Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.

Ursulines settle in and open school = Dec., 1854

Posted 12/23/2017

Having arrived in Toledo, the Ursuline Sisters went right to work.

    The property purchased for his residence when he was pastor in Toledo was Bishop Rapp’s gift to the Ursulines. Situated on the corner of Cheery and Erie streets, three small frame buildings served as the site of the first Ursuline Convent and School. Neither house contained a room spacious enough for a chapel and there was no chaplain. Both of these difficulties and a third--how to obtain funds to build a church for the French-speaking people of the city-- were soon overcome by the Bishop’s ingenuity.

    The first night in the long unused house presented a few problems. A table and a chair were piled against the lockless door, and umbrellas were used over the beds against a leaking roof. 

    The small brick chapel on the Convent grounds accommodated the nuns and about 150 French-speaking families living in Toledo and vicinity. When the congregation was not present, the nuns used the body of the Chapel for their spiritual exercises: meditation, Mass, Office. On Sundays they used the small enclosure near the altar, gaily referred to as “the cage.” Toledo Catholics contributed liberally from their limited incomes toward the building fund, making every preparation necessary for the reception of the nuns.
    Four days after their arrival the nuns opened their doors to an eager group of 200 children of all ages and grade levels. Besides the private Academy enrollment, the pupils of St. Francis de Sales and St. Mary’s parishes were somehow housed in a one-story brick building on the Convent grounds. This was a concession to the nuns who, faithful to the cloister tradition of their French forbearers, at first did not venture beyond the monastery limits.
    Within a few months the increased enrollment necessitated an augmented teaching staff. And once again, Mother Annunciation came to the rescue with three additional teachers who labored zealously to raise the standard of the higher classes with which many of the parents were dissatisfied.
    Notwithstanding the encouraging support of the pastors and the people, the nuns considered their first year in Toledo a partial failure, even though the teaching staff, deeply imbued with the sacredness of their mission, put forth most strenuous efforts. The Annuls record that they executed their tasks in a true spirit of poverty, in keenest discomfort, when every surrounding adjunct of school warred against the ideals set forth.
    At the end of the first frustrating year, the nuns conducted the closing exercises in one of the frame houses. For decorations they tacked bed sheets to the rustic walls and used branches of trees to supple a summer atmosphere. The parents and pupils alike showed as much enthusiasm for the affair as if it had taken place in a highly frescoed hall of learning.

The above material was taken from The Tree in the Valley written by Sister Lelia Mahoney, OSU.