College habits


Photo provided by Mount Mary archives
School Sisters of Notre Dame share memories of their collegiate days at Mount Mary College

Her eyes take on a dreamy, far-off look. Her smile softens as treasured memories flood her mind. She chuckles over a collegiate activity she hasn’t thought about for years. She prefaces her thoughts with, “I remember” or “I loved” or “I had so much fun.”She’s a Mount Mary College alumna. And she’s also a School Sister of Notre Dame.

Sister Linda Marie Bos, history department chair and 1975 graduate from Mount Mary College, shared that thousands of SSNDs have received their Bachelor of Arts degrees from Mount Mary.

Some were full-time students, a number attended classes only during the summer and others endured what they have affectionately called “the 30-year plan.”

Before the construction of Kostka Hall in 1954 as a convent for the junior sisters (those who were college students), the full-time and summer-only SSNDs lived off-campus. “They lived on mission at their various convents through the city and would come in for classes on Saturday or during the summers,” Bos said.

After the Great Depression and the end of World War II, Mount Mary discussed building expansion options. One of the college’s needs was housing for the SSNDs so they could live in community on campus.

Stressing the urgency of this need, “The archbishop stepped in and  said, ‘There will be a convent because the sisters are living in violation of canon law,’” Bos said.

Kostka and Fidelis Halls were built and dedicated in December 1964. Kostka contained both a convent for the junior sisters and a theater. Fidelis served as the convent for the faculty SSNDs.

When Vatican II redefined the idea of community, wanting the sisters to become personally involved in their neighborhood so the community could get to know them, the SSNDs moved back into the Milwaukee area convents and commuted for classes.

Bos was one of these commuters. “One of the sisters came and picked us up from various places,” Bos said. “[She] dropped us off, [we] went to class, stayed here until the end of the day, and then went back [home].”

The women who attended classes only in the summer or only on Saturday did so because they were already teaching school. The sisters were able to serve and attend college simultaneously because the State of Wisconsin did not require teachers to be licensed until 1960.

Many of the Saturday students had to travel a distance and stay in one of the area convents for the weekend. “Sister Mary Bright would come in on a Friday after she was done teaching,” Bos said. “[She] would take class on Saturday and then go back to Chicago on Sunday.”

SSNDs on the 30-year plan frequently found their majors adjusted because “as the needs of the community shifted,  their major was changed,” Bos said. “They had a very broad education, which was excellent when you want to be a teacher because you can address so many different aspects of life.”

Bos also shared a favorite memory from a talent show at Mount Mary.

“A couple of us got together and we put on a Mexican bean dance … We bent in all the opposite directions. Sometimes we didn’t see where we were going and knocked into each other. It was just a lot of fun.”

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