The History of St. Scholastica in Duluth: The Beginning – by Thomas Landgren. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The History of St. Scholastica in Duluth: The Beginning – by Thomas Landgren. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

From Professor Liang, NSR Editor-in-Chief: We sincerely thank the Monastery for sharing these treasured historic photos. We also thank Professor Heidi Johnson of the St. Scholastica Archives and St. Scholastica Library for the invaluable assistance and guidance for our student author. All rights to the photos belong to the Monastery, Archives, and College.

The Benedictine sisters originated from Rome but have seen many other places as their home. From Rome they traveled to England, then to Germany, and then to the United States (specifically Pennsylvania). The order of St. Benedict that later moved to Duluth in 1889 originated around St. Cloud, Minnesota.

1882 marked the move of some of the Benedictine sisters to Duluth, Minnesota. Leading them was Mother Scholastica Kerst, born Catherine Kerst in Prussia in 1847 her family moved to the United States when she was just five years old to the St. Paul region of Minnesota. Her father Peter Kerst had no trade, just business skills and his savings from his work in Prussia. Mother Scholastica started her journey with God in Shakopee, Minnesota but soon asked to be transferred to a monastery in Pennsylvania, but she was persuaded to go to St. Joseph, Minnesota. In 1880 after only three years at St Benedicts monastery in St. Joseph she became the Mother Superior which she held for nine years. Mother Scholastica expanded the community by creating hospitals in Bismarck, St. Cloud, and Duluth and she also helped build and taught at certain schools when she was the prioress.

When Mother Scholastica and her Sister Alexia both joined the Benedictine sisters in St. Joseph, their father gave the monastery a dowry of substantial size that allowed them to expand the community. Mother Scholastica was approached to help create the new diocese of Duluth by Bishop McGolrick who would always say “She built my diocese.” This was the driving force what would soon lead to a strong community of Benedictine sisters on the Great Lake. Mother Scholastica and her sister Alexia, after an argument with the St. Benedicts monastery that was soon resolved by the pope, took their dowry and headed to Duluth with 28 sisters (31 if you counted non-professed women).

Mother Scholastica got started right away renting the first St. Mary’s hospital from St. Johns Abbey in 1888, which was located in western side of Duluth. Ten years later they out grew the hospital and started to think of a better location that could reach more people, so they sold the old building to Anna Kerst, the mother of Scholastica and Alexia and turned the building into an orphanage and then later it was turned into St. Anne’s home for the elderly. The new hospital was built ten years after the start of the first hospital on 5th avenue East and 3rd Street and had additions added on to it from 1912 and the hospital is still adding more additions and newer buildings to their campus. St. Mary’s has quadrupled in size and has been helping the north land area since the first building in 1888.

The sisters were now working to establish a new school after the problems they faced with the first Sacred Heart. They began to rent out a building that can still be seen in Duluth today, Munger Terrace. Here the sisters lived and taught children after the first Sacred Heart school was discovered to be unlivable. At Munger Terrace the sisters decided to remain permanently at their mission in Duluth. While the sisters were living in Munger Terrace they received a generous donation of three lots by Peter and Anna Kerst to help them build a new school and a new permanent location for the sisters.

In 1894 the new Sacred Heart institute was completed. This prompted the sisters to move all operations from Munger Terrace to the brand new institution and cathedral. Seven years after the new school was opened they experienced a fire that occurred on New Year’s when everyone was located in the third floor chapel for mass. The fire damaged the basement, first floor, and even made it up to some of the second floor. This wouldn’t be the last fire to occur in this building. Sacred Heart institute started out with around only 20 students it soon reached over 100 students before it was eventually closed in 1909. Later on it was reopened in 1920 as St. Mary’s school of nursing, the building is still standing and has been converted into apartments.

Before Sacred Heart was even open, for ten years the sisters already outgrew the Sacred Heart institute. They soon paid a surveyor to find a plot of land that they could call their new home. The man came back with a daisy farm in the woodland area that seemed to fit the vision Mother Scholastica and the sisters had of their mission in Duluth. In 1899-1900 the first 80 acres were purchased and the sisters started to create their vision of a mother-house that could house both sisters and students. Over the next seven years the sisters bought 80 more acres. Construction began in 1907 and the first building was completed and occupied in 1909. The mother-house/school dawned the name Villa Sancta Scholastica. This was just the beginning of what this group of Benedictine Sisters would accomplish. (To be continued)

Thomas serves as an editor for The North Star Reports.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports. Eleni Birhane and Matthew Breeze, Assistant Managing Editors, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

31 Comments

Filed under North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang, Thomas Landgren

31 responses to “The History of St. Scholastica in Duluth: The Beginning – by Thomas Landgren. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

    • Greta

      Last semester a sister came into my Dignitas class and talked about the history of St. Scholastica. It was very interesting to hear about as this is now a new home for us. I was giving a tour one day and I told the group that the building were built at different times and how the church and library switched locations and how the sisters used to live where the classrooms are but they had to relocate somewhere else because the population of CSS began to grow. It’s cool now to think about how much the population here at St.Scholastica has grown and will continue to grow. Thanks for sharing!

  1. Der Yang

    Hi Thomas,
    In my current classes, we are talking about gender differences in one and the beginning of The College of Saint Scholastica in Dignitas. Therefore I was very excited to read your essay. You have included so many important and interesting facts. Such as their origination from Rome and creation of hospitals! I thought I have learned enough history about CSS. Yet, of course, no one knows everything. Thank you for sharing the stories, struggles, and achievements of these amazing sisters.

  2. Matthew Breeze

    Wow Thomas this is great! My roommates and I were just talking about how we seem to know so little about the history of St. Scholastica even after years at this college. I am so glad that you have taken the time to use your work in the archives to write up some articles about the history of CSS. I find it to be fascinating and I wish there was more of this kind of information out around the student community, especially in dignitas classes. St. Scholastica has been in Duluth for many years, and the Benedictine sisters have had an even longer and more profound impact than only CSS. I think we could all know a little more history about this place we call home, even if it is only for a few years, so thank you for the opportunity to learn a little more about CSS, the Benedictine sisters, and Duluth.

  3. Kalahan Larson

    This article was very interesting to me. We often hear a lot about the move the sisters made and how we got to where we are today, but not this into depth of what happened when they actually got here. I had no idea that there was a fire, and I did not really know that the sisters stayed in multiple places before actually settling on where we are today. I live in Kerst and I had never known the background of where the name came from. I found the story of the Kerst family interesting and I did not realize that the Kersts are the ones who bought the daisy farm.

  4. Caroline Grube

    This was so incredible to read! I have been meaning to look into the history of the college and I haven’t found the time to with classes and the busyness that is life. I loved reading this. I love learning about the history of places that very obviously affect my life. CSS is one of those things! I had no idea that there were so many different obstacles that the sisters had to go through to even begin to think about building the beautiful college we have the privilege to go to is mind blowing. I will forever cherish my time here because of the hard work of the sisters that make this college possible today and back when it was just a vision.

  5. Joel Scheuerlein

    This is amazing! I have just transferred to St. Scholastica this semester and have heard many different stories about its origins, so as you may tell, its amazing to here the real story. I am also a history major so learning about any peoples origins is extremely interesting to me. I found it very interesting the Mother Scholastica was from Prussia. The one thing I am curious about is how did Mother Scholastica become a Saint. I am not catholic, but I have an idea of the religion, and it is my understanding that you have to live a good life for God, and do a great deed. I am just uncertain if this school was that great deed, is that what made he a saint?

  6. Kathleen Reicher

    Thanks for sharing, Thomas. I had no idea that Mother Scholastica contributed so much to the Duluth area. My mom used to work at St. Mary’s, but I never knew that Mother Scholastica was responsible for its start. She and the other sisters went through so much to establish their school. I can’t imagine trying to recover from a fire like they did and continue on with their mission. It’s great to hear about the history of the place that I have called home for the past three years. I’ve learned so much from your article, and I can’t wait to read the next one(s).

  7. Thanks Thomas! In my time here I have gotten to know more about the history of the school, mostly because I am a tour guide. However I still have not learned a ton, so I really liked this! I honestly just tell people “daisy farm?? Sisters??” It’s a rough time. I am so glad that you took the time to cover this in such depth. Cheers!

  8. Nouqouja Yang

    Excellent post Thomas!
    I really enjoyed reading this, especially since I attend the College of Saint Scholastica. I did not know this much about Scholastica’s history and journey at all. This really reminds me of what my history class talked about. There are many untold stories or just stories that are written down but are not known. I attend this school but have not looked into it’s history. But overall, I really enjoyed this article because it made me realize how important it is to really know the places that impacts your life. I thought the journey and efforts of Mother Scholastica and the sisters were very touching. Their goals and accomplishments made from hard work was touching and it made me proud to have attend such a pure college. Thank you for sharing this amazing history and journey of our Mother Scholastica.

  9. Rachel Reicher

    What a wonderful beginning to a college I attend and how no past information of how it formed. Thank you for sharing this story. It seems like the sisters had such an impact in the Great Lake area. They had such power back then and accomplished so much. If it were not for them I would not be able to be get my great education I am today. They seemed so dedicated on their goals and providing for their students. The creation of the St.Mary’s hospital hits home for me. My mother used to work there and I will be doing my nursing clinicals at that location. Knowing the history, I will now be able to enter the hospital and see the changes that have been made since the sisters built it. I will be looking forward to the continued portion of this story.

  10. Kalley Friederichs

    Thomas, great post! It was really neat to learn more about the history and background of our school and the Benedictine sisters. I find it amazing how many buildings our school has been at and all of the events that have occurred that have resulted in where it is now. It was cool to hear about the buildings that our school has been in, because many of these buildings I am familiar with. I look forward to your following posts to the this one.

  11. Emily Bugni

    This article relates well with the idea of storytelling that we talk a lot about in Professor Liang’s World History class. Storytelling is a characteristic to all human beings. It helps promote rituals and important lessons learned from years of experience. My teachers have always told me about the daisy farm that Saint Scholastica had started building on, but they never told me the rest of the story before this had occurred. This allowed my mind to wonder. I had always thought that this attempt at building a school was a one time only ordeal. I had assumed that Scholastica had just started out with this daisy field, but in reality, she started out with a small building and made many transitions from building to building until finding herself amongst this field of daisies. Now, with the information that I have gained from this article, I no longer have to guess on how this college originated. If someone asks me about it, I can tell them all of the details so that the story does not change over time and it can stay as pure for as long as possible!

  12. Alexa Lee

    I first want to thank you for taking the time to make a post like this. In my class, we have been talking about storytelling, and how stories get forgotten when people stop telling them. That is why I am so thankful that we do have the Sisters, who can continue to pass the College’s story down from generation to generation. However, I think it’s particularly important to get an outsider’s (i.e. not a sister) narrative about the story too. The Sisters are the heart and core of Scholastica, but I think that other people should be spreading the story too, like you have done. I loved the second to last picture where everyone is lined up on the stairs because their formation is almost in a heart, I wonder if they did that on purpose? I hope that more people take the time to fully understand all that it took for CSS to get where it is today. One think that I love is that we hold onto our traditions, but continue to move forward (of course if we didn’t, we would get left behind). Thanks for taking the time to share more of CSS’ story, I can’t wait for the continued parts!

  13. Hanna McLevish

    It is amazing how much about the school I am attending that I didn’t know. It is very interesting to learn about the background of an amazing school. The Benedictine sisters here are so amazing, and it looks like they have been making a difference in the Duluth area for a long time. Thanks for giving us all this information about The College of Saint Scholastica.

  14. Sarah Plankers

    Wow, thank you for all the historical connections to Scholastica! It’s so important to understand the historical context of things so that we can attribute where we’ve been to where we’re going. Personally, ever since I started going to school here I try to make an effort to smile and acknowledge the nuns I see around campus. Going to a college founded by religious leaders is so unique and special to what makes CSS such a great school!

  15. Dylan Brovick

    This is very interesting to read and learn about. Going to Scholastica for only one year now I do not much about the history of the school. I enjoyed learning about the journey that mother Scholastica had to take to get to Duluth and begin building the hospitals, orphanage, and then school. Also the pictures are neat to look at and see how different the building designs were back in the day and to compare it with what they look like now. I am excited to read the next part of this history lesson.

  16. Megan Bingham

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. I had no idea where the on campus apartment “Kerst” received its name, but now I understand the very large significance. It makes me sad to know that I have been going to this school for almost an entire academic year and I never heard this story. It is an honor to have the privilege of attending such a closely knit school with such a strong background in the healthcare field. Thank you for informing me of the very interesting history associated with this beautiful campus.

  17. Sheila Iteghete

    This builds upon the idea of storytelling because this story gets told repeatedly in a more timelier manner. Because of this timely manner, I am scared and not scared while I will forget this story once I do graduate. Encountering this story will be back on campus, Duluth, where I am not quite certain a trip would be made to return for a visit. In other sense of not being scared must do with our school name because it will always be a reminder even though the story may not be told to me exactly. This story also allowed me to realize that do not fully know the story about Scholastica as the details became more interesting. This made me wonder as to when we begin to pay attention to the details of a story? Which may be after we have a similar experience or just when you get mature?

  18. Isabella Restrepo-Toro

    In my freshman year in my dignitas class, one of the sisters came in to talk about the history of St Scholastica and St Benedict as well as the origin of our school which ties with the story of these two individuals which influences the belief system of many. Even though I remember that this event happened I only remember the main points of the story of St Benedict and his twin sister Scholastica, I don’t really remember the history of the college. I really liked the amount of detail you put into this piece as it was really interesting to read and gave you an idea of why the college is and functions the way it does today. I had no idea that the sisters had to face that many obstacles, including the fact that there was a fire. I must say that my favorite thing about the articles is the background behind the Kerst apartment. I honestly thought the names of all of the apartments corresponded to those of trees, making me wonder if maybe all of the other building names have a story behind it.

  19. Mariah Koenig

    In my Roman Catholicism class last semester, one of the sisters came to talk to us and told us a very shortened story about the sisters coming here. Until now, I had never known that the sisters had lived in so many different places in Duluth! I also didn’t know that the first 80 acres of land in this location were donated, which is a pretty big gift! I find it interesting that the sisters were originally from St. Joseph, which is really close to my hometown, and then they transferred here, where I go to live now. Thank you so much for sharing this story. I really like learning about the very beginning of our school and how it came to be.

  20. Elaina Wald

    Thank you for taking the time to research this topic. I will echo the sentiments of many others and say that I can’t believe how little I truly know about our school’s rich history. As a tour guide,I was taught the most basic history of the school, which essentially means it was created in 1912. I had no idea the origins of Benedictine sisters traced back to Europe or that the rule was housed in Saint Cloud. Every student that attends Saint Scholastica should read this!

  21. Paige Perreira

    I sometimes forgot how old our school actually is. Times like these (seeing all of these photos) remind me of how rich of a history our college has. Walking through the main doors of Tower Hall also remind me of the beautiful history our school has. It’s not just a college. The sisters who founded this place did so much more than just build a school. They built a hospital, and created a health center on the campus that cares for many people. They’ve established an excellent healthcare education program, and produces great students every year. I think it’s very important to look back and appreciate the hard work that these sisters put in, because I wouldn’t be at this school getting a great education without them.

  22. Andrew Bailey

    Thomas, thank you for sharing this story about the rich history of our college community. It is amazing the impact that the sisters have had and continue to have on the student’s at the college and the community of Duluth. St. Scholastica has certainly came a long way and the fact that education for all people (regardless of gender or ethnicity) was part of the mission from the start is amazing. The sisters truly did have a vision for our school, and it is something truly special that we are a small part of. It will be interesting to watch how our school grows as time goes on.

  23. Hattie Meyer

    Wow, finally someone who told the story and it made sense! I loved this article and how it told it all and was not to long. It also didn’t bringing to much religion to cloud the story. I had always kinda knew the story but not the full and clear picture. They were truly amazing hard working women! From traveling to building to healing to teaching they did it all. They are truly women to look up to. Thank you again for clearing the story of how our school got up on the hill.

  24. amanda greene

    In my dignatas class, we had a sister come and tell us the story about St. Scholastica and her brother. I really enjoyed that, but she never really talked about HOW the college of St. Scholastica came to be built. I think it is really important to understand the roots of where you are living or where you are from. I think it is really cool how we still have students interested in the incredible history of this school. We also have the neat opportunity of the sisters living on campus to tell us more about it. We have been talking about storytelling in class and how important it is to keep these stories alive. I will be sure to pass the stories of St. Scholastica along as well. Thank you for the article!

  25. Amanda Sullivan

    Thank you for sharing, Thomas. I’ve never looked into the history of St. Scholastica, but how interesting! I usually just think of The College of St. Scholastica as an ordinary college. However, there is so much history and originality behind our college. It is really neat that you did all of this research. I’m anxious to hear the rest of the story about the Benedictine Sisters.

  26. Thank you for this wonderful article. I am very glad you are using your time working with the archives of the school to share what you have learned and educate us on this fascinating subject. Not a lot of students here know the history of school or the sisters that started it all. I think their experiences are an inspiration to us all. Their actions brought all of us here together and it is important to know that. The pictures are also amazing. I am looking forward to reading the continuation of the article!

  27. Grace Young

    This is such a great post to read! I have heard the story of the founding of Saint Scholastica many different times, but this one is different. The pictures enhance the story in a new way. It is so special that they shared these historical photos with you! In World History I we have been talking about the importance of storytelling and founding myths. Especially the fact that the word myth doesn’t mean fake and that retelling stories over and over is extremely important. Each individual who tells the founding myth of our school tells it a little differently in the way that they enhance individual values.

  28. McKenna Holman

    I remember learning a little bit about the history of St. Scholastica last year at a dignitas talk, but I couldn’t remember the specifics. Our schools history really is very unique and special! I think that it is really great how much of an impact the sisters have had on the community as a whole from the very beginning, not just our community here at CSS. I’ve always wondered where they got the name for Kerst and now I know! I like that there is a building here on campus that is named after such an important person in our history here at Scholastica.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s