Passion for Mission

125 Years in the USA: 1895-2020

Era 2: 1920-1950 | Expanding in an “American” Church

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

In 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 Era 1 to read how our sisters first came to the USA in 1895 in response to immigrant needs.

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Sisters of the Divine Savior proposed a plan to expand the facility they renamed St. Mary’s. Medical equipment was outdated and the hospital could no longer accommodate the volume of patients seeking care.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 completed in September 1921, increased St. Mary’s Hospital capacity to…

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

December 8, 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 were not members of the Society of the…

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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 established as a “prep” school for new candidates,…

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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 Father Francis Jordan submitted the constitution to the Vatican.…

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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 the early influences in Sr. Margaret’s life that eventually…

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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 assisted by Sister Olympia Heuel, SDS, who had…

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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 than waiting for the trolley. Driving was a “trend”…

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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 Sunday. Instead of welcoming the upcoming weekend, the sisters…

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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.

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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 part of the original Mother of Good Counsel…

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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 the Sisters to accept them too. The sisters welcomed…

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New Divine Savior High School lays first cornerstone

September 14, 1950

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Our 125-year story continues. Click  to read how Salvatorian Sisters embraced change in an ever-changing world.

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.