Searching for a place for the growing number of Sisters, Mother Emmanuel learned of a property for sale in Danville, Pa., in November 1918. Reverend Thomas F.X. Dougherty was pastor of Saint Joseph Church in Danville and was able to help the Sisters with information about the property. The estate consisted of a 44-room Italianate mansion, stables, barns, greenhouses, a farmhouse and a liveryman’s house on 187 acres of land. Known as “Castle Grove,” the mansion—a Tuscan villa—had been built in 1867 by John Grove, Sr. for his two sons, Michael and John Grove, Jr. After the death of the estate’s next owners, Caroline Grove Bennett and John Bennett, the estate was abandoned in 1905. After the end of World War I, John’s second wife listed the property for sale.
On June 7, 1919, the sale to the Congregation was made final. The estate had been abandoned for 14 years and needed a significant amount of attention. The Sisters and Novices moved to Danville knowing they had a great deal of work ahead of them but were overjoyed by a place to call their own. On August 28, the first Reception and Profession Ceremonies were hosted in the solarium of Villa Sacred Heart, the name given to the new house.
To support the Congregation’s mission to provide education, Mother Emmanuel and the Council prepared to open a school in the mansion. The first students under high school age arrived in September 1920. Named the First Catholic Slovak Girls’ High School and later Saint Cyril Academy, the first ten graduates received their diplomas on June 14, 1926. Enrollment for both elementary and secondary levels increased as the reputation for quality education became known. The Villa mansion was home to the Congregational administration and school faculty and the Novitiate, making expansion necessary.
Under the leadership of Mother M. Pius Yakubov, General Superior, ground for a new school was broken in June 1929, and the cornerstone was laid in September— just before the start of the Great Depression. Despite the world-wide economic downturn, construction of a Gothic style academy continued, thanks to the incredible generosity of supporters and trust in God. The new school opened in September 1931.
On August 27, 1934 the Congregation celebrated its 25th anniversary. The collection that day became seed money for the construction of a new chapel. Because it was built during the Great Depression and beginning of World War II, the chapel serves as a testament to thousands of people’s faith in God. The beautiful precious metals of the tabernacle, vaulted ceiling tiles, terrazzo floors and marble altar, baldachino and walls are a reminder of incredible generosity during a time of great economic strife. The chapel was dedicated by Cardinal Dennis Dougherty on October 17, 1939, and later declared a Minor Basilica in 1989.