The Ursuline Sisters of Louisville recently announced they will transfer all buildings and land on the 48-acre Ursuline Campus on Lexington Road to Sacred Heart Schools.
The sisters, who will remain on the campus, refer to the property transfer as “A Gift of the Heart to the Heart.”
Sister Janet Marie Peterworth, president of the Ursulines, said the transfer comes after a great deal of “thoughtful dialogue” within the community and with Sacred Heart Schools.
“We are so blessed that the schools are thriving. We know a lot of congregations who are not as blessed as we are,” said Sister Peterworth in an interview at the Ursuline Motherhouse earlier this month.
Sacred Heart Schools includes four institutions: Sacred Heart Preschool, Sacred Heart Model School, Sacred Heart School for the Arts and Sacred Heart Academy.
Passing the deed to the schools is an attempt on the part of the sisters to be good stewards of their resources, Sister Peterworth said. “It’s a win-win situation.”
She added that the transfer of property will not affect the sisters’ “ministry of influence” and engagement with the schools they founded.
Dr. Cynthia Crabtree, president of Sacred Heart Schools, said, “While we don’t have sisters present in the classrooms, their mission and vision are very present throughout the campus.
“You can see it and feel it. It’s really lived out and very intentional,” Crabtree said.
Discussion and preparation for the property transfer have been in the works for a number of years. In a Special General Chapter meeting in 2005, the sisters declared they would relinquish ownership of the Ursuline Campus, “all or in part, as is necessary.” In 2008, the sisters signed over 11.54 acres on the eastern end of the campus, where Sacred Heart Academy stands, to the schools. In subsequent years the sisters and the schools shared campus maintenance responsibilities. Eventually Sacred Heart Schools took over the bulk of upkeep across campus.
In February 2018, the sisters announced that the Ursulines who lived at the 82,000 square-foot Motherhouse — about 17 women — would move to other homes in the community or assisted living apartments. At that time, the administrative offices of the Ursuline Sisters moved into the Motherhouse.
There are currently 60 Ursuline Sisters, about 55 of whom live in the Archdiocese of Louisville and minister in various ways. They looked to their foundress — St. Angela Merici — as they considered the transfer:
“If, according to the times and circumstances, the need arises to make new rules or do something differently, do it prudently and with good advice,” St. Angela Merici wrote.
Though Angela Merici uttered the words in the 16th-century, they’re still true today, Sister Peterworth noted.
She and Crabtree said the legacy of the sisters will remain at the forefront of the schools’ mission and the Ursulines will remain the sponsors of Sacred Heart Schools.
The sisters, who began educating students on the campus in 1877, will continue to be engaged with the Sacred Heart Schools through class visits, school Masses and special events, as well as serving on Sacred Heart Schools’ Board of Trustees, Sister Peterworth noted.
The Ursuline Motherhouse will become the administrative center of the campus with all the administrative staff of both Sacred Heart Schools and Ursuline Sisters headquartered in the building by June 2020.
A new front entrance with easier accessibility is currently being constructed at the Motherhouse. Approximately 25,000 square feet on the east portion of the Motherhouse will be brought up to current building codes. The work will include electrical, plumbing, heating, cooling and ventilation system updates. There are plans for a Heritage Room, which will include historical photos and objects.
Shared space in the Motherhouse will include the chapel, library and several other meeting rooms. The Ursulines will continue to hold Mass and funerals in the chapel, and the sisters’ ministries, such as the Ursuline Associates and the Angela Merici Center for Spirituality, will hold retreats, workshops and gatherings there.
The schools will also hold Masses in the chapel, as well as concerts and other events.
Crabtree said the relationship with the sisters will remain unchanged.
“From the parent and student perspective, we are still an Ursuline school just like we’ve always been,” she said.