Sigel High School was in operation from 1930-54 under the auspices of St. Michael Catholic
St. Michael’s Parish began in
1866 and opened its own parochial elementary school in 1877. The Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate,
whose Motherhouse is in Joliet, Illinois (hence, commonly identified as the “Joliet Franciscan Sisters”), assumed
the responsibility for staffing St. Michael School upon its opening in 1877. In 1928 plans began for a new combination school/convent
building which opened in 1930.
Classes began at the Sigel High School on September 5, 1930, with 11 students (5 boys and six
girls) taught by Sister M. Humiliana, Teacher and Principal (until 1943). In 1931 enrollment rose to 27 students
and Sister M. Aurea joined the faculty. The following year a third year was added and Sister M. Nothburga
joined the other two Sisters. In 1933, Mr. Kenneth Baker joined the faculty (he would remain until 1952)
while Sister Nothburga was assigned elsewhere. After that point, for the duration of the school’s existence,
the faculty would consist of two Joliet Franciscan Sisters, one of whom would serve as Principal, and one lay teacher. The
first graduating class was 1933. Enrollment typically hovered at about thirty students until it declined significantly in
the school’s final years.
During the 1934-35 academic year, Sister Aurea was assigned elsewhere and
was replaced by Sister M. Borromeo (who would become Mother Borromeo, the Mother General of the whole Joliet
Franciscan Order, in 1956). Sister Humiliana continued as Principal and Mr. Baker remained
on the faculty. This arrangement lasted throughout the 1935-36 academic year.
In the fall of 1936, Sister M. Bonaventure arrived to replace Sister
Borromeo, who had been assigned to Mansfield, Ohio. From 1936 until spring 1943, the faculty remained the same:
Sister M. Humiliana, Principal; joined by faculty members Sister M. Bonaventure and Mr.
Kenneth Baker. Enrollment reached its all-time high of 35 in 1937.
In 1943, after thirteen years of service, founding Principal Sister Humiliana
was replaced as Principal by Sister M. Solana; Mr. Baker and Sister Bonaventure
remained on the faculty under Sister Solana for two years.
In 1945, Sister Bonaventure became the Principal, and from then until spring
of 1949, Sister Bonaventure headed a stable faculty of Mr. Baker and Sister M. Siena.
In 1949, Sister Siena departed and was replaced in her classroom by a native of Sigel who had already been
serving on the St. Michael Grade School faculty for several years: Sister M. Evangela (Stella) Hanfland.
Three years later, in the fall of 1952, significant changes occurred when school opened in
the fall and Principal Sister Bonaventure was replaced by Sister Evangela (who would remain
as the school‘s Principal until its closure in 1954), and veteran faculty member Mr. Kenneth Baker
was replaced by Mr. Walter Scott (who would also remain until the 1954 closure). For 1952-53, Sister
M. Protase was the third faculty member and in 1953-54, that position was occupied by Sister M. Felicitas.
In 1949, the school transitioned from a three-year program to a two-year program and thereafter
was called The Sigel Junior High School. Enrollment trends became worrying. An enrollment of 28 students in 1945-46 became
23 students by 1946-47, and by the fall of 1949, enrollment was at 14. Numbers fluctuated thereafter, never exceeding the
twenties and in the final year of the school, 1953-54, enrollment stood at 18.
The Sigel Junior High School closed its doors when the spring semester ended in 1954, ending
a twenty-four year tradition.
St. Michael Grade School, which extends to Grade 8, continues to flourish under a faculty composed
entirely of lay teachers. The Joliet Franciscan Sisters, who also operated the public elementary schools
for decades at Lillyville and Green Creek, have left an enduring footprint on Effingham County and the surrounding area, but
no longer staff schools corporately.
Much of the information contained in this article is drawn from the book, Sigel,
IL: 1863-1988, 125 Years (no author). In particular, readers may find it interesting that complete enrollment lists
for all twenty-four years of the Sigel High School’s existence can be found on pages 85-97.
Father Michael Monshau, O.P.
Taken from public places on the internet, here is a composite of most of the
Sisters who taught at Sigel High School during its existence.