1881 – Establishing a Mission in the Northwest

Sister Anselma Billig, OSB

Mother Scholastica Kerst, the newly appointed superior of St. Benedict Convent, St. Joseph, MN, and a woman of vision, wanted to establish a mission in the Willamette area of Western Oregon. She accepted an invitation to staff St. Michael’s mission school at Grande Ronde near the Pacific Ocean. She arrived on April 9th by train with Sisters Stanislaus Sauer, Evangelista McNulty, Agatha Nachbar, Maura Schmitt and a candidate, Monica Will. Mother Scholastica explored several sites suggested by Archbishop Charles Seghers, for a possible convent and more schools. With Mother Scholastica’s return to St. Benedict Convent, St. Joseph, Minnesota, Sister Anselma Billig arrived to serve as Superior.

Learning that Mother Scholastica had traveled to Oregon with the intent of establishing a monastery there, Benedictine Abbot Alexius Edelbrock of St. John’s Abbey also ventured to northwest Oregon, arriving in November and staying through December. He began scouting for a location for a foundation of his own when Abbot Alexius discovered that Swiss Benedictine monks were arriving shortly to establish the future Mount Angel Abbey and two groups of Swiss Benedictine women – from Maria Rickenbach and Sarnen – were arriving as well. Deciding there was no room for both Swiss and Bavarian Benedictines, Abbot Edelbrock ended his search. Without consulting Mother Scholastica, he ventured to Grande Ronde, broke the sister’s contract with the Catholic Indian Bureau and ordered the sisters back to St. Benedict’s Convent. Mother Scholastica only learned of the Abbot’s actions when her sisters arrived home.