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Legacy Awards: Sr. Jacqueline feted for 60 years in education

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 12. 2018 8:01PM
Sister Jacqueline Verville, founder of the Holy Cross Family Learning Center in Manchester, waves during her retirement party in the city on Wednesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER - Catholic nuns rarely retire. After all, a golf course in Florida and afternoon highball hardly fit the image of self denial and poverty expected of our nuns.

So when Sister Jacqueline Verville retired as an Alton public school administrator in 2009, she did something a lot more in line with vocational expectations. She launched an effort to help a vulnerable population - new arrivals to New Hampshire.

Sr. Jacqueline founded Holy Cross Family Learning Center, which teaches newly arrived adult immigrants the language, civics and culture of their new home.

Hundreds have gone through the program, which is located in the old Brown School on the West Side of Manchester. Outside of its academic goals, the Learning Center aims to nourish values of family ties, community building, diversity and respect of other cultures.

"We try to help them succeed. We try to get them a job, help them with their finances," said Sr. Jacqueline, who finally did retire last October.

Sr. Jacqueline and her accomplishments, including her six decades of work in education, will be celebrated later this month when she receives the Granite State Legacy Award.

"The (number) of people this place services without advertising is amazing, and that's a credit to her," said Janet Valeri, who took over Sr. Jacqueline's job as executive director.

Between 200 and 250 adult immigrants take part in the English, civics, computer and sewing classes, she said.

"She's given immigrant and refugee families hope for a new day," Valeri said.

Sr. Jacqueline was born and raised in New Bedford, Mass.

She entered the Sisters of Holy Cross at the Island Pond Road convent and spent her early years teaching at Catholic schools and earning education degrees in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire.

After earning a doctorate at Boston University, she taught education classes at the now-closed Notre Dame College in Manchester, but left in 1985 to return to teaching youth.

At that point, she started teaching in public schools and spent some 20 years there, ending that career as an administrator in Alton.

When she opened Holy Cross Family Learning Center in 2010, she relied on retired teachers to volunteer their time.

They volunteer twice a week for two to three hours at a shot, Sr. Jacqueline said.

"They are so dedicated," she said, praising them for going so far as to drive students to the Learning Center. "They do more than I can ever imagine for our students."

Money is necessary to start an organization such as the Learning Center, and Sr. Jacqueline became adept at hitting up organizations such as St. Mary's Bank, the Bean Foundation, Anagnost Companies, the Boufford Funeral Home and SilverTech. This Thursday, the Learning Center plans to hold its annual spaghetti supper, which in the past has raised thousands of dollars.

After retiring, Sr. Jacqueline became active in rallies outside the Norris Cotton federal building in Manchester to protest the deportation of illegal immigrants. She also met with officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to relay concerns.

She still talks proudly of the Learning Center and uses words such as "we" and "us." She remains on the board, and said she would teach a class if asked. Meanwhile, she is recovering from a setback: She had cancer surgery on March 30 and starts chemotherapy this week.

She counts herself fortunate, however. Had she remained as executive director, she worries that the Learning Center may not have survived an abrupt, extended absence of its director.

"God was good to me," Sr. Jacqueline said, "to let me know ahead of time to retire. Otherwise, I don't know what would have happened."

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The Granite State Legacy Awards celebrate the accomplishments of citizens who have given the most to New Hampshire through business, philanthropy, politics and more.

The awards are given to New Hampshire residents who have made significant contributions over an extended period to their profession, community and state.

Presented by the New Hampshire Union Leader and sponsored by Eastern Bank, the annual awards program was launched in 2012.

The New Hampshire Union Leader and Eastern Bank are proud to celebrate the accomplishments of these distinguished residents.

This year's awards will be presented Thursday, May 31, at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 and include hors d'oeuvres and cocktails.

To register for the event, visit, call 206-7822 or email

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