In 1872, Elizabeth Hayes, a young English woman, came to the American Frontier in Minnesota as Mother Mary Ignatius of Jesus and in 1873 built a convent and school near the Mississippi River in Belle Prairie. Her order, the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, is the only religious congregation ever founded with the boundaries of the St. Cloud Diocese. The Missionary Franciscans opened a school for young girls called St. Anthony’s on January 1, 1873. A convent followed and by 1876 she had 8 Novices in her order. The convent burned on April 26, 1889, and the sisters left Belle Prairie. Some of the sisters returned to the east coast. Others, including Sister Mary Francis Beauchamp, located in Little Falls and established the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. Eventually the Missionary Franciscans returned to Belle Prairie and Mother Mary Columba (daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Elzear Doucet, later spelled Doucette) opened Our Lady of the Angels Academy on November 11, 1911.

Two wings were added to the building in 1930. A gymnasium was built in 1950 and in 1964 a new high school was erected. During the summer of 1969, the Franciscan Sisters left. With the help of the Diocese, the parish purchased the school property. In 1999, the property was sold to Central Minnesota Tec. At the present time, the parish continues to rent the new High School building for Religious Education and other parish functions. TEC sold the Academy to Metro Plains Development in 2005. It has been converted in 24 beautiful apartments. The renovation was completed in December of 2006. The Academy is now called Riverwood Pines Apartments.

Original Convent before the fire in 1889

Original Convent before the fire in 1889

Academy and Church

Before the two wings were added in 1930

Our Lady of the Angels Academy

Our Lady of the Angels Academy