The Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph continued their 103-year-old tradition of honoring their deceased sisters on the feast of Our Lady of the Snows in thanksgiving for the creation of their independent community.
At 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 5, the sisters at the Motherhouse in Maple Mount processed from the chapel to the cemetery saying the rosary. They gathered in the cemetery to pray, and Sister Mary Matthias Ward, director of local community life, blessed the graves with holy water.
In 1910, when the sisters in Maple Mount were still members of the Ursulines of Louisville, an effort was begun to close the novitiate at the Mount and have all the sisters enter in Louisville. That led the sisters in Maple Mount to pursue starting an independent community.
On Aug. 3, 1911, Mother Aloysius Willett, the local superior, and Mother Agnes O’Flynn met with the Rt. Rev. Denis O’Donaghue, bishop of Louisville, asking his permission to allow the community at Mount Saint Joseph to present its case for independence to the apostolic delegate in Washington, D.C. He agreed, and Mother Agnes and Sister Ursula Jenkins left for Washington on Aug. 5, the feast of Our Lady of the Snows. The Rev. Edward Fitzgerald, ecclesiastical superior of the community, spent the night writing the history of the community to present to the apostolic delegate, Archbishop Diomede Falconio.
“Father met us at the station in Owensboro and gave us the document with the words, ‘This is the Feast of Our Lady of the Snows; I have promised our Blessed Mother that if the journey is successful, this feast will be annually observed in the community as a day of thanksgiving and a procession to the cemetery will take place in commemoration of the departed sisters of the community,’” Mother Agnes wrote.
In November 1911, Falconio was appointed Cardinal, and was replaced as apostolic delegate in May 1912 by Archbishop John Bonzano. On Oct. 12, 1912, Bonzano issued his decision to create the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, which was acceptable to both communities.
Our Lady of the Snows is one of the oldest devotions to Mary. A wealthy Roman couple was told in a dream in 352 A.D. to build a church in honor of Mary on a site that was covered in snow. On a hot Aug. 5, Esquiline Hill was covered with snow, and all of Rome proclaimed the summer snow a miracle. A church was built on the site in 358 A.D., and after many renovations, is now the Basilica of St. Mary Major.