Mother Caroline Friess

Case Study in Courage

Mother Caroline Friess (at left) walking with a novice at the Milwaukee Motherhouse, circa 1891.
Mother Caroline Friess (at left) walking with a novice
at the Milwaukee Motherhouse, circa 1891.

The life of Mother Caroline Friess, the American foundress of the School Sisters of Notre Dame began in an unusual family. Explore her family of origins in four vignettes that offer insight into her childhood and youth. Facilitator directions are available for this segment.

How did this young immigrant woman learn to live in 19th century America? What made her such a force in establishing the parochial school system? How did she deal with political and ecclesiastical challenges? Reflect on noted historian, Anne Butler's essay describing Mother Caroline's interaction with the critical issues of her culture. Mother Caroline's citizenship papers are also available.

For a woman, traveling in the 19th century America demanded courage. Take a journey with Mother Caroline through her experience of a steamboat explosion on the Mississippi.

Mother Theresa Gerhardinger, the original foundress of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, died in 1879. She was succeeded by Mother Margaret of Cortona Wiedmann. Excerpts of unpublished letters from Mother Margaret to Mother Caroline describe the bonds of affection and loyalty that united these two "mothers" of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. They held the congregation together in the years following the death of Mother Theresa. Explore this relationship as narrated by Margaret to Caroline.

More than 35 years ago the author interviewed Sister Geresine Leffert, SSND, who had been received into the congregation by Mother Caroline. She was born in Logansport, IN, November 2, 1870, entered the congregation in Milwaukee on August 28, 1887, and died in St. Louis, December 29, 1970. Imagine a 96-year-old School Sister of Notre Dame recalling her conversations with Mother Caroline.

Photos of Mother Caroline have had a mysterious history in the congregation. Review with Sister Marjorie Myers, SSND, some images of this woman and meet "The Real Mother Caroline" by visiting "Lost Identity."

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