Sister Eleanor Maria Pettit, S.C. Oral History




Interviewer: Sister Anita Constance, SC
Interviewee: Sister Eleanor Maria Pettit, SC
Date: 1993
Editor: Sister Noreen Neary, SC
Date edited: November 18, 2020

Sr. Eleanor Maria:
The thing with Hasbrouck Heights was that it was an accident that Corpus Christi School opened.
Now, I don't know if that's funny or not, but in 1928 there were two Father Clarks and a Father
Martin. The Father Clarks were brothers. One was in Ridgefield, one was in Hasbrouck Heights.
The Ridgefield one and Father Martin, who was in East Orange, both were opening schools and
Mother Grata had promised them sisters. But the man [Father Andrew Clark] in Hasbrouck
Heights was a little annoyed when he knew they were getting them and he wasn't. He had no
school at all. But he went up to Convent and Mother - she told the story - she was busy and she
couldn't see him. So she sent word down thinking it was Father John Clark, his brother, that not to
worry, he would have his sisters. And she lived up to it. And now, as I look back, I think it was
pretty hard. But on the other hand, the Lord was with us, I guess. [Sister Anna Raphael Bradley],
who had been in Hoboken for 35 years, brand new superior, and [Sister Mary Avelline Carrigan]
and I were novices and they sent the three of us to Hasbrouck Heights. And when we got there,
there was no school. There was a Lyceum building and there was an auditorium in there and two
cloakrooms, one on either side of the entrance. So Anna Raphael taught the sixth grade in the
auditorium. I taught first and second in one of the cloakrooms and Avelline had third and fourth
in the other cloakroom.
Sr. Anita:
It's typical of Sisters of Charity doing with what you have, making do with what you had.
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
That's right. But it was hard. And we really didn't have a convent. We were renovating a little
house, which was in the spot where the school there is.
Sr. Anita:
Where did you live then?
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
Well, we stayed ... There were bedrooms in this little house on the upper side, but they were
partly furnished. We stayed in the convent, we had in the rectory. And until, maybe it was a
week or so before. And my famSr. Anita:
Did you eat with the priest or did you have to eat separately?
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
Housekeepers had us separately. And my mother ... We lived in Newark and my mother used to
come over to us. My sister came over, did the wash for us. And it was really very, very hard. We
had to get up and have the wash out before we went to school. It was awfully hard, but I don't
think we appre- ... Avelline, poor little Avelline, Lord have mercy on her, at Christmas time she

couldn't take it anymore. So she was changed to Roxbury, Massachusetts. Anna Raphael left in
June, she was changed to Roxbury, Massachusetts, became Avelline's superior there. And I don't
know why I was there for three years, but I was there for three years.
Sr. Anita:
Well, I guess they thought you were good at what you were doing.
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
I don't know. I don't know. Well, I had had the first grade in the boys’ house [Saint Joseph School
for Boys in Convent Station, NJ], which became the Juniorate after.
Sr. Anita:
Oh, yeah.
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
That was the last year they had that open, [Sister Anne Gertrude Coleman] and Mary [inaudible]
and I were Sr. Anita:
Went to Hasbrouck Heights then…
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
Novice. We were only novices.
Sr. Anita:
Were you a novice the three years you were there?
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
No. I entered in [1927], we got the habit in July ‘27. And then in September, we went down to
the boys’ house. And the following September that we went to, 1928, we went to Hasbrouck
Sr. Anita:
As a novice.
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Sr. Anita:
And then you taught as a novice, made your vows and went back.
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
Yes. Mm-hmm (affirmative). And then I was already there for three years, and then I went to
[Mount Carmel School in Ridgewood, NJ]. But it was hard. But as you look back now…

Sr. Anita:
What was hard about it?
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
Sr. Anita:
What was hard about it?
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
My Lord, we had to teach school, work, do our housekeeping, everything. We had nothing. And
we had finally had it ready for sister came after, it was only two months. Because she left when
Anna Raphael did, that came and cooked for us after. My mother couldn't come over and live
with us, but she came over.
Sr. Anita:
Because you were working from scratch, right?
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
Yeah. Oh yeah, we had nothing. But we had no chapel, but he was putting a little chapel in
the house, which was a God-send. And we had problems there.
Sr. Anita:
That's all right, only I hear it.
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
Oh. I think he was a little unfortunate. He used to have his problems. And sometimes he'd be very
kind to us and another time he would be ... he'd come in and shut the heat off on us. And we had
to be in school at 8:30. Some mornings we didn't have Mass until eight o'clock and we'd have to
get over to school. And then I used to leave at 11:30 to ... We fixed the dinner the night before,
some of the things. And then I came over at 11:30 and cooked what had to be cooked and really
had a dinner at night. But it was, now as I look back, I'm glad it happened, because it certainly
gave you something that ... I think it did, it made you a little stronger, I guess.
Sr. Anita:
Like a fortitude of forbearance.
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
Yeah. Right. But you didn't think of it that way at that time, we were too young. Well, I was 22
when I entered. I wasn't a baby and I had worked, for which I'm grateful. But then after the three
years, things went on normally. But it wasn't easy. And I think the people in Bergen County at
that time weren't too happy to have a Catholic school. They weren't ready for it then.

Sr. Anita:
Oh, really? Was it one of the first ones in the area?
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
I think so. I think it was. There was no Teterboro, no nothing, anything there. It was all farmland,
all farmland. Even Ridgewood, when I went to Ridgewood. We taught Sunday school in Glen
Rock and Paramus and in Midland Park up that way. There were no schools there at all, and that
was 1930, 27, 20, 30. In early 30s.
Sr. Anita:
If you were to say, like your experience in Hasbrouck Heights, how would you look at it as really
a typical experience of the Sisters of Charity life? How do you think that that would be so typical
of what Sisters of Charity would get into or would be their kind of a ministry or experience?
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
Well, I think it was a good thing, a good ministry. And I think once they realized what it was, it
was ... I'm grateful I had it, to be honest with you. And that was just the first couple of- And then
Avelline and I were friends from the novitiate. And when she left, I was uptight. Then after that
[Sister Margaret Francis McAllister] came, and after that [Sister Therese Concilio Carlin] came.
And in those three years we had the two superiors, [Sister Stella Maris McGaughey] was our
superior after Anna. And she was a poor little sister, she was a beautiful [inaudible] years after.
Sr. Anita:
So this was like the pioneer days of the community.
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
I guess. Well, I think, look, she was a lot older than that. But I'm sure a lot of the sisters had a
harder time then. Yeah. But I always felt it was kind of accidental that it opened, but God
permitted it and He wanted it because that's one of the nicest places we have today.
Sr. Anita:
But I guess that priest would have prayed, “Providence can provide, Providence did provide,
Providence will provide.”
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
Yeah. Oh, I'm sure. I'm sure.
Sr. Anita:
He certainly must've felt he pulled a good one when he walked out of it. Who was the Mother
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
[Mother Mary Grata Mullaney], the greatest Mother we ever had.

Sr. Anita:
Was she wonderful?
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
God, she was the greatest one.
Sr. Anita:
Why was she good?
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
Kind and thoughtful. My father died, I went home while I was in Hasbrouck Heights. I made my
vows in July and my father died June 6th. And I went home for my first visit to his funeral and we
weren't allowed to do really anything in those days. But my mother said to ... I wasn't allowed to
go to the cemetery. He's buried up in Connecticut. And she asked me if she thought I could get
permission after November 1st, I had buried my dad, if I could go up to the visit the grave in
Norfolk, Connecticut. And Stella Maris said, "Hey, write to Mother and ask her." I wrote to her
and she wrote me a letter within three days saying ... My mother was planning a day trip. And she
said, "You may go with your good mother." And she said, "You do not have to come back the
same day."
Sr. Anita:
That was extraordinary in those days.
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
There's a Sisters’ ... The Sisters of Mercy have a con- Imagine how she investigated. The Sisters
of Mercy have a convent in Torrington, Connecticut, which is right near there. And she said, "You
may stay there overnight and come back the next day." My mother almost died. And my mother
was the most beautiful letter writer. She wrote all her life, she never stopped writing. And she
wrote to mother in gratitude. She was so ... That was unusual.
Sr. Anita:
And this was to visit your father's ...
Sr. Eleanor Maria:
Papa's grave. My whole family's buried up there.

Dublin Core


Sister Eleanor Maria Pettit, S.C. Oral History


Pettit, Sister Eleanor Maria, S.C.; Corpus Christi School Hasbrouck Heights, NJ; Mother M. Grata Mullaney


Description of the opening of a new school in 1928 and the kindness of Mother Mary Grata Mullaney


Pettit, Sister Eleanor Maria, S.C.; Constance, Sister Anita, S.C.


Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth


circa 1993


Neary, Sister Noreen, S.C. (Editor)


Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth






Oral History


Sister Eleanor Maria Pettit, S.C. describes the opening of a new school in 1928 and the kindness of Mother Mary Grata Mullaney


circa 1993

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Original Format

cassette tape




Constance, Sister Anita, S.C.


Pettit, Sister Eleanor Maria, S.C.


Pettit, Sister Eleanor Maria, S.C.; Constance, Sister Anita, S.C., “Sister Eleanor Maria Pettit, S.C. Oral History,” Sisters of Charity Federation Archives, accessed October 2, 2023,


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