Category Archives: Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth

Tracing the Rule: A Look at Charity Federation Treasures

Dee Gallo
Provincial Archivist

September 13 was a special day at the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. As part of their celebration of the 40th anniversary of the canonization of Mother Seton, Seton Heritage Ministries hosted a gathering of sisters from the congregations of the Charity Federation. There were tours of the Shrine, its museum, and the historic houses in which Mother Seton and her Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s lived in the early 1800s. In addition, the Provincial Archives, along with our fellow Federation archives, arranged a special display of copies of the Federation congregations’ Rules, nineteenth-century documents that defined the religious characteristics and activities of their early sisters.

Some of these Rules clearly trace back to a single source: a manuscript copy of St. Vincent de Paul’s Regulations for the Daughters of Charity, the community he began in Paris in 1633. In August of 1811, Bishop Benedict Flaget brought the volume to Emmitsburg where it was adapted by Rev. John Dubois, founder of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. Then, with the approval of Archbishop John Carroll of Baltimore and Rev. John Tessier, the new “American Rule” (Image 1) was presented to and accepted by Elizabeth Ann Seton and her community on 17 January 1812. In brief, this new Rule was clearly crafted for women religious working in the New World.

The Provincial Archives is privileged to have among its Rare Books the copy of the Vincentian Rule brought over by Bishop Flaget as well as the original American Rule accepted by Mother Seton. We shared those precious links to Setonian and Vincentian heritage with other Federation archivists who graciously brought their own copies of their Rules for the display. In addition to Emmitsburg’s , on exhibit were original copies of the Rules of the Sisters of Charity of New York (Image 2); the Sisters of Charity of Convent Station, New Jersey (Image 3); and a scan of the first page of the Rules for the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, KY (Image 4). In this blog, we share those images along with others from the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati (Image 5) and the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy, Charleston, S.C. (Image 6).

By comparing and contrasting the various Rules, one finds that the links among the Charity congregations are as rich as threads in a tapestry. For example, Bishop Flaget, then prelate of neighboring Bardstown, KY, brought to Catherine Spaulding’s congregation in Nazareth a copy of the same Rule accepted by Elizabeth Ann Seton’s community; Mother Spaulding, however, chose to adapt theirs slightly differently– and in definitely more “American” English. Showing yet another link is a page from the manuscript of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati’s Rule which bears the language of the approvals of both Archbishop Carroll and Rev. Tessier given to the Seton document in 1812. Finally, the Rule for the South Carolina Sisters shows a link to Emmitsburg via Bishop John England of Charleston, who had procured a copy and proposed it for the congregation of Sisters which he started in 1829.

Our thanks to the archivists of the Sisters of Charity of New York, Sisters of Charity of Convent Station, Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy, and Sisters of Charity of Nazareth for granting permission to share images from their Rules. Thanks to Sr. Noreen Neary, archivist of the Sisters of Charity of Convent Station, for assisting with the Rules display at the National Shrine.

Image 1: Daughters of Charity, Emmitsburg (image courtesy of Daughters of Charity Province of St. Louise Archives, Emmitsburg, MD)

Image 1: Daughters of Charity, Emmitsburg, MD

Image 2: Sisters of Charity of New York (courtesy Sisters of Charity of New York)

Image 2: Sisters of Charity of New York

Image 3: Sisters of Charity of Convent Station, NJ (image courtesy of Sisters of Charity of Convent Station, NJ)

Image 3: Sisters of Charity of Convent Station, NJ

Image 4: Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (image courtesy of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth)

Image 4: Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, KY

Image 5: Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati (image courtesy of Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati)

Image 5: Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, OH

Image 6: Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy, Charleston, S.C. (image courtesy of Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy)

Image 6: Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy, Charleston, S.C.

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Filed under Sisters of Charity Federation, Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, Sisters of Charity of Convent Station, Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Sisters of Charity of New York, Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy, Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph's

Founders Day, Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth

Wood carving of Mother Xavier Ross by Sister Bernardine Hon, S.C.L. (courtesy Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth)

Wood carving of Mother Xavier Ross by Sister Bernardine Hon, S.C.L. (courtesy Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth)

November 11, celebrated by most Americans as Veteran’s Day, is celebrated yearly by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth (KS) as “Founders’ Day.” On that day in 1858– two years before Kansas entered the Union–the first Sisters of Charity disembarked in Leavenworth from a riverboat steamer, answering a summons of the Kansas Territory Bishop, John B. Miege, S.J. to “Come North.” At this year’s celebration, Sister Anne Marie Burke, SCL, reflected on what came from that small band of women. Following is her reflection.

Founders Day Mass
November 11/2014
Reflection by Sister Anne Marie Burke

When I think of our Community as a whole, two scenes come to mind: One is Grand Junction, where I had a lovely house, sparsely furnished, better to show off the painting of “The Landing.” There were glass sliding doors, which ran the width of the room, and close-by, a view of St. Mary Hospital, and the construction of an expansion which included a 14 story tower.

Whenever I had company, I used to point to the picture of the little band of women, and say “Look at this!” Then pointing to the largest hospital between Denver and Salt Lake City, I would say, “Now look at that!” Terry Weinberger had given a presentation on “The Landing” for our reflection at one of our SCL/SCLA meetings. He asked, “What do you think that this little group of women were feeling?”

In pointing out the contrast, I was trying to share my own sense of wonder at what God had planted with this tiny group. It was an example of my amazement at the growth in ministry. The community gave employment to thousands of people, compassionate healing to many more, and instruction and care for generations of children and adults. It founded a community in Peru, worked in other mission fields, and provided opportunities for spiritual growth for many. These works are what Simplicity, Humility and Charity have built, along with what I think are specifically SCL charisms, humor and music. The majestic harp in the parlor has evolved through the years into choirs and instrumental ensembles which enriched our liturgies and entertained at celebrations in and out of the community.

The sisters could always find the funny side of things. One of many amusing incidents in the life of the community was that concerning Sister Regina McGrainey. She had come with the original group from Tennessee. She had suffered a stroke but did what tasks she was able. After some time she became very ill and was expected to die, but survived for two years during which there were a series of summonings of the doctor, who had become skeptical about her “dyings.” At last she was so ill that Sister Josephine was sitting in vigil by her bedside late at night. A commotion arose in the street, and Sister Josephine, seeing that her patient had undergone no change, went to the front door to see what was happening. It was a fire on 3rd St. She became aware of someone watching with her – Sister Regina out of bed and curious.

There was a later Regina, a gad-about during life, whose remains were misplaced for a while between the hospital and mortuary when she died. Well, said the sisters, we never did know where she was.

The other scene I ponder is in the Mother House, in the first floor hall – two beautiful wooden carvings by Sister Bernardine Hon flank the portraits of what Danette Sullivan called our “Queen Bees.” Mother Xavier is planting a sapling, in one of the carvings. I remember when several little trees were planted in front of the Mother House. They had still to be supported by stakes. Look at the carving – now look at the front circle, and the campus. The other plaque is from Proverbs. The wise woman. Look at that – look at all the gray hair.

True, we are dwindling in numbers, but the community has had other diminishments. Between 1858 and 1898, 70 sisters died and many deaths occurred during the great pandemic of 1918. Someday, perhaps, another smaller group of sisters will rely on God’s Providence to guide them as they face as yet unknown challenges. This time they are not alone but have numerous affiliations: the associates, the Federation, the Vincentian Family, the LCWR, NETWORK, ecumenical comrades, a global Sisterhood, and untold others. Perhaps they will be part of a world-wide movement to equalize the distribution of resources and wealth or a more earnest and universal rescue of the planet’s environment. We are no longer a sapling, but part of a forest, with deep roots, branches outspread to the poor, and where small communities can find shelter for their own growth.

Teihard de Chardin, like St. Paul, was a great visionary and said that God intended for things to cease replicating themselves indefinitely, but to form something new. We are part of a great transforming convergence on the threshold of union with Christ, the Omega. We are a Church and a community that looks to the future with the promise of Isaiah:

If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted…the LORD will guide you always…and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.

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Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth: “God’s Call”

The latest in our series of guest posts from archivists of Sisters of Charity Federation member communities comes from the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, courtesy of Sister Kathleen Mary Connelly.

Enjoy their video, God’s Call

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