Remembering two Providence High School sisters
As Providence High School, Chicago, prepares to celebrate its last official alumnae reunion in October, many thoughts turn to the hundreds of Sisters of Providence who ministered there through the years. Many of these sisters were beloved by the students and alumnae alike. Among the most beloved are two who, in their early years, were students there and who eventually served as Alumnae Director for Providence High School.
Sister Miriam Joseph Cahill
Sister Miriam Joseph Cahill was “a Providence girl” through and through! Her connection to Providence began as a student at Providence High School in 1926. At Providence, her call to religious life, and particularly to the Sisters of Providence whom she had come to know and love, must have been cemented. Within eight months of her graduation, she entered the Sisters of Providence in February 1931. In typical SP fashion, she worked on her college degree in the summers, graduating from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in 1940. In the spring of 1940 she returned briefly to Providence High School, this time as a teacher. In the fall 1940 she was asked to serve for a year at St. Patrick School in Terre Haute. Then in 1941 she returned to her beloved Providence High School, where she continued teaching until 1946. From there she was moved to Ladywood High School in Indianapolis. She taught at several other schools operated by the Sisters of Providence, but had one last year of service at Providence High School in 1956-57.
Sister Miriam Joseph just couldn’t get Providence High School out of her blood. After working at Mother Theodore Guerin High School for 11 years, in 1988 she “returned” to Providence High School once again, this time to serve as director of the Providence High School Alumnae Association for 10 years. Morning, noon and night, you could find her in her office at Guerin Convent, talking with alumnae, writing them notes or preparing for the next big reunion. She happily served the Providence Alumnae until she returned to the Woods in 1998.
Sister Marie Brendan Harvey
Another Sister of Providence who “came full circle” at Providence High School was Sister Marie Brendan Harvey. She met the Sisters of Providence in elementary school at St. Angela’s in Chicago. In 1939 Providence became her high school of choice. After graduating from Providence in 1943, she did clerical work for a couple of years. Then in 1946 she entered the Sisters of Providence.
Her giftedness in music meant that much of her professional life was spent in teaching music at the college level. However, she also found a love for working with alumnae while serving as director of alumnae affairs at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College from 1973 to 1982. This love for working with alumnae brought her full circle when, in 1995, she began coordinating the Providence High School alumnae with Sister Miriam Joseph. Upon Sister Miriam Joseph’s retirement, and even when she moved to Duluth, Minnesota and Eagle River, Wisconsin, Sister Marie Brendan continued to moderate the Providence alums.
No doubt, as Providence High School alumnae are reading this article, they are humming “Bless This House,” for no Providence reunion was complete without Sister Marie Brendan breaking into song. I am confident that as the Providence High School alumnae gather for the last time in October 2019, Sister Marie Brendan’s spirit will be with them, as they give thanks for the many years of blessing and happiness that they experienced in the “house” of Providence High School. It was, in fact, more than a house. It was a “home” for the Providence girls, thanks to the life and love brought to them through Sister Miriam Joseph, Sister Marie Brendan and countless other Sisters of Providence. And we Sisters of Providence hope that our Providence alumnae will always know how beloved you are to us. You have shared your stories; walked our journeys with us; cared for us and given back in monumental ways. May you always know Saint Mary-of-the-Woods as your “home” as well!