A new era: The Sisters of St. Joseph
By Kris Leonhardt
As the Sisters of St. Joseph convent enters a new era, we take a look at the order’s formation and the creation of their facilities, along with their ongoing stewardship in the community.
“What will happen to the children?”
With that simple phrase, Mother Felicia Jaskulska galvanized St. Peter’s pastor, Reverend Luke Pescinski and Bishop of Green Bay Sebastian Messmer to establish an order to address an education need in the young, and expanding, Stevens Point community.
In July 1901, a community of Polish Sisters of St. Joseph began making arrangements for a large “English-Polish school” on the city’s north side. Thirty-five acres of what was known as the Bulmanski farm, bordered by Prentice Street and North Second, was purchased. The land included a house, barn, and a 15-acre pine grove and was bought for the price of $3,500 – mostly contributed from area Polish priests.
The sisters and their candidates began teaching in six small community schools and started work on an academy.
The new congregation was named the Sisters of St. Joseph, under the patronage of St. Francis.
A fundraising goal of $30,000 for needed structures was set and the sisters began collecting voluntary contributions, while they began sales of a souvenir book published by the St. Peter’s Society.
In January 1902, Aldrich & Cordella of St. Paul was selected to build the St. Joseph’s School facility on the purchased property. The company was also working on the design for a new Polish Catholic church in Polonia.
The academy facility was planned as a three-story structure, with a basement and classrooms and dormitories to accommodate 200 students. The building was planned to face south, with a tier of verandas in the rear of the building. It was set in the middle of the building site with enough space to add a wing on either side.
On May 20, 1902, the cornerstone for the “Motherhouse” at the St. Joseph convent was laid. By the end of June, the walls up to the top of the first story were in place. By December, the sisters moved into the academy and convent, staying in rooms on the first floor.
Mother Mary Felicia was elected first superior general, a position she held for two decades, while Mother Mary Clara was established as the assistant.
In September of 1903, Reverend Pescinski announced that, due to lack of funds and the unfinished condition of the academy, the general academics department would not yet open, with accommodations provided solely for novitiates who wished to become sisters – with 35 of them living there at the time.
Continued next week