On May 3rd of 1833, eight sisters from the Georgetown Visitation founded the first Visitation Academy in the midwest at Kaskaskia, Illinois. This school flourished. In April of 1844, six sisters left to found a Visitation school in St. Louis. Then the rains came and the flooding Mississippi River threatened the lives of the remaining sixteen sisters.
On June 24th, a steamboat bearing visitors to the monastery rescued sisters, students, and furnishings through the second story windows. As they sailed up the Mississippi to St. Louis, their Menard Academy slowly sank into the waters.
The Anne Biddle Home to Cass Avenue (1844-1892)
Since two nieces were among the refugees, Anne Biddle offered space in her home for the monastery/school. In 1846, Bp. Kenrick invited the two Visitation communities to recombine and live in the Smith mansion.In 1849 came the double tragedy of a costly fire and a cholera epidemic which decimated St. Louis and claimed the life of Sr. Veronica Corcoran.
During the Civil War the enrollment at the new Cass Avenue Visitation soared. Later an alumna wrote, "Relatives of Unionists and Confederates sat side by side at table, recited at the same desk . . .sisterly love reigned within the convent walls, notwithstanding the lack of brotherly love outside of them."
Since 160 boarders left little room for the sisters, the archbishop insisted they build a separate convent. Both the convent and the War were finished in the spring of 1865. St. Louis Visitation had "come of age" with the founding of a monastery in Dubuque IA in 1871 and of the St. Paul MN monastery in 1873. Cass Avenue had become a commercial area, so Visitation had to move.
Cabanne Place (1892 - 1962)
In 1892 Visitation moved to Cabanne Place. The school was like a castle in a spacious fairyland. Annual processions to the outdoor shrine on the feast of the Sacred Heart drew as many as 2500 pilgrims from all over the city. The Archconfraternity of Reparation and the Ladies' Sodality, religious societies begun in the 1890's, still attract members. A fine auditorium and a new gymnasium were added in 1911. Accreditation by NCA began in 1929.
The school flourished in spite the depression and the trials of WWII. But by 1960, the required costly renovation of Cabanne convinced the Sisters that they again had to move.
A New Home on Ballas Road (1962-Present)
Sixty sisters moved from Cabanne to Ballas Road in 1962. In the aftermath of Vatican II, fewer women became Visitation Sisters. Soon lay teachers were needed to staff the academy, and a lay administrator was appointed in1986.
In 1989, three sisters went to found a new monastery in Minneapolis which was to be a prayer presence among the poor. In 1992, five sisters from the Rock Island, IL Visitation merged with the St. Louis community. In 1994, the Sisters renovated the monastery to fit the needs of the present community. In 2003, there are 24 Sisters in the community and 693 students from pre-school through Grade 12.