September 1, 2022 | Local News
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

“Hope and Firm Faith” is a new book about the history of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, written by Ursuline Associate Dan Heckel. COURTESY OF MOUNT SAINT JOSEPH

‘Hope and Firm Faith’ brings the story of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph to life


By the time the Diocese of Owensboro was created in 1937, the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph had been serving in western Kentucky for 63 years. There were a lot of lean times in those early years.

When five Ursuline Sisters of Louisville traveled down the Ohio River on a flatboat in 1874 to open Mount Saint Joseph Academy, they boarded a wagon for a bumpy ride into a wilderness that would later become known as Maple Mount. Over the past 148 years, the Ursuline Sisters have expanded their efforts, teaching in dozens of schools in western Kentucky and elsewhere, and opening what is today Brescia University.

“Hope and Firm Faith: The Story of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph,” a book just published this summer, details how the Sisters evolved over the decades and how both their campus and their influence grew, creating a religious home for new women religious, and affecting the lives of countless students.

The Ursuline Sisters became pioneers in many other states, but in western Kentucky they gladly accepted schools that others didn’t want – schools in poor, rural communities often far from the conveniences of city life. Here the Ursuline Sisters’ meager wages were often augmented with food grown by the farm families they served.

This book chronicles how Catholic education expanded in the Diocese of Owensboro from Breckinridge County to Paducah, and especially in Daviess County, then later into Owensboro. It also details the relationships between the Sisters and all four bishops of Owensboro – often supportive, but sometimes contentious.

The changes in the Church and in religious life brought on by the Second Vatican Council, and the ensuing turbulent years for the Ursuline Sisters are also brought to life.

This history is told through the words of the Sisters who lived it, making use of the vast archival records at Maple Mount. Readers will meet Sisters who had great achievements that changed the community, and others who changed lives one person at a time.

In June 2022, the author, Ursuline Associate Dan Heckel, delivered a presentation about the Ursuline Sisters based on the book to the Conference on the History of Women Religious at the University of Notre Dame.

There will be an opportunity to purchase “Hope and Firm Faith” at some book signings around the diocese. Visit the Ursuline website or Facebook page to check when those may be, or email [email protected] to schedule a book signing. To order a copy of the book online, visit The cost is $37.10 (which includes sales tax), plus $10 for shipping.

If you would rather pay by check, make your check out to “Ursuline Sisters” and mail to:
Book order
8001 Cummings Road
Maple Mount, KY 42356

With your check, please include your name, address, phone number and email. Please specify if you want a copy signed by the author (at no extra charge).

Current Issue

Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
Editor |  Elizabeth Wong Barnstead
Contributors |  Riley Greif, Rachel Hall
Layout |  Rachel Hall
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