Day of Departure
The Aurora, a publication of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, described the departure of the six Sisters of Providence who left for the Chinese mission in an article titled “Day of Departure” in the November 1920 issue. The six sisters chosen for this ministry were Sisters Marie Gratia Luking, Mary Elise Renaud, Eugene Marie Howard, Marie Patricia Shortall, Clare Mitchell and Winifred Patrice O’Donovan.
The following are portions of that article:
“Wednesday, September 29, 1920, was for Saint Mary-of-the-Woods one of the greatest days in the eighty years of its history. That day marked not only an era in the annals of the Sisters of Providence in America, but of the Catholic Church in America, and in the religious history of the world, for it was the day of the departure for foreign mission of China of six of the Sisters of Providence, the first American Sisterhood to send laborers into the fields of the Orient.
“These six sisters, Sister Marie Gratia, Sister Mary Elise, Sister Eugene Marie, Sister Clare, Sister Winifred Patrice, and Sister Marie Patricia, are the favored among the three hundred Sisters who volunteered their services for the foreign missions. For some years to come, however, recruits to the Chinese missions will be sent from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to help in the labor and the carrying-on of the work.
“The day of departure so long looked forward to came at last with a solemnity far exceeding expectation — like a great and a sacred holiday. Auspicious day, September 29, the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, with a ritual so singularly appropriate that it seemed designed for the occasion. …
“The sermon by the Right Reverend Bishop Chartrand will remain forever to the Missionary Sisters an unfailing source of zeal, inspiration, and encouragement, and to all those who heard it, a confirmation of faith, and an incentive to labor for the spread of the Kingdom of Christ.
“After the sermon, took place the significant ceremony of the day — the presentation of the Missionary Crosses personally blessed by Pope Benedict XV, for the Reverend Mother Mary Cleophas [Foley], Superior General of the Sisters of Providence, and for the Missionary Priests and sisters for China. These crucifixes were procured by the Right Reverend Bishop Tacconi on his recent visit to Rome to request from the Holy Father the full papal approbation and blessing upon the undertaking of the Kaifeng mission by the Sisters of Providence. After the Bishop had presented the crucifixes to the missionary priests, the missionary Sisters led by the Reverend Mother General advanced to the sanctuary to the throne of Bishop Chartrand to receive the insignia of the divine work. As the Right Reverend Bishop bestowed the cross upon each of the ten recipients, he repeated the beautiful and solemn prayer:
“‘Take this crucifix. May it be your companion in your apostolic labors, and your consolation in life and at the hour of death. Amen.’ During the presentation of the crosses the choir sang the motet, ‘For he shall give His angels charge over thee,’ from Mendelssohn’s ‘Elijah.’…
According to the ritual of the Church, foreign missionaries must start on their journey immediately from the church hence, the day’s program fixed the hour of final departure at 2:15, immediately after Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Accordingly, the Sisterhood and the friends of the foreign missionaries bade them farewell before Benediction.”