Puerto Rican school to receive $2,000 from St. Joseph breakfast

A breakfast Jan. 7 jointly hosted by the Knights of Columbus 7057, St. Joseph Parish in St. Joseph and the Sisters of St. Benedict garnered $2,033 to benefit Colegio San Benito, a kindergarten through ninth-grade school in Humacao, Puerto Rico.

The school, founded in 1963 by the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Joseph, was impacted greatly by Hurricane Maria in September.

“Because of the hurricane, the school and [affiliated] monastery were without water and electricity. Many rooms were filled with water, one large room used for gatherings like Mass, presentations and graduation was seriously damaged, and the school lost much of its siding,” said Benedictine Sister Kerry O’Reilly, president of the Federation of St. Benedict and member of St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph.

“But the school staff felt it was important for the children to have a sense of normalcy the first day after the hurricane, so they opened school from 8 a.m. to noon and have kept those hours,” Sister Kerry said.

The water has since receded. However, she said, “the school and monastery still don’t have electricity.”

A typical school day is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sister Kerry explained, but the area is tropical and gets very hot by noon.

Funds will be used to repair the damage to the building; air conditioning would allow students to return to a regular school day.

“Before the hurricane, the school served about 350 students from working families,” she said, “but not all have been able to return. Puerto Rico went through the same economic crisis that we did in 2008 but never came out of it. Parents struggle to provide tuition.”

The Sisters of St. Benedict have been connected with the Humacao community since 1948. Sisters Jeanette Roesch, Adeline Terhaar and Agnes Herwers did pioneer missionary work, conducted a parish school and offered catechetical instruction in the campus. In 1963, Colegio San Benito was built as a boarding school for girls.

About 30 American sisters served at Humacao from 1948 to 1976. The school is currently administered by the sisters of Monasterio Santa Escolastica in Humacao, a member of the Federation of St. Benedict.

To donate, send a check made out to the Federation of St. Benedict, with “Puerto Rico” in the memo line, to: Sister Kerry O’Reilly, President, Federation of St. Benedict, 104 Chapel Lane, St. Joseph, MN 56374-0220.

In addition, people can donate online by googling Hurricane Maria Children’s Relief Fund or Save the Children.

Nikki Rajala is a writer/copy editor for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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