Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Nuns re-create history with flatboat trip down Ohio River

The Associated Press

MAPLE MOUNT, Ky. - Five nuns will blend history with technology this week when they embark on a flatboat trip down the Ohio River.

The Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph plan to use digital and satellite technology to give real-time updates as they re-create the trip their founders made 130 years ago.

In 1874, five nuns traveled from Louisville to Maple Mount in Daviess County to establish a school for the growing Catholic community. Although the Ursulines of Mount St. Joseph is a teaching order, members now work in many different fields.

Modern technology and a Web site will help the nuns share their story. There is a suggested curriculum on the Web site to incorporate the nuns' trip into social studies, science, math and other classes.

Sister Amelia Stenger, director of Mount St. Joseph Conference and Retreat Center, said she sees the journey as a part of the order's ongoing mission to educate others.

"We were trying to find a way to get information about the sisters to the public. We want people to know about Ursulines," Stenger said. "It was a way to have some fun, too."

Stenger, with Sisters Elaine Burke and Pam Mueller, will ride the 10-by-30-foot flatboat for the entire 155-mile trip which will stop at Brandenburg and Cloverport in Kentucky, and Tell City and Grandview in Indiana before docking at 1 p.m. CDT Sunday at Smothers Park in downtown Owensboro.

The Ursulines have christened their rented flatboat "Angela's Ark," after their founder, St. Angela Merici. The name is appropriate, Stenger said, because it implies new beginnings and looking to the future.

"That's what pioneers do," Stenger said. "They start in new directions, start new programs and start new ways of education."

The flatboat will be piloted by John Cooper, a faculty member of Volunteer State Community College at Gallatin, Tenn., who built this and other replica flatboats.

Striving for historical accuracy, the nuns have used old photographs to replicate the habits worn by nuns of the late 1800s and have scoured old cookbooks for recipes.

In a bow to modern-day navigational problems on the river, the flatboat will begin its downstream journey from New Albany, Ind., rather than Louisville - a change necessitated by McAlpine Lock's closure for repairs.

During the trip, the Ursulines also hope to raise $100,000 for their missions, which include educational efforts in eight states, particularly among Native American tribes in New Mexico and in South America.

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