Left, the Saint Mary’s High School Centennial logo. Middle, Sister Celesta Grimmelsman, the first principal of St. Mary’s High School in 1917; CPPS archives photo. Right, Sisters Benita Volk and Ann Clark attended the celebration; contributed photo.
In 1917, Arizona had been a state for just five years. Two Sisters of the Precious Blood — Sister Mary Celesta Grimmelsman and Sister Mary Pancratia Berting — left Ohio to establish St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Phoenix, which opened on Sept. 17, 1917, with 17 students in a borrowed classroom at St. Anthony’s Grammar School. It was the first Catholic high school in Arizona.
On Oct. 21, 2017, Precious Blood Sisters Ann Clark and Benita (M. Denis Anthony) Volk represented the Sisters of the Precious Blood at the school’s centennial celebration.
The three living Precious Blood Sisters who served at the school are Sister Eleanor (M. Thomas) McNally, Sister Ruth Ann (M. Giovanni) Meyer and Sister Joyce Ann (M. Karen Edward) Zimmerman. Because they were unable to travel to Phoenix, the Precious Blood communications office produced video greetings by Sisters Eleanor and Joyce Ann.
“Congratulations, St. Mary’s, on your first hundred years,” Sister Eleanor says in the video. “You have produced thousands of young men and women who have been well-educated and also enriched with God’s love that you can give to a hungry world.”
In an interview, Sister Eleanor added, “I’m so impressed by the faith and determination shown by Sister Celesta and Sister Pancratia. What came out of that was 100 years of wonderful education.” Sister Eleanor taught English at St. Mary’s in the 1950s.
“I have such fond memories of St. Mary’s High School in my four years there,” Sister Joyce Ann says in the video. “The students taught me so much as I taught religion. They taught me that my faith must be deep and honest. … That’s a lesson and a gift that the St. Mary’s students gave to me that I’ve carried with me all the years since being there.” Sister Joyce Ann taught at St. Mary’s from 1976 to 1980; she also helped coach volleyball and softball and began a tennis program.
Sister Ann Clark, who attended the centennial celebration, said it was “a joyful, spirited event. Many alumni were present, which I think reflects not only the way they feel about the school, but also the success they have had in life because of the education they got there.”
– Story by Mary Knapke