The Benedictine Sisters' ministry in the Diocese of Peoria began in October 1874 when five Sisters from Chicago established
a convent and a boarding school for young girls in Nauvoo. The presence of the Sisters was requested by the Bishop of Chicago,
and was accepted by the new Bishop of Peoria, when the Diocese was established in 1877.
The school, named St. Mary's Academy in 1879, served young ladies for its entire history. The original convent was
replaced by the current three-story brick complex built in 1954.
The Academy closed its doors after 123 years following the final commencement ceremony in June 1997. In 2001 the Sisters
of St. Benedict, after having built a new monastery in Rock Island, departed from Nauvoo. The remaining buildings were
sold to the Mormon Church.
The Benedictine Sister's Website, www.smmsisters.org
contains the following information regarding the history of their academy at Nauvoo:
"The Benedictine Sisters first came to Nauvoo, Illinois, on October 15, 1874. Sister Ottilia Hoeveler and four
companions, Sister Benedict Zimmerman, Sister Hildegarde Strattman, Sister Mary Agnes Wolf and Miss Lena Pahlman, came from
St. Scholastica Convent in Chicago to start a school for young ladies.
"The first convent and school were established in a residence which had been built as a Mormon arsenal, later used
by the Icarians as a machine shop, and then converted into a home. The school, called St. Scholastica Academy, was opened
on November 2, 1874. Seven girls from Nauvoo and vicinity were enrolled.
"The Convent in Nauvoo became independent of the Chicago Community in 1879. The name of the school was changed
to St. Mary's Academy and the Sisters' home was called St. Mary's Convent. The original convent was expanded in 1892 and in
1897 a new school was added.
"In 1907, the boys' school was built, opening under the name of Spalding Institute. In 1908, the
community came upon hard times when they were victimized by a speculator and lost all of their property. The Sisters did not
give up. Spalding was closed in 1920. For a few years the building was used by the United States Government as a vocational
school, but in 1925 it was reopened as a boys' school and renamed St. Edmund's Hall. In 1939, the Sisters repossessed all
of their property debt free. The boys' school was closed in 1940 and St.Edmund's was used as the convent. After occupancy
by the Sisters, the name of the building was changed to Benet Hall. In the late 1950s the grade school section of St. Mary's
Academy was discontinued and the St. Mary's student body included girls in grades 9 through 12.
"A new monastery was built in 1954, a new high school in 1957, an addition in 1962 and a dormitory in 1967. Later,
Mary Hall, the old Academy building, and Benet Hall were razed... The Academy flourished until the late 1960s.
Enrollment fluctuated after that time. Due to declining enrollment, the Sisters closed St. Mary's Academy in June of 1997."