Ursuline Academy  - The Early Years
    Strasburg across the ocean to Louisville, Kentucky, and from Louisville to Paola, Kansas, Ursuline 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, 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 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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