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Founders' Day August 23, 1861

Mother Antonia Herman, OSB, third appointed Prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago and one of three Benedictines sent from St. Benedict Convent, Erie, PA to staff St. Joseph Church, Chicago in 1861: the foundation of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago.

Founders' Day Reading by Sister Vivian Ivantic, OSB

"Father Louis Fink, member of St. Vincent Archabbey, was the newly-appointed pastor of St. Joseph Church, Chicago, succeeding the Holy Cross Fathers from South Bend who served the parish from 1856 to 1861. Members of this order had taught the boys and the Sisters of the Holy Cross had taught the girls of St Joseph Parish. Father Louis appealed to Abbot Boniface Wimmer for help. Boniface prevailed on the superior, Mother Scholastica Burkhard, of St. Benedict Convent, Erie, PA, to send members to staff the school. Three members were sent: two choir sisters, Frances Knapp, music and embroidery teacher, as superior, Antonia de Padua Herman (pictured above), classroom teacher, and converse or lay sister Aloysia Gonzaga Konradi. They arrived in Chicago by train on August 23, 1861. Nepomucene Ludwig arrived in Chicago in early February, 1862, with Adalberta Glatt, a converse sister, and Frances Knapp and Gonzaga Konradi returned to Erie. On February 18, 1862 a novitiate was started with the entrance of Veronica Birchmeier. In August there was another postulant, Barbara Krug, who later became Sister Theresa. Father Louis Fink appointed Theresa Krug to the position of prioress of the young community on March 21, 1868, one year after she made her perpetual profession. Three years after her appointment to the position of prioress, Sister Theresa was elected to that position in the very first election of the young community on March 21, 1871."

Mother Nepomucene Ludwig, OSB, second appointed Prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago sent from St. Benedict Convent, Erie, PA to staff St. Joseph Church, Chicago in 1862.

On February 18, 1862, a novitiate was started with the entrance of Veronica Birchmeier (Sister Josephine). In August there was another postulant, Barbara Krug who later became Sister Theresa Krug.

Mother Theresa Krug, OSB the first elected Prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago from 1868-1877; Reelected from 1888-1902.

The first edition of Sacro Speco, a community newsletter, came out on August 23, 1991, marking the 130th anniversary of the foundation of our community in Chicago, IL. This was prioress Sister Mary Benet McKinney, OSB’s reflection on that occasion:

The story of American Benedictine communities of women can be traced to European monasteries which sent Sisters to this country to start new foundations and to serve the various immigrant populations. Our own roots can be traced to St. Walburga Monastery in Eichstätt, Bavaria. It was from this community that the first Benedictine women came to America in 1852, establishing themselves in Pennsylvania. On August 23, 1861, three of these sisters arrived in Chicago, again following the immigrant German population. The young community grew rapidly; but just ten years later, on October 8, 1871, the great Chicago fire destroyed the city. The Sisters lost everything; but their commitment to their people remained strong. And so they rebuilt and continued to grow and to minister. Just 15 years after the Chicago fire, the young community extended its ministry of service to Colorado. Today the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago continue their commitment to these two states.

Our beginnings were small. Our founding mothers were risk-takers. Even the Chicago Fire could not keep us from succeeding. We were the fourth daughter house of the Bavarian Benedictines. Always we had a uniqueness about us. Chicago, a flourishing city where business and politics kept pace with the population, provided us, as it still does, with challenges and experiences seldom experienced by other foundations. We are an urban community, contemplative, monastic, and with all the strengths and limitations provided by a large metropolis. Our challenge is to engage with the social issues of our time and location while embracing the monastic ideals of communal prayer and worship, personal spirituality, quality of presence and relationship to one another, stewardship and hospitality. It is a challenge we take up gladly!

The three Sisters who arrived from St. Benedict Monastery, Erie, PA were Sister Frances Knapp, OSB, our first prioress, Sister (Aloysia) Gonzaga Konradi, OSB, and Sister Antonia Herman, OSB, our third prioress. They settled in a one-room frame building that was convent and school with only a folding door separating one from the other.

***Archivist Sister Virginia Jung, OSB assisted in compiling the photos and first Sacro Speco.

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