Category Archives: St. Louis

The St. Malachy School Collection, St. Louis

When St. Malachy parish was founded in 1860, the Mill Creek neighborhood in which it was located was largely Irish.  By the early 20th century, the neighborhood formed the heart of a major African American neighborhood of St. Louis, with successful small businesses, churches, and a music scene helmed as the home base of Scott Joplin and Josephine Baker.

In 1941, the Archdiocese of St. Louis turned operation of the parish over to the Jesuit Fathers.  By this point, redlining and segregation had eroded the neighborhood, with the city neglecting to care for water, electricity, or deteriorating buildings.  It was in this environment that the Jesuits invited the Daughters of Charity, long established in the St. Louis area, to open a school.

The school operated from 1941 to 1959, although enrollment began to decline after 1947 when Archbishop Joseph Ritter enacted desegregation throughout the Catholic schools of the Archdiocese.  Prior to desegregation, the accounts in the collection written by Daughters of Charity depict a group of sisters trying their hardest under highly restricted circumstances, teaching in a substandard building with secondhand supplies and minimal assistance. 

Archbishop Ritter had advocated integration in the schools before the Supreme Court Brown v. Board decision, and the end of segregated schooling offered a happy ending for the children and their educations.  A 1957 account in the collection attested that “because the children of our families are now permitted to attend white schools, their families are moving into better neighborhoods.”  This did not mean that the old neighborhood saw an end to its neglect, however.  Whether it was described as “slum clearing” or “urban renewal,” the effect was the same when, in 1959, almost 20,000 residents were removed and much of the neighborhood – including St. Malachy Parish – was demolished.

From St. Louis Globe Democrat

The St. Malachy School collection is not large, just half an archival box that stacks three or four inches high.  The Daughters’ accounts reflect the challenges of the times in which they lived and served.  They show a strong awareness that their students were being shortchanged, both by the poverty of their neighborhood and the way in which their schools had been neglected for resources.  There is evident regret that they were unable to do more for their students: 

Sister Aurelia [Hogan] had trained her summer school catachumens well, and the neophtes [sic] followed suit.  The older boys brought out saw-horses on which they placed boards, making two long tables, while benches and chairs were quickly hauled forward.  The children, smaller ones first, formed in a single line leading toward the counter, at which seven W.P.A. [Works Progress Administration] colored workers dished up a steaming hot dinner.  We marveled at the order maintained, for though each child received his portion and immediately walked to his place, not one touched  a morsel until the entire table – about fifty children had been seated.  Then, with heads reverently bowed, they said Grace in unison, and ate dinner.  Poor hungry children!  Father informed us that this was the only “square” meal some of them got all day.  It was furnished in part by the W.P.A. surplus commodity program, while Father supplied the rest with whatever financial assistance he was able to procure from charitable benefactors.


Of classroom equipment there was none – no text-books, no blackboards nor chalk, no paper nor pencils.  So, with a fervent “Veni Sancte” in our hearts, we read and sang – anything to quell disorder, — until Father McHattie arrived to perform what was probably the hardest duty of his new position.  How his big, compassionate heart must have hurt as he quietly explained to the children that as we could accommodate only two hundred pupils, he was forced to send nearly half of them back to their former schools.  Then Father read a list of names and a sad, heartbroken crowd of youngsters followed him out of the room.

The narrative accounts of St. Malachy and the neighborhood all depict African Americans from a white point of view, but this does not mean that the collections are devoid of information that directly provides pieces of information about individual members of Mill Creek’s African American residents.  While there are no surviving class lists in the collection, programs of events provide names of students along with their graduating year.  Other publications reflect the pride of taking part in the school and parish communities and demonstrate a proud and successful Black Catholic parish.

Edition of a Parish newsletter, 1946
Commencement program, 1943

The collection also, perhaps most valuably, contains approximately 50 photographs that show the life of the school and of the Mill Creek neighborhood.  Among them are the joy that only comes from children. 

The collection is available here in the Archives for on-site research.  It is a candidate for digitization in the near future, and we hope to provide an update when that day arrives.  Based upon research need, we can create scans for remote use.  Please contact for more information or to schedule an appointment.

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Filed under African American History, St. Louis, St. Malachy School

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.


Filed under Flannery O'Connor, Marillac College