Geneva parish celebrates nun’s 100 years
By Denise Linke For The Beacon-News March 18, 2013 12:20PM
Principal Sister Johanna with student Martha (Marte) Masters (whose married name is Skog), at her First Communion on Holy Thursday 1973 at the first St. Peter Church at Fifth and James streets in Geneva.
Updated: April 20, 2013 6:07AM
GENEVA – A living time machine will visit St. Peter School Wednesday to share 100 years of wisdom and experience with students, alumni and area residents.
In return, guests at Sister Johanna Murphy’s 100th birthday party will honor the educator and charity worker for her contributions to the history of St. Peter, where she served as principal from 1967 to 1975.
“We’re proud and excited to celebrate Sister Johanna’s birthday with her,” said event organizer Rama Canney. “There are many people in our parish who knew her when she was here and remember her fondly. Anyone in the community who knew her is welcome to come and celebrate with us.”
The party will take place at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the school gym at 1881 Kaneville Road.
Murphy was born in Chicago on March 21, 1913. She spent part of her childhood with her three siblings in a convent of Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary, which ran Our Lady Academy elementary and high schools, between the time her mother died in childbirth and the time her father remarried and brought his children back home.
Two years after graduating from Senn High School in Chicago, she returned to the convent, this time as a novice. She will mark her 80th year as a nun next year, Canney said.
After earning a bachelor’s degree and certificates in elementary education and administration, Murphy began teaching third grade at Our Lady Academy in 1936. She moved up a grade each year, staying with her original third grade class until they graduated from high school. She still corresponds with some of those students.
“My greatest joy was working with the girls and this included teaching them, learning from them and loving them,” Murphy said.
When Our Lady Academy closed in 1956, Murphy taught and ran several parochial schools in the Kankakee area before coming to St. Peter School in 1967. There, she ran the school with warmth and compassion, staff and parishioners recall.
“My son Dick was in fifth grade when his father died suddenly. It was a difficult time for all of us,” recalled St. Peter Parish member Marge Master.
“Shortly after this, I got a call from Sister Johanna. She said Dick was flying paper airplanes and was removed from class. I thought, ‘oh, no’; but Sister told me she brought him to her office so he could fly the planes without being disturbed.”
“My favorite memory of St. Peter School was visiting the classrooms because it gave me a chance to see the teachers and how children were progressing,” Murphy said.
“The first- and second-grade students were always excited to see me, and (they were) loving, never afraid of ‘the principal’. Seeing children learn was always a highlight.”
Though St. Peter School was the last place Murphy worked in education, she went on to serve in a variety of roles, from mother superior of St. Mary’s Convent in Milwaukee to cook in Brooklyn Center, Minn. She lived and worked in convents in Elgin and Batavia before retiring to Sacred Heart Convent in Hopkins Park, dubbed the poorest town in Illinois, to help needy residents there, Canney said.
“Over the years, Sister Johanna has seen many changes in both the church and the government. She is very intrigued by the changes taking place around her and admits enjoying trips to the grocery store to see all the different foods,” Canney said.
“She manages to get by in her daily life without the use of a computer, which seems impossible today. She communicates the old-fashioned way using the phone, letters, or good old fashioned face-to-face conversations.
“Sister Johanna has a sense of humor, loves to laugh and is generally excited about life. She gardens, putting strong emphasis on flowers instead of vegetables, enjoys reading the classics, poetry and loves listening to music, especially Bach. Sister Johanna is also very interested in politics.”
Though Murphy has lost much of her hearing, she remains in good health overall, Canney added.
For more information about Murphy’s 100th birthday party, call Canney at St. Peter’s Parish office, 630-232-0124.