Kindred Souls

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.”

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
Standing from left: Laurel Hafertepen, Audrey Corby Braden
Seated from left: Gail Glassmeyer Napier, Jill Woeber Sooy, Linda Hocke


Reflections on the past 50 years

by Linda Patterson ‘61


I have held a prestigious title for the past 21 years; I am known as Granny Bubbles. When my granddaughter was a toddler, she entered our front door chanting “Bubbles, Granny, Granny, bubbles,” until she spied her bubble jar. Being at Brown County for three years, I naturally thought about becoming a nun. However, it crossed my mind that why would I want to be stuck with the everyday habits of praying, cooking, praying, washing clothes, praying, dusting…

I wound up doing all that, plus with three children I was also scrounging for their shoes trying to make it to Mass on time. Me, losing my religion before I got to Mass, while three children were yelling from the back seat of the car, “Mom, she looked at me!” “Mom, he touched me!” “Mom, make him stop!” My life has been far from normal; many times I felt I should have been a nun.

My real accomplishments, minus 1, are here with me today – three children and five grandchildren. They possess the best of me.


A Night Out at BCU

by Julie Powers Lopez ‘69

Most of the time, I have memories of all the girls in our class.  Some memories stand out very clearly, such as the night of our senior year, when we sat huddled together in Chatfield Hall, while our favorite neighborhood pervert tried his best to get into the building.

I vividly remember the night that Sister Timothy took us out for a scary night of fun on the grounds. Each girl chose something to use as a weapon. All I could find was Sister Mary Anthony’s broom.  Sister Timothy assured me that Sister Mary Anthony would not mind if I borrowed it.

As I remember it, only Sister Timothy had a flash light. The rest of us crept terrified behind her all the way from the basement door to the main gates.  The wind rose, making the old chestnut trees sway in the rising winds.  On the way back down the drive, as we approached the area of the old Indian cemetery, I thought I saw a huge spider creeping across the pavement in our direction. I bravely said that I would kill it. I took a mighty swing at the arachnid with Sister Mary Anthony’s little broom.  I brought the bristles down hard on the spider, and heard a horrible cracking sound.  I couldn’t tell if the spider made the noise, or what. I raised the broom to see if there was anything left of the giant spider, when to my horrified eyes, I beheld, Sister Mary Anthony’s broken broom. Everybody broke out laughing except me. Sister and the girls took off down the road, laughing.  I could see only Sister Mary Anthony shaking her aged fist at me and saying she was going to write my mother that I was probably going to go to hell.

Sister Timothy told us a wonderful scary story while we sat around a cold campfire.  Everyone’s mind was on the story, except mine. Sister Mary Anthony was very real and frightening.  A ghost was infinitely less terrifying than Sister Mary Anthony.  She had chased me up the front and back stairs on more than one occasion, just for tracking in some dirt.  This was far more serious.

I had just enough time to think my response to the broken broom through.  I told Sister Timothy that I was really scared of the repercussions for breaking the broom. I had decided to place the broken broom in her cupboard, along with a note. I would explain my actions, and told her that I would buy her a new broom on our next weekend home.

I slept very poorly that night.  All the next day, I kept looking around corners as I approached corridors, to make sure that Sister Mary Anthony was not cleaning in that area. By 4 p.m., I thought that I was home free. I was walking from the Second Department Home Room toward the stairs when I felt a hand on my shoulder.  I froze in fear.

I slowly turned around to see Sister Mary Anthony standing behind me.  She had her arms folded across her flat bosom. She fixed me with a stare.  I could not have run away. She just stared at me for a moment, then asked if I was Julie Powers. I admitted that I was. I was cringing inside, terrified at what she would say. I never expected her to say the next words. “You never should have taken my broom.  You’re right about that.  But you were very responsible to own up to the misdeed.  Not one in a hundred girls would have done that. If you can find a small broom, fine.  But don’t worry about it. I will also look for a replacement.” Then she turned a walked away. I was rooted to the spot. By the time I reached the dorm, I was laughing rather hysterically. Sharon Bruce asked me what was going on. When I told her, she could hardly believe it.

I was able to find a small toy broom, with a tiny dust pan.  I was very happy to return to Brown County with the promised bounty. Sister Mary Anthony was delighted with her new broom and dust pan.  They fit her small frame very well.  She used them up until right before her death.