Excerpts from the Sisters’ Diary 1941-1950 tell the story of the fourteenth through twenty-third years of St. Joseph’s Indian School. They note the loss of Fr. Henry Hogebach, pestilence, and the beginning of World War II.
January 7, 1941: Father Henry, the founder of St. Joseph’s, is dead — the victim of a reckless driver. Father Henry was on his way from Donaldson, Ind., to Chicago with Brother Fidelis. He was to address a meeting in Chicago about our work in the missions in this country and abroad. Passing an intersection on Highway 6 near Calumet City, a car from a side road, disregarding the stop sign, ran into his car. Father Henry and Brother Fidelis were killed instantly.
September 1941: School opens in September with the following Sisters: Sr. M. Raphael, Superior; Srs. Cherubim, Cecilia, Hyacinth, Innocent, Camilla, Daniel, Melitta, Linus, Candeda, Eloba and Ruby. We have 160 children. Military training is felt even on the missions. So far, we have not succeeded in finding a Prefect for our boys. Brother John has come to help Brother Mathias.
Summer 1942: This year the wide prairie is inhabited by thousands of seagulls. At mealtime, they swoop down on the prairie. It seems not a single hopper can escape wherever the ravenous birds are. The gulls must be God’s answer to our repeated prayers for deliverance from the insect pests. Hay is abundant and rich and there is no need to worry about feed for the livestock. The pastures are better than ever. We are able to keep our dairy herd on the mission this year. The war has brought higher prices in everything.
January 1943: The registration of our oldest boy has brought the war closer to us than at any other time. Through no fault of his own, Wilfred is older than the average boy in the eighth grade. Nevertheless, it sounds strange that boys in grade school must leave for the army camp. Wilfred is gone now, awaiting the call of this country.
September 1947: [This school year] marks the 20th anniversary of St. Joseph’s. A larger enrollment than ever brought our total number of Indian students to 221. Many of the children this year are quite small. With so many small ones, it means additional work for the Sisters … The children do not mind the limited space. At home, an entire family is often held to a one-room shack. Here they can go to school, have warm meals, learn religion, and enjoy the companionship of other little girls and boys.
September 1949 – 1950: Two hundred and thirty youngsters came, bringing with them just the clothing they were wearing. We need everything for the children. Yet, who can turn away a homeless orphan or neglected child?
School has begun and already we have a flock of food bills to contend with. … We are short desks, more beds are needed, and chapel space is at a premium. The walls bulge, there are a few moans and groans — but, seemingly we live through it.