The entire Saint Joseph Academy community gathered on Aug. 29 with the sisters of the Congregation of St. Joseph and benefactors to celebrate the birth of Mother Theresa Fitzmaurice, CSJ, for whom Fitzmaurice Hall – the former motherhouse/convent for the congregation -- is named. The event also honored gifts from the Congregation of St. Joseph and other charitable benefactors as well as the beginning of work on renovation of the building.
When the sisters moved into a new motherhouse on the grounds earlier this year, the congregation gifted Fitzmaurice Hall to SJA. Renovations are under way so the building can be used once again for academics. Work began in June and is expected to be complete in time to use the building for the 2020-2021 school year. The project will retain the building’s distinctive architecture while updating it to support the needs of a 21st century education.
Sister Kathy Brazda, CSJ of the congregational leadership team, and Sister Nancy Conway, CSJ '65, shared a blessing with the attendees at the celebration. SJA President Mary Ann Corrigan-Davis presented an original piece of slate from the roof of Fitzmaurice Hall to the Congregation of St. Joseph. The slate was engraved in the academy’s Makerspace innovation lab.
Mother Fitzmaurice, the former Ellen Fitzmaurice, was born to Thomas and Margaret Fitzmaurice on Aug. 29, 1862. She was the fourth of nine children in the Fitzmaurice family. She entered the Congregation of St. Joseph on Dec. 26, 1878 at the age of 16. During her lifetime, Mother Fitzmaurice was elected CSJ mother superior three different times.
She had a dream about building an academy for the education of young women on a campus far away from the swampy area of Cleveland now known as the Flats. She understood the importance of educating girls for a future not yet imagined and she set out to fulfill that dream.
There was a farm located far outside the established neighborhoods of Cleveland on a dirt street named River Road in the settlement of Rockport. While others saw farmland, Mother Fitzmaurice saw potential and found a deep connection to God and all of creation.
In 1898, she purchased the property and later designed the motherhouse building, where classes were held beginning in 1905. More than 20 years later -- in 1928 -- Mother Fitzmaurice constructed the current SJA building. The sisters continued to live, work and pray in the motherhouse until moving into their new space earlier this year.
More than a century ago, the young women of Saint Joseph Academy began to be educated on this former farmland. Mother Fitzmaurice, who also served once as SJA principal, selected the academy's motto, Sursum Corda, which is Latin for Lift up Your Hearts, and the school's colors of purple and gold.
Fitzmaurice Hall's newly renovated ground floor will be the new home of SJA’s CORE ministry/theology program, giving these teachers and mentors a new home to support and guide students' spiritual growth. The newly renovated main floor will be the new home for the humanities/social studies programs, infusing students' learning about the world with the values that will help them make a difference in it.
Moving these two departments to Fitzmaurice Hall, in addition to some staff and administrative offices, will provide the opportunity to renovate and repurpose space in the academy building.
The upper two floors of Fitzmaurice Hall will be reserved for future use, as needs arise. The project is being financed with a capital campaign and through other funding sources. It will not impact tuition, school officials said.
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