By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published December 1, 2016
HAPEVILLE—With songs and deeds, the students at St. John the Evangelist School honored this November the legacy of the religious sisters who began the school 62 years ago.
Two former school leaders were honored on Mercy Day at the Hapeville elementary school. Mercy Sister Sally Condart, a former principal, and Mercy Sister Kathleen Lyons, a teacher and parish administrator, were guests of the school community on Friday, Nov. 18, as it celebrated the Sisters of Mercy legacy.
Sister Sally led the school as its principal from 1976 to 1979. She said the school’s staff and faculty have continued the excellent work to serve families and educate students. The young people’s confidence shows they both receive a good education and are cared for by staff, she said.
The student body of 331 in prekindergarten through eighth grade represents 26 countries. The school was named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in 2010 and 1994.
“I could’ve gotten lost in the building. It has been transformed. It’s so cutting-edge,” said Sister Sally, who entered religious life in 1963. After her work in Hapeville, she served in Peru and now is the director of student research at Merion Mercy Academy, a girls high school sponsored by the Mercy Sisters in Merion, Pennsylvania.
Sisters of Mercy staffed St. John the Evangelist School from its opening in 1954 until 1997. A convent on parish grounds at one time was home to as many as eight women religious, with several teaching in the school.
As part of a new enrichment building completed in August, an anonymous donor dedicated an area as the Mercy Conference Room to recognize the contributions of the Sisters of Mercy.
A black and white photo in the room captured several of them leaving an Eastern Airlines plane in 1954 at the Atlanta airport dressed in flowing black and white habits. They were here to help establish a new Catholic church and school in this small community about eight miles south of Atlanta. This was a long way from their Pennsylvania motherhouse.
The Mercy sisters who came for the room dedication were entertained with several songs by the student choir. Senior priest Father John Adamski, who was at one time a parochial vicar in the parish, led the blessing. Class representatives shared with the sisters works of mercy done by the students, from praying for vocations and helping refugees to creating “blessing bags” for people on the streets and collecting baby supplies for the nearby Pregnancy Aid Clinic. A wall hanging in the enrichment building highlights the church’s corporal works of mercy. Also attending the celebration were Father Richard Morrow, a former pastor, and Father Steve Yander, who had also served in the parish.
Sister Kathleen, who served from 1972 to 1980 at St. John the Evangelist, was impressed with the attitude of service woven into the fabric of the school’s life. She entered religious life in 1964. She has served as the Mercy Volunteers director and now helps serve older sisters in need of special care.
Service is instilled in the students, mirroring how the Sisters of Mercy take a fourth vow of mercy, often revealed in love for others, she said.
“It was beyond our expectations,” she said about Mercy Day and the vitality of the school after more than six decades. “It is bigger and better than we left it.”