Category Archives: St. Louis

Our Four campuses:  St. Louis, Missouri

This is the final part of our four-part series on the history of the four primary campuses in the Province, which correspond to the locations where the four provinces that formed the Province of St. Louise had their provincial houses:  Emmitsburg, MD; Albany, NY; Evansville, IN; and St. Louis, MO.  Part one on the Emmitsburg campus can be found here.  Part two on the Albany campus can be found here.  Part three on the Evansville campus can be found here.

The second-oldest campus of the current Province of St. Louise dates to the first time there was a re-alignment of provinces in the United States.  In 1910, a portion of the American Daughters would form a new province in Normandy, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis.

The new province had already begun planning before it became official when Sisters Eugenia Fealy, Augustine Park, and three Seminary sisters opened the new St. Louis Seminary at St. Vincent’s Hospital, one of the Daughters’ main hospitals in St. Louis at the time.  For the first six years of the Province’s existence, affairs were run from the Hospital until the new Marillac Provincial House was completed.  The official opening date of the Provincial House coincided with the consecration of the Chapel on September 27, 1916.

In 1930, the first burials at the Marillac Cemetery took place.  The cemetery is still in use today and serves as the primary place of burial for Daughters of Charity who pass away in the St. Louis area.  The first two individuals buried were Sister Isabel Thomas and Father John Sullivan, the first Provincial Director.

In 1939, as in other provinces, Villa St. Louise opened as a retirement facility for Sisters serving in the Ministry of Prayer so that they could begin – and end – their ministries on the same campus.

In 1957, the grounds of the Provincial House expanded into something larger and more experimental – Marillac College.  This fully accredited institution  was part of the trend of “Sisters’ colleges” where all students had to be professed or novice members of a community of women religious.  You can learn more about Marillac College through this blog post.

Although it provided a robust learning environment for 17 years, the College was not financially viable and closed in 1974.  By 1976, the remainder of the former College’s buildings had been sold to form the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL).

In 1995, with the land and building of the campus having grown too large for the size of the province at the time, the decision was made to downsize to a smaller set of offices and provincial house.  Shortly after the final move occurred, the original Marillac Provincial House building was also sold to UMSL, where it would house the Honor’s College beginning in 2002.  Sisters in the Ministry of Prayer relocated to Bridgeton, Missouri to live in a new facility next door to DePaul Health Center, then sponsored by the Daughters’ Health System.  The provincial office moved to Olive Street in St. Louis City, with the new provincial house relocating to the so-called “yellow house,” a former cloister of a group of Augustinian nuns and a short walk away.  When the opportunity arose in 2010, the Daughters purchased the historic “red house” next door to create the combined Provincial House of the Province of St. Louise.  Although not a unified campus setting in the way that it once was, it suits the needs of the Province of St. Louise today after the provincial merger of 2011.


Marillac Provincial House was known for its large chapel with an alter made of 10,000 pieces of marble and large stained glass windows depicting, among others, St. Vincent de Paul in the galleys and the Martyred Daughters of Arras, to name just two.

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Flannery O’Connor at Marillac College

“…finding every word addressed to our dear Saviour as really present and conversing with it, I became half crazy…”

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

“If [the Eucharistic host] is a symbol, to hell with it.” 

Flannery O’Connor

Drawing upon her Catholic faith and time growing up in Savannah, Georgia, Flannery O’Connor drew upon the beauty, complexity, and baseness of the American South to become one of the 20th century’s pre-eminent writers of the Southern Gothic genre.

O’Connor was most famous for her short story collections, which combined elements of disfigurement and grotesqueness with imagery from her Catholic faith, nurtured in the Protestant South.  Throughout her life, she was a member of the mid-century Catholic intellectual tradition, subscribing to Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker and having a reciprocal artistic admiration with the writer and Trappist monk, Thomas Merton.  She considered the epitome of the modernist synthesis of Catholic theology and scientific discoveries to be found in the writings of Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit priest and paleontologist, who synthesized the divinity of humanity with the modern discoveries in the field of human evolution.  O’Connor began each day with the prayers for Prime (sunrise), or the First Hour of the canonical hours, followed by 7 AM Mass at Sacred Heart Parish in Cullman, Alabama.

In 1962, Marillac College in Normandy, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis city limits, was at its height.  The College was an experiment of the Daughters of Charity in having a college for professed and novice members of women religious communities.  Unlike other colleges, every student was also a sister.  Like other colleges, it had clubs, activities, and, of relevance to the Provincial Archives, a literary journal, of which there are two known complete collections. 

On Halloween 1961, Flannery O’Connor arrived to give a talk at the College.  Her second novel, The Violent Bear It Away, had just been published, and she sat down to discuss it with Sister Paul Matushek, later known as Sister Cecile.  Sister Paul’s write-up of the book and of the meeting made its way to a lengthy piece in the Winter 1962 edition of the Marillac Magazine.  Sister had the joy of presenting her interpretation of a novel and the author confirming that the reader did, in fact, get it right!

Early the following year, O’Connor donated a manuscript page from her story “The Lame Shall Enter First” to the special collections at Marillac College.

Article in the Marillac College Forum on the manuscript acquisition.  Pictured are Sr. Regina Mary Priller and Sr. Paul Matushek

Shortly after this event at Marillac College, the entire world witnessed the convening of the Vatican II conference, the most significant event in the Church in the last 500 years.  The Daughters would exchange their recognizable cornette for a simpler blue habit.  At the start of the conference, acolytes of O’Connor’s noted more annotated works by the modern Thomas Merton and the 5th-century scholar St. Jerome on her bookshelf.  The author and the Daughters both continued their witness to their faith throughout the modernizing movements of the Roman Catholic Church in the 20th century.

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Throwback Thursday – Marillac Provincial House 1958

Sisters in Marillac Chapel

Sisters in Marillac Provincial House Chapel, 1958 (used with permission of Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives)

It’s Throwback Thursday! Seen here are postulants (right, closer to altar), Seminary Sisters (left), and Habit sisters at morning meditation in Marillac Provincial House, St. Louis, 1958. Marillac Provincial House was the headquarters for the former St. Louis Province from 1916 to 1999. The provincial house and chapel are now part of the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

The Blessed Mother statue over the altar now resides in the Provincial House of the Province of St. Louise. The statues of St. Joseph (left of the altar) and St. Vincent de Paul (right of the altar) now reside at the Province of St. Louise’s provincial office building.

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