Academy of Mount St. Ursula

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Academy of Mount St. Ursula
Ursula School Bainbridge Av jeh.jpg


United States
Coordinates40°52′7″N 73°53′10″W / 40.86861°N 73.88611°W / 40.86861; -73.88611Coordinates: 40°52′7″N 73°53′10″W / 40.86861°N 73.88611°W / 40.86861; -73.88611
(I shall serve.)
Religious affiliation(s)Roman Catholic
AuthorityUrsuline Sisters of the Roman Union
OversightArchdiocese of New York
PrincipalSr. Jean Marie Humphries, OSU, PhD ‘89
Dean of Student AffairsJeannie DiBenedetto
Assistant PrincipalCarolyn Duggan
Enrollment380 (2014)
Student to teacher ratio15:1
Campus size3 acres.
Campus typeUrban
Color(s)Maroon and white         
SloganAcademics, Arts, Service. "Four Years To Last A Lifetime."
Athletics conferenceCHSAA
MascotLady Bear
AccreditationMiddle States Association of Colleges and Schools[1]
PublicationMelange (literary journal)
NewspaperThe Mount
Admissions DirectorSlivia Cabreja
Athletic DirectorTara Harrison

The Academy of Mount St. Ursula is a Catholic girls’ college preparatory school in the United States, which was founded in 1855 as a part of the Monastery of St. Ursula in the town of Morrisania (now a part of the Bronx, New York). In 1892 the monastery relocated to Bedford Park Boulevard and Bainbridge Avenue, two blocks east of the Grand Concourse, in the Bronx. It is the oldest continuously operating Catholic high school for girls in the State of New York, and is located in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York.

Owned and administered by the Ursuline Sisters of the Roman Union, the Academy of Mount St. Ursula offers a program based on spiritual and moral values, concretized in a curriculum and co-curriculum designed to meet the needs of today’s women. Providing advanced placement courses and connections with Mercy College and St. John’s University, the Academy gives qualified students the opportunity to earn college credit in their junior and senior years. Regular college preparatory courses enable the students to excel and apply to a wide variety of colleges and professional schools. The school has been honored by the United States Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon School. AMSU continues to accredited by the Middle States Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools.

With a faculty and staff of 55, mainly lay personnel,[2] and approximately 380 students, the Academy of Mount St. Ursula has a teacher-student ratio of 1 to 15 and an average class size of 20 to 25 students.

In keeping with its Catholic identity and Ursuline tradition, the academy focuses greatly on community service. The school’s motto is SERVIAM. This is the motto of all schools of the Ursuline Sisters of the Roman Union. The young women are required to complete a certain number of hours volunteering. They have joined together with the young men of Cardinal Hayes High School in the "Cardinal Hayes Program Exceptional Children." The program takes place most Sundays during the academic year. There, the students join together in helping children and adults with special needs. Students also are involved in Service Activities through the United Nations, in their parish, elementary schools and community organizations.

Patrick Dannenhoffer photographed the school in the Spring of 2014

Location and history[edit]


In 1854, the Rev. John Casper Metzler, C.Ss.R., the first pastor of the German-speaking Church of the Immaculate Conception, requested that a group of Ursulines from St. Louis, Missouri, come to his new parish in Melrose, then the southern tip of Westchester County, to teach girls. The nuns, who had arrived in St. Louis in 1848, had originally come from Ödenburg (now Sopron), in the Kingdom of Hungary, and Landshut, in the Kingdom of Bavaria. As their first missionary community had grown quickly, the nuns visited the village of Melrose and happily accepted the invitation with the permission of their archbishop, Peter Kenrick. On May 15, 1855, Mother Magdalen Stehlin, O.S.U., set out again for Melrose with three companions to establish a new monastery there.

By the end of the summer there were 11 Ursuline nuns in the area residing with the Hennings and other generous families while the monastery was being built. It is said that Archbishop John Hughes himself chose the site in the village of Morrisania, near what is now the intersection of Cauldwell and Westchester Avenues. It was a lovely spot, high enough for a view down to the waters of Long Island Sound and surrounded by scattered homes and estates, but also close to the growing business corridor.

The early years[edit]

By October 1, 1855, the monastery had been completed and occupied by the Ursulines and began to offer classes. Several of the nuns were very young and exceedingly competent. Pupils in the school excelled in music, art, language, and drama. Almost immediately, the school students and the young girls choosing to enter the monastery came from both the German-speaking community of Immaculate Conception and beyond. The Academy and monastery were incorporated together by the New York State legislature in 1868 as the Ursuline Convent.

Morrisiana expansion[edit]

At the time the nuns arrived, Morrisania was a sparsely populated, brand new suburb of the City of New York, the result of a series of decisions by members of the Morris family to open their estate lands for development. The population grew rapidly, and so did the industrial base: foundries, breweries, carpentry shops, tailoring establishments, even slaughterhouses. With the rapid population growth and a change in the demographics, more demands were put on the charitable works of the nuns. As the monastery was blessed with many vocations, the Ursuline nuns branched out to begin other academies and staff other parochial schools in New York and beyond.

Eager for clean Croton water and city services, voters chose to bring the Bronx into New York City in 1874. Meanwhile, the nuns were already considering relocating northward to escape the encroachment of industry right at their threshold and the projected purchase of their property for streets. The actual move, however, did not occur until 1892, when the Ursuline Monastery and the Academy (under the protection of St. Joseph), moved to Bedford Park Boulevard; with the relocation, the school began using the name Mount St. Ursula to reflect the hilly topography of the new site. Before 1900, the New York State curriculum and Regents examinations were introduced and the Alumnae Association was founded.

Dissolution of the monastery[edit]

With the changes in the life and structures of Roman Catholic religious institutes in the 1960s mandated by the Second Vatican Council, the Ursulines began to shed many of the monastic practices which had been imposed on them in the 16th century. They began to explore living in small, non-institutional settings and non-traditional ministries. In addition to these changes, a sharp decrease in the number of applicants to the Order led to the numbers of nuns in their communities to decline sharply during that period.

By the start of the 21st century, the nuns at the Mount had been so decreased in numbers through retirement and death, that the community chose to transfer to their regional headquarters located in New Rochelle, New York. As of July 2014, the principal is an Ursuline sister and 2 other sisters serve the school through Service Coordination and Mission Effectiveness. In 2011, a piece of the monastery section of the property was developed into Serviam Gardens, an affordable senior housing complex with 243 units, planned also to serve as a model of green energy architecture.[3]

School pride[edit]

The AMSU official mascot is represented by the Lady Bear and its school colors are maroon and white. The Lady Bear appears at pep rallies and games as well as open houses to welcome incoming students. The school motto is "SERVIAM" which means "I will serve".

Notable alumnae[edit]


  • Current enrollment is approximately 380. Student-teacher ratio is 15:1. The average class size is 24.
  • Students come from 60 elementary schools, mainly in the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, with some from Westchester County and New Jersey.
  • 98% of the Class of 2014 chose college immediately after graduation. Earning over $6.2 million in academic scholarships to college. 2015 College Information-99% went to college

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ MSA-CSS. "MSA-Commission on Secondary Schools". Archived from the original on 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
  2. ^ "Teachers". Academy of Mount St. Ursula.
  3. ^ "Ursulines' Convent Reopens as 'Green' Housing for Seniors". Catholic New York. May 18, 2011.

External links[edit]