The following information was taken from “The Yes Heard Round the World,” a history of the Ursuline Sisters of Paola from 1895-1975.
The year 1858 saw the establishment of the Ursuline Sisters in Louisville, Kentucky. Their motherhouse saw the expansion of many schools and other motherhouses including the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph and the Ursuline Sisters of Paola. It was the same Louisville bishop who helped the Ursulines of Mount Saint Joseph gain their independence, the Most Rev. William McCloskey, who also helped the Paola sisters break free. Herein we shall discuss the latter.
A small group of Louisville sisters were teaching in a German school in St. Louis in the early 1890s when the priest who had invited them suggested they start an independent community rather than face resistance from the Louisville Motherhouse. Sister Maurice Albert was the leader of a group of 13 sisters who wanted to stay in St. Louis, but knowing she needed more moral and financial help, she recruited Sister Jerome Schaub. She would soon to be known as “Mother Jerome” the rest of her days. At the time of her call to Kansas, Sister Jerome was teaching music in the Ursuline Academy at Cumberland, Maryland, a branch house of Louisville. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on August 24, 1856, the daughter of Andrew Schaub, a wealthy tobacco merchant, Mary Schaub grew up in the Catholic home of her well-to-do parents who could gratify her every wish. She received her early education with the Sisters of Mercy in Pittsburgh and later with the Ursulines at Louisville. After her graduation from the Ursuline Academy, she entered the Novitiate in 1875 at the age of eighteen. She became at once one of the efficient music teachers of the community and began her life of service for God.
All did not go smoothly with the sisters’ attempt to separate from Louisville. Mother Leander, the superior in Louisville, angry about the splinter group, recalled all the sisters teaching in St. Louis. The vicar general in St. Louis, who did not like what was happening to the schools, told the sisters seeking to separate they could not remain in St. Louis. Bishop McCloskey brought the 13 sisters to Shelbyville, Ky., a small town near Louisville, to establish an independent community in 1893. While there they received a letter of encouragement from Father Paul Joseph Volk, who had been instrumental in starting Mount Saint Joseph Academy and supporting an independent community at Maple Mount.
The sisters continued their efforts to return to teach in the St. Louis schools, and in 1894, they were allowed to do so. Bishop McCloskey suggested they be prepared to teach in English-speaking schools in St. Louis, and they did so for the first time at St. Cronin’s in the fall of 1894.
With resistance still strong to forming an independent community in St. Louis, Mother Jerome spoke with Bishop Louis Mary Fink of Kansas, who was happy to have the sisters come to his diocese along the Kansas-Missouri border. He had a place ready in Scipio, Kansas, where he was in need of teachers, and was open to having them establish a motherhouse in his diocese. On Dec. 8, 1894, the sisters arrived in Paola to investigate a possible new home. The motherhouse was established in 1895 on five acres of a former cornfield on the east edge of town. Ursuline Academy was built in 1896, and served students until it was closed in 1971, due to declining enrollment and a lack of sisters to teach.
It was seven years after the founding of the new community that it held its first general meeting. On July 8, 1902 the Chapter was held and the only business was to elect new officers. Mother Jerome was reelected president of the Board of Trustees, Sister Thomas Reichert was elected secretary, and Sister Lawrence Heintzman was elected treasurer. When it came time to elect a superior, two sisters received votes: Sister Leonard Nicklas and Sister Jerome Schaub. They tied for the election on the first ballot. Two succeeding ballots failed to break the tie. The rule, that of the Louisville house, stated that, after the third tied ballot, the one oldest in religious should be declared the superior. Sister Leonard was older in religious than Sister Jerome. But before the bishop could be shown the point in the rule, he was on his feet. He hammered the table and shook his fist at Sister Leonard. “You, you cannot be superior. You are not an American citizen. Mother Jerome must be the superior. I will settle the tie. Mother Jerome is superior.”
The chapter broke up in confusion. The whole group came from the chapter room in tears, according to the stories of the young members of the community as the later remembered that day. Why Sister Maurice, the recognized leader with Mother Jerome, was not pushed for superior in the 1902 elections is not known. Regardless, wounds had been made in the community that would never be healed. The next entry in the Chapter book, which omits any account of the chapter meeting, reads as follows: “At a meeting held by the Ursuline Sisters of Paola, the following sisters, Mother Martina, Sister Leonard, Sister Maurice, and Sister Matthew, who desire to return to their motherhouse in Louisville, Kentucky, were given the permission. Signed, Sister Jerome, superior, Sister Thomas, assistant.” With these sisters went four novices who returned to Louisville. Sister Maurice made a last, magnificent gesture and offered for this departing group to remain in St. Louis to teach for another year so that the schools may be retained.
The following years marked a steady growth for the Ursuline Sisters of Paola. Mother Jerome continued as Mother Superior until her death in 1942. A Paola Ursuline who had known Mother Jerome for thirty years wrote, “She was a brilliant woman that would stand up to any man in an argument; she was highly creative and a builder.” From the first building in 1895 to the fourth and largest—the Administration building, Mother Jerome had planned them. Under her guidance Ursuline weathered countless storms. She and her co-foundresses had accomplished so much. In this blog we will be sharing many stories of the Ursuline Sisters of Paola: the sisters who joined and shaped the community, the schools and ministries they served, and the people they have brought closer to Christ.