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Brightside Boy returns for visit with the Sisters of Providence

Visiting the Sisters


John Jarek’s lifelong interest in his own physical well-being recently brought the octogenarian “back home” for a visit with the Sisters of Providence at Providence Place. “The Sisters are the only family I ever knew,” said Jarek. Orphaned at birth, he adds “I didn’t have parents, but I had the Sisters.”

A former marathon runner, Jarek grew up as one of the hundreds of “Brightside Boys” the Sisters cared for in the Congregation’s former Holy Family Institute. Well known locally as Brightside, the ministry’s 1892-1954 dormitories, school, chapel and farm were situated on the hill behind today’s Providence Hospital in Holyoke.

“John’s ‘homecoming’ visit with the Sisters and to the site of the old Brightside was very moving for me to witness,” said Lew Rudolph, director of government and foundation grants and contracts for Mercy Medical Center, the hospital the Congregation opened in 1896.

For years Jarek has supported his keen interest in physical health with a membership at the Springfield YMCA. It was there that he met Rudolph, another YMCA member, who, learning of Jarek’s background arranged for the two of them to take a short auto tour of the former Brightside property and then to visit with the Sisters at Providence Place.

“Returning to that site,” said Rudolph, “unleashed a flood of memories for John, his working on the Brightside farm—hauling huge containers of fresh milk from the cow barn to both the Brightside kitchen and Bethlehem Asylum for Infants and Toddlers—before he had to head off to school. He talked about the fun of swimming in the Brightside pool, being a drummer in the Brightside Boys Band and Bugle Corps, and winter sledding. He remembers the names of some of the Sisters who taught him in the Brightside school and made special mention of Sister Mary Maris Stella, his drumming instructor. John said, ‘That Sister taught and could play every band instrument we had.’”

sledders at Brighside
(SP Archives file photo of Brightside Boys sledding.)

Continuing, Rudolph added, “Throughout our time together that day, John repeatedly expressed his gratitude for his Brightside upbringing and for all of the Sisters who cared for him until he was 18 and ready to set out on his own.”

As an adult, Jarek worked first at American Bosh, Springfield, and then at American Saw, East Longmeadow.


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