Southern Indiana is best known for its beautiful scenery, which is abundant. Nestled in the countryside, however, are some incredible places with even more incredible people. The modern day convents at Oldenburg and Ferdinand and the monastery at St. Meinrad have a very interesting history that truly begins in Germany. The majority of the early settlers to these rural areas were German immigrants, and almost universally Catholic.
These immigrants and their need for spiritual guidance left an indelible mark on the culture of these small Indiana communities. Two priests in particular came to minister to these new citizens of Indiana.
Father Joseph Kundek, from Ivanic, Croatia, came to southwestern Indiana and was instrumental in developing many parishes in the area, and also can be credited with bringing the first monks of St Meinrad to America. Father Franz Josef Rudolph, from Alsace, Germany, came to Oldenburg and the surrounding area and is credited with founding the convent for the Sisters of St. Francis, as well as the monastery that closed in 1986.
The efforts of these two men led to a culture that still exists today in these areas. Although the German language may not be in use anymore, the appreciation of the German heritage is present in many ways, from the street signs of Oldenburg to a German flag that sits in the basement of Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand. It is important to appreciate the history of these areas in order to better understand why they are the amazing places they have become today.
Matt Vest '08 is from Princes Lake, Indiana.