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Sisters of St. Francis Oldenburg Documentary

Story by: George T. Newhart, CPA, Class of 1960 and SMHS Board Member 

“It can be said…that in the shadows of American history…there are stories about women pioneers that have never been told. “ This is an excerpt from the documentary that is currently in production by Ever Film Productions, LLC, owned by Andy (Jeannine Andersen) Murphy, a 1960 SMHS graduate. In the Garden of Innocents…” is being filmed to tell one such story about a courageous 24-year old women who crossed an ocean alone, to answer America’s call for help.

Although Sister Theresa Hackelmeier lived only nine years after arriving in Oldenburg, Indiana in 1851, she left behind a legacy that will never be duplicated. This documentary is about courage, faith and a belief in serving others, as it traces a remarkable woman’s journey, and the journey of those who would follow in her footsteps for generations. Their little known accomplishments are astounding as illustrated in the documentary as it shares their stories, their joys, their visions, their sacrifices and their secrets.

“In the Garden of Innocents…” records the history of Sister Theresa Hackelmeier, who left her convent in Vienna, Austria in 1851, to travel across a rough winter Atlantic Ocean to New York City. From there she would proceed down the Erie Canal and the Ohio River, to an American wilderness in Oldenburg, Indiana, a town not as yet recorded on any map.

Her mission was to teach the children in this small but growing settlement of German farmers to read and write, and to develop a curriculum for educating the mostly illiterate population of immigrants that were beginning to settle in the Midwestern United States. In addition to the school, Sister Theresa was charged with establishing a convent for women who wanted to enter the Franciscan Order, as well as developing a teaching academy for young women. She did all this and much more.

Sister Theresa’s story and courageous spirit set the stage for a 163-year legacy of remarkable, yet little known accomplishments that today can be traced across the world. The Sisters of St. Francis Oldenburg have provide over 160 years of unselfish service in teaching, care-giving, administration and community service in many locations in the United States, as well as carrying out ministries in China, Korea, Mexico and New Guinea. Their story transcends the rich and poor, rural and urban communities, nationalities and cultures, and covers all age groups.

The documentary includes interviews with many of the Sisters themselves, ranging in age from 50 to over 90, as they tell their individual stories. These discussions cover their lives both before and after joining the convent. Interviews are also included with people who were taught by the Sisters, with people who were helped by the Sisters in some special way, and with people who interacted with the Sisters, either as fellow educators, professional associates or community leaders.

The documentary also includes the filming of areas where the Sisters spent much of their time in their ministry. These areas include the beautiful and historic buildings and grounds in Oldenburg, Marian University, and of course, Scecina Memorial High School.

The documentary seeks to tell their story, to honor these remarkable women by giving some insight into their amazing accomplishments, to show the important impact they had on children and young adults, in terms of education, but also in terms of spiritual and personal growth, and to recognize their outstanding contributions, commitment and dedication to the Catholic Church, and to the people and communities they served.

For those of us who were fortunate enough to have been taught by the Sisters in grade or high school, or at Marian University, or who have been involved with the Sisters through professional, community or family associations, we have a wonderful opportunity to contribute to the legacy and preserve the memory of the Sisters of St. Francis Oldenburg. If you would like to make a contribution to help cover the production and distribution costs of the documentary, “In the Garden of Innocents…Lies the Last Frontier of Goodness”, please forward your contribution to:

Ever Film Productions, LLC
c/o George T. Newhart, CPA
(SMHS Class of 1960)
12043 Edgefield Dr.
Fishers, IN 46037-3826

2 comments (Add your own)

1. Richard Dufour '60 wrote:
From the Marian University football team's trip to the NAIA Championship Football Game in Daytona Beach, FL. A contemporary perspective of two Marian U. Sisters OSF.

Tue, December 23, 2014 @ 10:58 AM

2. Teddy Holysz Jernigan, SMHS Class of 1960 wrote:
The Sisters of St. Francis from Oldenburg gave me a wonderful education in every way--the classroom, personal advice, and after I graduated from Purdue--one of the happiest memories of my life--serving as a English teacher at Scecina with them during the 1964-1965 school year. I will never forget them and their counsel and camaraderie. With a grateful heart, I thank classmates Jeanine Andersen Murphy, George Newhart and all who helped them bring to life the story of the Franciscan Sisters and their excellent work.

Sun, December 28, 2014 @ 5:48 PM

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