The Irish – Ursuline Connection in Ohio, USA

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For more than one hundred twenty – five years, the Ursuline Sisters have been closely identified with the growth of Catholicity in Youngstown.

From 1874 to 1979, the sisters founded and staffed twenty – four schools, both elementary and high schools, in the Diocese of Youngstown. Their diversified ministries continue to this day.

It might well be said that the sisters provided a culture much needed in the city of Youngstown. In the latter 1800s there were few concerts, no symphony orchestras, no visiting concert stars, no traveling operatic troupes. Music would have been an unknown quality, in the lives of many, had it not been for the Ursulines who taught music and cultivated in their students a respect and appreciation for the standard classic pieces as well as, Irish ballads. They not only taught music but formed their own orchestra. The students’ yearly recitals were great social events. Add to this, the plays in which every child had a part, where Irish ballads were sung, Irish dances were performed and original poems were recited.

It is evident that the Irish had a great impact on this area by the number of Irish names one hears in the annals of our Ursuline Order which numbered nearly one hundred or more; some of whom were actually born in Ireland. In 1874, at the request of Bishop Gilmore of Cleveland, the Cleveland and Toledo Ursulines sent sisters to establish and teach in St. Columbia School due to the influx of Irish and German immigrants. Not only were most of the sisters of Irish Descent, but also were the priests and students.

Besides St. Columbia School, the Ursulines played a significant role in establishing the following schools: St. Joseph in 1869, Immaculate Conception in 1883, St Ann 1888, Sts. Cyril and Methodist 1905, Ursuline High School 1905, St. Rose 1914, Sts. Peter and Paul 1915, Holy Name 1920, Sacred Heart 1923, St. Patrick 1944, and list goes on.

In a tribute paid the Ursulines many years ago by Monsignor Glenn Holdbrook, rector of Saint Columbia Cathedral, he said: “We cannot look at a cross on our hills, or a church in our valley, or see the light of faith in our children’s eyes and not recall the influence of the Ursuline on our Catholic heritage. Deep in the Mahoning Valley story is woven the history of the Ursuline Sisters”.

Feature Photo: An old school picture of St Colunba’s School Youngstown! Vindicator file photo / June 4, 1972 | St. Columba School, the first parochial school established in Youngstown in 1860, was in its final days in June of 1972, down to 157 students. In this photo, some third-grade pupils were returning from a field trip to the nearby Youngstown State University planetarium with student-teacher Mary Ann Wilt. Most of the students would transfer to Immaculate Conception School in the coming academic year.

Sr. Brendan is a sister of Peter Sherlock

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About this record

Written by Sr Brendan Sherlock

Published here 31 Dec 2023 and originally published Christmas 2004

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