By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
A piece of history was uncovered when the former Holy Family Convent on Poplar Level Road was razed earlier this year. A time capsule from 1949 was discovered in the building’s cornerstone during demolition.
The former convent building — which was most recently used as Holy Family Preschool — was torn down in February for construction of the new Archdiocesan Pastoral Center, where the Archdiocese of Louisville Chancery offices and other departments will be located.
Deacon Patrick Wright, administrator of Holy Family Church, which will share its campus with the archdiocese, called the time capsule “a great link to our past.”
“It helps us to reflect, not just as individuals, but as Catholics and shows a part of our rich heritage,” Deacon Wright said.
The capsule was created by leaders of Holy Family in 1949, when they laid the cornerstone to build the convent, which was needed to house a growing
number of religious sisters serving at the school.
Dr. Brian Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer of the archdiocese, said the time capsule is a “sign of stewardship.”
“By marking what they did at a particular time, it shows they were acting as stewards of that community and its resources,” he said.
Reynolds said that when plans were announced to demolish the old convent, parish leaders asked to keep two things: a piece of stained glass that hung over the doorway and the building’s cornerstone, which they plan to use in a garden on the parish campus.
Construction crews were not aware of the time capsule, nor were parish or archdiocesan staff, Reynolds said. It was only when they began to pull the cornerstone from the building that they discovered the copper box, which is about 4 inches by 4 inches by 12 inches.
The official ceremony of blessing and laying of the cornerstone for the Holy Family Convent took place on Dec. 18, 1949, the fourth Sunday of Advent. The contents of the time capsule offer a glimpse of the parish in the late 1940s.
The capsule includes a history of the parish; a history of the presence of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (SCNs) at Holy Family; copies of The Record and Courier-Journal from Dec. 17, 1949; a statue and medal of the Holy Family; signed prayer cards by SCNs; and a prayer for the Holy Year 1950 written by Pope Pius
At the time the convent was under construction, 12 Sisters of Charity of Nazareth lived and taught at the parish school, which closed in 2014. They were all squeezed into a bungalow located across Poplar Level Road at 1606 Russell Avenue.
In the document on the history of the parish, Father George A. Saffin, who was pastor of the parish at the time and the namesake of the parish’s Saffin Center, wrote that “under these crowded conditions the good sisters have lived without complaint for five long years.”
“The present convent is built, we hope, to take care of the future growth of the parish and to house the sisters in proper comfort and privacy with adequate facilities for all their needs spiritual and physical,” wrote Father Saffin.
A story that appeared in The Record on Jan. 14, 1950, detailed the sisters’ new residence and described the convent as a “three-story solid brick building with a basement. … The house is planned to accommodate a maximum of 20 sisters.” The projected cost of the structure was $82,000, the story said.
Deacon Wright said that while there is quite a buzz among parishioners about the new pastoral center, there are also some bittersweet memories involved with the razing of the old convent.
“When I hear people talk about the convent, they connect it with the sisters and the school. It’s always been a part of the landscape there. In a sense, a piece of history is gone with the building. The time capsule helps to reconnect some of the history of the building,” he said.
Deacon Wright said he plans to work with Father Dale Cieslik, archivist of the Archdiocese of Louisville, to preserve the contents of the time capsule.
Reynolds said the archdiocese now plans to create a time capsule to place in the new pastoral center.