When last we left them, M. Lidwina and S. Bernice had just arrived in Denver after a long train ride from Buffalo. The primary reason for their trip was to conduct visitation and at that time there was only one convent in Denver—St. Elizabeth. The secondary reason was to find a place suitable for the new western motherhouse and novitiate. Five days is not a long time, but during those days, M. Lidwina completed the work of visitation and the two sisters visited “several beautiful estates” which seemed good possibilities for the new province’s needs. However, nothing definite could be settled as M. Lidwina had been advised to also visit Los Angeles and its environs. Due to the absence of Denver Bishop Urban J. Verhr, it was also impossible to learn if he would be willing to welcome them to the diocese.
February 1 found M. Lidwina once again on the train for a two day trip to Los Angeles. There she began another round of property visits. On February 8, accompanied by Francis Redman, ofm, and M. Clement Finkel, superior of St. Joseph Convent, she met with Archbishop John J. Cantwell. This was to prove a very successful visit as the Archbishop was most amenable to having the sisters establish a motherhouse and novitiate in his archdiocese. He assured M. Lidwina that he would be happy to assign schools to her care and even suggested a piece of property in Monrovia which was for sale. He had just that day received information from a realtor about the Renaker Estate, “an 8.5 acre tract in the foothills, a mountain cove.”
Father Francis lost no time in taking Mother Lidwina and Mother Clement to Monrovia
to visit the property in question, and it seemed St. Francis himself must have
whispered in their ears—“This is the place!” for all felt immediately that this beautiful
spot must be the one intended from all eternity to be the center and source of that
spirit of St. Francis and Mother Magdalen which would in future years permeate
the region west of the Rockies and supplement the work of the sons of St. Francis
which had been dominant for the past three hundred years.
Indeed, the property was about 20 miles from L.A. and one mile from the center of Monrovia in the foothills of the Sierra Madre range. It was surrounded on three sides by wooded hills and the fourth opened onto a vista of the San Gabriel Valley with the Pacific in the distance. There were two buildings which could be adapted for the sisters’ use and the tranquility of the spot seemed truly ideal.
M. Lidwina was delighted and “that evening sent a long night letter to M. Gerard, her first assistant, describing the property and asking her to get in touch with the other members of the council to consider the purchase.” The asking price on the $50,000 estate was a true bargain at $15,000! By February 10, the positive answer was received and the deal was closed with a down payment of $500!
(all quotations taken from Chronicle of the Division of the North American Province, 1938)