Passion for Mission

125 Years in the USA: 1895-2020

Era 3: 1950-1970 | Embracing Renewal


Sister J. Morgenson with St. Joseph’s students in Huntsville, Ala.

Bob Dylan’s 1964 classic, The Times They Are A Changing, captures the high energy of this era.  Change was afoot both outside and inside the Salvatorian convent walls.  The leadership of the Sisters eagerly joined in the nation-wide Sister Formation Movement sending sisters on for higher education in a variety of areas.  As a result, the quality of Salvatorian apostolic service improved while at the same time the sisters were inserted, as never before, into the fast-changing secular world.  In no time, many of these women already dedicated to making the world a better place would take up the cause of civil rights and begin to question the war in Southeast Asia.

Salvatorian Sisters heard the 1959 call of Pope John XXIII to open the windows of the Church to the gusty winds of renewal and change.  They avidly embraced the Second Vatican Council, followed its sessions and eagerly studied its documents of renewal.  Women raised on the Baltimore Catechism now delved into biblical studies and advanced theology.  It was a new day for women religious.  Perhaps the most visible sign of the vast changes underway was the evolution of the religious habit. The medieval dress of the past which evoked both respect and fear in the Catholic community began to disappear so that by the 1970s many sisters were opting for simple secular dress.  As a result, by 1970, we can say that things both were and looked very different than they had in 1950.  The 1968 Beatification of Co-founder, Mother Mary of the Apostles, by Pope Paul VI straddles the “old and the new” of this period.  As one of the last single beatifications held in St. Peter’s Basilica it testified to the important presence of religious women in the church and its missionary work around the world.

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.

Sister Olympia Heuel, a woman ahead of her time

January 1, 1950

During her time on earth, Mother Olympia Heuel, SDS made sure to shake things up for Sisters of the Divine Savior. By 1950, she was well into her stride as one of the most influential international women religious leaders.  Glimpses of her drive and single-minded focus were evident early in her life.  Before she decided…

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Classes begin at Divine Savior High School at 100th St. & Capitol Dr.

September 4, 1951

When Divine Savior High School (DS) opened at 35th and Center Streets in 1926, our sisters had high hopes for its future. By 1935, Provincial leaders had purchased vacant land at 100th Street and Capitol Drive, a move Sister Margaret Bosch, SDS called “an excellent bit of foresight.” Back then, a new high school was…

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Sister Maureen Hopkins, SDS lets preps be preps

September 5, 1951

Before Sister Maureen Hopkins, SDS took on leadership of the preps, 13- to 17-year-old girls who aspired to be sisters were held to the same expectations of a professed sister. They wore ankle-length dresses and veils, and followed this tight dawn ‘til dusk schedule: 6 am: Rise in silence Morning prayer in common Attend Mass…

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The Sister Formation Movement impacts SDS

August 9, 1952

Reflection and growth were two ideals in the hearts and minds of some 2,000 sisters, priests and brothers who represented 400 religious institutions at the 1952 Congress for Religious at Notre Dame University. Six Sisters of the Divine Savior were among them. Mother Olympia Heuel, SDS encouraged their participation, writing from Rome, “I am glad…

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Salvatorian Sisters call for a change in habit

November 23, 1954

Picture this: it’s 1960 and you’re out and about with your mom. Out of the corner of your eye, you see a woman wearing a black veil and long black dress that brushes the floor. Almost subconsciously you step aside to give her a large berth, almost in awe. You think to yourself, “Whoa, a…

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Salvatorian community forms Guild

November 6, 1958

In the late ‘50s, the future of the Salvatorian Sisterhood was bright and promising. The need for our sisters’ services had never been stronger, and many young women answered the call to religious life within the Salvatorian community. Our motherhouse was bustling and alive. Spirits were high as our sisters served in schools, hospitals and…

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Ground breaking for Mother Mary Hall (SDS Community House) in Milwaukee, Wis.

February 2, 1960
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Salvatorian Sisters respond to Second Vatican Council

October 11, 1962

When Pope John XXIII convoked the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the Sisters of the Divine Savior eagerly responded to its challenge to “renew the church in the modern world.”  In her book, Bending in Season, Sister Margaret Shekleton, SDS, wrote, “[We] embraced the principles of the movement….” While excitement and change filled the air, it also…

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St. Joseph’s School in Huntsville, Ala., makes history

September 3, 1963

When Salvatorian Sisters Ruth Dittman and Bernadette Kline opened St. Joseph’s School in 1956, they began with a simple mission: educate African-American children. They could have hardly known their school would make history just seven years later. In fall of 1963, 12 white students enrolled and attended classes alongside 118 black students. That school year,…

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Co-founder Mother Mary of the Apostles is beatified

October 13, 1968

“The life and vocation of Blessed Mother Mary of the Apostles is marked by two qualities: the apostolate and missionary service. These are wonderfully blended in her person.” Pope Paul VI offered this reflection on Mother Mary of the Apostles, SDS during her beatification at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. More than 600 Salvatorian Sisters…

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Remembering pioneer Sister Walburga Sieghart

November 10, 1970

Sister Walburga Sieghart, SDS was one of the first three Sisters of the Divine Savior to come to the USA in 1895. She was born in Bavaria on December 12, 1872, and entered the Congregation at age 18, just two years after its founding on December 8, 1888. Sr. Walburga experienced all the joys and…

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There’s a lot more to our 125-year story. Click to read Era 4: 1970-2000.

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.