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Saint Leo University 125th!: Highlights In History Pt. 1

Part 1: The Arrival

The Benedictine Sisters of Holy Name Convent establish Holy Name Academy.


This is the second in a series of feature stories, profiles, and anecdotes recounting the significance of important events in the history of Saint Leo University, which is currently commemorating the 125th anniversary of its founding in 1889.

By Kim Payne, University Communications

The year 1889 was a milestone in the history of our institution as it was officially chartered. Holy Name Convent and Academy evolved to what is now Saint Leo University.

December 1888

Father Gerard Pilz, needing someone “to take charge of his schools,” invites a group of Benedictine nuns from his home territory near Pittsburgh to come to Florida.

Feb. 28, 1889

The Benedictine Sisters of Holy Name Convent arrive in San Antonio, Fla., after traveling from Allegheny, Elk County, Pa. Mother Dolorosa Scanlan, Sister Boniface Feldmann, Sister Josephine Feldung, and Sister Agatha Giesler arrive while Sister Agnes Behe is delayed and joins them on June 24. These five Sisters are the foundresses of Holy Name Priory.

March 1, 1889

According to the Holy Name Registry, Mother Dolorosa being elected Superior, the Sisters assume “the great work (of education),” opening the school in their House. This is the founding date of Holy Name Priory. Shortly thereafter, the Sisters begin to staff the Saint Joseph and Saint Anthony elementary schools, and open Holy Name Academy, a boarding school for girls. Eventually, they operate Saint Benedict’s Preparatory School for boys, as well as a kindergarten and the first accredited Montessori School in Florida. The Sisters would also staff schools throughout Florida (including Saint Leo College), and in Louisiana and Texas.

March 11, 1889

The Benedictine Sisters establish Holy Name Academy with 40 boys and girls. In September, the Sisters commence teaching at Saint Joseph and Saint Anthony elementary schools, and their academy becomes a celebrated institution “for the education of young ladies,” but at first it was for girls and boys alike.

Next Issue: The Many Names of Saint Leo


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Kim-Payne-Saint-Leo-UniversityKim Payne joined Saint Leo’s University Communications office in 2013 as the staff writer and media coordinator. A 30-year professional communicator, he has worked in environments ranging from corporate to health care to advertising agencies and non-profits. Outside the office, he and his wife, Sue, enjoy playing golf and are huge hockey fans.  You can reach Kim in UC at 352-588-7233 or