Transcribed by Sean Furniss
From Brescia to Milan, from Milan to Aix, from Aix to Paris, from Paris, indirectly to Strasburg, from Strasburg across the ocean to Louisville, Kentucky, and from Louisville to Paola, Kansas, Ursuline Academy traces her long line of princely ancestry. This illustrious descent, centuries old, is the precious heritage upon which the fruitful work of the Ursulines in behalf of Christian education for nearly a quarter of a century in the Diocese of Leavenworth has been founded.
On the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1894, two sisters left the train at Paola, Kansas, and made their way toward the Rev. Father Dornseifer's residence. No, they were not charity Sisters begging a pittance for Christ's poor, almost the only Sisters Paola had ever known. On another mission had these Sisters come, a mission that was to fructify a hundred fold beyond the most roseate visions of any citizen of our little village on that December day of '94. Ursulines from Louisville, Kentucky, they were, strangers on the strange soil of Kansas. Simply and briefly they told the purpose of their coming to the Reverend Pastor. They had been sent by Bishop Fink to investigate the possibilities of establishing a convent and academy at Paola.
Like a bomb from a clear sky came this message, but the people of Paola rose to the occasion. Father Dornseifer called in some of the prominent parishioners and the matter was discussed with the Sisters. Greatly encouraged by the kindly attitude of the townspeople, Mother Jerome, for it was no other, who had come to lead her little band of Ursulines to Paola, returned to the Bishop with, however, no definite plans made. In the meantime liberal offers were made by other towns to the Sisters for the location of their school. When it was seen in Paola that these openings were being seriously considered, Mr. Jacob Koehler and Mr. Joseph E. Maxwell, a Catholic and a non-Catholic, went to the Bishop and promised in the name of the townspeople of Paola, a plot of ground for the projected building if the Sisters would come to Paola. Bishop Fink favored the Paola offer and finally in May, 1895, the deal was made whereby five acres of the present Academy grounds on East Wea Street were purchased and presented to the Ursulines. The first great step was taken with the acceptance of the ground; and great was the gratitude of the recipients towards the kind donors. But--the Sisters were penniless; moreover, they were strangers, with none to whom they might turn to help. At this critical time there appeared the friend, without whose help the present magnificent buildings and extensive grounds of Ursuline Academy could never have been realized. Mother Jerome's father, Mr. Andrew Schaub, of Pittsburgh, Pa., came forward and promised financial security to the Sisters. then, and then only, did the Bishop give his consent for the Ursuline's permanent establishment in Paola. Through the efforts of Mr. Schaub a loan was secured in the East and plans were begun in earnest for Paola's future convent and academy.
Mr. J. N. D. Clark of Kansas City, Kansas, was secured as architect, and upon the shoulders of our respected parishioner, Mr. Jacob Koehler, devolved the self-assumed burden of the superintendency of the building. The contract for the building was let to Mr. John Fordyce of Paola, with sub-contracts for lighting, heating, etc.
In July, Reverend Father Dornseifer was removed from the pastorate of Paola, and under his successor, Rev. Father Taton, the work for the Academy was continued. All plans were now rapidly perfected and on July 25, 1895, Mr. Koehler turned the first spade of earth that began the excavation for the new building.
Paola was but a village then and East Wea Street was a corn-field. It was a dreary looking spot indeed to Mother Jerome and her Sisters from the east, and only that firm faith in the Divine Providence that was directing them could have sustained them and made them look over the stubbles of that corn-field and see the abundant harvest that the future years were to bring.
On September the first the corners stone of the new Academy was laid in the presence of two thousand people. Very Rev. John F. Cunningham of Leavenworth, Vicar General of the Diocese, laid the stone and Rev. Father Michael, C.P., of the Monastery of Normany, St. Louis, Mo., delivered the sermon. These two eminent clergymen were assisted by Rev. Fathers Redeker of Westphalia, Curren of Emerald, Elias of Scipio, Podgersek of Greeley, Cusson of Nebraska City, Dornseifer of Ottawa and Taton of Paola.
Work on the building progressed rapidly during the fall and winter with a few delays caused by the cold weather. By March 1, 1896, the Academy was ready for occupancy having been completed at a total cost of $12,000.
Then the little Ursuline community came to its new home in Paola. The building was only the minor part of the house as it stands today, but to them, it was a palace, with the best heating, lighting and water facilities that Paola could afford. The school was opened at once as a parochial and boarding school.
On June 20th the new building was dedicated by Rt. Rev. Bishop Fink. Rev. Father T. H. Kinsella delivered the dedicatory sermon and the doors of the Academy were thrown open to the people of Paola, who vied with each other in welcoming the new comers into their midst.
School was reopened in September with four boarders and about forty day scholars. One school year succeeded the other in rapid succession, now for in all pioneer work, the years, though hard and fraught with trials, pass quickly under the banner of hope that always spurs the pioneer builder on to still greater things.
The closing days of the Nineteenth Century saw the Louisville Ursulines firmly established in their new home. The first perilous years of founding their school, of breaking through the reserve of a strange people and making friends where at first there were none, were safely passed and the new century ushered in an era of firm faith in the possibilities of the years that lay before them. Although still laboring under difficulties the school was growing. The first class was graduated from the four years Academic course in 1901. These first graduates were: Miss Ethel Boisvert of Osawatomie; Miss Nellie McCarthy, Osawatomie; and Miss Clara Calhoun, Nevada, Missouri.
In 1902 the St. Patrick parochial school was built and the Academy became exclusively a boarding school with day school accommodations for the Academic grades. The first building was fast becoming too small to accommodate the increasing number of pupils. Three and one-half acres were added to the original five acres and in the summer of 1904 a second building was begun. This building was erected at the cost of $22,000 and consisted of the present chapel, dormitories, dining and recreation halls.
But during all these years there was one great hindrance: the Sisters had no chaplain. There was no Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Sundays. It was a Catholic boarding school with only the Parish church to administer to the spiritual wants of its pupils, daughters of good Catholic parents who placed religious training first in the education of their children. Through mud and rain, in the heat of summer and the inclemency of Kansas winters the Sisters with their little flock of pupils made their way to Holy Trinity church and there in an already overcrowded auditorium, assisted at the Holy Sacrifice wherever kneeling room could be found. Needless to say all of this was a serious obstacle in the way of growth and progress for the school.
Finally in 1902 a chaplain was promised the Sisters. A small chaplain's residence was erected and the Rev. Father Hippalite Topet, O.S.B., of Sacred Heart at Shawnee, Oklahoma, became the first spiritual director for the Ursuline Academy. He was succeeded in a few months by Rev. Father Gracian Ardens. To Father Gracian is due much credit for his indefatigable labors for the school in its struggling days not only in a spiritual but also in a temporal way. Father Gracian was succeeded by Rev. Father Vincent Montalibet, O.S.B., and Father Eloi Juston, O.S.B., who was chaplain until 1908. Since then the chaplains up the present time have been: Rev. D. Fitzpatrick, Rev. John Ryan, Rev. A. J. Smits, O.C.C.; Rev. Ignatius McDonald, O.C.C.; Rev. F. Alban, O.S.B.; Rev. J. Bollweg and Rev. T. H. Kinsella.
The next decade of years marks a period of steady growth for Ursuline. She steadily climbs upward to her place as one of the leading educational institutions of Eastern Kansas. Both buildings are outgrown, the grounds have been extended to include thirty acres to the south and west of the original site, and funds are at hand to erect a $100,000 Auditorium and Music Conservatory. But one obstacle hindered the development of the plans. A public road divided the Academy grounds. At last in 1913 under the mayoralty of Mr. L. B. Smith, the Paola City Council magnanimously granted the concession asked by the Academy and the street was vacated. Not that the school's holdings were no longer divided the way was clear for enlarging the institution. Wilder and Wright of Kansas City drew up the plans and F. M. Spencer & son of Topeka secured the contract for the third building. By November 1916, all work was completed and where once there was only a cornfield, St. Ursula's Auditorium now stands, the pride not only of those who had toiled to make it possible, and the master builder who had erected it, but even of the townspeople of Paola. The Auditorium is absolutely fire proof and modern in every way. The Auditorium occupies the first and second floors is one of the finest west of the Mississippi River and is unequaled for the beauty and detail of its workmanship. Surrounding the Auditorium are the music rooms and on the third floor are dormitories and private rooms. With the erection of this last building the grounds of the new and enlarged campus were laid out under the direction of Mr. Edward F. Koenig of Chicago. The central feature of the campus is the Grotto of Lourdes, an exact reproduction of the original in Lourdes, France, and erected in memory of Andrew and Magdalene Schaub, to whose untiring efforts much of the success of the school in its early days is due. On the East campus is a shrine of the Sacred Heart, a miniature reproduction of Castle Rheinstein on the Rhein and erected by private donations.
Mt. Calvary Cemetery which joins the campus on the south attracts the admiration of all visitors at the Academy. In the center is the Calvary group, a work of unquestionable art, which was erected in memory of Carl and Barbara Heinzman. Surrounding the cemetery is designed a wall of petrified rock and fourteen stations, making even more sacred the holy ground where Christ's faithful sleep their last sleep beneath the pines and flowers that loving hands have helped to plant.
The fine residence now used as a home for the Chaplain was purchased in 1919.
Thus in less than a quarter of a century the almost impossible has been accomplished. The number of pupils has passed the hundred mark, and each year from Ursuline classrooms, a hundred young harvesters of knowledge (where once there were only four), go out to North, South, East and West. The school was chartered January 3, 1898, by the State Legislature of Kansas as the Ursuline Academy of Our Lady of Lourdes.
It is empowered to confer Academic honors, has a two year College course, is affiliated with the University of Kansas; College of New Rochelle, New Rochelle, New York; Loretto College, St. Louis, Mo.; Notre Dame College, Notre Dame, Indiana; College of St. Mary's of the Woods, Indiana, and approved for teacher's credits and State Normal certificates. The Community from the handful of followers who came with Mother Jerome to Kansas has grown with the school and now numbers over fifty members with missions at Tulsa and Bartlesville, Oklahoma; Rosedale, Wea and Greeley, Kansas. The seven pioneer Sisters who first came to Paola, to plant the seed from which has sprung a great institution and are still laboring with unwavering faith for the accomplishment of their great end are: Mother Jerome, Mother Thomas, Sister Lawrence, Sister Genevieve, Sister Benedict, Sister Matthias and Sister Lucille. But none of these things could have been accomplished without the good will and earnest cooperation that have been shown at all times by the citizens of Paola. There have been many difficulties but all have been surmounted by the united efforts of all toward the noble goal of education--education tingling with all the modern innovations of a highly cultured and progressive country; but shielded and strengthened by the firm armor of religion, and the experience of the Ages. The present generation has seen a gigantic work begun. In God's hand lies the power that is to push onward this embryo task for generations yet to come. The future beckons. Urusline Academy has taken but the first step in the fulfillment of her ambitions, her ideals, and her sacred trust.
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