The Sisters of St. Joseph of Wichita were called to Pittsburg in 1895 to operate an elementary school in Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. Over the decades, more than 200 nuns served the parish, St. Mary’s Grade School and St. Mary’s-Colgan High School.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Wichita were called to Pittsburg in 1895 to operate an elementary school in Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. Over the decades, more than 200 nuns served the parish, St. Mary’s Grade School and St. Mary’s-Colgan High School.
That history ended Thursday when the last three nuns associated with the schools returned to the Mount St. Mary’s Motherhouse, Wichita. Leaving were Sister Patrice Joyce, Sister Paula Marie Metz and Sister Charlotte Zelnik.
All students in the parish schools gathered outside the convent at Ninth and Locust to serenade the nuns and bid them farewell.
“Most of these students’ parents also knew the nuns,” Pat Forbes, retired SMC coach and principal, noted. “This really is the end of an era. When I came in 1964, the grade school was full of nuns, the high school was full of nuns and the convent was alive with nuns.”
He and other parish volunteers assisted other nuns from Wichita in packing up three vans with the sisters’ possessions and driving them to Wichita.
Seated beside Forbes in his van was Sister Joyce. She reminded him that, in 1979, he had driven to Dodge City to bring her to Pittsburg.
“I looked in the school annual, and I looked young then and so did you, Pat,” she said.
“Their hearts are breaking like ours are,” said John Kraus, president of schools and director of administration for Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. “They were part of spirit of the school, teaching, being administrators and leading plays.”
He noted that Sisters of St. Joseph served as principals of the high school from its opening in 1936 until 1973.
“They’ve gotten into our bones, and I think that they will always be part of St. Mary’s/Colgan,” Kraus said.       
The schools will also be part of the nuns, who were visibly moved as the children sang to them.
“I’m going to take all of you with me in my heart,” Sister Zelnik told the youngsters. “You’re all safe in here.”
One member of the religious order, Sister Ann Meyer, director of pastoral care at Cornerstone Village, will remain in Pittsburg, but will reside in an apartment closer to her work.
Kraus said that no plans had been made yet about the convent, which was constructed as part of a 1949 building program.