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The Hessoun Orphanage in Fenton, Missouri

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The Hessoun Orphanage in Fenton, Missouri


A drawing depicting the Notre Dame Sisters with children at the Hessoun Orphanage in Fenton, Missouri where they first began their ministry in the United States in May of 1910.


Sisters of Notre Dame; Wilber Czech History Harvest, 2016


Still Image; Document



Document Item Type Metadata


The Notre Dame Sisters first arrived in the United States on May 10, 1910, in response to several requests for sisters to aid in the settlement and education of Czech immigrants. Five Czech sisters came at the invitation of Rev. Charles Bleha of St. Louis, Missouri to staff the newly constructed Hessoun Orphanage at nearby Fenton. The sisters arrived to find the orphanage, not only unoccupied, but unfinished.

Under the gracious and inspiring leadership of Mother Mary Qualberta (Krivanec), the sisters weathered numerous discouragements, home-sickness, and difficult labors. After several months, their efforts began to be rewarded as the orphanage started to fill with children and their work became quickly recognized.

Several young women, wishing to dedicate their lives to the service of God, applied for admission as sisters. It was at Fenton, on Jan. 14, 1913, that the first novices were received into the community. Among these was Dorothy Pelnar, now known as sister Wenceslava. Additional sisters arrived from Czechoslovakia to open schools in Czech settlements in Iowa and Eastern Nebraska. Due to the growing need for the sisters in these other areas, the Hessoun Orphanage was relinquished to the Moravian Sisters of the Holy Cross in 1920. The Notre Dame Motherhouse was subsequently established in Florence, a suburb of Omaha, Nebraska.

Original Format

drawing; paper