June 2017

          In this season of commencements and honors, From the Archives notes that the Buffalo News the morning of May 20, 1990, featured an article concerning the Niagara University Commencement held the previous day at which our own Sister Mary Frances Welch received the University’s Caritas Medal.

           She received the award “because her life reflects ‘the charity of St. Vincent de Paul, the 17th century Frenchman from whom this university takes its inspiration, and who had a special concern for the poor, the sick and the outcast of society.’”

           The article went on to explain that, since 1977, Sister Mary Frances had been serving as a liaison of the New York State Education Department with the 80 statewide private colleges and universities and the 13 state prisons that had the Higher Education Opportunity Programs (HEOP—state-supported effort providing tutorial assistance and funding to give academically and economically disadvantaged students the chance to succeed in college).

            The citation accompanying the medal was signed by Brian J. O’Connell, C.M., then president of Niagara University.  It elaborated on Mary Frances’ career during which she had spent about 20 years as a teacher and principal in elementary schools in New York, Ohio, and West Virginia.  After receiving her master’s degree in philosophy from Niagara in 1967, she began her tenure at Rosary Hill/Daemen College where she directed the college’s HEOP program.  In 1974 she helped to found the Consortium of the Niagara Frontier, which was sponsored by Canisius and Daemen Colleges and Niagara University.  At the time she received the Caritas medal, the Consortium had college programs in Attica, Wyoming, and Collins correctional facilities in the Western New York area.

April 2017

FROM THE ARCHIVES

            In 1989 The Buffalo News’ Religion Reporter, Dave Condron, wrote an article in connection with the annual Catholic Charities Appeal.  The article featured our own S. Ritamary Fuest who, at the time, was working at the Holy Innocents Day Care Center.  Ritamary had been working there for several years and cared for those in the youngest group (2-18 months).

Sister Ritamary

Sister Ritamary

            The Center was one of 64 sites providing services under the aegis of the diocesan Catholic Charities.  It was the largest of three day-care centers operated then by the diocese and was located in the former St. Mary of Sorrows Elementary School at 30 Rich Street in Buffalo.  The center accepted children between the ages of eight weeks and five years old.

            In 1989 there was a waiting list of over 150 children whose parents were hoping to get them into the center which already housed 100 children.  Monsignor John Conniff, then diocesan director of Catholic Charities, noted in the article that officials felt that, despite the need, they were operating at capacity and that to accept additional children would not be wise.  “We think that is about all we can handle on the first floor of that building.  If we get beyond that, it will be hard to maintain the quality,” he was quoted as saying.

Msgr. Conniff

Msgr. Conniff

            S. Ritamary explained that even though the children for whom she was responsible were very young, they received a lot of attention.  “People think they sleep, get changed and get bottles.  But there are lots of activities.”  She went on to list some of them:  a variety of “art activities” for those a bit older, outdoor rides in a six-passenger, seatbelt-equipped wagon, and “music lessons.”  The latter she said was when “they all cry at once.”

            Holy Innocents Day Care Center opened on Dodge Street in 1970 and then was moved to Rich Street.  S. Ritamary ministered there from 1985-1997 and later continued to work with young children in the Montessori Program at Stella Niagara Education Park 1999-2011.

            Looking back twenty-eight years to her time at Holy Innocents, Ritamary said, “It was a good time.  I enjoyed every minute working with the little children!”

February 2017

s vivian.png

S. Vivian Rauch was an instructor in the Education Department at Rosary Hill College from 1963-1977.  During her last year of classroom teaching she also became the director of the children’s learning center where she remained for 13 years.  In her own words S. Vivian tells about the center:

“In September 1976 I assumed the position of Director of the Daemen College Children’s Reading Center located in the apartment building at 18E Campus Drive . . . In May of 1977 when I retired from college teaching, I devoted myself full time to the Center.  At that time three other teachers were assisting me.  When I was forced to leave in March 1978, due to serious illness, I turned over the administration to one of the most competent teachers for the remainder of the school year and the following summer session.

When I returned in September of 1978, I relinquished all my tutoring and concentrated on expanding the center’s operations by introducing mathematics instruction.  Eight teachers were employed by this time so another apartment was opened for our use.

In May of 1981, Dr. Robert Marshall, President of Daemen College informed me that incoming freshmen would need both apartments, so I could either close the Center or seek new quarters for its operation.  Providence directed me to St. Leo the Great Elementary School.  Monsignor McDonnell welcomed the opportunity to rent some vacant classrooms.

On June 24, 1981, we relocated in the Dineen Wing of St. Leo’s School utilizing four rooms which were cooler and far more spacious than those in the apartments.  The center was now operating independently of the college but retained the name Daemen in its new title, Daemen Children’s Learning Center.  Our new location is so centrally located that we now draw pupils from Buffalo, Amherst, Tonawanda, Kenmore, Grand Island, Clarence and Williamsville.

In the spring of 1985, Monsignor McDonnell informed me that he planned to close off the Dineen Wing of the school and bring all the children into the main building.  After looking for other accommodations, I again met with Monsignor and prevailed upon him to keep our center at St. Leo’s.  This was made possible by rearranging our schedule and using other classrooms.

We still continue to use the Dineen Wing in the summer months when no heating is needed.  So far this arrangement has proved satisfactory, both for the faculty and children.”

 S. Vivian continued to direct the center until 1989 when, as she put it, she could “finally retire and assume a less demanding position.  She moved to Stella Niagara where she helped in the Health Center before becoming a resident herself.  S. Vivian died September 30, 1992.

November 2016

In 1988 the Perth Amboy Catholic School (PACS) in New Jersey was one of forty Catholic schools throughout the nation selected by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) Parent Department Awards Committee to receive the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award.  The award, established in 1981, was created for communities which opened or reopened schools, expanded a school’s educational services to serve new populations, or consolidated educational services to serve a community more effectively.

At the time, Sister Nancy Grassia was administrator of the 889-studentschool and she accepted the award given in the category of Mergers and Consolidations.  The award ceremony took place at the annual NCEA convention in New York City on April 6, 1988.

Sister Nancy Grassia

Sister Nancy Grassia

In her remarks, Sister Nancy expressed her belief that Perth Amboy Catholic School could actually be recognized in all three categories as it had been able to “do something for the total community of Perth Amboy.”  The school provided an opportunity for the city’s children to receive the benefit of a quality Catholic school education.  “The St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award is a tribute to the courage of the bishop, the staff of the diocesan Schools Office, and all the priests, religious, and laity in the Diocese of Metuchen who embarked on such a major undertaking as Perth Amboy Catholic School,”  Sister Nancy said.  She noted that specific advantages were now available in the merged facilities which were located on four separate campuses.  These included the presence of more religious and priests, a chemistry and biology lab for grades five through eight, special teachers for art, music, physical education, and computer science, as well as full-time librarians on each campus.  A hot lunch program was also available on each campus.  Because of financial limitations, these special services were not able to be offered at the original six separate schools which joined in 1987 to form the new PACS.

Today, PACS continues to serve 252 K-8 students in two age-appropriate buildings.  The Seton Award has also changed over the years and since 1991 has honored individuals whose personal or professional philanthropy or volunteer service has impacted Catholic education in particular and/or U.S. education and our country’s youth in general.

September 2016

In 1988, one Betty Jo Parsley penned a tribute to the Sisters of St. Francis who founded and staffed Mt. St. Mary Hospital in Nelsonville, Ohio.  Her tribute was reprinted in the April ATP of that year.  Entitled, “Faith That Built Hospital Still Present,” the article extolled the care of the sisters for the patients and the tremendous faith and courage that the early sisters had in order to make the dream of a hospital come true.

In Betty Jo’s words we read:

The founders of the former Mount St. Mary Hospital in Nelsonville, now Doctors Hospital, would be proud of the excellent nursing care that is being given there today.

The story of the local hospital is a story of faith, the kind of faith rarely seen in the business world.  It surpasseth all understanding.  It is good to recall the story occasionally, to renew our own faith at times when it may seem that the lamp is burning a trifle low.

It is mentioned now because my father, the late Joe Keller, was a patient there and the care he received was outstanding.  [Wonderful care was also given to other members of her family.]

I certainly do not intend to compare the staff of Doctors Hospital today with the Sisters of St. Francis who built it, but I do want to emphasize that the faith that sustained the hospital from the first day its construction was announced is still ever present.

In 1950 on October 10, a small band of “pioneer” Sisters of St. Francis, headed by their superior, came to Nelsonville to establish a temporary convent home on East Columbus Street pending completion of the new hospital. [Betty Jo is mistaken in the year.  The first sisters arrived on October 10, 1949.  They were Mother Lidwina Jacobs and Sisters Lindtrudis Johannpotter, Constantia Crotty, Celine Paul, and Annette Mumm.  By October 29, S. Celine was transferred to St. Ann’s in Buffalo.  S. Raphael Weber soon arrived and S. William Elsener joined the group in November.]

The sainted Sister Raphael, who was permitted to live to see her dream realized and the hospital firmly established, told about the trip she made with Mother Lidwina to a convention of hospital administrators.  One of the speakers discussed the problems facing new hospitals, and this, of course, was something in which the local representatives had more than ordinary interest.

“Under no circumstances,” the speaker emphasized, “should a new hospital consider opening its doors without at least $150,000 in cash for working capital.” [This was 1950 after all!]

“And to think,” said Sister Raphael, “here we had just opened one, with some 60 to 65 people on the payroll, and we have not one penny left to pay current bills.  With work we were acquainted, in prayer we have abundant faith, but capital we have none.”

Cost of completely equipping the hospital had exceeded estimates, and when the doors swung open in April 1950, the treasury of the Sisters of St. Francis was bare.  They were as poor as the famed saint of Assisi in whose name their charities are practiced.

It is not publicly known, but the first payroll was borrowed from the provincialate in Stella Niagara, which had shouldered the $625,000 hospital obligation, in addition to another heavy debt of more than half that amount used in construction of a college in Buffalo.

The sisters were then and are now millionaires in reverse.  If the citizens of Nelsonville had a small part of their faith, some of their devotion, and a willingness to work and to sacrifice, the matter of building factories, schools, and homes for people who want them would cease to trouble.

We are grateful to the sisters for coming to Nelsonville.  We are also grateful for the Board of Directors of Mount St. Mary Hospital who worked and were successful in making the dream continue when Doctors Hospital of Columbus took over in June 1980.  Doctors Hospital continues to be a modern miracle, a shining example of the power of faith combine with work.

                                    --Betty Jo Parsley

 

July 2016

A new parish, that of St. John the Evangelist, was organized by the Rev. S. P. Weisinger in 1898.  About 75 families formed the congregation and for the first 18 months; in default of a church, services were held in the Chapel of the Josephinum College on East Main Street.  Every Sunday two sisters from St. Vincent’s went thither to teach a Sunday School class.

The church was built and the cornerstone laid on July 3, 1898.  Later a school was built in 1905.  Father Weisinger was still the pastor.  The building had 8 large classrooms and an auditorium and was dedicated in 1906 by Bishop Hartley. 

In September 1906, “sisters from St. Vincent’s Orphanage took up work at St. John’s Parochial School.  These first teachers were Sisters Seraphine, Constantia, Leocadia, Blandine, Innocentia, and Imelda.  As there was no convent for them as yet, they went back and forth to St. Vincent’s every day.  (This) entailed a good deal of hardship in winter, as it was a long way and there is no car line on Ohio Avenue.  Hence they looked forward with eagerness to the time when there would be a convent attached to the school. 

Two years after the opening of the school, the convent was erected, and on August 22, 1908, Mother Lucy of St. Vincent’s conducted to their little home on Ohio Avenue the first sisters destined for St. John’s Convent; these were Mother Borgia, Sisters Clementine, Leocadia, Blandina, and two novices.  They were welcomed with the greatest cordiality by Father Weisinger, and the dedication of the convent took place at once.  It was the octave of the Feast of the Assumption, and therefore the sisters trusted that the Blessed Mother would look down from the heights of Heaven upon this new Nazareth and give her special protection to the work; and they probably felt too, that one could hardly be under the patronage of the Beloved Disciple without being very near to the heart of the Mother of Christ.”

-- From:  S. Liguori Mason’s MSS History of the American Foundation, 1874-1924

   Photo St. John Convent and School, c1924

MARCH 2016

Over the years Buffalo’s Sacred Heart Convent and Academy have undergone location changes, name changes, building changes, program changes.  From Washington Street to Main Street, from Herz Jesu Kloster to Sacred Heart Convent; from motherhouse to high school, grade school, normal school, boarding house; from from one building to several buildings, which today include Clare Music Hall and the new convocation center/athletic facility.  Evolution and flexibility seem to have been constant hallmarks of Sacred Heart’s history. 

In the following exerpt from the 1905 provincial chronicle we read about some of the early changes at which stemmed from the acquisition of a new piece of property.

 The motherhouse, Buffalo, N.Y.:  About the end of January, our next door neighbor, Mr. Putman, died suddenly.  An occasion offered itself to purchase his property (house and lot).  His heirs made the offer to us and it looked tempting.  The transaction was handled by a man (a friend of the sisters), Mr. Rittling by name, thus relieving us of carrying on the negotiations.  About the time of the feast of St. Joseph, March 19, the deal was settled and the property became ours for $20,000. . . . Up to date, the "Putman" house, which we had acquired, received no attention.  Thorough cleaning, repairs and some renovations began in August.  We had decided to use it as a kindergarten for our children and let out the remaining rooms to women who cared to board here.  Everything worked out well.  By the end of September all was going on well; the children were happy in their new kindergarten; four rooms had been rented out to ladies; about seven rooms were as yet unoccupied but requests for them soon followed.

                                    --From:  Provincial Chronicle--SHA, Buffalo, N.Y., 1900-1907

Photo:  St. John Convent and School, c1924

FEBRUARY 2016

Over the last several issues, we have been following the adventures of St. Aloysius Academy alumna Alice Holmes who served with the American Red Cross in Russia during the first world war.  Her experiences have been diverse and not without their ups and downs.  In this final installment we read that once again, Alice and her traveling companions have found themselves temporarily stranded.  Having made the journey from Russia to Bergen, Norway, in January 1917, they discovered that the exigencies of wartime could (and did) disrupt plans and force changes in travel arrangements.  Amazingly enough, although the war was raging not far from them, their location in a neutral country and having sufficient funds at hand allowed them to make the most of what could have been a most difficult situation. Having been forced to leave the ship in Bergen, and not knowing when they might continue, they became tourists!

            There was a ferry to take us from the steamer to the town and there was much to see there of interest.  But we kept our quarters on the steamer and each night were back to it thinking that we might sail on the morrow.  At the end of the month we were told to get off as the steamer had received permission to sail without passengers.  So there we were left in Norway and we made good use of the time to see the people and to get acquainted with their customs.  We traveled to Christiana, then to Stockholm, Sweden.  There we went through the Palace of the King and stayed at the Grand Hotel Royal, claimed to be the most magnificent hotel in the world.  We had ample time to enjoy the wonderful, gorgeous scenery of these northern countries and to watch the occupations and sports of the people.

            The Swedish people are more aristocratic than the Norwegians.  In Norway we found so many who knew English, but in Sweden the French and German languages were more in use.

            From Stockholm we went once more back to Christiana and then to Bergen.  During this ride we saw some of the most magnificent scenery.  The trains had a snow-plough in front of the engines to make their way through the heavy [drifts] of snow.  It seemed to us that we were snow-bound, for looking out we could see nothing but snow-capped mountains on either side.

            At Bergen, we boarded the steamer “S.S. Bergensfford” bound for New York.  War had been declared between the United States and Germany so I abandoned my idea of a visit to England and took this first opportunity of returning to America.

            At 11:30 that night the three whistles blew and we knew that this time the English permission had been given and the ship began to sail slowly out of the harbor.  The next morning about nine o’clock we had what was to us a very amusing experience—a life belt drill—for full well we knew that the voyage before us might prove one of peril.  There were 1,145 passengers on board and mostly Americans.  We kept a sharp lookout for submarines, etc., but all went peacefully until suddenly the steamer stopped on the high seas.  This proved to be no danger for us however, for it was an English Man of War.  The officers boarded our steamer to examine it and in the meantime we amused ourselves throwing oranges and fruit to the sailors who had remained in the row boats beneath.

            The English search being completed we continued on our way without any more interruptions until we reached Halifax, Nova Scotia.  By an English law we had to first anchor at an English port.  We remained in Halifax four days until the examination was over, then we set sail for New York.

            Just the day before we were to reach our destination the captain came in and to our utter amazement announced that he had found a Stowaway.  Now a stowaway is a person hidden on the steamer for some secret purpose of his own and this meant trouble indeed for the ship.

            We would have to remain on board in new York for a long time until the English authorities could be satisfied.  You may imagine our consternation but finally our anxiety was relieved and we laughed heartily when he told us that the stowaway was an innocent little new born babe.  We were all asked to give a name for the little baby girl and quite a variety of names were suggested, but the one that won the father’s heart (he was a Swedish American) was “Unda Marina” (One born on the sea).

            Gradually the shores of America came in sight—the Statue of Liberty was visible and the joy and exultation on board knew no bounds.

            Our perilous voyage was over.  We had come to a safe harbor and eagerly we scanned the shores for faces of friends and loved ones.  It was good, so good to me to see once more my dear mother’s countenance and to feel myself safe within her loving embrace.

            After spending some time in New York, I returned May 3rd to Columbus, and here I found so many friends and such a warm welcome.

            Also I heard of our Alumnae Reunion to be held this month, and of this the Alumnae number of the Echoes and was asked if I would not write an account of my journey.  Of course I was only too glad to do so, but the diary which I had kept had to be left in Russia, as nothing written might be taken out of the country.  It is in safe keeping there, to be sent to me after the war.  In the meantime I had to rely on my memory and yet I trust that this account will prove of interest to my readers and onetime schoolmates.

            It was a trip of unvaried interest for me, as traveling through a foreign land, among unknown scenes must always be—a trip full of delightful experiences and yet overshadowed by the sad and tragic scenes of the war.  I was not in the war zone—going and returning through neutral countries, and having [been] for the greater part of my stay [in] Russia where no actualfighting has taken place; still, all through the neutral countries, Norway, Sweden, etc., there were soldiers on all sides—big, strong, stalwart men—being prepared in daily drill, in case of their country’s entering the conflict—there was the Russian hospital, there were the refugees from Bucharest, there were the passports to be had at every port we passed through.  I have been in Europe before.  Indeed you all know that my native land is England, that I spent five years in a French school, but in those days you needed not passports to go from one country to another for peace reigned and the peoples of the different nations were as friends.  But now that so many are engaged in deadly warfare there is nothing but suspicion and distrust on all sides and even in the neutral countries strangers are carefully watched for they know not if you come as friend or foe.  But our party received none but courteous treatment on all sides; we met with no specific dangers or perils, so we enjoyed the trip to the utmost.  It was a rare opportunity afforded us and we appreciated it—every minute of the journey bringing its note of human interest whether of joy or of sorrow.  But it is over now and we are glad—so glad to be back once more in the land of the Stars and Stripes.

                                    --Alice M. Holmes

[Echoes/St. Aloysius Academy; Alumnae Number; Vol. X No. 11   June 1917]

 

October 2015

            St. Aloysius Academy graduate Alice Holmes and her companions completed their three-month service in Russia and bid farewell to their patients and the staff in the Petrograd hospital at the end of January 1917.  Here we pick up with Alice’s description of the group’s trip home.

            This was before the great uprising in Russia which has banished the Czar, the Empress, and other members of the Royal family from the Imperial Palace.

            On the train with us, as we were going to Krylbo, Sweden, was a party of refugees from Bucharest, Rumania, and from them we heard some of the saddest, most tragic stories of the war.  One was a young Belgian who had been making his living in Bucharest.  His home was in a little village just outside the capitol.  He was in the city but when the bombardment of Bucharest by the Germans began, he went at once to his home—but found the village raided—his wife and child gone.  Without home—or that which makes home, wife and child—he was on his way to France.

            There was another, a Belgian also, whose home had been in Bucharest.  He sent his wife and children to Odessa.  He remained in Bucharest until the last minute, trying to persuade his servants to seek safety in flight, but they would not go—staying to watch his property.  At last he left the city and for two months remained in a tunnel by day and came out at night for air until the Germans had left that part of the country.  Then he made a long trail of several miles on foot until he reached a train and finally after three month’s time reached Odessa.  He had with him, his wife and children and was taking them to France.

            Such were some of the personal stories which could not but arouse our greatest sympathy and such tragic scenes were part of life in all the warring countries. 

            We reached Bergen, Norway on January 31, hoping to sail the following day for Scotland and I thought I would visit England for a brief period at least.  But the steamer could not leave the port without permission of the English authorities and we had to wait for that permission.

            There was a ferry to take us from the steamer to the town and there was much to see there of interest.  But we kept our quarters on the steamer and each night were back to it thinking that we might sail on the morrow.  At the end of the month we were told to get off as the steamer had received permission to sail without passengers.  So there we were left in Norway . . .

                                --[Echoes/St. Aloysius Academy; Alumnae Number; Vol. X No. 11   June 1917]

JUNE 2015

             This month’s column continues the story of Alice Holmes and her wartime service as a volunteer Red Cross nurse.  Her full account first appeared in the June 1917 issue of the St. Aloysius Academy publication Echoes

scene in ward.jpg

            After having arrived in Petrograd and getting settled into their quarters in the Palace of Catherine the Great, the nurses soon got down to the work which had brought them to Russia.

            The next afternoon we were taken into that part of the palace which had been turned into a temporary hospital for the wounded soldiers returning from the front.  There were twelve wards, each containing five beds—and two of these wards were given into our charge.  Some of our patients were officers, and some just ordinary soldiers.

            The Russian nurses are called “Sisters of War.”  They wore a gray gathered uniform, a white apron with a red cross on the bib and an all white head dress.  You might think by their dress that they were members of a religious Order but they were in reality the Russian princesses, countesses, and other ladies of high rank who had assumed the duties of caring for the wounded.  Even the Empress assisted in the operating room of her own hospital and with her, were her daughters, the Grand Duchesses.  All were very friendly to us, anxious to take care of us in every way and eager to teach us their customs.  Many of them could talk English but preferred the French language and so I spent many a pleasant hour conversing with them in French.

            From that time on, our life was the daily routine of the hospital  We found the Russian soldier without exception, loyal to his country, bearing patiently his sufferings and only anxious to get back to the front again.                                                                

            We did our utmost to alleviate in as far as possible their pain and suffering and they in turn were most grateful to us.  Their deep appreciation of even the smallest of our services, must always remain with me as one of the finest recollections of our stay in Petrograd.  We did our best also to enliven them and our efforts were greatly rewarded.  They were quick to learn and Miss Murday taught one of her patients to sing several American songs such as “Tipperary” and “Old Black Joe.”

            The three months of our service passed and the time came for us to return to America, so we bade farewell to the Imperial Palace of Catherine the Great, to the many friends we had made within it, and to our soldiers; we left Petrograd January 25, 1917.

April 2015

The last time, we left St. Aloysius Academy alum Alice Holmes in Christiana, Sweden, enroute to her wartime posting in Russia.  This month we catch up with her and her traveling companions as they cross the border and make their way to Russia.  With the Red Cross in Russia continues:

In the evening we took a train to Haparamda, the Swedish border where the custom officers examined our baggage.  We went to the town hotel for our breakfast and not knowing the language we tried to give our orders in German and in French.  We were at a difficulty for words to express our meaning, when the waitress, much to our surprise, said, in very good English:  “Why don’t you say ham and eggs?”

            About 11 a.m. we found the ferry which took us in about twenty minutes to the Forneo, the Finnish border.  The customs there were rather lenient but nevertheless we had to write out papers giving information as to where we had come from, what we intended to do, how long we thought of staying, etc., but these papers had the questions written in about five languages, so that we didn’t need any aid in this.

            A lunch counter was at the convenience of the passengers, but the Russian food was something new for us and we were rather timid about trying it.  However, we managed to find enough to satisfy our appetites for the time being, and boarded the train at about 11 p.m.  The views of Finland were rather monotonous, a continuous stretch of large forests and bowlders (sic) and very often a large or small body of water could be seen, for every one has heard that Finland is called “The country of a thousand lakes.”

            The Russian trains are not like ours here.  There are what they call compartments, two or four berths in a compartment, something similar to cabins on a steamer.  The berths are comfortable, but the trains are very slow, probably due to the fact that they have no coal, and use wood to feed the engines.  All along the railroad tracks there are wood piles for their convenience.

            We arrived in Petrograd, Russia, about 11:30 p.m., September 25, 1916.  The streets were very poorly illuminated, due of course to war conditions.  Again we were troubled about finding rooms, but were finally settled in one of the hotels for that night.

            The Russians are probably the most suspicious of people.  It is the only country that in times of peace requires passports, and so we found it a little difficult to convince them of our mission.  American Ambassador Francis helped us out by referring us to the Foreign Minister of Affairs, who took the matter up with the Empress’ Physician.  He invited us to see the General Soldiers’ Hospital at Tzarskoe Selo (Czar’s Village).  There we won our way performing a bone-graft operation.

            One of the soldiers whose arm had been wounded and hung limp was brought to us and Doctor Downer took a bone from the leg of the man and grafted it into the right place in the arm.  The operation was performed before a large audience and as it was something new in Russia it succeeded where otherwise we might have failed in convincing the Russians of our mission and of our real desire and ability to help them.  Immediately the Empress was notified and we received from her a cordial invitation to stay at the Palace of Catherine the Great in Czar’s Village.

            Just a few words about our suite of rooms.  When the doctor told us of the Empress’ invitation he said in terms of great enthusiasm—“Girls you are to have the grandest quarters you have ever seen.  There will even be gold pens for you to write with.”  We laughed and frankly said he was giving us a much exaggerated picture, but once we had entered our apartments, we found that he had scarcely exaggerated.  We did not find the golden pens on our writing desk but otherwise we were more than surprised at the magnificence and splendor of our rooms.  We were occupying the apartments which in times of peace were reserved for Foreign Ministers.


[Echoes/St. Aloysius Academy; Alumnae Number; Vol. X No. 11   June 1917

February 2015

FROM THE ARCHIVES

 

Alice M. Holmes, a graduate of St. Aloysius Academy, was drawn to assist the American Red Cross during the First World War.  In 1916 she traveled to Russia and later shared some of her experiences with her fellow SAA alumnae in the pages of Echoes. 

            When the invitation to join the Red Cross Service, bound for Petrograd, Russia, came to me from the hospital in which I had received my nurse’s training, I accepted it gladly and at once announced my willingness to go.

            The party consisted of Dr. Downer, of Lansing, Mich., and three nurses—Miss Scanlon, of Buffalo, N.Y., Miss Murday and myself of Columbus, Ohio.  We left Columbus September 3, 1916, arriving in New York City September 4, hurried around to get passports in order and departed from Hoboken, N.J., on the “Frederick VIII,” a Danish liner.

            The trip was a very pleasant one—the cosmopolitan crowd very interesting and agreeable.  Each one of the twelve days brought to us many pleasures, such as dancing, deck games, etc.

            When within two days of Kirkwall, Scotland, we had the interesting experience of being stopped at about 11 p.m. by an English man-of-war.  There was much excitement among the passengers at first, for we feared it might be a German warship or submarine, but happily, by the circumstance of the boat’s being a British cruiser, the tension was relieved and we settled down in anticipation of our arrival in Kirkwall.  There we stayed for two days for examination and inspection.

            We left Kirkwall on Sunday morning and were on the steamer all that day and the next.  Monday afternoon we began to slowly enter Christiana Fjord.  The beautiful scenic effects of the Fjord were admired by all the members of the party and especially the feature that it was still daylight at 9 p.m.  The wonderful shadows of the Norwegian mountains reflected in the water were truly most picturesque.

            Arriving in Christiana at 9:30 p.m., we spent a rather strenuous two hours trying to secure accommodations, owing to the overcrowded condition of the hotels.  We finally succeeded, however, in obtaining very indifferent sleeping quarters.

            The next morning we had a most amusing if uncomfortable experience.  Not seeing any water to perform our ablutions, we rang for some, and at our request for water we were brought one pint—that was all—and that pint had to be divided among the crowd of us.

            We then proceeded to view some of the interesting points about Christiana.  We motored to a sanitarium which is located about 2000 feet above sea level and at that height we used a telescope to view at different angles the valley below.  We then returned to the city, visiting there museums and different places of interest, incidentally having our passports “vized” in preparation for continuing our journey to Stockholm.  We arrived in Stockholm in the morning and had breakfast at the “Hotel Continental” and from there we took a taxi and toured around the city.  We noticed especially here the King’s Park, which is indeed beautiful.

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December 2014

As we conclude the 75th anniversary year of the three U.S. provinces, the chronicle gives us a few last glimpses of the holidays at the new motherhouses.

            At Marycrest, the first two postulants arrived on September 10 and were joined on the Feast of Christ the King by a third young woman.  “Each of the special feasts so dear to the heart of Mother Magdalen’s daughters brought its particular joy, both spiritual and temporal—that of our Holy Father St. Francis, good St. Nicholas, Christmas and Holy Innocents.  These were revelations to the postulants, and they entered into the spirit of all with a childlike simplicity.”

            At Mt. Alverno, meanwhile, four young women had entered in September.  They, too, were all unknowing, and on the afternoon of December 5 were introduced to the wonders of St. Nicholas.  As they accompanied the professed sisters to the refectory they were greeted by “a glimpse into fairyland.”  Gifts had been supplied by Mothers Clement, Cherubim, Marita, and Tarcissia.

At each place stood a jolly little washcloth man holding a toothbrush under one arm and shoelaces under the other.  A gingerbread man smiled  . . . from his place on a plate of homemade cookies and candy.  A large peppermint stick and a lollypop stuck in a ball of popcorn gave a festive look to the table.  At each place was an envelope . . .holy pictures, Sacred Heart badge, medals, etc.  There were useful gifts too, of soap, pencils, and wearing apparel at each place.

 

Only a short time remained to Christmas, the first one for the Motherhouse at Mount Alverno (and at Marycrest).  The entire community worked at preparing the spiritual crib.  Surely the Infant Jesus would shower many graces on the convent, and on this their first Christmas.


St. Nicholas visited Stella Niagara as well, of course.  There the sisters in the large refectory “were delighted to find new chairs instead of the benches used formerly.”  Christmas, itself, was somewhat different in that there were no visitors at the Midnight Mass.  It seems that in previous years a number of local pastors had objected to their parishioners going elsewhere for Mass.  That, combined with the fact that the crowd in the chapel continued to increase, led to the decision to discontinue welcoming guests for the midnight mass.  “Our friends were greatly disappointed, especially those who have been coming for many years.”  The chronicler, however, tried to put a good “spin” on things as she wrote, “For us the quiet was most welcome; the sisters appreciated to be able to assist at the Holy Sacrifice without distraction.”  


October 2014

FROM THE ARCHIVES

 

           Over the course of the past months we have been reading about the beginnings of the two new North American provinces.  Once the properties had been purchased (or general locations chosen), there were other important decisions to be made.

            At the provincial council meeting of April 23, 1938, names were chosen for the three provinces:  Holy Name (east), Sacred Heart (middle west), and St. Francis (Pacific Coast).  The new house in Monrovia was first referred to as “Alverno Heights,” but very soon the name “Mount Alverno” seemed more suitable.  “Marycrest” was chosen for the new Denver property.

            It had already been determined that postulants would be admitted in both the new places in September.  They would be considered aspirants until the approbation from Rome canonically establishing the new novitiate houses was received.  S. Immaculata McCarthy, Novice Mistress at Stella Niagara, would be the “Sister in Charge” in Denver, while M. Tarcissia Mulbay was selected for Monrovia.  S. Rose Bennett became the new Novice Mistress at Stella.

            It was also necessary to distribute the sisters in the three provinces—no easy task.  The chapter had already settled that the sisters would be permitted to choose to which province they wished to belong, but it had been thought the choice would be between Stella Niagara and one other.  Now the choice was among three provinces.  The requisite forms were drawn up and on May 25, 1938, all the Sisters throughout the whole Province, after the conclusion of prayers in Chapel, would assemble in the community and would make their decision in writing, witnessed by two other Sisters.  A solemn novena to the Holy Ghost for guidance and light in this important matter was to precede the making of these decisions.  Four choices were to be given:  Eastern Province, Middle West Province, Pacific Coast Province, or Indifferent. . . . the results showed that 280 chose the East, 94 the Middle West, 120 the Pacific Coast, 82 were indifferent; two did not sign, and the seventeen young Sisters who were to make their temporary vows in August were considered as belonging to the province from which they came.

               The autumn of 1938 saw the convening of the general chapter in Heythuysen.  Shortly before, the approbation of the Apostolic See for the division of the North American Province arrived and it was decided that the new provinces would be formally established on January 1, 1939.  This welcome news came to the sisters immediately following word that M. Aloysia Hellweg had again been chosen, after postulation to Rome, to serve another term of six years as general superior.

             M. Lidwina, M. Celsa Schmalen, and S. Gonzaga Miller returned to the U.S. on December 1.  On December 17 came the general council’s appointments for the two new provinces:

Sacred Heart:  M. Erica Hughes (provincial), M. Celsa Schmalen (1st  assistant), S. Dolores Disch, M. Immaculata McCarthy, and M. Elma Vifquain (councilors); M. Immaculata was also appointed novice mistress.  St. Francis:  M. Emma Gale (provincial), M. Clarissa Asman (1st assistant), M. Clement Finkle, M. Tarcissia Mulbay, and M. Marita Riddle (councilors); M. Tarcissia was appointed novice mistress.

             There was much to be done between Christmas and the new year when the provinces were to be officially established.  The “exodus” began and by January 1 the necessary changes had taken place—although some sisters remained at their assignments for some time  before they could be adequately replaced.  1938 had truly been a memorable year!

July 2014

FROM THE ARCHIVES

 

Permission having been received to form not two, but three provinces, M. Lidwina headed back toward Denver to conduct visitation in the middle western part of the country and to find a place suitable for the proposed Sacred Heart Province.  She visited several properties, but none seemed suitable, particularly in comparison with the “perfect” location obtained in California.  However, on May 2, she and M. Lucille Renier seemed “guided” by the Blessed Mother “to the place destined for them, afterwards to be known as ‘Marycrest,’ a beautiful 20-acre tract just outside the city limits, with a large house in perfect condition and admirable (sic) suited to their needs for several years.”   Once again in record time, on May 3, 1938, the purchase price of $25,000 was agreed upon and the deal was closed!  As the property had been appraised at between $30,000 and $50,000, it was agreed that a very good bargain had been made.

The house, itself, set back from Federal Boulevard and was about ten years old.  “The front faces the mountains with a superb view of the entire range, from Pike’s Peak to Long’s Peak.”  Large and well planned, it was well suited to the adaptations necessary to turn it into a convent with space for a chapel, parlor, two refectories, a kitchen “with all modern conveniences,” large bedrooms to be converted into dormitories, community room, provincial’s office and novitiate space.

The grounds, too, seemed perfectly designed for the new motherhouse property, “ with velvety lawns, beautiful trees . . . From early spring to late fall the sunken garden is a riot of hundreds of varieties of flowers laid out in formal beds . . . and, to one side of the garden, . . . a beautiful lily pond, the fountain in the shape of a lily, . . .  Truly it is all a veritable fairyland during the spring, summer, and fall.”

M. Lidwina then continued her visitation trip of the Midwest houses, but returned to Denver in June where she and M. Cherubim Rohr from O’Neill did much of the necessary shopping for Marycrest—including “some feathered, white inhabitants of the chicken house.” 

 Upon her return to Stella Niagara, M. Lidwina spent the next few months directing the preparation of the two new novitiate houses and many trunks and boxes were packed up with useful articles and sent off week after week to Denver and Monrovia.

 One interesting piece of trivia concerning the Marycrest property is that it was purchased from a Mr. and Mrs. Winslow; back at Stella Niagara, the southern portion of the property was originally the Winslow farm—however, there is no relation that we are aware of between the two Winslow families!

May 2014

The new property had been secured, but M. Lidwina was naturally desirous of having the other members of her council see it for themselves.  Although all four members could not make the trip, it was decided that M. Gerard Zimmermann and M. Dorothy Ortmeyer would come.  In the meantime M. Lidwina would continue with the visitation, traveling to Sacramento and Portland, then returning to meet the others in early March. 

The return trip south was rather harrowing as a late winter storm pummeled California, flooding cities and towns, and even undermining the tracks so that travel was perilous.  Although M. Lidwina and S. Bernice reached L.A. late, they were unharmed, having been on the last train through the San Fernando tunnel before it caved in!

M. Gerard’s and M. Dorothy’s trip was also impacted as they were caught in Las Vegas when floods washed away bridges and stalled trains.  Passengers were placed on buses to complete the westward trip, but they were turned back after several hours by rising waters and washed out roads.  Another route from Las Vegas was attempted and this time, after a twelve-hour ride, they arrived travel-worn but safe in L. A.

On Tuesday March 8, Father Francis Redman took the sisters out to Monrovia where “the newcomers were delighted with the mountain cove, and thought it ideally situated.”  Indeed, the Renaker property seemed perfectly suited for the motherhouse and novitiate of the soon-to-be established new province.

However, as M. Lidwina had made the westward journey from Denver, a good two days’ trip even on a fast train, and as she considered the vast distances to be covered in a western province stretching from Chicago to the coast, with houses already located in Denver, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Oregon, California—all so widely separated, the thought forced itself upon her that the situation which the Chapter had tried to help by the division of provinces—the great distances to be covered by a Provincial Superior in caring for all houses in the provinces—would still remain a hindrance.  Then necessarily followed the idea—since we are dividing the province at this time, why not have three provinces instead of two, dividing this vast western territory into one which would stretch from the Mississippi to the Rockies, and the other from the Rockies to the Coast. 

When this was proposed to M. Gerard and M. Dorothy at the meeting of the Council on March 9 in Los Angeles, it met with their hearty approval, and the proposal, sanctioned by the Provincial Council, was then finally submitted to the General Council for approval, and on April 20 came the cable from Reverend Mother Aloysia, “Approved.”  Thus were born the two new western provinces.

                                (all quotations taken from Chronicle of the Division of the North American Province, 1938)

March 2014

When last we left them, M. Lidwina and S. Bernice had just arrived in Denver after a long train ride from Buffalo.  The primary reason for their trip was to conduct visitation and at that time there was only one convent in Denver—St. Elizabeth.  The secondary reason was to find a place suitable for the new western motherhouse and novitiate.  Five days is not a long time, but during those days, M. Lidwina completed the work of visitation and the two sisters visited “several beautiful estates” which seemed good possibilities for the new province’s needs.  However, nothing definite could be settled as M. Lidwina had been advised to also visit Los Angeles and its environs.  Due to the absence of Denver Bishop Urban J. Verhr, it was also impossible to learn if he would be willing to welcome them to the diocese.

February 1 found M. Lidwina once again on the train for a two day trip to Los Angeles.  There she began another round of property visits.  On February 8, accompanied by Francis Redman, ofm, and M. Clement Finkel, superior of St. Joseph Convent, she met with Archbishop John J. Cantwell.  This was to prove a very successful visit as the Archbishop was most amenable to having the sisters establish a motherhouse and novitiate in his archdiocese.  He assured M. Lidwina that he would be happy to assign schools to her care and even suggested a piece of property in Monrovia which was for sale.  He had just that day received information from a realtor about the Renaker Estate, “an 8.5 acre tract in the foothills, a mountain cove.”

Father Francis lost no time in taking Mother Lidwina and Mother Clement to Monrovia
to visit the property in question, and it seemed St. Francis himself must have
whispered in their ears—“This is the place!” for all felt immediately that this beautiful
spot must be the one intended from all eternity to be the center and source of that
spirit of St. Francis and Mother Magdalen which would in future years permeate
the region west of the Rockies and supplement the work of the sons of St. Francis
which had been dominant for the past three hundred years.

Indeed, the property was about 20 miles from L.A. and one mile from the center of Monrovia in the foothills of the Sierra Madre range.  It was surrounded on three sides by wooded hills and the fourth opened onto a vista of the San Gabriel Valley with the Pacific in the distance.  There were two buildings which could be adapted for the sisters’ use and the tranquility of the spot seemed truly ideal.

M. Lidwina was delighted and “that evening sent a long night letter to M. Gerard, her first assistant, describing the property and asking her to get in touch with the other members of the council to consider the purchase.”  The asking price on the $50,000 estate was a true bargain at $15,000!  By February 10, the positive answer was received and the deal was closed with a down payment of $500!

 

(all quotations taken from Chronicle of the Division of the North American Province, 1938)

January 2014

This year we mark the 75th anniversary of the division of the North American Province into three independent provinces: Holy Name (Stella Niagara), Sacred Heart (Denver), St. Francis (Monrovia à Sierra Madre à Redwood City). January 1, 1939, was the official date which not only set the seal, as it were, on the efforts of more than a year, but also saw the beginning of journeys which continue to this day.

So, how did it come about that a province that spanned the North American continent was reconfigured into three entities? From the time the first sisters arrived in Buffalo in 1874, the mission and then the province grew rapidly. By 1929 the newly created North American province was home to over 500 professed sisters, novices, and postulants living in 34 convents and staffing 45 institutions across the country. By 1936, the number of sisters had jumped to over 600! According to the revised Constitutions (1929), the provincial superior was to make a visitation of all the houses of her province at least once a year. This mandate called for almost superhuman stamina and meant that the provincial would have to spend the better part of each year on the road in order to visit houses and institutions stretching from the shores of the Atlantic to the hills of West Virginia, the banks of the Niagara and the Ohio, the plains of the Dakotas, the mile-high city, and on to the Golden State of California and the Pacific Northwest. With the gradual cessation of the “free” railroad passes, this travel would also strain the financial resources of the province. It was clear that something needed to be done.

During the provincial chapter of 1937, the question was proposed to the delegates as to whether the division should create two provinces of equal status, entirely independent of one another, or whether the western portion should remain for a few years a commissariat of the Eastern Province. The vote of the chapter was unanimous—to create two independent provinces, and the dividing line was to be the natural boundary between east and west—the Mississippi River, with Chicago as terminus in the north.
(Chronicle of the Division of the North American Province, 1938)

The requisite permission would be sought from the general council, but in the meantime, Mother Lidwina Jacobs embarked for her western visitation trip in January 1938. In addition to visiting all the sisters “in the west,” she also had the task of finding a suitable location for the new western motherhouse and novitiate—a place that “would be easily accessible to all parts of the new province, and in a diocese where our congregation would be welcomed by the bishop.” Prior to her departure, the provincial council determined that it might be advantageous to investigate potential sites in Denver or Los Angeles. Thus it was that on the morning of January 27, 1938, Mother Lidwina and her secretary, Sister Bernice Danley, arrived in Denver for visitation and reconnoitering!

As we move through this anniversary year, From the Archives will continue to look at some of the circumstances surrounding the formation of the three provinces.

November 2013

Over the course of the past two years, From the Archives has presented excerpts from S. Elisa Ackermans’ work, Our Sisters in Indonesia in the years 1940-1945:  In Particular the Internment in Camps from 1942-1945.  This month we turn to S. Elisa’s own impressions having researched and written the account of the hardships and anguish experienced by our Dutch and Javanese sisters during the war years.

What strikes one when reading the accounts of life in the camps is first of all the tone in which they have been written.  Perhaps because they were written after their authors’ return, the tone is moderate, at times resigned, with a hint of humour.  There are no expressions of dismay or repulsion.

Something else, however, is strongly and repeatedly expressed:  feelings of fear and uncertainty.  The sisters feared what might happen any time a Nip passed; this was largely due to the unpredictability of the Japanese’s’ behaviour, which would veer between normal and out of any proportion.  The uncertainty about the outcome of the internment was a consistent worry as well:  how long will it be until we are liberated, where will we be tomorrow and with whom, how are our fellow sisters elsewhere and how are family and friends at home in the Netherlands?

Being surrounded by death and sick people on a daily basis had a depressive effect in particular when this befell fellow sisters. . . . The complete absence of privacy and the continual noise and din that posed such a contrast to what the sisters were used to caused inner unrest, which made them less capable of dealing with the situation.

What was worst for the sisters was missing the rhythm of communal prayer, the daily celebration of the Eucharist and receiving H. Communion.  The situation differed between caps, but there was at least one camp in which the sisters did not have this opportunity at all during their entire internment.

(Although the sisters were largely spared corporal punishment) they were forced to undergo collective punishments, such as food deprivation, disconnecting the light and extra (field labor).  Yet on average the commanders of the camps treated our sisters, as well as other religious, with respect.  Perhaps the sisters challenged them less than other women, perhaps it was slightly easier for the sisters to obey the orders of others.  Their vow of obedience and many years of practice may have been of benefit to them in this situation.

Only after the sisters had finally arrived home did everybody realize the full extent of what had happened during the years of internment:  35 sisters had lost their lives the caps as a result of exhaustion, lack of physical resistance, hunger oedema, beri-beri, dysentery and other infectious diseases.  The sisters heard of the circumstances of their deaths from the surviving sisters and later read it all in the obituaries that were written about the deceased after their fellow sisters had returned.  These obituaries are moving witnesses of unnecessary suffering.

Those who died in the camps were younger sisters as well as aged sisters and sisters who had been ill before their internment.  The  protracted hardships . . . hastened their deaths.  One of these victims was Mother Hortense, who had health problems even before her internment.  In camp 8 in Ambarawa her health deteriorated rapidly, with the result that she had to giver her life back to her Creator at the relatively early age of 71.  Her death was a severe blow  to the sisters because she was very much loved and because many sisters had not been able to say goodbye to her who had been the “mother” of the entire mission.

It was not permitted that those sisters who died in camp Ambarawa be placed in the niches of the sisters’ cemetery there.  Like all internees they were buried in the section for the poor.  In 1950, however, all those who had died in the camp were reburied in the newly reorganized convent cemetery in Ambarawa.  The names of the 34 sisters were engraved on a plaque placed to the right side of the burial chapel.  Visitors to the cemetery today can still see this moving memorial to the Dutch sisters who lost their lives in the camps.

September 2013

With the signing of the peace treaty in August 1945, the war in the Pacific was officially over. Not only did troops think about returning home, the actual transition to civilian life began as soldiers, sailors, and airmen (and some women) began to be “mustered out.” For those who lived in the areas directly impacted by the long years of fighting, the end of the war did not mean an immediate return to “normalcy.” For our sisters in the East Indies who had suffered all the uncertainties, indignities, and terrors of life in the camps, there would be much left to endure.

As S. Elisa Ackermans describes in her work, Our Sisters in Indonesia in the years 1940-1945 . . .
As soon as the camp gates had been opened, arrangements were made to get everybody “home.” Sr. Xaverio, who had taken the place of the deceased Mother Hortense, took some firm decisions. East-Indian people could go to their families outside the camp at once. The Belandas [Dutch] were not allowed to leave, or only at their own risk—this was actually determined by the Red Cross, which carried the final responsibility. The sisters could go straight to the Maria School in Ambarawa, where Mother Gerardis and the East-Indian sisters resided: it was just half an hour’s walk. Every day little groups went there until orders were given that no Belanda could leave the camp any longer, not even at their own risk.

It was too dangerous for the Dutch to be seen “out and about.” However, the Red Cross did transfer the sick to hospitals, one of which was St. Elisabeth in Tjandi [Semarang]. Many of the sisters were, of course, very ill and so were brought there which was a good thing. Meantime, the other Dutch sisters were still in Camp 7, Ambarawa. The tides of nationalism were sweeping Java and many groups known as “pemudas” were taking to the streets and venting their fury against the Dutch colonisers. They searched anyone walking in the streets. They planted bombs in larger buildings and also set fire bombs. “At every entry to the city people had to be searched, for even old women would have hidden munitions in their clothes and children had munition in their lunch boxes.” The resistance developed into a full-fledged war and it took the British troops several months to restore some semblance of peace and order. It was not until December 1945 that all the sisters were released from Ambarawa and returned to Tjandi.

In addition to the physical dangers and deprivations, there was also the uncertainty regarding the future. They had survived so far, but what was to come? Would the Dutch sisters be allowed to stay in the East Indies or would they be forced to return to the Netherlands? Once again they were called to wait, for there was no quick or sure solution to the post war problems.

In the next column, we will hear from S. Elisa as she summarizes her impressions after reading first-hand the camp accounts written by the survivors.