Belleville Holy Spirit Ursuline Aspirancy High School

Belleville Holy Spirit Ursuline Aspirancy School
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Ursuline Convent Had 6 Bldgs. Corner of Lebanon & Douglas Streets, This Building Held H.S. Classes

The History of Belleville Holy Spirit Ursuline Aspirancy High School

Belleville (population 41,410) is located in southeastern Illinois about 12 miles southeast of East St. Louis in the center of St. Clair County.  The Illinois Routes of 13, 15, 158, 159, and 161 all pass through the town of Belleville. Interstate Highway 64 passes to the north of town.The Norfolk Southern and Illinois Central Gulf are two of the railroads that pass through Belleville. The Richland Creek flows through town as well.

According to the Wikipedia web address of,_Illinois, Belleville is the county seat of St. Clair County.  Belleville (French for “beautiul city”) was founded by George Blair in 1814. Belleville was incorporated as a village in 1819 and as a city in 1850. An excellent historical timeline regarding Belleville can be viewed at

Our good friend and avid historian, Michael M., provided the following information on Belleville Holy Spirit Ursuline Aspirancy High School:

“The presence of Holy Spirit Ursuline Aspirancy High School in Belleville, Illinois, from 1949 to 1966, went largely unnoticed by many, yet it equipped its students with a solid education and moral formation that would serve them throughout life.  In many cases, it also established bonds of friendship that would endure for a lifetime.

Located at 1026 N. Douglas, Holy Spirit was a convent aspirancy for high school girls who wished to become members of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Calvary, a German-based international Order of nun-educators.  The Douglas Hill location also served as this Order’s American motherhouse.  Since the aspirants (students), being of high school age, were actually too young become nuns, they would reside in a section of the convent complex assigned to them during the school term and return to their families for weekends and vacation periods.

The Ursuline Sisters operated several other schools in the area, including the Catholic parish schools of Queen of Peace, Belleville; St. Henry, East St. Louis; St. Regis, East St. Louis; and the parish schools in the nearby Illinois towns of Millstadt, Mascoutah, Fairmont City, Mounds and Bonnots Mill, Missouri.  They also taught at several grade and high schools in North Dakota.  In addition, Sisters of this Order were on the faculties of Cathedral Boys High School in Belleville and later at Althoff High School (when it replaced Cathedral Boys High) and for a short time at Mater Dei High School, Breese.

Despite all of this academic expertise and the sophisticated credentials of the Ursuline nuns who taught at the Aspirancy, the convent never sought to establish Holy Spirit Aspirancy as an independent high school in its own right.  At the official level, the Aspirancy was recognized as an extension campus of Notre Dame Academy, a girls’ Catholic high on the west side of Belleville operated by the School Sisters of Notre Dame.  This was a fine example of the collaboration that existed between the various Orders of nuns at that time.

Because the enrollment was always small, the faculty was never large, and even included some Sisters who were able to teach a course or two while engaged in other assignments.  Among the various Sisters who taught at the Aspirancy during the years of its existence, perhaps those most readily identified with it were Sister Emily, Sister Clementia, Sister Mary Rose, Sister Angelita, Sister Marie, Sister Anne Marie, Sister Marie Therese, Sister Donna Marie, and Sister Mariella.  The Aspirancy closed in 1966 and in 2005 the Belleville Ursuline Sisters’ Congregation merged into the larger congregation of Ursuline Sisters of Mt. St. Joseph, Kentucky.  The former convent complex on Douglas is now for sale.”

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These two nuns (pictured above) served as the Mother Superior of the American Branch of the Ursuline Order during the years that the Aspirancy was in operation.  Left, Mother Mary Barbara (who was later known as Sister Estelle Jacoby) was the Superior when the Aspirancy was opened. After many years in that position, after a short interim period, she resumed office and ultimately, closed the Aspirancy.  Right, Mother Mary Constance (later, Sister Mary Constance) served as the Mother Superior during the interim between Mother Mary Barbara’s two mandates in office.

Excellent job Michael!!

Holy Spirit Ursuline Aspirancy High School Quick Facts

Year opened:                   1949

Year closed:                    1966

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Sister Mary Agnes
Regarding Sister Mary Agnes (photo on the right), though not a teaching Sister, Sister Mary Agnes baked, maintained the convent grounds and was beloved by everyone at Holy Spirit Convent back in the day.  She is pictured here wearing a crown of flowers on top of her veil because it is her silver jubilee (25th anniversary) of being a  nun.

Need Your Assistance

If you have any further information you wish to add regarding the educational history of Holy Spirit Ursuline Aspirancy High School please forward it to us at  We are especially interested in a photo of the original high school building.  Items can also be sent to us at the following address:

IHSGD Website

6439 N. Neva St.

Chicago, Il.  60631


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