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Family affair: Carmelite sisters celebrate anniversary with community

The Carmelite Sisters of St. Therese, a religious order founded in Oklahoma, recently celebrated its 95th anniversary of ministry in the state with an alumni reunion event attended by many former Villa Teresa Catholic School students and their families.
by Carla Hinton Modified: June 14, 2013 at 5:03 pm •  Published: June 15, 2013

Meanwhile, Joan Penrose, 58, of Oklahoma City, said she attended the school from 1959 to 1968. She said she remembers the nuns helping the students perform many plays over the years. Penrose said one memory in particular stands out. She said her father took her to see President John F. Kennedy when he came to Oklahoma City in 1963 for the funeral of U.S. Sen. Robert S. Kerr. Penrose said she vividly remembers that Kennedy's motorcade rode past Villa Teresa so that students at the Catholic school could wave to the nation's first Catholic president.

“Too bad they don't have schools like this any more,” she said.

Lifetime of memories

Little Alexa Drain and her mother, Regan, looked at photo albums, posters and pictures.

“I went here for five years — my whole life,” Alexa Drain said.

Her mother said one more visit to Villa Teresa was on her daughter's Christmas list after the school closed. Regan Drain said since that wasn't a possibility at the time, the family did the next best thing: They held a Villa Teresa-themed skating party and invited the school's teachers and students.

“She still talks about it and cries, so we came to see everyone today,” Regan Drain said.

Anne Codding, principal of St. James Catholic School, and her sister, Jane Holles, said Villa Teresa Convent served as a refuge for many women whose husbands fought in World War II.

Gloria Jennings, 71, of Oklahoma City, said she grew up with the sisters as her teachers.

“The nuns were the most encouraging, wonderful people,” she said.

“This was my family — my home away from home.”

Gretchen Swinney, 72, of Oklahoma City, summed up the day as she looked at the crowd mingling around.

“There are lots of happy memories here for lots of people,” Swinney said.

by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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