Honoring their memory – Boy Scout, Cathedral of St. Peter parishioner leads project to clean SSND grave markers, monuments at Green Mount Cemetery

Carter Lindauer, a 17-year-old senior at Belleville East High School and a parishioner at Cathedral of St. Peter, cleans a grave marker in the School Sisters of Notre Dame plot at Green Mount Cemetery. It’s part of Lindauer’s Eagle Scout project (David Wilhelm photo).

One hundred forty years ago, a tragedy occurred that Mother Caroline Friess, the superior of the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) in North America at the time, described as, “The fiery disaster in Belleville is so dreadful that pain and sadness pierced my bone and marrow. This event is the most severe blow which ever hit me.”

She was referring to the devastating fire at Immaculate Conception Academy on Jan. 5, 1884.

Sisters Jerome (Hieronyma) Heil, the superior from the academy’s beginning in 1859, Agnelia Shanahan, Edwina McCaffrey, and Moderata Reilly perished in the fire, along with 22 boarders, ranging in age from 10 to 20 years.

That night, the 25 sisters, 32 boarders and five novices at the Immaculate Conception Academy had retired, anticipating the celebration of “Little Christmas” the following day.

It is believed that those who died suffocated from the smoke as it shot up the stairwells and quickly filled the corridors and rooms.

Their remains were buried at Green Mount Cemetery in Belleville. A Guardian Angel monument at the site lists the names of the deceased.

On President’s Day in 2024 and the following Sunday, four Boy Scouts from Troop 11 at the Cathedral of St. Peter and another student cleaned the monument at Green Mount, a large white cross and many of the 24 iron crosses marking the graves of School Sisters of Notre Dame who lived in the area when they died.

This act of service is the Eagle Scout project for Carter Lindauer, a 17-year-old senior at Belleville East High School. He has been a Cathedral parishioner since birth and is a part-time sacristan at the parish, one of four high school boys who serve as sacristan for all the Masses one weekend a month.

The name of Lindauer’s project is SSND Plot Cleanup at Green Mount Cemetery.

Lindauer wrote in his project proposal: “My project will rejuvenate the appearance of the cemetery plot, restoring dignity and honor to those buried there. This project is needed due to degradation and wear from decades of outdoor exposure.”

The scope of the project includes repairing a grave marker (cast-iron cross) that has been broken off its base; cleaning and possibly painting each of the 24 cast-iron cross grave markers; cleaning and sealing the sandstone memorial and marble angel marking those who perished in a tragic 1884 fire; and cleaning (and painting if needed) the large white cross on the east end of the plot.

Lindauer communicated with Sister Kathleen Brice, SSND, to learn how to properly clean the markers and monuments. Sister Kathleen serves as the “beneficiary” representative.

He also contacted Sister Carol Marie Wildt, SSND, from the SSND archives, to find out the history of the cemetery and the Cathedral, which manages the cemetery, for permission to do the work.

“I was trying to find a project that interested me, to do as my Eagle Scout project,” Lindauer said. “I finally decided to do something related to the Cathedral, so it could be the recipient of my project.”

He added: “My dad knew about the cemetery and my mom works for the School Sisters of Notre Dame. So my family went to visit the cemetery.”

When they found algae and lichen growing on the monuments, one of the crosses broken and lying on the ground, and other crosses needing to be cleaned, he thought this would be the right project.

He said Sister Kathleen’s cleaning advice was helpful. There are products that do not compromise the integrity of the stones, such as Wet & Forget and D/2 Biological Solution. It also is important to use the correct brushes and technique. She shared links to several instructional videos with him.

“It’s important to use the correct solution that is biodegradable and does not include bleach or acid on natural materials,” he said.

Lindauer shared what he learned with the other scouts who helped him and served in a leadership role for the project, which is part of the Eagle Scout project requirements. Those who assisted him earned service hours.

“We are deeply grateful to Carter Lindauer and his helpers for the planning, time, organizing and physical labor that has gone into renewing this sacred space for our deceased School Sisters of Notre Dame who have ministered in the Belleville area,” Sister Carol Marie said.

“The memory of their lives in God’s service and the service of others will continue to be treasured and preserved by this Eagle Scout project,” she said.

Lindauer’s parents, Paul and Laurie, are proud of him and his commitment to this project. Carter has been in Scouts since he was 5 or 6. Paul earned his Eagle Scout in his teens.

“We are proud of all of Carter’s accomplishments and who he has become,” Laurie said. “His scouting experiences have shaped who he is.”

Regarding his faith, Carter likes volunteering for service projects. His mom said he knows he is blessed and wants to give back.

“I like giving what I can back to the community,” he said. “It makes me feel I am doing the best I can, to make the place around me the best it can be.”

With this particular Eagle Scout project, Lindauer met his goal, restoring dignity and honor to the SSNDs and Immaculate Conception Academy students buried at Green Mount Cemetery.