Category Archives: Popes

Unlocking the archival legalities of donating the Seton key

Image courtesy of Seton Heritage Ministries

Image courtesy of Seton Heritage Ministries

By Dee Gallo, Provincial Archivist

It seems impossible that anyone who followed Pope Francis’ visit to the United States did not hear that one of two gifts President Barack Obama gave to His Holiness was a key to the original door of the Stone House, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s first residence here in Emmitsburg, Maryland, on the property on which she founded her religious community, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s. Dating from 1809, this key appears to be like so many others of its time. Yet its symbolism sets it apart – it literally and figuratively opened the door to let in new students who would experience Catholic education and to send out women religious to care for the poor and voiceless by opening service ministries that continue on into our own century.

Up until recently, the key given to the Pope and a second one like it were under the curative care of Provincial Archives of the Daughters of Charity, just across the lawn from where the Stone House now sits. Some people have wondered how President Obama ever came in possession of the key and whether it was really his to give. Well, this key’s path from its archival home to the United States Department of State is an excellent example of the legalities which all archives and archivists must observe when transferring items from their collections.

About two months ago, my colleague, Rob Judge, Executive Director of The National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, told me he wanted to discuss something “confidential” with me. Now, we collaborate with the Shrine frequently to assist in loaning our artifacts for their exhibits; the “gift key,” in fact, was until recently on exhibit in the Shrine’s museum. However, the committee Rob had convened – and sworn to secrecy – was to face another challenge. He had been contacted by the State Department who wondered whether some artifact representing the life of Mother Seton might be obtained and transformed into a gift from the President to the Pope. The Shrine folks were elated – what a wonderful way to let the world know about Mother Seton and the National Shrine! For my part, I was elated as well – an artifact from our Archives would become a part of national history! But “loose lips would sink Papal gifts”; if any news leaked out, we were out of the running.

And so began weeks of closed-door meetings. I enlisted the help of one of my staff, Bonnie Weatherly, who has been working in the Emmitsburg archives for 35 years and has been assisting the Shrine museum with their displays for almost as long. We went through Archives’ collection of Seton artifacts, making lists of objects that might meet the criteria. Our little committee, however, kept coming back to the key for it had the best “narrative.” As Rob suggested, as a gift, it would be “a fitting tribute for a woman who opened the doors for so many women to serve the poor,” and for Pope Francis, “a man who has been a strong advocate for those who are poor and marginalized.”

Then came the legal transfer of the object from our Archives to the State Department.

Any item in an archives has to be “accessioned” or taken into a collection by making a record of its existence and location. This ensures that the repository has the legal “physical” right to it as property. In order to give the key to the State Department for the President to present it as a gift, however, we had to “deaccession” the key. As Provincial Archivist, I’m just the curator of the collections – the Daughters of Charity, Province of St. Louise, actually own everything in the archives. So the State Department presented us with a Donor Form, which I prepared and sent off for the Provincial Visitatrix, Sr. Louise Gallahue, to sign. In addition to acknowledging donation, the agreement also expressly stipulated that were there some change of plans and the key not be given to Pope Francis, it would be returned to the Archives. Only when that document had been completed and received was the key legally no longer part of our collections. The final step, then, was to change our records to show that one of the two keys labeled as items 1-3-#266 [“keys to the original doors of the Stone House”] was donated to the State Department. This will show to archivists (and researchers) in years to come that the Provincial Archives once possessed TWO keys to the original doors of the Stone House and what the disposition of one of those had been. The second key will go into the Shrine Museum to replace its predecessor.

The overall implications of the gift are more numerous than one can count. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s name has been mentioned in the national press and in almost every Mass and religious ceremony at which the Pope presided. The Daughters and Sisters of Charity who follow in her works have been highlighted as continuing her wonderful legacy. And the story of her roles as wife, mother, and widow now give refreshed meaning to Catholic family life. Ah, but to the archivist who was lucky enough to attend that first confidential meeting and to navigate the legal steps of this once-in-a-lifetime property transfer – wow! Just wow!

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Filed under Elizabeth Ann Seton, Emmitsburg, Francis, Popes

Digital Exhibit: Daughters of Charity in the First World War

(All images used with permission of the Provincial Archives)

Seen here is a selection of images from our current exhibit, Over There: The Daughters of Charity’s Service in the First World War, now on display through April 30.

The Call to Service
“ … Dr. Danna of Charity Hospital, New Orleans has asked us for Sisters to aid him in conducting a base Hospital. … These Base Hospitals, it seems are to be located wherever they are needed … Doctor asked for five or six Sisters to be placed as Head Nurses in the different wards … the Council agreed to send six sisters when called upon.”
—Sister Eugenia Fealy (Visitatrix, St. Louis Province), letter to Mother Margaret O’Keefe (Visitatrix, Emmitsburg Province), April 21, 1917.

The call came in the summer of 1918. when the unit, formally known as Base Hospital 102, was organized and readied to go to Vicenza, Italy. The chief surgeon, Dr. Joseph Danna, was Dean of the Medical School at Loyola University in New Orleans; he had worked with the Daughters at both Charity Hospital and Hotel Dieu Hospital. Because of his ties with Loyola University, Base Hospital 102 was also known as the Loyola Unit.

Dr. Joseph A. Danna, Dean of the Medical School at Loyola University, New Orleans and chief surgeon for Base Hospital 102

Dr. Joseph A. Danna, Dean of the Medical School at Loyola University, New Orleans and chief surgeon for Base Hospital 102

Sisters and Nurses
Ten Sisters were chosen for the Loyola Unit: Sisters Valeria Dorn, Agatha Muldoon, DeSales Loftus, Mary David Ingram, Angela Drendel, Lucia Dolan, Marianna Flynn, Florence Means, Catherine Coleman, and Chrysostum Moynahan. They came from hospitals in Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Indiana, and Missouri. They were led by Sister Chrysostum Moynahan, Chief Nurse, who brought a wealth of experience to her role, including hospital administration and service during the Spanish-American War. The Sisters supervised a staff of 90 lay nurses recruited from Daughter of Charity hospitals throughout the country. Many had graduated from Daughter of Charity nursing schools.

Daughters of Charity who served in Italy during World War I.

Daughters of Charity who served in Italy during World War I.

Sister Chrysostum Moynahan and nurses from St. Vincent Hospital, Birmingham

Sister Chrysostum Moynahan and nurses from St. Vincent Hospital, Birmingham

Sisters and nurses of the Loyola Unit

Sisters and nurses of the Loyola Unit

 

 Stories from the Front

The hospital, located 15 miles from the Italian front, accepted patients beginning in late September 1918. Medical and surgical cases treated included burns from mustard gas, pneumonia, malaria, and influenza. The hospital treated approximately 3,000 patients; only 28 died.

Base Hospital 102 - one of the wards

Base Hospital 102 – one of the wards

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Diaries kept by three of the Sisters give a day-by-day account of their experiences.

Oct. 6 —There is heavy firing going on at this Front at the present time; the booming of the cannons can be heard here with not more than one or two minutes’ intermission. Shortly after the firing of the rifles over the grave, four aeroplanes appeared over us to investigate the noise. We were all glad to get so near the Front. Saw many fields prepared for a Retreat – with back trenches and barbed wire fences.

Oct. 17 – We have now about 400 patients in the hospital, nearly all sick with the Spanish Influenza. Many civilians in the city are reported dying with it.
—Sister Angela Drendel

Oct. 18 – We have syrup for breakfast on oatmeal. Not because it is the first meal served, but because the limit has been reached. Everybody is very hungry. Unable to get food and the supply is very low. Everybody agrees with President Wilson: No not at their terms even though we are hungry and cold.
–Sister Florence Means

Armistice Day, Post-War Travels, Coming Home
The signing of the armistice in November 1918 marked the end of the war but not the end of the Sisters’ service, as Base Hospital 102 was shut down gradually over the following months. After enduring a bitterly cold winter, the Sisters received furloughs which allowed them to travel throughout Italy and France. They saw many historic churches, had a private audience with Pope Benedict XV, and visited their Mother House in Paris. In March 1919 the Loyola Unit left Italy for America. After landing in New York, the  Sisters traveled to St. Joseph’s Central House in Emmitsburg, and from there to Marillac Seminary, their provincial house in St. Louis.

Daughters of Charity Mother House in Paris

Daughters of Charity Mother House in Paris

Pope Benedict XV, with whom the Sisters had a private audience.

Pope Benedict XV, with whom the Sisters had a private audience.

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Newsclipping showing the Sisters' arrival in New York in April of 1919.

Newsclipping showing the Sisters’ arrival in New York in April of 1919.

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Filed under Benedict XV, Health Care, Ministries, World War 1

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854, and the event was noted in the Provincial Annals for that year.

1854. A great year in the annals of Holy Mother Church! A great, consoling year for every Catholic heart, for it was on the 8th of December of this year, our Holy Father, Pius the ninth, gloriously reigning, proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, our beautiful Mother, our Queen. We had never doubted this glorious privilege of our Mother, but new we have the merit of believing it as an article of faith.

Read the English text of Ineffabilis Deus, Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius IX, December 8, 1854, proclaiming the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (from http://www.papalencyclicals.net)

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Filed under Church History, Popes