The more I read about Racine history, the more I'm interested in
the St. Catherine's convent which was originally built "off in the
woods", many blocks away from the main part of downtown.
I grew up very near to where the convent used to be, but for most of
the time I lived in Racine, I knew the location as the practice football
field for the St. Cat's high school football team. I can remember how
sad people were in the neighborhood when the convent was torn down, and
how the adults talked about when the wrecking ball started the
demolition by knocking the bell tower down.
However, I didn't really get interested in the convent and academy
until I found a copy of the book Rooted in Hope: The Story of
the Dominican Sisters of Racine, Wisconsin. This book is by Sister
Mary Hortense Kohler, O.P., and starts at the very beginning of the
founding of the Dominican convent in the 1860s. Most of the story has
to do with what was going on within the walls, but also offers wonderful
glimpses of Racine life in the 19th century. I liked the passage when
the author talks about the nuns taking the girl students from the
convent school out for a walk
past the boy students at Racine College (Dekoven Foundation). The
convent also took in orphans and abandoned children.
The book is well worth two readings. It's a little dense with religious
asides for the layman, but the history is there -- the kind that's
fascinating and makes you think about particular episodes for days