Ursuline Sisters leave an indelible mark in Columbia
By KATHY SCHMUGGE
COLUMBIA — In order to properly celebrate Catholic Schools Week, which began Jan. 29, Cardinal Newman High School honored the people in its past who gave the school its beginning as well as helping it reach new heights.
Alumni and retired teachers were invited to share in the day’s activities that began with a Mass celebrated by a 1970 graduate of Cardinal Newman, Msgr. Mauricio West. The monsignor is the vice chancellor for the Diocese of Charlotte, N.C. Also invited were the Ursuline sisters who have had a teaching presence at Cardinal Newman since its inception in 1858. The Ursuline sisters who were honored for their contribution to Catholic education were Sister Julienne Guy, Sister Cecelia Hatem, Sister Andrea Callahan, Sister Vera Gardner, and Sister Anthony Wargel, and two Sisters of St. Mary, Sister Eileen Quinn and Sister Monica Ulrich, were also present.
Before Mass, Sister Quinn shared a compelling account of the school’s history, a history that tells a story of faith, sacrifice, and hard work especially on the part of the first parents and religious who gave without counting the cost. The first Ursuline sisters, who traveled from Ireland, were the most influential to the forming of Cardinal Newman, previously known as Ursuline Academy. It was their determination, even through the turbulent times of the post-Civil War era, to bring the Catholic faith to Columbia. Because of their essential contribution, the Cardinal Newman community decided to rename the middle school building Ursuline Hall. The dedication and blessing of the building followed the Mass.
“The Ursuline sisters were among the first in this country, especially in South Carolina, to open Catholic schools. By the naming of Ursuline Hall, the Cardinal Newman School community recognizes and pays tribute to the ministry of many sisters who were committed to Catholic education, and it honors the families and students who attended the schools staffed by the Ursuline sisters. The Cardinal Newman School community and Jim McIntyre, principal, are to be commended,” said Gary Gelo, diocesan superintendent of Catholic Schools.
The entire day pulsated a message of Catholic community as various groups came together to celebrate their Catholic heritage. Not only the middle and high school students were united, but also students from St. Martin de Porres, who came to perform “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” St. Martin School is a feeder school for Cardinal Newman and was later visited by Msgr. West, who is a graduate of the elementary school.
With the strong focus on the accomplishments of the religious, it was only natural that the theme of Mass was vocations. “We chose the theme for the Mass really for two reasons, first Msgr. Mauricio West was celebrating, and as a graduate of Cardinal Newman, we could think of no greater example for our students. Secondly, and equally as important, is the fact that the theme for Catholic Schools Week is ‘Leading the Way.’ The Ursuline Sisters founded our school in 1858 as Ursuline Academy. The last Ursuline to serve our school, Sister Vera Gardner, left us two years ago. While they are no longer physically present, we never want to lose what they have meant to Cardinal Newman, Columbia, Catholic education, and the church,” said McIntyre.
During the homily, Msgr. West acknowledged a couple of teachers he had who were present, Sister Gardener and Carolyn McLendon, but the greatest thrust in his talk was the future of Cardinal Newman.
“Cardinal Newman has a long tradition of sharing gifts so all can benefit. Life at the school is incomplete without your contribution,” said Msgr. West, adding, “As baptized Christians we pray and let the words touch us and move us. He challenged the youth not to just sit back during Mass and “enjoy the beautiful words” but to let the words translate into faithful service to others.
In conclusion, he remarked, “God’s Holy Spirit does not work through the language of empty words but fruitful deeds done with love. Take charge, believe in miracles and claim your gifts.”
The motivational words of Msgr. West take on flesh when looking at the lives of the courageous Ursuline sisters who lived the words, “Nothing is impossible with God.”