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“Salute her towers,
Her gleaming towers,
Ever aspiring to the sky…
It was a beautiful day in early June, 1929 at the newly renovated St. Mary’s Academy in Monroe. A thin ribbon of black smoke was discovered against the crisp blue sky, wafting from the east attic windows. The cast-iron gong was promptly sounded as the fire quickly grew out of control.
The Detroit News reported “300 girl students were at recess when the fire was discovered” and ran extras of the story as crowds gathered to watch the blaze. In the classic account, No Greater Service by Sister Rosalita Kelly (1892-1964), she details how Mother Domitilla Donohue (1863-1930) reminded the shaken congregation that “Buildings… could be restored, but the precious life of a child, never.” Thankfully, no one was hurt, but the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) and their devoted community were devastated by the fire that gutted their beloved academy, “…mercilessly destroying the work of years.”