Note: In 2005 the Ursuline Sisters of Belleville merged with the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph.
In 1910, the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Calvary in Germany (Calvarienberg) came to the United States to teach in North Dakota. The community grew over the years and in 1930, after Calvarienberg’s revised Constitutions were approved by Rome, the American Region of these sisters was officially established. It was in this year that Mother Veronica of the Divine Savior was appointed the first Vicaress [local superior] of the region.
Mother Veronica was born Angela Amalia Schmitt on March 1, 1880 to George and Barbara (Klein) Schmitt in the German region Eifel, a low mountain range in a western part of the country. The oldest of six children, Angela was regarded as a model student and after graduation obtained a teaching position in Saar, a lower western region of Germany.
Answering the call to religious life, Angela became an Ursuline Sister of Mount Calvary in 1904 and on October 25, 1906, made her final profession with the community. Her father was initially opposed to this decision and refused to give her his blessing. However, by the time she made her final profession, he was reconciled with his daughter’s decision. In these early years of her life as a religious, Sister Veronica showed signs of zeal in spiritual direction to those she knew. She taught at a variety of schools and continued her education to teach secondary school. In 1910, she answered the call to serve at St. Anthony in North Dakota. With six other sisters, she made the trip and began a school for the local children. Sister Veronica served as principal, librarian and infirmarian. In was in these first few years that she obtained American citizenship. When the Spanish Influenza broke out in 1918, Sister Veronica helped to nurse the sick sisters and caught the disease herself. Last sacraments were administered to her, but she recovered and resumed her duties at the convent.
Sister Veronica served at many schools in America, including Kenmare, N.D. and Onamia, Minn. She was at the same time novice mistress and mistress of the junior professed. One sister wrote of (now called) Mother Veronica, “What impressed me about Mother Veronica was her nearness to God. He was her goal and her guide. Nevertheless, I could not understand her autocratic ways and disagreed with her in many matters. She sometimes did expect too much of the sisters, although she meant it well. One day I had a very frank discussion with her about several problems. I was deeply impressed by the genuine humility and open-mindedness with which she listened to me; she acknowledged that I was right in many cases, thanked me heartily and promised to change. From this time on, she became really a loving mother to me and did a world of good in a spiritual way.”
As stated earlier, in 1930 Mother Veronica became the Vicaress of the American Region of Mount Calvary. War in Europe made travel to the mother house impossible for many years and communication with Mount Calvary difficult. In fact, her term as Vicaress was extended due to the sisters being unable to travel to Germany for an election. Gradually, the American Region expanded her schools to other states, including Illinois. It was in 1945 that the region’s mother house was moved to Belleville at the invitation of the bishop. Finally, in 1947 Mother Mary Barbara Jacoby was elected Vicaress and Mother Veronica was able to serve the people on a more local level. These convents include St. Louis, Mo., Grand Chain, Ill., and Bonnot’s Mill, Mo.
In 1955 Mother Veronica began to show signs of slowing down and physical ailments. She no longer served communities in person, but continued to keep up her prolific correspondence with sisters and friends. She spent her last days in Mascoutah, Ill. where she passed away on October 12, 1959, surrounded by other sisters and having received last rites. Her body was laid to rest in Mount Carmel Cemetery near the large crucifix, the resting place of the Mt. Calvary Ursulines in the American Region. She was a woman who loved the vow of poverty, was a loyal daughter of the church, a faithful religious who loved her congregation dearly and a devoted mother to all her daughters whom she loved so much, as she repeatedly stated.