Friday, October 30, 2009

Notre Dame Sisters Motherhouse, Florence (Omaha), NE

The Sisters of Notre Dame arrived in Nebraska in 1911 from their native Bohemia. Initially, they ministered in Dodge, NE and eventually arrived in Omaha in 1917 to assist Fr. Edward Flanagan at his newly formed Boys Home.

In the fall of 1921, Father Flanagan purchased Overlook Farm, the present site of Boys Town, and the Sisters bought from him the tract of land he had originally intended to use, Seven Oaks Farm. This later became the location for the Notre Dame Motherhouse at 35th and State Streets.

The construction of the Motherhouse on the grounds of Seven Oaks Farm began in 1925, and by 1926 Notre Dame Academy opened with 26 students. The unique "E" shaped Italian Renaissance Revival style convent and school was constructed in phases from 1926 to 1965.

The staircase just inside the main entrance features a unique green marble wainscot and terrazzo floor.


A Shrine to St. Joseph on the Motherhouse grounds.

Except for this rear addition from 1965, the original plans dawn up by Omaha architects Matthew Lahr and Carl Stangel were followed in the phased construction of the Notre Dame Motherhouse.

The chapel (the center section of the "E" shaped building) was constructed in 1951 and renovated in 1980. A quick search of WorldCat.org revealed an interesting dissertation entitled "Environmental persuasion and Roman Catholic Church interior design after Vatican Council II, 1963-present : a case study of Notre Dame Chapel, Omaha, Nebraska." I'll have to see if I can read a copy of that sometime!

The chapel is simple and airy. The windows are of a yellowish tint, which bathe everything in a warm, yellow light. The former sanctuary has been tastefully transformed into an area of private prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

I was at the convent last weekend for an auction, as the sisters have begun the redevelopment of their property into affordable senior housing. If you are interested in seeing the items that were sold and what they brought, click here.

I'm not sure what this redevelopment will mean for the structure as a whole or for the chapel. I'm told that the exterior will remain the same. Say a prayer for these good sisters as they transition into a new phase of their ministry!

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