In Depth

40 graves link past and present

PHEMELO RADIKELEDI

A MISSING PIECE in the puzzle of the history of St Michael’s School for Girls has recently been discovered by Dr Johan Cromhout. Inspired by an old girl’s inquiry and driven by his own passion for history, he started searching for the graves of the older nuns who had not been buried at the Cathedral.

One Sunday afternoon he went for a walk in the Old Memoriam Cemetery where he came across forty graves of some of the founding sisters of the school. He was overwhelmed by the discovery, and filled with excitement and sadness simultaneously. He was thrilled that the legacy of these women, who went about their daily work in such a quiet and humble way, without seeking fame, fortune or recognition, wouldn’t be lost. He could not help but feel sad, however, that these women did not realise the magnitude of their impact on the lives of so many people. 

The graves were overgrown and in need of urgent repair, but the well-known names of Sister Hildegarde and Sister Emma Frances amongst others were clearly legible. A team of St Michael’s workers was commissioned to pay the school’s respects by cleaning around the graves. Currently, further plans are being made by the school to involve the learners of St Michael’s in the conservation and restoration of these graves. 

Dr Cromhout is well-known for his interest in the rich cultural and traditional history of the school. When asked why he thought the discovery of the graves was so important, he responded, ‘If you study at such a special place as St Michael’s, you should know something about that place.’

This discovery is not only important for the school –the whole country was served by Anglican sisters who dedicated their lives to their communities: they built schools, nursed the sick, and took care of the poor.

The values and traditions that were established by the sisters are the glue that holds the school together and the glitter that sets St Michael’s ladies apart from others. Constant discoveries of the history of the school inject a sense of pride that will last a lifetime in the heart of St Michael’s ladies.

These Sisters devoted their lives to the building and the maintaining of St Michael’s. The school is the product of their selfless commitment to their faith and calling.