Celebrating the 55th Anniversary of the Momentous 1966 Move

Celebrating the 55th Anniversary of the Momentous 1966 Move from Villa Maria, West Chester to Villa Maria House of Studies, Immaculata

How did it happen? Who were involved? How long did it take?

Read the beginning here and watch for the updates on our IHM Website!

Attempting to answer these questions, our very first and most important response is Divine Providence, continuing to weave the miraculous and grace-filled fabric of our congregational history. Next, where better to find our second response, but in the Annals of Villa Maria, West Chester, continued in the Annals of Villa Maria House of Studies, Immaculata. Seeing community events through the eyes of our Sister Annalists is a gift that adds a special dimension to the lens of history.

In her community history book Mother Maria Alma Ryan tells us that the first project of Mother Maria Pacis’ 1963 second term was the removal of Villa Maria, West Chester to Immaculata. The March 19,1964 groundbreaking hastened arduous planning and intense construction. With this as background, let us enjoy some of the actual moving process highlights from two different directions. 

From the new Villa Maria House of Studies Motherhouse we read:

May 5, 1966   Community notified that the laundry had been installed at the new motherhouse and that the marble for the chapel was expected in a few days.
August 4, 1966    Mother Marie Pasquilena, Mother Marie Martha, Sister John Bosco, and 50 Junior Professed Sisters moved from Camilla Hall to Villa Maria House of Studies

August 16, 1966  Mother Elizabeth Seton and Sister St. Sebastian arrived to take charge and remain until all from West Chester could move.
August 21, 1966  Sister Mary Bernard and fifteen novices left West Chester to take up
residence at Villa Maria House of Studies.
September 1, 1966   Thirty-five novices arrived from West Chester today.
September 6, 1966   Mother Maria Pacis and Sister Grace Madeleine arrived to take up
residence. Mother General had with her the gold-framed picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which had stood on Our Lady’s altar in the chapel at West Chester. Today, too, for the first time we had hot water!

From Annals recorded simultaneously by the First Sisters to move into the new motherhouse we read: (these are also included in the House of Studies Annals):

Thursday, August 4, 1966  7:20 pm – 50 Junior Professed Sisters, Mother Pasquilina, Mother Marie Martha, and Sister John Bosco visited Camilla’s chapel and circled the building to tell the Sisters “Good-bye”. We gathered on front steps for the “Salve Regina”, then crossed the field for the “new Villa Maria”, so long under the prayers and patronage of our senior sisters at Camilla Hall.

When we arrived, we sang “Bless This House” and then we entered. Father Monville blessed our third floor living area next. The first words of the blessing were “Peace to this house”- our fervent prayer that the love, goodness, and total embracing of God’s will that signifies the peace of Camilla, where truly the spirit of our community dwells, may come to this new Motherhouse.
How right that those sisters who molded our community should have so great a part in implanting true peace and love to a new foundation. Peace to this house. Amen.

On the first night, the sky was ablaze with coral flames — the real and sensible sign of the presence, the grandeur, the beauty, and the goodness of an omni-present and vital God, Who is a Father. (Yahweh was pleased.)

Be sure to watch for this article’s updates on the IHM Website!

Contributions to this article from the Staff of the IHM Archives, Villa Maria House of Studies, Malvern, PA.  August 1, 2021