The Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph have lived atop the picturesque hills of West Daviess County since 1874. That is when five Ursuline nuns moved from Louisville to create a school (Mount Saint Joseph Academy) at the location that has come to be known as Maple Mount.
“Proclaiming Jesus through education and Christian formation” is their mission, so it should come as no surprise that the Sisters are on the forefront of creating educational opportunities in the Owensboro area.
In 1912, 38 years after arriving in Daviess County, the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph became an autonomous congregation. At that point, they had graduated 78 girls from the academy and a total of 89 sisters made up the congregation, according to their website. By 1925, the Sisters opened Mount Saint Joseph Junior College for Women, which later moved to Owensboro in 1950 and became Brescia College, admitting both men and women.
In addition to their passion for education, the Sisters began the Mount Saint Joseph Picnic in 1970.
But in 1983, the Mount Saint Joseph Academy closed its doors after educating more than 1600 women to pursue other opportunities to support education.
Music has also been an important part of the Mount. In 1975, the yearly Greater Owensboro Summer Music Camp or Music at Maple Mount began under the direction of Julie and James White, local music educators with the Owensboro Public Schools.
Young people aged 11 to 22 were welcomed to a two-week camp with a rigorous emphasis on the instrument of their choice, requiring choir and theory participation to hone their technical skills. Talented musicians and Grammy-nominated ensembles from all over the country spent their summers offering advice and mentorship to young musicians, hailing from places such as the Interlochen Center for the Arts and even Julliard.
With numbers dwindling in the early 2000s, a decision was made to end the camp in 2006.
This year, on Saturday, Sept. 8, and Sunday, Sept. 9, the Sisters began their next venture to support education and raise funds by hosting the EastBridge Arts Festival, formerly run by a pair of biological sisters, Katherine Taylor Thomson and Christy Taylor Chaney of Studio Slant. The Sisters hope the festival will help raise money for their passion for education.
“While the EastBridge Festival was the most recent event, it’s a little early to determine its impact,” said Dan Heckel, Director of Mission Advancement and Communications for the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph.
The Sisters of The Mount actively participated by staffing the event, working the booths, and selling their handcrafted jams, jellies, and quilts.
“An appreciation for handcrafted art has been a staple of Ursuline education since the Ursuline Sisters opened Mount Saint Joseph Academy on this spot in 1874,” said Betsy Mullins, Director of Development.
The Sisters host various retreats at the Mount Saint Joseph Retreat and Conference Center. Everything from church groups to couple’s retreats can be found at The Mount, including the Runaway Quilters, a volunteer group that hosts quilting classes, and Smockers and Stitchers, an annual retreat of nationally renowned sewers from all over the country.
The Sisters are now looking to the future by engaging with younger generations, following the instruction of Saint Angela Merici, to “adapt to needs of changing times” and are active in posting on social media, sharing their events, recipes and outreach ministry with their followers.
Most recently, the Sisters posted a pumpkin pie recipe from their cookbook, “Food for the Soul, Memories for the Heart,” to their Facebook page to celebrate the first day of fall.
Follow the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph on Facebook for updates, trivia, and even a few throwbacks and history tidbits.