O Adonai and Leader of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the Law on Sinai: come, stretch out your arm and redeem us.
-- Antiphon for Vespers, Dec. 18
Today is the anniversary of the death of Mother M. Jerome Schaub, OSU, (1856-1942), founder of the Ursuline Convent at Paola, Kansas, (1895-2009).
Like Moses, who hesitated when given his mission by Adonai in the burning bush, Sister Jerome, an Ursuline of Louisville, Kentucky, was afraid to follow the advice of her spiritual director, who said, "I see the finger of God here." But when a telegram came from Peter Richard Kenrick, Archbishop of St. Louis, saying, "Come with next train," she obeyed.
Sister Jerome had been chosen to lead a group of Ursulines who had decided to break away from their German community in Louisville and form a new congregation of English-speaking Ursulines.
Things did not go smoothly. In St. Louis, the German Vicar General, Monsignor Henry Muehlsiepen, had "assumed all the powers as well as the duties of the now totally incapacitated Archbishop Kenrick." He refused to allow Sister Jerome to establish a convent in the diocese, and he accused her of "pretending to have the permission of Archbishop Kenrick".
The difficulties Sister Jerome and her sisters encountered were typical of those suffered by similar groups of women religious in the 1890s, a time when many American nuns split from their congregations over various issues.
Finally, with the blessing of Bishop William McCloskey of Louisville, and with the encouragement of the new Archbishop of St. Louis, John Kain, Sister Jerome and her Ursuline sisters accepted an invitation from Bishop Louis Mary Fink, OSB, and settled in Kansas.
Mother Jerome built a convent in Paola, and opened Ursuline Academy and, later, the College of Paola. She sent nuns to staff parochial schools in Kansas and Oklahoma. She led and served the new community until her death in 1942.
For over a century, the Ursulines of Paola educated children and young women. In 2009, with their number too reduced to continue operating, they listed the convent for sale and merged with the Ursulines of Mount St. Joseph, in Maple Mount, Kentucky, another community that split off long ago from the Louisville congregation.
More information about Mother Jerome may be found in The The History of Our Cradle Land,
by Fr. Thomas H. Kinsella.
Sister M. Charles McGrath, OSU, wrote a detailed account of Mother Jerome's life in The Yes Heard Round the World: A History of the Ursuline Sisters of Paola, Kansas, 1895-1975.
Kenneth Briggs described the Ursulines of Paola in the late 20th century in Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church's Betrayal of American Nuns.