they opened St. Thomas Elementary School for girls. On the first day, there were 200 students. Four years later, their school became the first Catholic co-educational school in New England. In 1921, they acquired the Flanagan Estate in Newton. Shortly after, they opened St. Agnes School for girls which later became Walnut Park Country Day School of Boys until 1961. Aquinas College then opened a post-high school business education for women and offered associate degrees in the sciences.

In 1966, Sr. Josephina Concannon, then director of the Montessori School at Boston College, opened Walnut Park Montessori for children ages 3-5 in the estate’s carriage house. One year later, thirteen first graders became the foundation of Jackson School. Under Sr. Francis Marilyn, the school grew, accepting one new class of students each year. The school, at the time, shared space with the Sisters’ St. Joseph Education Clinic until the clinic closed in 1974. Today, Jackson School and Walnut Park Montessori are a collaborative, sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph who have an active presence on campus. Sister Roseann Amico and Sister Denise Kelly are members of the Board of Trustees, Sister Kathleen Berube teaches Latin to Jackson School students in grades four and five, Sister Pauline Curley is a learning specialist at Walnut Park Montessori, and Sister Rosemary Michalski is assistant director of the after-school program, Kids’ Corner.

At the conclusion of the prayer, students presented S. Francis Marilyn with a bouquet of flowers before enjoying lunch with their guests.

“We owe this rich history of Jackson Walnut Park to the Sisters of St. Joseph and their partners in mission,” said the sixth graders. “Their vision, dream, and courage throughout the many decades have been a gift to all the students and families who have been a part of the educational life on this campus.” As each Sister left the Student Center she was presented with a rose and a “Thank you.”