Cold Spring school celebrates centennial, Benedictine roots

Sister Lois Wedl remembers the first time she walked through the doors of St. Boniface School. It was 1937 and she still considers the Benedictine sisters who taught at the Cold Spring school one of the greatest blessings of her life.

“One of the reasons I joined St. Benedict’s Monastery [in St. Joseph] is because I knew the sisters here and I loved them,” she said after a special Mass March 23 to celebrate the school’s 100th anniversary.

The sisters taught thousands of students like Sister Lois in the years after the school was established. Although the last Benedictine sister left in 1994, their influence is being remembered during a year-long anniversary celebration.

The centennial Mass with Bishop Donald Kettler was one of several events planned for the year. During the Mass he thanked those gathered for their contributions to 100 years of faith-filled education.

Sixth-graders perform the opening song during a performance after the cenntennial Mass March 23 at St. Boniface Church in Cold Spring. Each class presented a skit or song to commemorate the 100 years of St. Boniface School. (Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Visitor)

“I’m so happy to be able to celebrate 100 years of your school, because during that time you have helped so many people become and be better friends of Jesus,” he said during his homily.

After Mass, students in each grade performed a song or skit related to the anniversary. Kindergarteners sang “Happy Birthday” to St. Boniface School in three languages — including Korean — and fourth-graders told the school’s history in the form of a poem.

Sister Sharon Waldoch, the school’s principal since 2003, also appreciates the foundation set by the sisters.

“As a School Sister of Notre Dame, I feel privileged to be at the Church of St. Boniface and the school because I am witnessing the flowering of the seeds sewn by the Benedictine sisters and monks,” she said. “I am benefiting from the strong foundation established in 1916 and built on through the years of faithful commitment to Catholic education in the Cold Spring area.”

In 1914 it became clear that a parochial school was needed.

“The state of Minnesota has taken strict measures regarding matters of our district or public school,” the St. Boniface Parish corporation minutes read at the time. Before that, the public school was staffed by Catholic teachers as an “unofficial” Catholic school, according to a parish history written in 1978.

Four Benedictine sisters came to Cold Spring from St. Benedict’s Monastery to staff the school. Sisters Benigna Lieser, Celestia Lauerman, St. John Klein and Hilaria Finske worked with principal Martin Jahn.

High school classes were held in two rooms of the school starting in 1920, and a building was constructed for the high-schoolers in 1926. The first class graduated in 1927. The high school closed in 1968.

Fourth-grade teacher and former student Liz Ficker remembers the sisters as her teachers. “What I remember most fondly was receiving my first holy Communion,” she said.

She has taught at the school for 23 years and is one of the many lay people who have continued to build on the legacy of the sisters.

“The faculty, parents and students here are a close-knit community because our faith binds us together,” said Ficker, whose husband and daughter also attended the school.

“It’s that faith that assures me that no matter what happens, God’s love for us is far-reaching and will be with us today tomorrow, and for eternity,” she said. “That’s what makes me proud to be a Catholic school teacher and pass that on to my students.”

Sister Lois went on to become a teacher herself.

“Sometimes you don’t realize how formative experiences like that are, you just go on with life,” she said. “When I think back to all that happened within me and for me, it enabled me as a teacher to do some of the things that the sisters did when I was in school.

“We were just given opportunities that I’m so grateful for because it was such a great start both spiritually and educationally,” she added.

About Dianne Towalski

Dianne Towalski is a multimedia reporter for The Visitor newspaper.

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