Mount St. Scholastica's French Refugees:
In Search Of Liberty

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A New Home

As Abbot Felix had predicted, the Flavigny sisters became useful members of the Atchison community. Three were involved in Mount St. Scholastica Academy. Sister Mary Jane taught French and Music in the Academy "with much success."19 She was an "accomplished pianist," composed music, made rosaries, and "decorated confectionery like a professional."20

Sister Mary Agnes was in charge of teaching "fancy work" to the Academy girls. Sister St. John, Academy infirmarian, assisted her with this instruction. At the end of the year, both of them arranged exhibits of the girls' work. Sister Mary Agnes also made "intricate and rich-looking" vestments, assisted again by Sister St. John.

These two, who had entered Flavigny together, continued together until death. According to Sister Jane Frances, "After Sister St. John became bed-ridden, Sister Mary Agnes assumed under obedience almost the entire care of her, and her [devotion] to Sister St. John was unflagging up to the very end."21

Sister Odelia had many jobs. She made altar breads, served as guest mistress, took care of the rose garden, washed and waxed the terazzo floors in the college building (built 1923) during summer vacation, and served breakfast to the chaplains. Sister Odelia was apparently much concerned about an operation she faced in her later years. In a letter dated December 10, 1940, Abbot Martin Veth (of St. Benedict's Abbey, Atchison) reassured her that "Now-a-days an operation is not such [a] serious matter and I trust that you will soon be home again, waiting on the priests' table."22

Sister Odelia died in 1943. An obituary notice predicted that she would "be remembered by many as the solicitous attendant of guests who visited at the Mount."23 (Her niece, Sister Antonia Schenk, was also a member of the Mount community. She died in 1988. Like her aunt, Sister Antonia is remembered for her hospitality as guest mistress.)

Sister Francesca took care of the greenhouse and the flowers, and made bouquets for the altars. According to Sister Jane Frances, she "was outdoors whenever there was the least necessity or opportunity."24 The three others were involved in sewing ministries: Sister Walburg knit stockings on a machine brought over from France; "[h]er last obedience was to help with the community mending."25 Sister Mecthilde worked in the tailor shop, and Sister Julia mended for the priests at the abbey.

Sister Julia is also remembered for her unique way of expressing herself. One "classic" Sister Julia story tells about the time she said of Father Timothy Fry, "Oh, he is such a fine young priest, but he is getting so stupid." (She meant to say "stooped.") Some sisters remember that she wore a ring with the inscription: "Jesus--Julia."

Sisters Julia and Mary Agnes were still alive when Sister Jane Frances prepared her paper about the French sisters. The three of them signed the paper on March 29, 1947, the Feast of St. Eustase. Sister Mary Agnes was the last one to die, at age eighty-eight, in 1952. In her effects is a short note expressing thanks for the notification of her death, from Abbess Marie de Goué, Abbaye Saint Eustase, Poyanne, Landes, France.

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19MSSA. From "Biographies of Atchison Sisters," p. 36, prepared by Sister Pauline Anderson before her death in 1947. return

20McAtee, biographical addenda. return

21McAtee, biographical addenda. return

22MSSA. Letter to Sister Odelia Schenk, December 10, 1940. return

23Obituary published in the Eastern Kansas Register, July 16, 1943. return

24McAtee, biographical addenda. return

25McAtee, biographical addenda. return

© 2003 by The American Benedictine Academy / www.osb.org/aba/