Passion for Mission

125 Years in the USA: 1895-2020

St. Mary’s School of Nursing, Class of 1938

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.
1923
September 1, 1923

St. Mary’s School of Nursing opens in Wausau

St. Mary’s School of Nursing opens in Wausau

September 1, 1923 – Fifteen years after taking ownership of Riverside Hospital in Wausau, Wis., Sisters of the Divine Savior proposed a plan to expand the facility they renamed St. Mary’s. Medical equipment was outdated and the hospital could no longer accommodate the volume of patients seeking care. The new addition... Read full story

1925
September 1, 1925

First classes begin at Mother of Good Counsel School in Milwaukee, Wis.

First classes begin at Mother of Good Counsel School in Milwaukee, Wis.

September 1, 1925 – As Salvatorians became more established across the United States, the demand rose for Salvatorian Sisters to teach at Catholic schools. By the start of the 20th century, the Sisters served at 14 additional schools across the country. Most of the requests came from bishops or pastors who... Read full story

1926
September 27, 1926

Divine Savior High School opens in Milwaukee

Divine Savior High School opens in Milwaukee

September 27, 1926 – Under the direction of Mother Hedwig Poetsch, Divine Savior High School opened on the first floor of St. Mary’s Convent with an enrollment of 20 students. It may have been a high school by name, but the students attending were not typical high schoolers. Divine Savior was... Read full story

1929
June 1, 1929

The Vatican approves English translation of SDS Constitution

The Vatican approves English translation of SDS Constitution

June 1, 1929 – Similar to the United States government, the Sisters of the Divine Savior have a constitution that establishes the community as a religious congregation in the eyes of the Church. Sisters of the Divine Savior was not formally recognized as a congregation until 1926, 22 years after... Read full story

1930
May 31, 1930

Mother of Good Counsel graduates its first future Salvatorian Sister

Mother of Good Counsel graduates its first future Salvatorian Sister

May 31, 1930 – Sister Margaret Shekleton, SDS, Class of 1930, was the first Mother of Good Counsel alumna to enter the Sisters of the Divine Savior Community. Fifty years later, MGC student Angela Borek wrote a story about Sr. Margaret for the student newspaper On the Spot. Angela shared about... Read full story

August 14, 1930

Sister Adelinda Laskowski, SDS becomes director of St. Mary’s School of Nursing

Sister Adelinda Laskowski, SDS becomes director of St. Mary’s School of Nursing

August 14, 1930 – Sister Adelinda Laskowski, SDS, (second from right above) who entered the congregation on December 29, 1913, enrolled at St. Mary’s School of Nursing following her novitiate in Milwaukee. Just five years after graduating in the first class in 1925, she became nursing school director. Sr. Adelinda was... Read full story

1932
November 14, 1932

Model T adds new momentum to sisters’ ministry

Model T adds new momentum to sisters’ ministry

November 14, 1932 – In 1908, after the release of one of the first mass produced vehicles, the Model T Ford, cars on the streets of Milwaukee were a common sight. Both men and women enjoyed the freedom of being behind the wheel, and traveling by car was much quicker... Read full story

1936
September 1, 1936

MGC Memories: Setting up for Sunday Mass

MGC Memories: Setting up for Sunday Mass

September 1, 1936 – In its earliest years long before Mother of Good Counsel Parish and School became two separate buildings, Sunday Mass was held in a classroom. This arrangement meant desks had to be moved out to make way for pews every Friday afternoon — and vice versa on... Read full story

November 6, 1936

Sisters purchase 32 acres with plans to expand

Sisters purchase 32 acres with plans to expand

November 6, 1936 – Capitol Drive intersects 100th Street just south of site where sisters planned to build the new Divine Savior High School and other projects.

1940
September 3, 1940

MGC Memories: Sister Verena helps boys “Be Prepared”

MGC Memories: Sister Verena helps boys “Be Prepared”

September 3, 1940 – Mother of Good Counsel Boy Scout Troop 61 would not exist without the determination of Salvatorian Sister Verena Jurgensmaier. As an eighth grade teacher, she thought the boys in her class would benefit from the scouting experience. Troop 61 began meeting in a kindergarten classroom that was... Read full story

1948
September 1, 1948

Divine Savior High School admits first lay students

Divine Savior High School admits first lay students

September 1, 1948 – Encouraged by 2,000-plus students attending Mother of Good Counsel Grade School and their success as educators, the sisters opened enrollment at Divine Savior High School to female lay students. Initially, the sisters planned to accept only incoming 9th grade girls, but a group of incoming sophomores convinced... Read full story

1950
September 14, 1950

New Divine Savior High School lays first cornerstone

New Divine Savior High School lays first cornerstone

September 14, 1950 – Click the photo to view more.

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.