The Ursuline Sisters of Belleville merged with Mount Saint Joseph in 2005. Mother Innocentia was a sister of this community.
Mother Innocentia was born on July 20, 1880, as the second youngest child of a family of seven at Aachen, Germany where her father was a district judge. When baptized she received the names of Emma Elisabeth and was called Else. When she was five years old her father was transferred to Saarbrucken in the Sear region. She attended a private girl’s school till 1894, the year when the Ursulines of Mount Calvary opened a Catholic girls school in Saarbrucken. She changed school and finished high school at St. Catherine’s in 1900.
Sister finished her education abroad, as was the custom of the time. She spent one year at Seroule, Belgium to continue her studies in French. The Ursulines of Mt. Calvary conducted this institute. From there she went to Remagen where the Franciscans of Nonnenwerth had a Home Economics establishment which she spent a year. Back home she was introduced into society.
In 1901 Sister requested admission at the Ursuline Motherhouse, Mt. Calvary, and her wish was granted. She entered the novitiate October 21, 1901 as a postulant and became a novice on April 21 1902. Sister Innocentia of the Blessed Sacrament pronounced her final vows on September 10, 1904. As a young Sister she was charged with the office of procuratrix at the Sacred Heart Convent at Koblenz till 1905. The years 1906-10 were periods of studies at our institution in Krefeld. After one years teaching at Mt. Calvary School, she received her call to America.
She reached her destination, Strasburg, North Dakota on October 11, 1911. Conditions in this German-Russian Settlement were still primitive and sister shared the hardships and difficulties of pioneer work. Describing her arrival, Sister Innocentia wrote, “There was Linton, a small station, a stormy, rainy day, an uncovered team of horses, all seen by the dim light of a kerosene lantern. Our umbrellas flew away. A man in a wolf skin overcoat made us climb into the vehicle over a wheel. We drove across the prairies; the wind extinguished the lantern. Every so often we bumped into a prairie boulder and against each other. After an hour’s drive, we saw a light shining – we had reached our new home.”
The old parish church had been converted into the Sister’s home and teaching was done in the basement of the new church. The school consisted of two classrooms, and most of the pupils had not been given the sacraments. The school began to flourish and by 1918 it had a new school and the sisters followed an American curriculum. Sister spent the summers of 1918-20 at summer school in Minot, N.D. In 1921 she became an American citizen. The year 1924 she was installed as upper grade instructor and superior, and held both offices till 1949. In 1949 she was sent to Bonnot’s Mill, Mo. She was transferred to other schools between 1949-1962.
In 1962 she was called to the Motherhouse in Belleville, Ill. for good and was named superior of the house community. There she lived until December 24, 1964 when she went and met her “Lover.” A favorite saying of hers was, “I grow pessimistic without work.” At her death, her fellow sisters wrote that “she was a true Ursuline, the model religious according to the Heart of Jesus, leading a life of prayer, work and sacrifice…one found her ever ready to help with any type of work in the house, choosing the hardest task for herself.” In every parish where Mother Innocentia worked she won the respect and good will of the pastor, the parents, and the children. To all she was kind and understanding and they remained friends to the end.