Ursulines from Belleville, Paola share history dates with Mount Saint Joseph

The 100 years of service being celebrated this year stems from the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph forming their own community in 1912. The two Ursuline communities that joined the sisters in Maple Mount in the past decade share some important dates on their timelines as well.

Both the Ursulines of Mount Saint Joseph and the Ursulines of Paola, Kan., began as part of the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville, who arrived from Straubing, Bavaria in 1858. In 1874, at the request of Father Paul Joseph Volk, the Ursulines sent five sisters down the Ohio River on a flatboat to start Mount Saint Joseph Academy, in a rural area that would one day be known as Maple Mount.

After two decades, several graduates of the Academy wanted to join the Ursuline Sisters, but did not want to go to Louisville, where the sisters spoke primarily German. In 1895, an English-speaking novitiate was opened at Maple Mount. When an effort was begun in 1910 by the sisters in Louisville to close the novitiate in Maple Mount, the sisters began their efforts to become an independent community. That was granted on Oct. 12, 1912.

First School in Scipio, Kan.

The Ursulines of Paola began their efforts to split from Louisville in the early 1890s, when they were teaching at a school in St. Louis. The vicar general in St. Louis told the sisters seeking to separate they could not remain in St. Louis. Bishop William McCloskey of Louisville, Ky. – who would later be instrumental in helping the sisters at Mount Saint Joseph gain their independence – 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 Volk.

Students, faculty and chaplain in the first years of Ursuline Academy in Paola, Kan.

The sisters returned to teach in the St. Louis schools in 1894, but resistance was still strong to forming an independent community there. Bishop Louis Mary Fink of Kansas told the sisters they could come to his diocese along the Kansas-Missouri border. He had a place ready in Scipio, Kan., where he was in need of teachers, and was open to having them establish a motherhouse in his diocese. The motherhouse was established on five acres of a former cornfield on the east edge of Paola – in 1895, the same year the novitiate began at Maple Mount.

The Ursulines of Paola served in the greater Kansas City area until merging with Mount Saint Joseph in 2008. Nine former Paola sisters continue to minister in Kansas as Ursulines of Mount Saint Joseph.

The Ursuline convent in Calvarienberg (Mount Calvary), from which sisters came to North Dakota in 1910. The Ursulines came here from Belgium in 1838. A shrine commemorating the crucifixion has existed here since the 15th century.

The Ursuline Sisters of Belleville, Ill., who merged with Mount Saint Joseph in 2005, stemmed from a group that moved toward Ahrweiler in the Rhineland instead of Bavaria. In 1910 – the same year talk of independence began in Maple Mount – 10 sisters left the monastery in Ahrweiler called Calvarienberg and arrived in North Dakota, five in St. Anthony and five in Strasburg. The third mission was in Kenmare, and in 1912 – the same year Mount Saint Joseph became independent – Kenmare became the headquarters for the Calvarienberg missions in America.

Ursuline teachers from Germany with their Benedictine pastor in the early days at St. Anthony, North Dakota.

From 1930-45, the Calvarienberg Sisters accepted teaching assignments in five different Illinois cities. In 1945, Belleville, Ill., became the permanent site of the motherhouse, and Kenmare was the lone remaining mission in North Dakota, with the last sister teaching there in 1962, 50 years ago this year.

In 1983, the Ursuline Sisters of Belleville were established as a community independent of the German sisters. That same year, Mount Saint Joseph Academy closed at Maple Mount. With just 10 sisters remaining in 2005 – the same number that came to America 95 years earlier – the Ursulines of Belleville merged with Mount Saint Joseph. Today, two of those sisters continue to minister in Illinois.