Invasion of the Mother House, 1871 (Part 2)

(Text used with permission of the Provincial Archives and the Province of St. Louise)

Passage taken from Details Regarding the Invasion of the Mother-House and Our Miraculous Deliverance. This letter is in the collections of the Provincial Archives.

… Although for the first time the bell was silent at four o’clock in the morning, it was no difficult matter to assemble us for prayers; a sweet surprise awaited the greater number of the Sisters in the habit; it was deemed expedient to consume the Hosts in reserve, and on leaving the dormitory, we were notified to repair to the Sacristy for Holy Communion. Doubtless, our divine Master accepted, as a preparation, the acts of resignation to his Holy will which we had occasion of offering to him during that painful night. Each one went immediately to the Chapel to make her thanksgiving.

… Our worthy Father Director, who was ignorant of our situation, came to say Mass for us, but we warned him not to attempt it, nevertheless, he remained fasting until seven o’clock, hoping that he would be able to realize his project. But our most honored Mother, aware of the danger to which this might expose him, obtained permission to leave the House, and went to St. Lazare’s to consult with him regarding the measures necessary to be taken. It was decided that she should endeavor to obtain from the Commune a permit for all our Sisters to leave. The presence of our Father Director having become dangerous to himself as well as useless for us, since he could not come into our House, it was deemed best for him to go to Montdidier and about eleven o’clock he commenced his sorrowful journey towards the North. Meanwhile, Citizen Lefevre who, was one of the number at the House, obtained from Citizen Sicard the permission solicited by our most honored Mother; he presented the petition himself, it was promptly returned with the desired signature. The Sisters of the Seminary were to go first; they hastened to make up their parcels … Our Sisters were to take the cars at four o’clock in the afternoon for Montolien …
During this time, our Sisters of the Seminary had gone to our Mother to receive her advice, she informed them that our most honored Father having himself appointed Montolien as a place of refuge, should we be obliged to leave Paris, it was consequently there, she was to send them. “You will not be so comfortable there,” said our most honored Mother to them, … still our Sister Treasurer there, will see that you are provided with what is absolutely necessary; then, when I am able to have an interview with our most honored Father at Brussels, you will according to all appearances, have the consolation of seeing us at Montolien, where we will give the holy habit to the eldest among you.”

Meanwhile, they awaited in vain the arrival of the Adjutant: two Sisters set out to request his attendance … They were still looking for the Adjutant. Sister Mascureau justly troubled fearing that our Sisters would miss the train, requested the sergeant to go in search of him; but in the meantime he arrived and seeing the sergeant return, he prepared to give him a severe reprimand. Sister Mascureau wishing to excuse him said: “Sir, I requested him to go and see if you were coming.” The Adjutant replied with harshness: “Sergeant, remember that you are master here, you are not to obey, but to command:” … Seeing all the difficulties they would meet with in dealing with this man, they went for our most honored Mother. On seeing her enter, he assumed a more agreeable manner, and made a sign for her to take a seat. He then repeated the questions he had already asked, and inquired the number of those who were to go, as Sister Mascureau answered, he said: “My Sister, when the General speaks, the lieutenant Colonel is silent;” but our Mother meekly replied: “Sir, my Sister is constantly engaged with all travelling affairs; and she is better informed than I am on this point; this is the reason she replied.” He then demanded the list of those who were to leave, the presented it but he refused to sign it until they had given him a duplicate, consequently they were obliged to make a copy immediately. As our Mother divined, this was only an excuse that he might have time to take cognizance of the place; he asked to see the carriages and horses; he found them in a good condition and said to our Mother; “These will serve to transport the wounded.” But she had no doubt of the real use he wished to make of them.

When passing the basement of the Seminary, she heard him say to the Sergeant: “It will suit admirably for a battery.” His desire to know if he had a favorable position at the Seine, confirmed our Mother in her first impressions. They were then obliged to show him the garden; following the path of the linden trees, he passed the bake-house, but MARY Immaculate showed herself our Protectress, for it did not strike him to enter; our whole provision of flour was there and it was thus hidden from his gaze … He then returned to the parlor, the list was written, he signed it, and our young Sisters were permitted to start; but he required another list of all who were to leave the house the next day, with an express condition to add the family and baptismal names, ages, offices and residence of their parents; he then, departed, leaving a certificate of arrest which constituted us prisoners: it absolutely forbade any one to leave the house, or suffer any to enter it …

(to be continued in our next post)

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Invasion of the Mother House, 1871 (Part 1)

(Text used with permission of the Provincial Archives and the Province of St. Louise)

The Mother House of the Daughters of Charity, located in Paris, has been a witness to many important historical events. Recently, we found in our collection a first-hand account of the events of the Paris Commune of 1871, in a document titled Details Regarding the Invasion of the Mother-House and Our Miraculous Deliverance. . Our next few posts will consist of text from this unique account. In the account, “St. Lazare” refers to the Mother House of the Congregation of the Mission.

For more information about the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune see this page from the British Library.

We had witnessed the departure of almost all of our Sisters from the Houses of Charity in Paris; and notwithstanding our confidence in the Most Holy Virgin we were not without fears respecting our dear Mother House, when on Monday May 15, our Most Honored Mother was officially informed that the seal was to be placed on the papers and archives of the community. Accordingly we were obliged to take the most essential and hasty precautions possible; for some time previous no packages had been allowed to go out of Paris without the closest examination.

From this day our worthy Father Director, who for so long a time had resided among us … fearing to compromise the community, resolved to return to St. Lazare today spend the night and the greater portion of the day. However a week passed in the painful suspense. We learned successively the dismissal of various communities and every morning we offered our acts of thanksgiving to God, through the hands of Immaculate Mary for the special protection he had vouchsafed us … On Saturday May 20th about ten o’clock at night, there was a loud ring at the door. The Sister opened the window and perceived a number of armed men who presented themselves n the name of the Commune demanding admission. According to the order she had received, the Sister inquired if it would be possible for them to wait till next morning: “Our family is very numerous”, said she, “and we would be much obliged to you could you wait a few hours”. One of them replied that he would repair to headquarters to ascertain, many followed him.

Our Most Honored Mother and Sister Assistant being immediately informed, repaired to the dormitory fronting the street to await their return. During this interval a dense crowd pressed around the door, doubtless with the expectation of sharing in the riches which they hoped to find in the House. The Sisters in charge, having risen in the meantime, went to their respective offices …

Presently a delegate of the commune presented himself and gave orders to open the door; he entered, accompanied by twelve national guards, a Captain, and a Sergeant. Their first address was: “Do not fear my Sister, we have not come to do you any harm, but only to protect you. Then the delegate announcing his intention to take up his quarters there, asked to see the place they were willing to assign him for that purpose; our mother led him to the parlor which he found very convenient; he gave orders to his men to enter, after which he expressed a desire to visit the basement of the Seminary. Our Mother surmising his intention, which the next day clearly revealed, said to him, “Sir, if you intend to send us away, I wish to know it some time in advance, for you understand very well that a House of three hundred persons cannot be vacuated in a moment; we have in this number one hundred and twenty young persons and many infirm Sisters. It was easy to discover by the smile of the delegate, that he was perfectly acquainted with the projects of the Commune, but he contented himself with answering, “That does not concern me.” It was evident that they wished to convert our House into a kind of Citadel from whence they could fire upon our army. Our Mother immediately saw the necessity of abandoning the House.

(to be continued in our next post)

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Digital Exhibit: Photographs of William H. Tipton

Last week, for #Throwback Thursday, we shared two images of William H. Tipton, a prominent Gettysburg photographer whose images show up in our records of St. Joseph Academy. The Academy records contain a total of five Tipton photographs, showing both campus and students. We present them here. All images are used with the permission of the Provincial Archives. The images in this online exhibit are 150 dpi; high-resolution images are available for study in the Provincial Archives.

Oratory at St. Joseph's Academy, Emmitsburg, MD (Photo by William H. Tipton)

Oratory at St. Joseph’s Academy, Emmitsburg, MD (Photo by William H. Tipton)

Music room at St. Joseph's Academy, Emmitsburg, MD (Photo by William H. Tipton)

Music room at St. Joseph’s Academy, Emmitsburg, MD (Photo by William H. Tipton)

Group of St. Joseph's Academy students, 1900 (Photo by William H. Tipton)

Group of students, St. Joseph’s Academy, Emmitsburg, MD, 1900 (Photo by William H. Tipton)

St. Joseph's Academy, Emmitsburg, MD, class of 1903 (Photo by William H. Tipton)

St. Joseph’s Academy, Emmitsburg, MD, class of 1903 (Photo by William H. Tipton)

St. Joseph's Academy, Emmitsburg, MD, class of 1894 (Photo by William H. Tipton)

St. Joseph’s Academy, Emmitsburg, MD, class of 1894 (Photo by William H. Tipton)

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