June 7, 1892 – To Monsignor O’Bryan, Rome Italy from General Superior Sr. M. Edward, Holyoke MA

Convent of Sisters of Charity,
Holyoke, Mass.
June 7, 1892
Right Rev. Monsignor O'Bryan,

I have waited patiently, day after day, expecting to hear from you for in your letter to me Apr. 11, you promised to write as soon as you had seen the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda.

You will be pleased to learn that on May 4th, the Blessed Sacrament was restored to our Convent Chapel: but my second urgent request remains as yet unanswered, viz removal of Confessor.

I am particularly desirous of knowing what your opinion is now concerning our case in Rome since the Rt. Rev. P.P. O’Reilly, Bishop of Springfield, is dead. Will it be proceeded with or has it already reached no definite a stage to be dropped? The suspense and harrowing circumstances connected with the affair urge me to make another appeal through Rev. Monsignor to the Prefect and a brief statement of facts will show His Eminence the need I have of the protection of Propaganda. The day after the funeral of the late Bishop of Springfield, I was asked by Rev. Dr. Beaven, Father Harkins and Father B. Conaty, to call the Community to-gether. I assembled the Sisters and then Dr. Beaven read a few words from some document signifying that the Commission, of which he was the head, should interview each Sister, and as he (Dr. Beaven) could not ask them to take an oath, he called upon them to raise their right hand as a sign that they promised secrecy. This Commission did not produce any authority for their act and I am at liberty to form my own conclusions as to whether they have a right to call on me and demand a private interview with my subjects without giving me the slightest intimation of the nature of the communication and their binding Sisters in my presence to perfect secrecy. If it be by order of His Eminence, should they not at least assure me that they had the proper authority for such act? These priests are well known to be hostile to us, and their similar action on a former occasion has aggravated disorder in the Community. I consider an injury done to good order and discipline and religious authority. I disclaim against these secret interviews of hostile priests with seditious Sisters, knowing that the spirit and aim of such action is warfare against the Institution and the authority of Superiors.

Let me now entreat you Rev. Monsignor as my representative in Rome, to explain to His Eminence the evil of such a course and the extreme difficulty created for me thereby in the government of the Institute. Such proceedings on the part of three priests would destroy the influence of Superiors in any Convent in the world.

I wish also to submit humbly to His Eminence that fact that we have in these two houses, six professed Novices, that is, Sisters who according to our custom have made but temporary vows for two years, and who spend the third year of their Novitiate in a Mission House – the fourth year spent in the Novitiate at the Mother-House preparatory to making their perpetual Vows. These Sisters cannot, according to our Rule, even be charged with an office but must be continually under the supervision of the Mistress of Novices or a Community Sister. These six Sisters were interviewed as well as the other Sisters and against this proceeding I protested to the so-called Commission, as they cannot under any pretext whatsoever, give a voice in any deliberation of the Community. The names of these Sisters I here insert:

Sr. M. Aloysius

Sr. M. Fidelis

Sr. M. Cyprian

Sr. M. Christine

Sr. M.Angel Guardian

Sr. Anthony of Padua

I sincerely trust that this matter will be considered as a conclusion to the affair. I was summoned before the Commission and asked what compensation I would consider adequate for the loss of the Community occasioned by the withdrawal of the Sisters in case of a separation? I told the Commission that I required this question proposed in writing and the following is a copy of it in full:

His Eminence the Card. Prefect of Propaganda de Fide, desires to know what would be considered an equitable compensation for the loss of the annuity arising from the withdrawal of Sisters from the Mother House of Kingston in case of Separation.

Presented to Rev. Mother at suggestion of His Grace the, Archbishop of Boston, as a mark of courtesy.

I was thrice asked to give an answer, which I declined to do; I could not, according to my Rule, take it upon myself without the advice and consent of my Council to decide so important a matter. So many things have to be considered – the cost of training every Sister in Kingston for Holyoke Mission; their care when broken down by labor or sickness; their burial and numerous other things. Our Rule prescribes the sum of $25.00 for each Sister (annuity) and we established ourselves here in 1873 and not until 1891 did the Mother House receive one dollar of that – all had to go towards building, enlarging and supporting the different works undertaken by us in Holyoke. Then the amount collected by quest outside the diocese of Springfield and used for the same purpose. Aside from all this, the Mother House loaned the sum of $6000.00 in 1880 and only $1000.00 of that has been refunded.

Now dear Rev. Monsignor, should His Eminence, the Cardinal Prefect, wish me to calculate the measure of compensation, I will proceed at once to Kingston to consult my Council upon it. It is now my hope, since Bishop O’Reilly is dead, it may be easier for Propaganda to decide in my favor. Since his feelings on the subject are no longer in the way, and a new Bishop will be entirely free to allow things to proceed in the Convent as heretofore. On bended knees I supplicate the Cardinal anew to grant my earnest and urgent request for a change of Confessor. If His Eminence could only know how openly hostile to the Institute and how demonstratively allied to the party of disaffection is Dr. Beaven and how that party has been kept alive and hopeful chiefly by him, I feel his fatherly heart, which has been crushed and well nigh broken by persecution, would soften towards this portion of the Vineyard that is now suffering in a less degree it is true, still suffering for the maintenance of right and justice. I aver truthfully that some of the Sisters are in danger of forming to themselves a false conscience on account of the state of affairs and I appeal to His Eminence in their behalf, asking once more, that these poor Sisters who have committed no other fault than that of remaining faithful to their Mother Community, be granted this favor.

I am now Rev. Monsignor, over thirty years in Religion and am serving my fourth term as General Superior, and I have never before asked my Ecclesiastical Superior for a change of Confessor and would not do so if I did not consider that it is a conscientious duty for me to fulfill.

Sr. Mary of Providence is as defiant as ever, and it is now over three months since she approached the Holy Table.

Earnestly begging a reply at your convenience, I remain in sentiments of respect Rev. Monsignor,
Yours sincerely & faithfully
Mother M. Edward, Sup. Gen.
Source: 407-409-A, General Secretary Fonds, Annals of the Congregation/Generalate series, Volume 1861-1892, pp. 314-317, Archives, Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul.
Catherine McKinley’s Letters

This letter is part of a large database of correspondence written by and to Catherine McKinley, who is considered one of the founders of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul. As a Sister of Providence she was known by her religious name Mother Mary Edward.

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