Religious order marks 150 years in Iowa

Students from Sacred Heart School in Fort Madison are shown in this undated photo. The School Sisters of Notre Dame have had a presence in the Diocese of Davenport and state of Iowa for 150 years. Their first assignment was teaching in Fort Madison.

By Anne Marie Amacher

For 150 years, the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) have ministered in the Diocese of Davenport and throughout the state of Iowa. Currently, five SSND Sisters work or reside in the Davenport Diocese, said Sister Judy Herold, SSND, the pastoral associate at St. Anthony Parish in Davenport.

The Sisters’ ministry began after Father Alexander Hatenberger visited with the Sisters in St. Louis in 1859, according to “Beginnings of 150 Years of SSND Presence and Ministry in Iowa” by Sister Carol Marie Wildt, SSND. Afterward, Fr. Hatenberger wrote to Mother Caroline Friess requesting Sisters for teaching assignments. A confirmation letter arrived in August 1860 and on Sept. 14, 1860, Sister Mary Calasanctia Ley, novice Mary Innocentia Kreidler and candidate Mary Dietrich accompanied Father F.X. Krautbauer to found the mission in Fort Madison.

The history notes the Sisters were installed during Mass on Sept. 16 “with great celebration.” The next day they began teaching 130 students, which quickly grew to 180 students.

On Dec. 8, 1860, candidate Dietrich returned home and candidate Catherine Siegler arrived. And in 1861 Sisters Margaret Alacoque Renwick and Hildegardis Schlitzer came to Fort Madison to run the high school and teach music. Sr. Renwick transferred to Quincy, Ill., soon after and Sister Fidelis Krueger replaced her. Sr. Wildt said the Sisters adjusted to numerous transitions and challenges as they began their ministry in Iowa.


The School Sisters of Notre Dame eventually spread their ministry to Keokuk, Burlington, West Burlington, West Point, Knoxville and Davenport in the Davenport Diocese and throughout the state.

More than 826 Sisters have ministered within the state, Sr. Wildt says, and 77 women have entered the congregation from Iowa.

“Education has been the focus of our order,” said Sr. Herold. “Early on it was to educate children. Now we educate in many different forms to children through adults.”

Currently in the Diocese of Davenport, the following SSND Sisters reside and/or serve here:

• Sr. Herold as pastoral associate at St. Anthony Parish in Davenport.

• Sister Kathy Braun as pastoral associate at Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington and Ss. Mary & Patrick Parish in West Burlington.

• Sister Rose Ann Boyle who is retired in Burlington.

• Sister Peggy Duffy, director of religious education and pastoral associate at Holy Family Parish in Fort Madison.

• Sister Joan Bellew who is retired in Fort Madison.

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