Each convent and ministry location has its own tale of beginning—some are fairly straight-forward, others more convoluted or even downright harrowing. Nonetheless, our foremothers who moved with courage and dedication into new endeavors and new abodes did so secure in the knowledge that God would provide. In this issue we learn a bit about Sacred Heart Convent, Columbus, Ohio—which, from its picture and stories told by residents of a later era, could have done duty as the site for filming of “The Addams Family!”
“At last Father Eis was able to begin the erection of a new convent; the foundations were laid on April 16, which happened to be the tenth anniversary of the opening of the sisters' work here.”
The first sisters in what was the new Sacred Heart Parish were actually the “overflow” from St. Vincent Orphanage which in 1875 found itself with too many sisters to accommodate. With the permission of M. Aloysia Lenders, Mother Sophia Dahlhausen and her community of Sisters Martha Muhlen, Callista Colle, Felicitas Dues, and novices Ignatia Fischer and Margaret Hoesel moved into the original church/school complex on Easter Sunday, April 16, 1876.
“The new convent building was on the north side and connected with the school structure. To obtain the necessary money, Father Eis once more began his former task of going from door to door to collect; and the people responded so generously that by the end of the year the building was paid for. . . .
“The house was blessed on December 30 of that same year, but owing to the severe cold which then prevailed, the community had to practice patience yet a little longer, and did not take up their abode in their new quarters until the fifth of February 1887. On that day, the feast of St. Agatha, who is invoked against fire, they took breakfast for the first time in their new refectory. They seem to have been thoroughly delighted, as we can easily imagine, and the chronicle relates that in the evening the sisters asked each other how they felt in their new home. The unanimous reply was that they felt ‘strange,’ as if they were out visiting and not in their own abode; they simply could not realize that this beautiful convent was really for them. For eleven years they had lived in the schoolhouse with no comfort, no privacy, and the present state of things seemed to them too good to be true.
“How touching is the gratitude of these simple-hearted Franciscans! We can hardly agree with them in calling Sacred Heart Convent ‘beautiful’ with its dark rooms, its perilous winding stairs, and its refectory down in the basement, but a vast improvement it was upon what had been their quarters for the past eleven years!
“. . . [In 1891] a step, if not a stride, was made in the path of progress when hot water heating was installed in the school, church, and convent. Farewell to the stoves which caused so much labour, dirt, and inconvenience.”
From: S. Liguori Mason: History of the American Foundation, 1874-1924; unpublished manuscript