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Mother Bridget Hayden, S.L.

August 26, 1814 - January 23, 1890

Mother Bridget Hayden, S.L.

Margaret Hayden was born in Kilkenny, Ireland, on August 26, 1814. At the age of six, she came to America with her parents, Thomas and Bridget Hart Hayden. Margaret was the eldest of eight children. Her father, a wheelwright, settled in Perryville, Missouri. She attended school conducted by the Sisters of Loretto at the Barrens near Perryville and later the academy conducted by the Sisters of Loretto at Cape Girardeau.

On September 19, 1841 Margaret received the habit of the Sisters of Loretto and the name of Sister Mary Bridget. After a mission at Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, Sister Bridget answered the appeal of Father John Schoenmakers, S.J., for sisters willing to devote their lives to the education of the Osage Indians. On October 10, 1847 Sister Bridget with Mother Concordia Henning, the first superior, and Sisters Petronilla Van Prater and Vincentia Gale arrived at the Osage Catholic Mission. Within two hours, four little girls were brought to Father Bax to be their first boarders. Mother Concordia acted as Superior until 1859, when she was succeeded by Mother Bridget. In 1864, Mother Bridget was called to the Mother House. Sister M. Petronilla became Superior and served until Mother Bridget returned in 1867.

The Sisters served as teachers, mothers and nurses to the children at the Osage Manual Labor School. Mother Bridget showed such compassion for the Osages that they called her "Medicine Woman." A room known as "The Job Room" was reserved for the Osages.

Following the treaty of 1865, the Osage Indians were forced to abandon their home near the Mission and move farther west and eventually to a new reservation in Oklahoma. Their lands were given over to the whites. The priests and sisters were not allowed to follow the Osages and the school came to an end.

The Mission was then transferred into two separate schools for the children of the white settlers. On August 17, 1870, the Sisters of Loretto took out a charter incorporating the school as St. Ann's Academy.

Mrs. Margaret Bray McCall, a pupil at St. Ann's in 1870, described Mother Bridget Hayden as follows:
"Mother Bridget was tall, of generous proportions, with a heart as large as herself. Always she wore blue glasses in octagonal frames. I never saw her angry, hurried or flurried. No one ever appealed to her in vain for assistance, counsel or comfort."

Mother Bridget came to Kansas seven years before it became a territory. She saw Kansas become a state, saw the state struggle through the difficulties of the Civil War, saw cities rise and the state grow from what once had been Indian hunting ground.

In January 1890, St. Ann's was nearing the twentieth year of its existence and Mother Bridget was 76 years of age. She returned from her customary shopping trip and the local doctor found she was suffering from an acute attack of bronchitis. Her last week was spent in almost constant prayer. Mother Bridget died quietly January 23, 1890.

The Sisters of Loretto had maintained a well-kept cemetery near their home on the academy grounds. After they left St. Paul this little cemetery did not receive the attention it deserved. Permission was obtained to disinter the bodies and move them to the St. Francis Parish Cemetery, where the graves would receive the attention they deserved. The second burial took place on September 15, 1930. Reverend William Schaeffer wrote the following concerning this event:
"The bodies had been 40 years in the ground -- and yet when unearthed the laborers were overwhelmingly astonished to find the skeleton of Mother Bridget Hayden in a most perfect state, with not a bone out of place -- and her habit as clean and as fresh as it was the day she was buried in it. This was extraordinary. The news spread like wildfire. . . ."

The old residents reaction, "We told you so. Mother Bridget was a saint."

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