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Foundation Day gems from the past

Sisters Mary Ryan and Marianne Mader, both of the Sisters of Providence Archives Department, are pictured with Mother Theodore Guerin’s journal, in which the saint wrote her first entry on Oct. 22, 1840, the first day of arriving with five companion sisters at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

One visit to the Sisters of Providence Archives and you are likely to be engulfed with enthusiasm like the California gold-rushers might have sensed in the middle 1800s. Truly, you will find treasures.

With today being Foundation Day, a research adventure through the Congregation early diaries uncovered some little gems on Oct. 22 in years past.

Here are some examples from Saint Mother Theodore Guerin’s diary:
1841 – Anniversary of our arrival at Saint Mary’s. They commence to show our wheat.
1847 – Mother Theodore falls sick. Our Father Corbe starts away. S. M. Joseph arrives at Vincennes.
1849 – Our old woman falls sick. (The “old woman” was French immigrant Grosse Marie She arrived in early February of 1949 with her little heifer Grisset and was taken in by Mother Theodore. She came to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to take care of cows. A later entry on the 27th said, “Death carries off our old Marie.” Marie apparently suffered from pleurisy.)
1850 – We learn that S. M. Joseph is still sick. A boarder comes from Evansville.
1855 – We have just made the contract for the brick destined for the chapel which we propose to build in honor of our Good Mother. Today, fifteen years ago, she conducted us to our Woods and has had care of us – protected us.

And then there are these entries from Mother Mary Cecilia Bailly’s diary:
1862 – Wednesday. I go to town for several reasons, one of them to pay Mr. Chess for the piano.
1864 – Eliza B. Cotter (postulant) arrives.
1867 – Tuesday. I go to town to consult with Judge Key about some law questions. I went to visit the Nursery of Wm Patrick. Mrs. Madregal drove me there in her buggy. I return the next day.

And here are entries from the Congregation’s diary:
1915 – Father Long of St. Andrew’s Chicago says Community Mass. At 4 o’clock we say Vespers and 4:30 the students, novices and Sisters go in procession to the spot wherever stood the little chapel that greeted our venerated Foundress on the evening of Oct. 22 seventy five years ago. At 7:30 a delegation of College girls calls on Rev. Mother (Mary Cleophas Foley) and present a basket of flowers with greetings.
1945 – Community Feast. Fr. Goossens said the Community Mass, a high Mass at 6:20. Fr. Lee said Mass at 7:30. At 1:15 about twenty Sisters with rubbers and umbrellas set out for St. Joseph’s Lake on a scheduled long walk. The novices, too, went for a walk. Mother is in Anaheim today. All Sisters in California had a delightful reunion in Anaheim.
1948 – At 11:15, the aspirants, 12 in number, greeted the Superiors in Mother’s parlor. At noon they end their retreat silence. At 12:30 Sister Helen Clare gives religious names and black caps to ten postulants. Recreation at dinner.

Does your family have a diary? What treasures would researchers uncover in your family’s archives? Have you thought about starting that tradition? Did you notice the references to issues of everyday life, but yet all seemed to be centered around living the mission?

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Dave Cox

Dave Cox was media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence for many years. Prior to his work with the sisters, he spent over 30 years in newspaper newsrooms.

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