125 Years in the USA: 1895-2020
Era 2: 1920-1950 | Expanding in an “American” Church
By 1920, life for a Salvatorian Sister in the USA was radically different than it had been 25 years earlier. World War I (1914-1918) marked the early years of what would become a tectonic shift in global politics and Salvatorian life. Anti-German sentiment in the USA hastened our sisters’ identification as “Americans” regardless of their homeland. Many immigrants applied for citizenship in their adopted country, and gradually transitioned from speaking their mother tongues to English. Our immigrant sisters, like their lay counterparts, retained their heart ties with the “old country,” but felt their roots sinking deeper into this new land. More and more young women joined as members, inspired by our sisters who served in their communities. By the end of World War II (1945), “Americanization” of the Salvatorian Sisters Community was well underway.
Despite the Great Depression and two world wars, expansion was in the wind. Growth in Salvatorian membership enabled the sisters to embrace new apostolates in response to growing needs where they already served. St. Mary’s School of Nursing in Wausau, Wis. opened in 1923. Salvatorian hospitals in Wausau, Portage, Columbus and West Bend, Wisconsin grew in size and services throughout this era.
Our education apostolates also expanded as needs of the Catholic population grew throughout the USA. Parish schools in Milwaukee and across the country were bursting at the seams, packed with “baby-boomers” whose parents entrusted their education to the sisters.
In 1936, still dreaming of an all-girls high school and addressing other growing needs in Milwaukee, our sisters purchased property on the far west edge of the city to make it a reality. As the Salvatorian mission flourished, expansion was the byword, and youthful optimism kindled the plans of our province leaders, who were now by and large, born in the USA.
Sister Carol Thresher, SDS
If you’re viewing our anniversary timeline for the very first time, click on the link below to read how our sisters first came to the USA in 1895 in response to immigrant needs: Era 1: 1895 – 1920.
We acknowledge contributions of the late Sister Margaret Shekleton, SDS, who chronicled the first 90 years of our North American Province in her book Bending in Season ©1985.
Special thanks to Provincial Archivist Sister Mary Jo Stoffel, SDS for her research assistance.