New Jersey’s Smallest College Prepares Students for a World of Good

By Steve Sears

Denville’s Assumption College for Sisters is New Jersey’s smallest college with just 53 students.

Out of those three floors comes a world of good, “world” an apropos word here. 20 of the 53 young ladies here come from foreign lands to study.

A 2-year liberal arts college, Assumption College for Sisters prepares its students to afterwards attend a 4-year college to finish off their degree. Curriculum is offered in Humanities, Natural Science and Mathematics, Social Science, and Theology and Philosophy. There are 18 adjunct professors at the school, 3 religious and 15 lay people. “Very highly qualified,” says Sister Joseph Spring, SCC, President of Assumption College for Sisters, of the faculty. “We also have a wonderful Board of Trustees.”

The school was founded in 1953, became its own entity in 1961, but its beginning truly dates back to the mid-1800s. “That’s when my community was founded, the Sisters of Christian Charity,” says Sister Joseph. “Our foundress (Blessed Pauline von Mallinckrodt) was kind of unlike any other religious congregation. She not only wanted the sister to be spiritually prepared for their ministry, but also educationally prepared. So, we like to think we go back to that; that in 1849 she knew nothing of Assumption College for Sisters, but that was her dream.”

Sister Marie Russo enters the front door of the college, a poster in her hand explaining the American alphabet and how to write. She teaches both Introductory Reading and Introductory Writing to the students. One beneficiary of her tutelage is a Sister from South Vietnam (all students names are withheld from the article). “I am so blessed to study at Assumption College for Sisters, which has prepared me both spiritually and professionally to spread the love of God through sound education. The environment at ACS introduces me to diversity in the world where God has connected me to many Sisters from different communities and cultures.” She has enjoyed every moment of her time in Denville. “It has allowed me to get involved in new challenges, language, and culture, and I have noticed my time at ACS has also had a positive effect on my personal development as well. My great challenge is language. I know that learning English needs practice. I always encourage myself by being aware of this motto: “No pain no gain”.  My struggle to learn English has improved me. My troubles in communication have strengthened me. And my failures in learning new thoughts and ideas have impelled me to persevere. With the help and the guidance of my instructors and tutors, my English, as for other courses, has been improved step by step.”

The school, which was originally located in Mendham and has been in Denville since 2016, has been welcoming international students since the late 1990s. All attend the school with full scholarships. “The numbers were dwindling because we just took in Sisters from our religious community,” says Sister Joseph, who has been with the school for 11 years. “After Vatican Council II, our numbers dropped dramatically.” Salesian and Franciscan Sisters were then invited to study at the college, and also at that point, the school was beginning to get requests from Sisters in developing nations.

Early in the morning, the students awaken and say prayers, and then walk or drive a mile to Saint Mary’s Parish for Mass. Classes begin at 9:00, lunch is at 11:45, and following afternoon classes and study, it’s time for 5:30 prayers in the chapel, followed by supper. After that, there may be study, or some of the Sisters walk the track at neighboring Morris Catholic High School.

A student from East Africa states, “I am enjoying the beauty of America which is brought about by the different seasons; for example the fall season, the changing of the leaves to different and beautiful colors followed by the falling of all the leaves.  I also enjoy the snow since in our country we don’t experience it.  I enjoy my studies because the teachers are very ready to make sure that we understand.  They offer help if need be.”

“It’s nice,” says Sister Joseph, “and Denville’s a nice town. We have felt very welcome.”

“Being at ACS is to me an opportunity to enjoy my lifetime,” says an El Salvadorian Sister. “I am very happy and grateful to the college for giving me the opportunity to improve my studies. I am really enjoying my studies because they help me to grow in my academic knowledge….I have the opportunity to enjoy the environment around the college by taking a walk or to walk to the Church.”

Assumption College for Sisters is located at 200 A Morris Avenue. Visit acs350.org for more information.

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