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Oblate Sisters join St. Patrick parish for homecoming event

CHARLESTON—The Oblate Sisters of Providence have a deep connection with St. Patrick Church in Charleston.

For 55 years, they served as instructors at the parish schools, helping form youth strong in faith and academics.

On June 23-24 some of those sisters returned to the church to participate in homecoming weekend, part of the year-long celebration of St. Patrick’s 175th anniversary.

Sisters Naomi Smith, Mary Alice Chineworth, Marina Kelly and Elsa Maria Lopez were scheduled to visit Charleston from June 22-26.

Sisters Mary Alice and Naomi spoke to The Miscellany from their motherhouse in Baltimore about their time at the school and why they are making the long journey back.

“I loved it there,” said Sister Mary Alice. “It’s one of our favorite places as an order.”

The Oblates served from 1917 until the closing of the grammar school in 1972, according to historical documents. They taught at St. Peter and Immaculate Conception schools.

For Sister Mary Alice, it was her first mission as a religious in 1941, and she taught fifth grade. She returned in 1956 to teach English and Latin at the high school.

At 95, she thought she’d never see Charleston again, and is delighted to return to see the coast and the people she recalls as so friendly.

As a Charlestonian, Sister Naomi, 94, said she’s interested in anything that has to do with her hometown, so when she received the homecoming invitation, she was doubly excited.

Joan Mack, co-chairman of the anniversary events, said the homecoming will be a salute to the Oblates, with Sunday Mass dedicated to the order.

According to church history, the order, which was founded by women of African descent, was invited to teach at the school by Bishop William T. Russell.

A large crowd of alumni and others associated with the church and school are expected to attend the celebration.

Read more and see photos in the The Catholic Miscellany newspaper.

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