Our Parish History: Convent Explosion

This is the twelfth article in a series.  Here are the links for the first eleven parts:

Our Founding: June 12, 1953
The First Parish Meeting
Our First Christmas
The First Rectory, Part I
The First Rectory, Part II
Ground Breaking!
The First Convent
Church and School
The New Convent
The New Rectory
A New Pastor

On July 11, 1975, at about 8:45pm, a devastating blast shook the neighborhood.  Something mechanically had gone wrong with the water heater in the convent.  The boiler itself, the boiler room and the entire basement were blown apart.  The rear wall of the convent was split at the basement ceiling level almost the entire length of the building.  The next two days, Saturday and Sunday, workmen had to shore-up the wall all the way to the roof to prevent a collapse of the building.  The total amount of the damage, including furniture and other items was $157,823, which fortunately, was fully covered by insurance.

Thank God, the Sisters of Saint Joseph were away on vacation or at school.  There were only Sister Helen Anthony and her mother, Mrs. Mayhew, in the building and providentially both were on the north side of the building, since there was much damage in the kitchen and the dining room.  God, in His mercy, was most generous, and there were no physical injuries.

On Monday, July 14, 1975, repairs were begun immediately and completed in a most excellent fashion by the James J. Clearkin Co., who had originally erected the structure.  The Sisters were not able to live in the convent again until November, boarding in the meantime at Saint Helena Convent.

The entire affair was a great shock to the parish, but to thank God once more, no one was hurt and our school program proceeded as usual.

Excerpts from the Saint Joseph Church, Cheltenham, Silver Jubilee Memorial Book
(written in 1978 by Rev. John B. DeMayo)

Next week: 1978 – 25th Anniversary of Parish