Tag Archives: Marillac College

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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Marillac Magazine: The Journal of Sister Students

In the mid-20th century, on the eve of the major reforms of Vatican II, many communities of women religious in the United States began a new endeavor in their education ministries.  While these communities had experience operating grade schools, high schools, and colleges, the needs of the contemporary world opened the doors to a new type of educational institution – the Sisters’ colleges.

These schools were operated exclusively for women professed to a religious community – Sisters and nuns – providing opportunities for the conferral of advanced degrees in religious, theological, and secular subjects along with spiritual formation.  Just as the Doctors of the Church shad passed down their spiritual writings so many centuries before, these colleges developed a liberal arts curriculum in cooperation with the values and ethics of the Catholic church.

Dubbed by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as “The West Point for Nuns,” the Daughters of Charity founded Marillac College in St. Louis in 1955.  The college closed its doors in 1974 and today forms the core of the community college campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

During its operation, the students from various Sisters’ communities experienced the sweeping changes of Vatican II on a religious front along with the social and political changes and unrest of the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s.  Some of the best documentation of these changes comes from Marillac Magazine, the literary magazine of the college.  In many ways, this collection of 15 volumes from 1959 to 1973 is like any other college literary journal:  an anthology of short fiction, essays, works of poetry, and book reviews. 

Cover of the final edition of Marillac Magazine

The authors themselves and their place in time makes these volumes particularly unique.  In the very first volume in 1959, a Daughter of Charity named Sister Marcellus Lowe wrote an essay examining Milton’s Paradise Lost within the wider context of Milton’s work, one which widely utilizes literary theory while re-thinking the common interpretation of the work.  Works such as this sit alongside short fiction about the simplicity of childhood or pen and ink landscape sketches.  There is also enthusiastic endorsement of J.R.R. Tolkien and The Hobbit!

Many of the short fiction works, non-fiction essays, and poetry deal with the topics of the day in both the church and secular worlds:  controversies over the purpose and place of modern art; political relations between the United States and Latin America; the war in Vietnam; protests and assassinations; social movements, Civil Rights, and the Great Society; the threat of nuclear annihilation; and the long specter of the Holocaust over the modern world.

These journals provide for scholars of the Vatican II era and the social upheavals of mid-20th century America among the Catholic community.  Others may simply find them a fascinating look at how Sisters and communities of women religious viewed the issues of the day during tumultuous years in Catholic and American history.  They show communities of sisters who, rather than using their vocations to escape from or deny the issues of the world, instead met the challenges and questions head-on with strong voices and life-affirming souls. 

Look forward to in-depth looks at some of these articles on this blog in the future!

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