When the Diocese of Duluth was established in 1889, its new Bishop, James T. McGolrick desired a community of Benedictine Sisters for the Duluth Diocese. Eventually, in 1892, 32 sisters from St. Benedict’s chose to join a new independent foundation, headed by once-and-future prioress Mother Scholastica.
|The Sisters continued in all of the schools and hospitals they had previously staffed, and immediately also opened Sacred Heart Academy for girls in Munger Terrace.||
By 1894 they had constructed their first permanent home in Duluth: Sacred Heart Institute on 3rd Ave. East and Third Street.
In 1899, 80 acres of farmland in the Kenwood neighborhood were purchased, with an eye to the construction of a motherhouse large enough to house both sisters and students. The property continued to be farmed by hired laborers, providing produce and dairy products for Sisters and students.
||Eighty adjacent acres were purchased by 1907, and construction began on the site. By the fall of 1909 the building was
ready for occupancy by the Sisters and the students of “Villa Sancta Scholastica Academy.”
In 1912, a junior college division was added , and shortly after World War I ended, a free-standing combination gymnasium and assembly hall was constructed, and the main building was enlarged with a wing extension and a tower, giving “Tower Hall” its name.
By 1924, the junior college had been expanded to four years, and The College of St. Scholastica began its history. In 1928, Mother Agnes Somers completed the original plan for Tower Hall, having an elaborate lobby, a second tower and a new wing added to the building, giving it the footprint it has today.
By 1930, the Community had grown to 300 members; an additional forty Sisters had gone to create new Benedictine foundations in Winnipeg and Crookston. At this time the Sisters owned and operated the College and large hospitals in Duluth and Brainerd, and were teaching in 20 parish schools in Duluth, northeastern Minnesota and Chicago. They also staffed an orphanage and home for the aged in Duluth, and a boarding school for developmentally challenged girls in Washington D.C.
As the Community and College continued to grow, additional space was needed. By 1938 under Mother Agnes’s leadership, a combined Library and Chapel and a new high school building, Stanbrook Hall, all connected to Tower Hall by enclosed cloister walks had been erected. Community numbers reached a peak in 1965 with 520 members. By that time, additional school missions had been accepted in Cincinnati, Minneapolis, and Phoenix as well as more parish schools in northeastern Minnesota and Duluth. Four Sisters had been sent as missionaries to Antofagasta, Chile.
In the early days, the Community was known locally by the name of the site—“Sacred Heart Institute” or “Villa Sancta Scholastica.” In 1959, when the community joined the Federation of St. Benedict and became independent of the local bishop, its name was changed to St. Scholastica Priory, and in 1996 to St. Scholastica Monastery. In the late 1960s, community membership began to decline as, influenced by the cultural revolution in the US, and the reforms of Vatican Council II, fewer young women chose convent life and many Sisters chose to leave the community. In 1967, Stanbrook Hall high school closed, and the Sisters took over and began to renovate the building as an interim motherhouse, leaving most of Tower Hall to the College.
This continuing renovation culminated in 1991 with the construction of Stanbrook West, a residence for about 70 Sisters, and the first facility to be constructed in the hundred years of our existence for the exclusive use of the Sisters.