by Patricia Anderson
Mother Suzanne Deplanck (1908-15)
In the early twentieth century, accompanied by the Reverend Mother Superior of the Order of the Religious of Christian Education, Mother Suzanne Deplanck came to the United States, and after viewing several proposed sites in this state, the two women decided on Asheville as being an ideal location for a school for young ladies. “When we saw these glorious mountains and breathed this wonderful air,” said Mother Deplanck in later years, “I knew that it was needless to look farther. Almighty God has blessed us abundantly, and I never regretted the choice we made.”
The Mother Superior and Mother Deplanck returned to Europe with urgent recommendations that Asheville be chosen for a school and college, and that is how St. Genevieve came to be established in the mountain city of Asheville. With Mother Deplanck when she returned to Asheville in 1908 came Reverend Mother Albertine Foret, Mother Noemi Mouquet, Mother Mabel Monk, Sister Marthe Heuze and Sister Adeline Bisson. Mother Deplanck was a zealous and spirited pioneer religious, exiled from her native France by the anti-clerical laws of 1901. She faithfully carried the torch of Christian education first to England at Farnborough and then to the United States.
The Reverend Mother Deplanck, who opened the doors of Hillside Convent in Asheville, was born in 1861, a native of Lille, France. She served as Mother Superior of the school from 1908 – 1915. Mother Deplanck did not live to see the full realization of her dreams of an expanded school that covered a wide range of grades and college opportunities.
Mother Deplanck’s health declined in 1914, as she battled a physical condition and worried about family members fighting with French armies in World War I. Her friends felt that her fear for her brothers and nephew on the battlefields aggravated her physical condition. She died in a Baltimore hospital January 2, 1915, following a major operation. Her funeral, attended by a large number of local leaders, was held at St. Lawrence Church January 6, the seventh anniversary of the founding of St. Genevieve. Of Mother Deplanck it was said: “She was gentle, she was good; in her heart there was no guile.”
Reverend Mother Mary Louise Lorin (1915-22; 1925-37)
Mother Lorin taught at St. Genevieve’s and was head of the art department from 1911 – 1915. Following Mother Deplanck as Superior of SGP, she was named to her position in April 1915; because of mail delays caused by World War I, the official papers naming her Superior did not arrive prior to Mother Deplanck’s death, so the Order was without a named Superior for three months. In 1937 Mother Lorin was elected Vicar-General of the order and became Superior General at the end of the general chapter in 1945.
Reverend Mother Albertine Foret (1922-25; 1937-42)
Born at St. Fraimbault, Orne, France, in 1869, Mother Foret came to Asheville in January 1908 as assistant to Mother Deplanck and as one of the founding sisters of Hillside Convent. She had made her first vows as a novitiate of the RCE in 1894. In August 1944, she observed her Golden Jubilee, renewing her vows. She was described as “small, clear-eyed, and with a tranquil expression,” a woman whose face reflected peace and joy and inspired reverence. Mother Foret, modest and humble, was content that she was doing the will of God as she dedicated her life to God. She also shared her sense of humor, enjoying a joke with all visitors.
In addition to serving as Mother Deplanck’s assistant, Mother Foret served as secretary-treasurer of St. Genevieve-of-the-Pines and taught a number of subjects, including French and science. Mother Foret died in May 1948 following a three-year illness.
Reverend Mother Lucienne Jannin (1942-45)
Mother Jannin began teaching at St. Genevieve in 1920, became dean of the junior college in 1930, and assumed duties as Superior in 1942. In 1945, she was transferred from SGP to Marycliff Academy in Arlington, MA, where she became mother assistant and principal.
Reverend Mother Agnes Sharry (1945-53)
Born in Boston, Mother Sharry was educated in Boston and New York. She later entered the novitiate of the Order in Farnborough, England, and her final vows were pronounced in Belgium in 1923. During the course of her religious life, she was stationed at Jeanne d’Arc Academy in Milton, MA, and served as Superior of Marycliff Academy in Arlington, MA, from 1942 – 45.
Mother Sharry taught in the high school and college of SGP for several years until 1936. She served as Mother Superior of St. Genevieve-of-the-Pines from 1945-53. She simultaneously held the post of regional supervisor of the American Houses of Religious Education, the first of its kind in the history of the Order; in this position, Mother Sharry was in charge of the Order’s schools in the US. The classroom building constructed in 1960 bore her name.
Mother Sharry’s niece, Betty Sharry, taught at St. Genevieve as a lay teacher. An avid golfer, she enjoyed a competitive round on the greens whenever possible.
Reverend Mother Anne Corbett (1953-56)
Mother Corbett, a native of Tarboro, North Carolina, was the librarian for the Prep. Described as lovely, sensitive, and serene, she taught in Asheville and at Immaculata School in Hendersonville. She had a spiritual presence in the community and was highly respected.
Reverend Mother Mabel Monk (1956-58)
Mother Monk, one of the nuns who founded SGP, served as principal of the academy from 1908 – 33 before becoming the first principal of St. Joan of Arc in West Asheville. She served as Superior at SGP for two years until her retirement. She was director of the athletic program in the academy and college for a number of years.
Born in Toronto in 1880 and growing up in England, Mother Monk attended school in Normandy and became a novice in a convent there. When the French government closed Catholic schools in the early years of the twentieth century, Mother Monk joined six nuns who went to England and later came to North Carolina, where they founded St. Genevieve’s. Mother Monk died in September 1968.
Reverend Mother Marie Terrier (1958-61)
Educated in France, Belgium, and the US, Mother Terrier was principal of RCE schools in Massachusetts for several years prior to her appointments in North Carolina, first as Superior of Immaculata School in Hendersonville and then becoming Superior at St. Genevieve’s. For several summers, Mother Terrier directed La Maison Francaise at Western Reserve University.
Reverend Mother Kathleen Galvin (1961-62)
Born in England in September 1913, Mother Galvin came to the United States as a young Sister of the RCE and originally taught in Massachusetts. She taught at St. Genevieve’s for thirteen years – from 1938 – 51 - before assuming expanded duties in Milton, MA, for ten years. In 1961, she became Superior at SGP, a position she held for one year. In 1962, Mother Galvin returned to Jeanne d’Arc in Milton, where she served as Superior. Mother Galvin died in September 1993.
Reverend Mother Margaret Potts (1962 – 67)
Margaret Potts, a native of Cleveland, TN, took her vows at age 20 in 1927 in the novitiate of St. Genevieve, while a student at St. Genevieve of-the-Pines College. She received her B.A. from St. Genevieve’s College in 1928 and earned her teaching degree by taking summer classes. In the fall of 1929, Mother Potts began teaching sixth grade in the girls’ grammar school.
In 1934, Mother Potts traveled to Tournai, Belgium, to take her final vows; in 1935, the young educator received her M.A. in botany from Catholic University in Washington, DC. For 38 years, she served at SGP – as teacher, principal of the Academy (1941-62), counselor and director of Little Flower Camp (1936-41), and Superior (1962-67). In 1967, she was named assistant to Reverend Mother Agnes Sharry, Superior of the Provincial House in Milton, MA, and served as part-time guidance counselor at Jeanne d’Arc Academy in Milton.
While at SGP, Mother Potts served on the National Council of Teachers of English, the English Curriculum Committee for the Diocese of Raleigh, and the Angier Duke Scholarship Committee. In 1967, she received the American Educators medal from the Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge “for outstanding accomplishment in helping to achieve a better understanding of the American way of life.”
In addition to her skills and knowledge as teacher and administrator, Mother Potts was acclaimed for her lively, outgoing manner. She told others that she chose to be happy, despite ups and downs. “My life has not been a bowl of cherries… But it is not what happens to you; it is how you react.” She added, “I’ve always been sure in my vocation. It’s a very enriching life… It’s doing something for the Lord.” For forty years through 1989, Mother Potts maintained an annual correspondence with more than 500 former students of St. Genevieve’s.
Although she was legally blind for the last several years of her life, Mother Potts remained active in numerous ways. A history of SGP, St. Genevieve’s Remembered, was published in 1991 by Carolina Day School from Mother Potts’ taped memories; her memoir served as a valuable resource for this website. From 1971, she worked with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program in Milton, MA, an organization that sponsored the Living History Project, and conducted a class in writing. She served on the Commission on Disability in Milton. Mother Potts died August 14, 1998, in Lowell, MA.
Mother Dorothy McGuire (1967-71)
Mother Dorothy McGuire became Superior of the SGP convent in August 1967. She had previously taught math at SGP from 1956 – 59, taught at Jeanne d’Arc Academy in Milton, MA, was principal of Marycliff Academy, Winchester, MA, and was Superior of the Marycliff community. Mother McGuire earned her MA from Boston College. Mary Jane Maloney Leone recalls, “She was an excellent teacher and deeply spiritual leader.”
Elaine Fitch Scagnelli remembers the “many life lessons” that Mother McGuire taught in addition to algebra and religion. While Superior, “she was very kind to all and especially to the older Sisters to whom she gave much time and attention.” Joe Lalley recalls, “A humble person, she was my boss when I became head of SGP; we hit it off. She sought my advice frequently, and I respected her thinking considerably.” Mother McGuire died in February 2001.
Mother Elizabeth Landry (1970-87)
In 1980 Sister Landry was honored for eighteen years of service with SGP. A quiet person with a wonderful sense of humor, Mother Landry taught fourth and fifth grades and arithmetic at Gibbons Hall. “She was fair to the hilt and earned the respect of the boys and her colleagues. She tended to underestimate her strengths. I enjoyed working with her and learned much from her,” states Joe Lalley. Mary Jane Maloney Leone adds, “Her smile spoke volumes of her strength and compassion. She was a cherished community leader.”