Sister Xavier Schroeder
(1844 - 1933)

Kundek Corner:
Ferdinand Distinguished Citizens

Sister Xaveria Schroeder, Ferdinand Histroical Society's 7th Distinguished Citizen placed in Kundek Corner at Ferdinand Library.

For a young lady to leave family and home land behind in Germany in the mid-19th century and travel across an ocean by herself took extraordinary courage. To travel through what was largely wilderness by horse and wagon in southern Indiana in the company of three other women and a priest took extraordinary faith.

Such was the stuff of which Sister Xaveria was made. She knew her calling was from God and she a willing servant.

Sister Xaveria Schroeder was born Josephine Schroeder April 17, 1844 in Dinklage, Oldenburg, Germany to Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Schroeder. The sixth of seven children, she lost her mother while still a baby. Her father never remarried.

She received a thorough education in her native city and in 1865, at age 21, moved to Cincinnati, Ohio.

Receiving the call to religious life, Josephine entered St. Walburg Convent in Covington, Kentucky January 27, 1866. She received the Benedictine religious habit and the name Sister M. Xaveria.

Sister Xaveria was one of four nuns appointed by Mother Alexia Lechner of St. Walburg Convent to journey to southern Indiana and establish a convent in Ferdinand. Nine days after her triennial vows on August 10, 1867, at age 23, Sister Xaveria left Covington with the three other sisters to found the new Ferdinand Mission group. They traveled from Covington to Ferdinand in a spring-wagon driven by Father Chrysostom Foffa, OSB arriving on August 20.

Until the arrival of the Benedictine nuns, the Ferdinand Mission was under the direction and leadership of the Sisters of Providence who were French. Feeling that they had little in common with the largely German population of the area, the Benedictine sisters were a welcome replacement. Soon after her arrival, Sister Xaveria was appointed to teach in the Ferdinand Schools. 

Four years after their arrival, these Benedictine nuns established the Convent of Immaculate Conception. Sister Xaveria took her perpetual vows January 21, 1871, the same year the new convent became independent.

Six years later, in 1877, she and Mother Benedicta Berns were sent to Rockport at the request of Ferdinand Pastor, Father Eberhard Stadler to establish St. Bernard's school. The next year Sister Xaveria, in the company of four other Ferdinand Sisters, journeyed to Shoal Creek, Arkansas, at the request of Bishop Martin Marty. There they established St. Scholastica, a school for German Immigrant children. In 1880 she was recalled to Ferdinand where she would spend the rest of her life serving Ferdinand and surrounding communities.

What training for teaching Sister received is unclear, but the undoubtedly would have adhered to the requirements of the time which included yearly examinations for all teachers by the superintendent in Dubois County to ensure that the teachers continued their own studies.

As was the custom of the time, Sister Xaveria also participated in the parish life of St. Ferdinand. The sisters trained server boys, kept the church sanctuary cleaned and appropriately decorated, laundered church linens and took care of vestments.

Sister Xaveria spent a total of 42 years teaching, 32 of those years in Ferdinand, Celestine, St. Anthony and Schnellville schools. She retired to the motherhouse in 1909 to spend the rest of her days as a seamstress and gardener. She was often remembered by fellow sisters as having a rosary in one hand and a sprinkling can for her flowers in the other. Her later years were spent in personal prayer, especially in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament which she visited many times each day.

During her 66 years in Ferdinand, St. Ferdinand Parish, the town and the schools all grew rapidly. The Benedictine community grew from the original four founders housed in a two room convent near St. Ferdinand Church to the structure which now occupies Monastery Hill. Sister's guidance, along with that of the growing Benedictine community, was responsible for the magnificence of the Monastery Church and many other facets of the current monastery.

Although very feeble and able to walk only with the assistance of a cane during the last several years of her life, Sister Xaveria received Holy Communion each day in the Infirmary chapel until the final two days of her life. She would receive Holy Communion in the chapel for the last time on the Wednesday before her death. She fell ill later that day and received the last sacraments the next afternoon.

She died of pneumonia on Friday, October 6, 1933, at 2:30 o'clock. She had attained the age of 89 years, five months and six days.

Sister Xaveria is buried in the Monastery Cemetery, her grave marked by a solitary iron cross. She was the only one of the four pioneering nuns to remain in Ferdinand and to be buried here.

The memory of Sister Xaveria was honored Tuesday, by the Ferdinand Historical Society when her picture was placed on the wall of the Ferdinand Library alongside others who have given much to the community. Fittingly, the ceremony was held on Tuesday, March 21, the Feast of St. Benedict.

Copy of article in March 22, 2000 Ferdinand News

Sr. M. Kenneth Scheessele, OSB completed the research on Sister Xaveria which ultimately led to her inclusion on the Wall.