Remembrance of the Life of Sister Virginia Ann Driscoll SL
Virginia Ann Driscoll arrived at Loretto in October 1940, and with several Webster classmates was received on April 25, 1941. She made her first vows on the same date in 1943 and her final vows on Aug. 15, 1946. Virginia Ann retained her baptismal name as her religious name but was often referred to as “VA” to distinguish her from another Sister Virginia Ann Driscoll, who had been Sister Cosmos and served in El Paso at Nazareth Hall Retirement Center. VA wrote several whimsical sketches for her personnel record, including the following:
“My earliest remembrance is of a leather chair where we lived, probably the Upson Apartments in El Paso; then a nurse taking care of me (most likely taking care of my mother) in a tiny house north of Loretto Academy, a pan of chocolate candy, my dog Billie; next, of the house on La Luz and my father sitting in his bathrobe on the back stoop, my mother in bed most of the time, but spanking me with a carpet slipper once.
“My father, Clair Francis, served in both the Army and Navy. My mother, Anna White Francis, was an upstairs maid in Toledo, Ohio; she was born in Cardiff, Wales, and followed her sister to the U.S. from Ireland. My parents’ 1918 wedding certificate shows Clair and Anna were married in the chapel of the Toledo Cathedral — apparently he wasn’t in the Church at that time.
“Clair got TB, was sent to William Beaumont Army Hospital in El Paso. Mother and daughter followed in about six months. The Toledo Knights of Columbus wrote to the El Paso Council to look in on the family. Joe Driscoll did, or sent his wife to see mother and me, while he tried to persuade Clair to update his KC insurance for the benefit of his family. Unsuccessful.
“Anna caught TB from Clair, the galloping kind, so that she died three months before he did. The Driscolls visited us on La Luz Street. Clair was out of Beaumont, Anna was in bed, a nurse cared for us both. Finally both parents had to be placed in sanatoria, and I went to live with the Driscolls on Wheeling; it was early in 1924, [I was 4 and a half]. My father asked Joe Driscoll to adopt me. The night before Anna Francis died she signed the adoption papers. While I can remember going to the funeral parlor next to the Immaculate Conception to see my mother, and watching intently as the coffin was lowered into the grave, I remember absolutely nothing of my father’s death three months later. From then on, I lived with Joseph Ignatius Driscoll and Jeannette Lorraine McNulty Driscoll.
“Ironically, Mr. Driscoll had told his wife not to adopt me, then was persuaded by my father. I say ‘ironically’ because Joe and I were very close, had many things in common, and Mrs. Driscoll and I had very little. He taught me to read, to write, to throw baseballs, to shoot, gave me a love of the outdoors, brought me books from every KC trip he took. Thanks to these good people I got a good education from grades 1 through 12 at Loretto Academy. When the depression hit El Paso, the girl in the seventh grade who would have received the high school scholarship dropped out; so I won the scholarship. Since my father advised the Sisters on legal matters, I probably would have attended Loretto anyway, but I was always glad I got the scholarship. Then the girl who was first in our senior class indicated she wasn’t going to college, and I got to make a choice of the Heights or Webster. Sister Cecille and her sisters who lived in Denver had chosen Webster — and I thought a great deal of Sister Cecille — so there was only one place to go, Webster.
“My vocation certainly came from the El Paso Sisters who taught me: Sisters Rose and Therese Clare, Mariana, Rose Amelia in the grades — I was privileged to be an honorary pall bearer at Rose Amelia’s funeral when I was a sophomore. In high school my favorites were Sisters Rose Maureen and Cecille, but Dafrosa, Rose Denise, Fides, Mendora, Christine Marie, Marie Lourde Conboy, William Joseph, all helped me. Because I wandered around the building when I could, I was also aware of Sisters Vitalis Forshee, Decarose, and of course Mother Praxedes. In fact, my first grade report card was signed by Mother Praxedes, as well as by Sister Rose Clare.
“My music education began in fourth or third grade with Sister Delores Foulke, followed by Sisters Valerian and Catherine Patrice. Music classes were held in the bungalow on Trowbridge St., where we learned theory as well as keyboard. Later recitals were held in the Little Theatre.
“In 1924 Mr. and Mrs. Driscoll attended the cornerstone laying of Loretto, leaving me with a couple whose house at the foot of the mountains faced east, so that I remember seeing the Loretto building, the people and the cars. When I started Loretto a year or two later, the interior of all parts was not finished. Under the chapel was sand and bits of colored glass from the chapel windows. In the school building everything was finished on three floors exactly half way across. Grades one and two, three and four were on two floors of the convent; five and six, and seven were in the other building. One great relief on arriving at the other building was that we no longer had to curtsy when greeting Sisters and priests! In high school, … during the summers I frequently walked out to Loretto to play tennis with Sisters Mariana, Rose Maureen and Cecille.
“As a high school sophomore I knew I wanted to go to the convent, but not after high school. So I went to Webster, where my vocation deepened. I got a scholarship and also worked my way through in the library, directing the student orchestra and accompanying the Saturday morning dance classes. For a year I continued piano lessons, but without the joy of studying with Sister Catherine Patrice. Since Sister Adeline could see music wasn’t my be-all and end-all, she turned me over to someone else the second semester. At the end of the semester I quit, figuring it would save money. Then Mrs. Driscoll missed the grade on my report card, and I continued through my junior year.
“Before graduation in May 1940, I knew Marion Ware was going to Loretto; then in the summer a letter from Mary Martha Ritter made me suspect that she too was going. I shared the news at supper with Mrs. Driscoll who asked, ‘Whatever happened to that idea you had of going to the convent?’ ‘I’d go tomorrow if you’d let me.’ That was late August, but preparations began. Years later Mrs. D. said that a physical force prevented her from saying no that evening. Both the Driscolls accompanied me for my visit with Mother Edwarda, and my father told her that if I caused any trouble to please notify him.
“Audrey Woods and I left from El Paso, spending a night in St. Louis. The next day Jane Godfrey, sister of Ruth who had been my big sister when I was a freshman at Webster, Marion Ware and I were on our way to Louisville, where Marion and I spent the night with the Ritters. Dr. Ritter served champagne at dinner, a photographer took our picture for the paper. We got up at 6 a.m. to see some of the Louisville sights and that afternoon Mrs. Ritter and Helen drove us down to Loretto. Mary Martha remarked that there was nothing like a good meal to get everyone acquainted. We were arriving on a Friday night and went to a silent meal!”
Virginia Ann Driscoll arrived at Loretto in October 1940, and with her Webster classmates was received on April 25, 1941. She made her first vows on the same date in 1943 and her final vows on August 15, 1946. Virginia Ann retained her baptismal name as her religious name but was often referred to as “VA” to distinguish her from another Sister Virginia Ann Driscoll, who as Sister Cosmos also served in El Paso, at Nazareth Hall Retirement Center.
VA earned her undergraduate degree at Webster College before she entered Loretto, majoring in English and minoring in Spanish. She received her master’s degree in Spanish from Western Reserve University (now Case Western) in Cleveland in 1952. In the summer of 1959 VA was the recipient of a Fulbright grant to participate in an eight-week summer seminar for American teachers of Spanish in Colombia, South America.
VA taught at St. Mary’s High School in Sterling, Ill., from 1943 to 1952 when she was sent with a half-dozen other Loretto teachers to take charge of the archdiocesan De Andreis High School in St. Louis, teaching boys and girls with a faculty of men and women from several religious communities. After just two years at De Andreis, VA went to Webster College to take Sister Francis de Sales’ place as head of the Spanish department, a position she held for seven years during which she planned a new language lab and recording room. In 1961 she returned to De Andreis for a two-year stint as principal. Then back again to Webster for a brief time.
From 1965 to 1975 VA served as administrator, teacher and administrative secretary in high schools in Bernalillo, N.M., Santa Clara, Calif., and Kansas City, Mo. Then she returned to her hometown of El Paso where for nearly 20 years she contributed to the administrations of St. Joseph School, Loretto Elementary School, Nazareth hall Retirement Home and Loretto Convent.
VA retired to Loretto Motherhouse in 1993 with failing eyesight. In 2004 she moved into the Motherhouse Infirmary. VA observed her 75th anniversary as a Sister of Loretto in 2016, saying at the time, “I’m enjoying life! Since my eyesight isn’t very good, people read to me. My Diamond Jubilee was a great celebration, meeting people I haven’t seen in years … and not having to do a bit of the work! My life as a Sister seems normal since my first days as a student in their classrooms. I thank God every day that I am still a Sister of Loretto.”