Ursuline Sister Marie Goretti Browning worked in St. Angela Hall when she was assistant community superior from 1980-84. Both she and the superior, Sister Mary Irene Cecil, had their office and bedroom separated by a curtain.
“One of the most memorable moments, I was having a confidential conversation with a sister in my office when Mary Irene knocked on my door,” Sister Marie Goretti said. “I told her ‘just a minute.’ When I went next door, the ceiling tiles had fallen on her head.”
“It didn’t hurt me, they were light,” Sister Mary Irene said. It’s a story the two still laugh about today.
If the venerable building could talk, it would have countless stories to tell about its many manifestations over what is now 100 years on the Maple Mount campus. Fortunately, sisters who have called the building home can tell some of those stories.
“St. Angela was the first building that the sisters could call home,” Sister Annalita Lancaster said. “Until then, the sisters lived in the Academy building with the students.”
The building’s construction began in 1913, just a year after the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph became an independent community. “Things started happening pretty fast after the independence,” Sister Annalita said.
The building opened Aug. 15, 1914 for use as the novitiate. There were 31 young professed sisters, 34 novices and five postulants. The only buildings still in use that are older are parts of the Mount Saint Joseph Conference and Retreat Center (the original Mount Saint Joseph Academy) and the Guest House, which was built in 1898.
St. Angela Hall has been intertwined with several facets of Sister Annalita’s life. When the sisters decided to open the Mount Saint Joseph Junior College in 1925, St. Angela was used as the student’s residential housing. When Sister Annalita came to the college in 1941, she lived on the second floor of the building. The first floor was for the college offices.”There was a big room in the back, like a parlor, where we could have dances,” she said.
In 1950, the junior college moved to Owensboro and became Brescia College. On July 25, 1950, the first floor of St. Angela was converted to offices for the sisters in elected leadership.
When Sister Annalita became superior of the community in 1972, part of that former parlor served as her office and living quarters. The second and third floors remained residential for the sisters.
Sister Marie Goretti said living and working in the same room didn’t bother her. Her second year in office, she moved upstairs for her bedroom.
“Only the offices had air conditioning,” she said. “The breeze from the south took care of all my needs for air conditioning.”
Sister Mary Irene was the last leader of the community whose office was in St. Angela. Her sleeping quarters moved to the second floor and then to Desenzano, a house on campus where all the leadership lived. Her office moved to St. Michael Hall. Some of the sisters continued living upstairs in St. Angela, and the sisters who came home in the summer often stayed there.
The basement of the building was originally a laundry from 1914-26. When Sister Mary Irene entered the community in 1946, the basement was known as the Jot ‘Em Down store.
“If the sisters needed toothpaste, we just jotted it down and the sister in charge got it for us,” she said.
Paul Volk Hall was opened in 1981 as a residence, but sisters continued living in upper floors of St. Angela during the 1990s, said Sister Mary Matthias Ward, who was superior from 1988-96.
Sister Elaine Burke lived on the third floor of St. Angela for three years in the 1990s while St. Ursula Hall was being renovated. Her floor mates were Sisters Nancy Murphy, Nancy Liddy and Diane Marie Payne.
“I loved living there,” she said. “There was something about the oldness of the building. It was almost like an apartment building.”
There was a kitchenette on the second floor, and the sisters who lived on that floor joined the sisters from upstairs for evening prayer.
“I didn’t want to move,” Sister Elaine said. “I was the last one to move out. I stayed there the last night with just a mattress.”
In 2001, the newly created Mission Advancement office moved into St. Angela, which remains there today. Sister Annalita’s last official ministry was director of Mission Effectiveness, from 1995-2005, which ultimately led her back to St. Angela for the last few years as part of Mission Advancement.
Some of the offices that began with Mission Advancement have moved elsewhere, but today the offices of Development, Communications and Ursuline Partnerships remain housed in St. Angela. The upper floors and the basement are now used for storage. With no elevator, the steep stairs have been much traveled through the years.
Sister Amelia Stenger’s office is on the first floor of St. Angela as director of Development. It was her temporary office in 1997 when she came home to lead the Mount Saint Joseph Conference and Retreat Center, because the renovations for her office were not completed.
“If I go back a little farther to the year 1967, I came over to this office to meet with Sister Joseph Marian (Logsdon) to sign the papers asking to enter the community,” she said.
“For me, over the years, St. Angela has been a symbol of stability,” Sister Amelia said. “Its walls are strong and sturdy. Its roof is long lasting and one can see the whole farm from its attic window. Just like this big old building, we, as a community, have stood through some difficult times but continue to view the world with strength and a broad perspective,” she said. “St. Angela Hall has served us well. Let us take her example and continue our service for many years to come.”
By Dan Heckel