In Your Midst
Carrying on a Great Tradition
Nov. 2005

   "Like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it" (I Corinthians 3:10)

     For nearly one hundred years now, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary have played an important role in the life of St. James Cathedral. They have served the parish community as teachers, as sacristans, as directors of religious education, as bookkeepers, as Eucharistic ministers and pastoral care ministers. They have ministered to refugees and immigrants, grieving families, the elderly and homebound, and the homeless.

Sisters of the Holy Names gathered in their new convent, 1964

    The story of the Sisters of the Holy Names at St. James begins in 1911, when five sisters founded the Cathedral School. For the first year, these Sisters were commuters—that is, they lived at Holy Names Academy but spent their days at the Cathedral. But very soon they realized that they needed their own convent. At first, they adapted some space in the Cathedral School itself into a residence. A few months later, the Sisters acquired more spacious accommodations when they moved into a ramshackle old mansion on the corner of Terry and Columbia.

    Life in the community was busy. Not only was there the school to run, but there was the sisters’ fabled hospitality, with which they greeted a steady stream of guests and visitors. Children would stop by the convent for extra help with schoolwork; and homeless people and neighbors in need were sure to get something to help them along their way. And then, there was the annual visit from the bishop, an occasion always noted with pride in the house chronicle.

    In 1964, the Cathedral School was bursting at the seams, and the Holy Names Sisters were blessed with an abundance of vocations. The old Frye Mansion at Ninth and Columbia was torn down to make way for a brand-new, state-of-the-art Cathedral Convent, built to accommodate 12 sisters and one guest. The closure of the Cathedral School in 1972 and of Immaculate High School ten years later did not mark the end of the presence of Holy Names Sisters at St. James Cathedral. In fact, during this time, the Cathedral Convent was a particularly dynamic place to be—every room was full, and the Sisters, involved in many different ministries in the Cathedral Parish and beyond, came together in the community room in the evenings. (As some of the sisters remember, without a regular cook, meals could be an adventure!)

    From the beginning the Sisters of the Holy Names had been actively engaged in the world around them—and during the tumultuous 1970s, the sisters of the Cathedral Convent spoke out strongly for peace and justice, advocating for the poor, for immigrants and refugees, and for the homeless.

    In 2003, only four sisters were in permanent residence in the Cathedral Convent, and though the wonderful hospitality of the Holy Names Sisters continued unabated, it was clear that the Convent was far too large for the Sisters’ needs. Together, the Sisters of the Cathedral Convent and St. James Cathedral Parish talked about the future of the building, and the idea of a Pastoral Care Center for the Cathedral Parish was born.

    Today, the Sisters of the Holy Names continue to serve in the Cathedral Parish in many ways: coordinating ministry to the elderly and homebound, Eucharistic ministry, the Volunteer Chore Program, funerals, and much more. The new Pastoral Care Center will continue to carry out their mission. The new facility will be dedicated to the very ministries that the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary helped to establish in the parish: outreach, education, and pastoral care.

Back to the November 2005 Issue of In Your Midst