A Musical Glimpse into the Community

by Shea Rowell, MSMU C’19

As a student intern for the Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives, I have had the opportunity for the past several weeks to examine the music collection held by the Daughters. While sorting through hundreds of pages of sheet music composed or owned by the Daughters, I cannot help but wonder at the depth of devotion that emanates from the hand-scratched notes and type-written lyrics resting upon the printed staves. The music is eclectic, some as traditional as new settings of the Mass Ordinary, and some as particular and fresh as the quirky “Summer School Songs” reflecting the joys and struggles of a teacher in the summer. Each piece, however, reveals the lives of the individuals who contributed to the lyrics or music, and the community at-large.

Through the lyrics of the many pieces, the common values of the Daughters of Charity become evident. There are dozens of pieces dedicated to the Vincentian saints: St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac, and St. Catherine Laboure. These must have been the objects of frequent private meditation and public reverence, as the lyrics uphold them as models for holiness in the community. Many of the hymns focus on the role of
the Daughters as servants: servants of the poor, servants of the community, servants to the will of God. Humility, then, is chief among the virtues the community exalts. The joy of life and sense of humor of the community also hide within the pages of music, as many of the pieces are songs of praise and thanksgiving to God, and a few even poke fun at community life!

In short, the music written or held by the Daughters gives the world another perspective of their spiritual lives. We can hear the sound of a new Daughter joining the community transcribed in the “Vow Hymn.” We have evidence of the favorite songs, sacred and secular, of the individuals, hand-copied on scratch paper. We can imagine the trill of their treble voices lifted in prayer to the lyrics of “The Three Kings Song for Joy” on the feast of the Epiphany, or joining in the chorus of the “Alleluia” at Sunday mass.

The Daughters’ individuality, styles, and preferences, are highlighted by the diverse selection of compositions. Their unity, however, as members the Daughters of Charity, is manifest in the common values they and experiences they document in music. Like all art, the music of the daughters expresses their identities and the beauty they found in the daily practice of God’s will.

I would like to include the lyrics to one of the “Summer School Songs” (anonymous) as an example of community humor, sung, it seems, to the tune of “Santa Claus is Coming to  Town.”

Oh, you better watch out, you better not cry, you better go hide, I’m telling you why —

The Council had a meeting today.

They’re making a list of who’s there or here —

You might find that you’re other places next year —

The Council had a meeting today.

They know what you’ve been doing, and they know what you can do,

So they might be picking out another job next year for you.


So pack up your trunk, get your habit in shape,

Throw out all your junk and never feel safe —

The Council had a meeting today.


The collection will be open to members of the community and to researchers by the end of the semester.



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Newly Conserved Materials!: Financial Ledgers and Their Use

The Archives is happy to have seen work completed on some more pieces of the collection.  In the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century, it was not uncommon for businesses, nonprofits, or in this case religious communities to keep their financial records in large bound volumes.  These ledgers of St. Agnes Hospital and of the Central House in Emmitsburg are not only beautiful material pieces, but provide hints to the operations and life in the community.

Among the various budget lines to run a hospital are some expected things, such as “Special Nurses” and “Repairs”, but also notables such as a separate budget line exclusively for “Fish & Oysters” or, in what is today a developed area of Baltimore City, “Cattle Fund”

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The financial ledger for Emmitsburg shows other interesting expenditures, including, in 1918, dedicated line items for an “Auto Fund” and, a mere 20 years after Marie Curie’s pioneering work on radiation, a line item for “X Ray”


The ledgers also keep statistics of the sisters activity in both the health and religious fronts.


The ledgers are available to researchers at the archives by appointment.

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St. Vincent’s Free School

Working with a conservator in Gettysburg, we have restored two ledgers of school students from the St. Vincent’s Free School dating from the 1890s!file1-27

The St. Vincent school was founded in 1843 at the request of Father George Carroll, S.J., and operated from 1843-1909.  The collection contains records related to the running and administration of the school.

Of particular interest for this collection is the number of student logs, like the ones we just had conserved, which have survived.


This collection therefore is a valuable resource for genealogists looking for relatives in the St. Louis area.

A finding aid for this collection is now available!  Please contact us for more information or to utilize these valuable records for local or family history!

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