Johanna Wolfe, later Sister Scholastica, was born in 1849 or 1850 in LaSalle County, Illinois. (The federal census of 1850 lists her age as one.) Her parents were John Richard Wolfe, an Irish Catholic farmer, and Honora Buckley Wolfe. She had seven siblings who survived to maturity: James Buckley (b. 1843), Patrick Bernard (b. 1848), John Buckley (b. 1851), Maurice Buckley (b. 1855), Margaret I. (b. 1857), Catherine “Kate” (b. 1860), and Richard B. (b. 1862). Two sisters, Margaret and Catherine, died in infancy.
In 1847, Wolfe’s parents and brother James immigrated to the United States from Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland, along with John R. Wolfe’s first cousin Maurice Wolfe and his family. (John and Maurice Wolfe shared a grandfather, James M. “The Barrister” Wolfe.) The families arrived in New York on August 23, 1847, and from there made their way to Chicago, where Patrick Wolfe was born. The Wolfes then traveled to LaSalle County, Illinois, where a number of John R. Wolfe’s brothers and cousins settled. John R. Wolfe and his cousin Maurice both moved on to Clinton County, Iowa, arriving sometime around 1855.
Virtually nothing is known of Johanna Wolfe’s life. At some point she joined the Order of Sisters of Mercy, a Catholic order founded in 1831 in Dublin, Ireland, by Catherine A. McAuley (1778–1841). The Sisters of Mercy dedicated themselves, first in the British Isles and then in the United States, to caring for the poor and especially women in children. This led to the foundation of hospitals modeled after McAuley’s House of Mercy, established in Dublin in 1827.
In Wolfe’s History of Clinton County, edited by Patrick B. Wolfe and published in 1911, Johanna Wolfe is said to be “now Sister Scholastica of the Order of Sisters of Mercy at Sioux City, Iowa.” The Sisters of Mercy had been in Sioux City since 1890, when the order established Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital there. In 1902, the Saint Joseph’s School of Nursing opened, and by 1911 the hospital’s capacity had grown from 20 to 200 patients. (Another source offers slightly different dates.)
A notice of Sister Scholastica’s death appeared in the Davenport Democrat and Leader on July 11, 1926. It noted that Wolfe’s brother Patrick Wolfe and others had “returned from Dubuque where they attended the funeral of Sister M. Scholastica … Archbishop Daniel Mannix of Melbourne, Australia, cousin of the deceased, conducted the requiem high mass and the Rev. Thomas L. Wolfe gave the funeral sermon.” The newspaper likely intended to attribute relationship to the Reverend Wolfe and not Archbishop Mannix. The former was the son of John Buckley Wolfe, or Sister Scholastica’s first cousin.