Mother Claver (Jessie Ripoll)
Justina “Jessie” Ripoll was born in Jamaica. She was of mixed ancestry. She was part French, part Portuguese, part black. She was a devout Roman Catholic and the church she worshipped at was Church of the Holy Trinity. The church ran a charitable outreach program. Jessie became a part of the group of young ladies who helped in these outreach programs. Jessie was the secretary of the club.
Early 1880 Jessie and her friends bought a property on South Camp Road, in Kingston that was up for sale. The property had a small cottage and 40 acres of land. The cottage had five rooms.
On May 1, 1880 Jessie Ripoll moved into the cottage with one small orphan girl. She named the cottage “Alpha”. In September Jessie was joined by Josephine Ximines. A little later they were joined by Louise Dugiol. The orphanage survived on the donations received as well as a laundry that was opened and the sales of crops from a garden that was started.
The Most Reverend Charles Gordon S.J. the first Roman Catholic Bishop and his friend Rev. Peter Chandlery were instrumental in bringing the Sisters of Mercy of Bermondsey, London to Jamaica. Rev. Gordon arrived in Jamaica on September 14, 1889. He was a hard worker. Under his guidance Industrial Schools for boys and girls were opened with a government grant.
Seven Sisters of Mercy came to Jamaica on December 12, 1890. In February 1891 Sisters Justina Ripoll, Josephine Ximines and Louise Dugiol received the habit in order to commence their period of novitiate. The ceremony was the first of its kind in Jamaica.
In 1891 sixteen boys moved into their new quarters which is the Alpha Boys’ School. Sister M. de Chantal was the first Administrator assigned to the school.
In 1894 the convent was built. It was also in 1894 a High School for girls was opened. The school was opened at the request of parents who wanted their children educated by the Sisters. In addition, the permission and support of the Reverend Mother Sister Aquinas Kearns had to requested and granted. At first Sister Margaret Mary was put in charge of the school. After Sister M. Evangelist London completed her novitiate training she was put in charge of the school. In August 1894 the seven novices received their habits.
In 1896 Sister Mary Peter Claver (Jessie Ripoll) travelled with the Reverend Mother Aquinas Kearns to the USA to seek volunteers to increase the ranks of the Sisters of Mercy.
The sisters of Mercy have been in charge of and run the Convent of Mercy Academy “Alpha” since the 1800s. in the great earthquake of 1907 the Convent, High School, orphanage, House of Mercy, Boys Industrial School and the Elementary Schools were all destroyed. In September 1988 Hurricane Gilbert also caused damaged. Through these disasters the Sisters and the school have somehow found a way to restore what was lost.
On December 11, 2005 a commemorative stamp was issued in honor of Sister Mary Peter Claver (Jessie Ripoll), Mother Claver, who was the first Jamaican Sister of Mercy.
This is a little history of “Alpha” and the spirit that runs through all who pass through this great institution. AD VERUM ET BONUM
(Source, You did It Unto Me by Sister Mary Bernadette)