Catholic Education | Joplin MO
Father William McCormack laid the groundwork for a Catholic school system in the city in 1882, when he converted a small frame building east of the brick church into a schoolhouse. The little building had been built a few years earlier by Father James O’Reilly, the second of three O’Reilly’s serving the parish during the early years. A Miss Roberts taught for a brief period, then was succeeded by Harriet Hardy, who undertook the task of teaching 78 pupils, ranging from 6-17 years of age. Miss Hardy resigned after one year to become Mrs. James McKenna.
Left without a teacher, Father McCormack set into motion a plan that resulted in the arrival of the band of Sisters of Mercy from Louisville, Kentucky, in 1885. There are conflicting reports on how many Sisters comprised the group that arrived here. Father Lyons’ book lists 12 nuns, while a book published in connection with the St. John’s Regional Medical Center’s centennial gives names of 13 nuns. Regardless of whether it was a dozen or a baker’s dozen, the band of angels in nuns’ habits, led by Mother Mary Ignatius, embarked upon a period of service that has had a profound influence on Joplin.
Despite the hardships and rough environment, they found themselves in, the good nuns went about establishing a convent in the Edward Zelleken home on the southwest corner of 9th Street and Pearl Avenue, which they purchased for a reported sum between $6,000-8,000 dollars. The upper floor was remodeled as a dormitory for boarding students from the area. Other rooms were converted into classrooms where the nuns operated the Academy of Our Lady of Mercy for many years.
Another milestone in Joplin Catholic history that took place during Father McCormack’s tenure was the establishment of Mt. Calvary Cemetery on a site overlooking the Shoal Creek Hills south of the city. The cemetery is the final resting place of many pioneer Catholic residents. Among them was Father Thomas Hanly, who succeeded Father McCormack and served from 1887 until his death in 1900. When developed, the cemetery was outside the city limits in a sparsely inhabited area. Today, it is flanked on the south by St. Mary’s grade school and on the west by St. Mary’s rectory, and the Shoal Creek Hills are heavily populated by homes and business buildings.
Father William Hovestadt, who became parish administrator after the death of Father Hanly, was credited with making improvements at the cemetery. According to the official parish history, he urged upon the people the necessity of making improvements at Mt. Calvary Cemetery.
Historical notes state:
“Through his efforts a beautiful figure of the Crucifixion was erected, several streets in the cemetery were graded and graveled and a substantial fence built to replace the old one, which had fallen into decay.”
Joplin Area Catholic Schools
St. Mary’s Elementary School
Joanne Lown, Principal
St. Peter’s Middle School
Tracey Welch, Principal
McAuley Catholic High School
Tracey Welch, Principal