Mother Augustine Bloemer

Catherine Bloemer was an only child, born on January 10, 1849 to Henry and Catherine Bloemer of Louisville, Kentucky. Due to the want of the finest Christian education for their daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Bloemer enrolled her under the Ursulines of Louisville.  At the Louisville Academy she was given the advantages of a classical and Christian education. At age fifteen, she entered the novitiate of the Ursuline Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Louisville. On February 9, 1864, Catherine received the Ursuline habit, the fifteenth young woman to receive the habit of this young Ursuline community only six years away from its Straubing, Germany roots. She was given the name Sister Mary Augustine.

Mother Augustine Bloemer on the steps of the Academy.

Sister Mary Augustine’s first teaching assignment was under the supervision of Mother Pia Schoenhofer at Ursuline Academy in Louisville. Five years after profession of vows Sister Augustine was appointed mistress of novices. Sister was sent to Mount Saint Joseph Academy in 1878, which had been founded only four years prior. A year after her arrival, Mother Augustine obtained the sacramental presence of Jesus at the convent chapel both day and night. Mr. and Mrs. Bloemer were the two great contributors to Mount Saint Joseph in these early days and they followed their daughter to Maple Mount. As a New Year’s gift in 1883, they gave the community the adjoining farm of fifty-seven acres. This made it possible for the Mount to grow all their farm produce and meet the demands of the Academy. They contributed financially to the construction of several buildings on the campus.

From the year 1878 to 1890, Mother Augustine taught at the Academy and labored as the Local Superior of the Mount Saint Joseph Ursulines. The Academy was her chief interest and work. She was most devoted to the teaching of the young girls. It is said that her constant prayer that not one soul of those taught at the Academy would be lost.

In 1890, Mother Augustine returned to the motherhouse in Louisville and held a community office and teaching positions there for seven years.  At the request of Bishop William George McCloskey in 1897, she was again assigned to Mount Saint Joseph Academy. She again took up the role of Local Superior and the community now included a novitiate, which had been started in1895. Mr. Bloemer died in 1895 in Louisville (he and Mrs. Bloemer had returned to Louisville for a reason that to this day remains a mystery).

Mother Augustine with her parents.

Sister Augustine was a courageous pioneer, a successful administrator and builder, and a scholarly teacher. Nothing interfered with her energy for teaching. Despite the responsibilities of superior and administrator of the Academy, she reserved for herself at least one class to teach‑‑German.  One of her early students at the Academy, Mary Leona Willett, entered the Ursuline community, received the name Sister Aloysius, and returned to teach in the Academy.  The combined vision and deep spiritual kinship of these two talented educators gave a distinct quality to the school and laid the foundation for an independent community of Ursuline Sisters.

Sister Augustine died on March 28, 1906. Following the funeral Mass on April 2, Sister Augustine’s remains were taken to the cemetery east of the pines for burial.  In 1910, her remains were moved to the current cemetery on the east campus.

The following quotes were given by former students of Mother Augustine and give an insight to her character.

Margaret Miller, 1908 Academy graduate.

Mrs. Hettie Willet-Hopkins: “For the entire student body she (Mother Augustine) gave those memorable Wednesday morning Catechism instructions, which for practical wisdom and understanding of human nature, could not be equaled and which have been one of the most beneficial and unforgettable spiritual includes of Mt. St. Joseph’s history. In this, I believe, all who were privileged to hear her will agree with me and will remember her sincerity and her earnest effort to make good girls.”

Mrs. Clara Thixton-Shively: “She was a large woman with rather masculine features and a great disciplinarian. I, who never feared anybody else in my life, was certainly afraid of her. I have to thank her however, especially her method of punishment for broken rules, making me learn the spelling of ten to twenty words in the dictionary and giving the definition before I was allowed to go to bed at night. A very large vocabulary resulted which has been very useful to my career as editor, reporter and general journalist in the field of newspaper work. She never believed in coddling or humoring us. She lacked a sense of humor, however, which I consider a God given gift and one which aids a person to look on life in the right way.”

Margaret Miller: “Just why most of the girls were afraid of Mother Augustine is beyond my comprehension. She certainly could be severe when correcting wrongdoers, and the guilty person usually did plenty of shaking, but when it was all over, she again became the real mother. A twinkle would come into her eyes as she reached out from her pocket for a piece of candy and gave it to the reformed culprit.”