1956 – St. Joseph Preschool & the Spanish Sisters

The statue of St. Joseph standing on Spring Street, midway between Park Avenue and Fulton,  marks  the home of St. Joseph’s Preschool and Nursery, a unique part of St. James parish  since the school’s beginnings in 1958.  

Three sisters of the Congregation of the Servants of St. Joseph came to the United States in 1956 to serve the community as well as learn the language. First to arrive were Mother Superior Ascension Manzana, Sister Virginia Pozo, and Sister Olga Peralta.  They purchased the property on Spring Street from the Diocese of Richmond and began the process of applying for the license for a school.  They were joined by Sister Prudentia Gonzalo and Sister Augustina Temprano.  That first year was hard but help came from Father Heller, pastor of St. James, as well as unexpected support from parishioners.  Construction delays resulted in a first class of only three students.

Once opened and operating, the school grew and flourished. By 1968, the school that had been built for 40 was overcrowded.  There was an increasing number of children from other countries, in particular from Cuba, during a time of political disturbance. A new school was built, and is still in use, serving a student body of 80.

During succeeding years, Sister Ived and Sister Celia joined the community, who lived in a house provided by Father Tuck Grinnell at St. Anthony Church near Baileys Crossroads.   Children of those early students have attended, carrying on a family tradition.

In February of 2005, at a school meeting attended by both parents and Sisters, the Sisters announced that the school would be closing, and the Sisters going to other missions in Spain and Latin America.  After their immediate shock and dismay, school parents were determined to purchase the school and keep it going.  And going it is, with a staff of lay teachers and full enrollment.

Sister Augustina is the only member of the community still living in the Falls Church area, in Culmore.  She works at HOPE of Northern Virginia, just down Park Avenue from St. James.  Hope is an organization providing caring and unconditional support to women with crisis pregnancies. Sister Augustina looks back on her years in Falls Church as a blessing.  “God gives us the grace and the interest to work.  This is my charisma.”