Ursuline Sisters will celebrate 150 years in Columbia on April 13

COLUMBIA — The Ursuline Sisters have a long and rich history in South Carolina’s capital city, one that spans the Civil War, Reconstruction and the rapid changes Columbia has experienced in recent decades.

The Sisters will celebrate 150 years in Columbia with a Mass at 10:30 a.m. April 13 at Cardinal Newman High School followed by a reception.

Three Ursuline sisters who serve in Columbia will attend, along with some who taught in area Catholic schools in recent years, including those from St. Peter,  St. Joseph, St. John Neumann and Cardinal Newman schools. The order also taught at the former Ursuline High and Catholic High schools.

Sister Jean Anne Zappa, mother superior of the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville, Ky., also will attend.

Sister Julienne Guy, OSU, head of senior life ministry at St. Joseph, is one of the event organizers. She said anyone who was educated by the sisters, taught with them, or who has a connection with the Ursulines in Columbia or elsewhere should attend.

The celebration is in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville, founded in 1858. The Ursuline Sisters of Columbia joined with the Louisville sisters in 1938.

Sister Julienne said the celebration is a chance for sisters to reconnect with former friends and students, and for others to celebrate the impact the sisters had on their lives.

“I know how much the Ursuline Sisters meant to me — they turned my life around and led me to my vocation,” she said in a recent interview with The Miscellany. “There are people here in Columbia who remember the Ursulines and have told me ‘They taught us more than books. They taught us how to live.’ ”

The first Ursuline Sisters were brought to Columbia from Ohio in 1858 by Bishop Patrick N. Lynch. Bishop Lynch had purchased an old hotel building at the corner of Main and Blanding streets, where the sisters established a school for girls and a home for orphans.

Their school and convent was burned when Gen. William T. Sherman came through Columbia in 1865. History suggests that Sherman gave instructions for no churches or religious buildings to be burned, but the fire raged out of control.

During the invasion, the sisters and children who remained behind took refuge in the cemetery behind St. Peter Church on Assembly Street. The priest from that church, fearing it would be burned too, removed the Blessed Sacrament and also took refuge in the cemetery.

After the fire, the sisters and children moved temporarily into the Hampton-Preston mansion on Blanding Street. They established a boarding school for girls at Valle Crucis, a rural property outside Columbia owned by Bishop Lynch. The school at Valle Crucis operated for 22 years.

The sisters moved back to Columbia in 1887 and formed a school at the corner of Assembly and Hampton streets which would later become Ursuline High School. The first male students graduated in 1951. The school name was changed to Catholic High School in 1957.

The site was relocated to Forest Drive in 1961 and later became Cardinal Newman. Currently, the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville are in 13 dioceses across 11 states and in Peru.

The order was founded in Italy by St. Angela Merici as the Company of St. Ursula, an order dedicated to the education of women and the care of the poor and sick.

The Ursuline Convent and Motherhouse was established in Straubing, Bavaria, in 1691.

Organizers ask that those who plan to attend the April 13 event call in advance and provide their name, the number of people attending, the school they attended, and their year of graduation.

Contact Sister Julienne at julie.guyosu@juno.com or (803) 540-1901.