by Audrey Corby Braden ‘63

I felt something as soon as I walked into her living room. As a nurse I have made many homecare visits to the elderly and infirm in the area, but this visit was special. I was on a routine visit in Xenia, Ohio and I felt an immediate kinship with the lovely lady of the house. I commented on the array of crosses and crucifixes adorning her living room walls and mentioned that I had gone to a catholic school run by the Ursuline Sisters of Brown County. She must have been a godsend because it turns out that my patient, Ms. Margaret Shelley, had graduated from Brown County in 1920.

I had a million questions for Miss Shelley. What was the school like in those days? How was it different than when I went there 40 years later? I was amazed at the clarity and detail of Ms. Shelley’s memories 74 years after she graduated. She remembers names. Mother Angela was Mother Superior, Sr. Mechtilde was Principal and taught French and history, Sr. Monica, author of The Cross in the Wilderness, taught American and European history, Sr. Mary Baptist taught Saturday morning sewing classes and accompanied the girls every evening as they walked down the lane and around the pond praying the rosary.

She remembers the rituals. Every morning the girls ate warm cornbread with syrup for breakfast. Students were encouraged to attend Mass every morning, but it was required on Sundays. Every morning as “roll” was called, the girls would answer “Yes Sister” if they had some kind of penance to do or “No Sister” if they were “home free”. Thursday penance usually required an essay on the misdeed and sometimes a verbal confession of the misdeed in front of the entire class. Boarding students went home only on Christmas and Easter holiday breaks because travel was long and difficult as many of the girls lived out of state. Students attended all of the Professions, but Miss Shelley particularly remembers attending the Profession of Sr. Mary Ursula, a little Irish nun who was young and always happy, and who shared many stories of Ireland with the girls.

Miss Shelly graduated with five other girls on the occasion of Brown County Ursulines’ 75th Anniversary in 1920. She attended Sacred Heart College in Cincinnati, OH for one year, but transferred to Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio and graduated with her teaching certificate in 1924. She taught for many years at the Blessed Sacrament Convent in New Orleans, Louisiana and Chicago, Illinois. In the 1950s she returned to Xenia to care for her mother in the home her grandfather built in 1902. It was there, 74 years later as the Brown County Ursulines prepared to celebrate their 150th Anniversary that I happened upon this wonderful lady. I asked her if she would like to visit BCU again and her reply was “I want to remember Brown County the way it was.”

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Top Center: Dolly Fisher, in front of her is Laurel Hafertepen, Jill Woeber Sooy, Audrey Corby Braden, Carol Tipton, Regina Reddick Baynard,
Right Front: Linda Quallen and Susan Cleary Dunn
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Standing from left: Laurel Hafertepen, Audrey Corby Braden
Seated from left: Gail Glassmeyer Napier, Jill Woeber Sooy, Linda Hocke

 

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