The North Arm Section was the first area of Edgar County to be settled. In 1817, early settlers moved into the area and set up a little town, and little did any of them know that one of their offspring was destined for greatness.
Catholic missionary Aloysius Brown and his wife Elizabeth Drury migrated north from Kentucky in 1817 with a group of others. Brown quickly took up a leadership role in North Arm. He held the role of justice of the peace and his home was the site of community prayers when no priest was available in the area. He learned the trade of brick making at which he was quite good. With this ability honed, Aloysius Brown built the first brick church in North Arm.
A daughter, Jane Brown, was born to the family Oct. 13, 1826. Her father’s brick making ability set her life into motion for something much larger than anyone could have expected for the child.
In 1840, just across the Illinois - Indiana border, a new Catholic group moved into the area. Following an invitation from the Bishop at Vincennes, Indiana, Mother Theodore Guerin left the Sisters of Providence of Ruille Sor Loir in France to found the Sisters of Providence in the United States. Mother Theodore was canonized as a saint Oct. 15, 2006.
The need of building materials put Mother Theodore Guerin and brickmaker Aloysius Brown in contact. The business relationship between the two led to something greater for his daughter. Jane Brown attended the Sisters of Providence Academy, also known as the Institute for Girls, when it opened in 1841. Mother Theodore’s relationship with the teenage girl was a truly solid one and Jane Brown learned math and astronomy from her mentor.
The next big step in the young girl’s life happened Jan. 23, 1844, when she entered the congregation as a Sister of Providence. Mother Theodore gave Jane Brown her new religious name of Sister Anastasie and Sister Anastasie became a fully professed sister Aug. 15, 1847. Her first mission was at Vincennes but by 1849 Sister Anastasie was back in the Terre Haute area when she and a few other sisters opened Saint Joseph School. 1853 proved another good year as she opened the first house of Evansville.
Sister Anastasie came back full circle in 1859 when she took over as the directress of the Academy at St. Mary-of-the-Woods. She held this position until 1868.
The academy held an election for Superior General in 1868, and it proved quite controversial. Sister Anastasie’s predecessor, Mother Mary Cecilia Bary, was upset she was not re-elected. She was so upset she talked with a few of the other sisters about breaking away and starting their own Sisters of Providence sect, but this proved to be just idle threats.
When Mother Anastasie was electedto her second three-year term she began to work on the building of a hospital in Terre Haute. The Sisters of Providence’s congregation put a lot of time and money in the building of the new hospital facility that ran into many problems. The U.S. was gripped with a huge anti-Catholic sentiment and a lack of community support put the hospital project into bankrupt by 1873.
Mother Anastasie was not re-elected as Superior General in 1874 and spent the next seven years working in Lafayette and Madison. However in 1881, she returned to her love as directress of the Academy at St. Mary-of-the-Woods.
This position was perfect for Mother Anastasie as she was a great lover of art and culture. She continued learning throughout her life with early instruction in perspective and mechanical drawing from her father and moving on to drawing from nature using painting and watercolor as a student at the Academy at St. Mary-of-the
Woods under Sister Saint Francis.
Throughout her life Mother Anastasie Brown did many wonderful things including the Monday Night Program at the Academy where the students and teachers examined all different types of art. She continued as an artist into her late life. She created many sketches and drawings for use at the Academy. The school still has bound volumes of her sketches that can be viewed at certain times.
Mother Anastasie’s love for this area never wavered as she always returned after being called away. She remained at St. Mary’s after her 1896 retirement.
Mother Anastasie Brown is the prime example of how one’s love for their home can be used to provide so much greatness for the area. She lived a long and beneficial life but she suffered through two strokes and died peacefully Aug. 10, 1918, at the Motherhouse in St. Mary-of-the-Woods.