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Treasures from Archives: Father O’Brien letters

St. Sylvester Parish in Chicago has been around a long, long time. In fact, the parish was founded in 1884. The Sisters of Providence played an important role as educators in that parish, beginning in 1903.

The Rev. Michael O’Brien, third pastor of the parish, began his duties at the church in 1897. Two years later, he and the parish built their first school. Opening in 1900, the school was three stories tall and cost $25,000. The Sisters of Mercy initially had charge of the school, but the Sisters of Providence took over on Dec. 31, 1903.

In the files in Archives concerning St. Sylvester are several letters from the Rev. O’Brien to Mother Mary Cleophas Foley, general superior of the Congregation from 1890 to 1926. One such letter appears at right and concerns the proposition that Mother Mary Cleophas made to Father O’Brien concerning the SPs’ educational leadership of the parish school. The letter, dated Dec. 12, 1903, reads in part:

“Dear Sister, The proposition which you made to me last Thursday … that the teachers in my school receive 20 dollars per month and the music tuition go to the Community will be acceptable to me. I saw his Grace the Archbishop today and he approved of the step. …

“He also spoke very nicely of your Community and said he understood it did good work.

“I shall be ready for the sisters about the 30th of this month. I shall let you know just when they can come here. I think it would be well for two sisters to look the house over and if anything should be needed, they can get it at my expense.

“I believe in having sisters very comfortable. It encourages them in their work.”

St. Sylvester Parish, located at 2157 N. Humboldt Blvd., and its school are still going strong.

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Connie McCammon

Connie McCammon worked in the communications office for the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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