I have been directed by the Most Rev. Archbishop of Kingston, to address myself to you and respectfully request you Rev. Monsignor, to act as my representative before the Court of Propaganda in a matter of vital importance to the Community of which I am Superior General.
I take it upon myself to send you His Grace’s letter, written as you will perceive, from Virginia Beach, whither he has gone to recuperate after a severe attack of La Grippe.
A few words of explanation may not be out of place: Our Mother House is in the Diocese of Kingston, Ont., and nineteen years ago we opened a Mission House in the Diocese of Springfield, Mass., over which the Rt. Rev. P.T. O’Reilly, so ably presides. All went well until a few years ago when the Local Superior, Sister M. of Providence, began to agitate for a separation of the two Houses in this City, from the Mother House in Kingston.
The Bishop of Springfield, two years ago, applied to me, once verbally and once in writing to the Archbishop, our Ecclesiastical Superior, and neither the Archbishop nor the Community would consent. And forthwith Bp. O’Reilly sent a petition to Rome and six months later announced to the Sisters in full assembly, that he had asked for a separation and gave them to understand that the petition was all but granted; so certain was he of success that he interfered in the removal of Sisters and informed them publicly that they were not obliged to obey the Superior General. For particulars concerning this subject I refer you Rev. Monsignor, to a letter addressed by me Sept. 15, 1891, to Most Rev. Archbishop Persico, which letter His Grace informed me was handed to His Eminence, the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda. Immediately after this event, I proceeded to Holyoke and began my regular yearly Visitation of the two Houses, but owing to the disturbed state of the minds of the Sisters, I interrupted it and returned to the Mother House, intending to resume it again. Permit me to state that I consider undue influence was brought to bear indirectly on the Sisters, for the Bishop of Springfield appointed a Commission of four priests early in Oct. 1891 to investigate, two of whom were Rev. Dr. Beaven, ordinary Confessor to the Sisters of the two Convents, and Rev. B.S. Conaty, Extraordinary Confessor for the same. From that moment, if not before, the Sisters knew to which side the Confessor inclined, and I feel justified in saying, that this had much to do with the destruction of peace and harmony amongst them.
During my absence from the Mission, Sr. M. of Providence used all the means at her disposal, to draw the Sisters from their allegiance to their Mother House. I herewith enclose a letter No. I, from Sr. M. Beatrice residing at Mount St. Vincent, which speaks for itself. Another No. II, from Sr. M. Angel Guardian residing at this Convent, showing plainly her methods of drawing the Sisters to her side by promising a life of ease and more freedom from irksome and disagreeable duties.
Our Archbishop presented my case to the late Cardinal Simeoni, Prefect of Propaganda, and received a reply Jan. 25th informing His Grace that all idea of Separation of the two Houses of the Sisters in Holyoke from the Mother House in Kingston, must be abandoned and care be given to the restoration of the tranquility they heretofore enjoyed. His Eminence also stated that he had written to the Bishop of Springfield in the month of December to the same effect and recommending our Archbishop to see that any complaint of the Bishop of Springfield against the Community be rectified.
From the date of the reception of this letter until my arrival in Holyoke Feb. 27th, I never heard a word that could lead me to believe that the Bishop of Springfield had been notified by Rome, and after being told by my Archbishop that he considered the case settled, I wrote a private communication to Sr. M. Ignatius, Superior of the second House which is an Orphan Asylum situated three miles from the City and called “Mt. St. Vincent”, telling her that the case was settled and that she might quietly let the Sisters know as it would relieve their minds. She did so, and I send her reply to me No. III explaining the part taken by Rev. Dr. Beaven on this occasion, as well as her statement No. IV, certified by two other Sisters. This act caused a great deal of disturbance amongst the Sisters and much anxiety also. Not more than two weeks after this occurrence, Rev. Dr. Beaven called the Sisters of this Convent (over which Sr. M. of Providence rules) together, an account of which I send you in letter No. V – Sr. M. of the I. Conception, attested by three other Sisters. He then interviewed them privately explaining that an Appeal against the decision had been sent to Rome by Bishop O’Reilly and that a petition was before them for their signatures which was to be sent asking for a separation, assuring them that he represented Bp. O’Reilly and that no one but His Lordship and himself would ever know that they signed it. Poor good, innocent Sisters instructed thus by their Confessor, is it any wonder that they, relying on him for guidance, were an easy prey.
The Council of the Mother House, had as soon as the decision came from Rome, determined to recall Sr. M. of Providence from the charge of the Convent in that City, and after the approval of our Ecclesiastical Superior and obtaining his permission to go to Holyoke to adjust affairs and resume my Visitation interrupted in Oct. My first act on arriving Feb. 27th, was to read His Grace’s letter of instruction No. VI as well as his Mandate No. VII, which I begged of His Grace ere I left Kingston, feeling certain that some extraordinary means would be needed to cause Sr. M. of Providence to obey, and I knew also how futile would be my efforts to establish peace and order while she remained in this Convent. My fears on this head were only too well founded, for she positively refused to take one step toward the Mother House, whither she had been called until she had been notified by the Springfield authorities that all hope of the appeal had been denied them by Rome. She set aside all authority of mine over her, and Rev. Dr. Beaven, in my presence, encouraged her disloyalty to her Community. Her disobedience to her Archbishop and disregard of the decision of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda, made known to us by the late Cardinal Simeoni. He said also that he, (Dr. Beaven) as well as others who had seen the document decided that it was nothing more than a personal decision of His Eminence Cardinal Simeoni, against which the Bishop of Springfield had appealed four weeks ago. He then ordered the Pastor to remove the Blessed Sacrament and forbade Mass to be celebrated in our Convent Chapel.
In finding all my efforts ineffectual to bring Sr. M. of Providence to a proper sense of her duty and obey, I installed the Sister appointed to succeed her, and took the government of the House out of her hands. This I did on the afternoon of Ash Wednesday and it is painful for me to state this unhappy Sister still persistently refuses to obey. She attends Mass every morning in the parish Church where the B. Sacrament is reserved.
On the following Friday, Mar. 4, Rev. Dr. Beaven came to confess the Sisters and before entering the Confessional, asked that the Sisters be assembled in the Chapel as he had a word to say to them. After an eloquent apology for appearing before them, said he was there as representative of the Bishop of Springfield to protest publicly, as he had privately, against the action of the General Superior in disturbing the Community and by not observing the Status quo which had been imposed. He forbade any Sister leaving the Convent and returned to the Confessional to hear the poor Sisters.
I maintain that this conduct of Dr. Beaven has done more to weaken my authority than any other could have done. Again the guardian of their souls spoke against their Superior General whom they vowed to obey.
Now, Rev. Monsignor, you can easily understand how impossible it is for me to establish anything like peace or religious discipline while Sr. M. of Providence remains thus rebelious to her lawful Superiors and the baneful effect such conduct has on the other Sisters, no matter how much they desire to comply with strict exactitude to the regular observance of obedience. They know she is acting under the direction of Rev. Dr. Beaven disseminating discord and disaffection.
These facts, Rev. Monsignor, with letters of instruction and Mandate of my Ecclesiastical Superior, Most Rev. Archbishop Cleary, will, I think, put you in possession of all the particulars of the case, and I now implore you for the honor of God and the preservation of peace and concord amongst the Sisters, to supplicate Propaganda to issue an order immediately to the Bishop of Springfield to appoint another Confessor for the Sisters, who has in nowise identified himself with the unhappy dissensions caused by the scheme of disintegration of our Institute and also to have the Blessed Sacrament restored to our Chapel.
I now conclude by presenting my respectful homage to the new Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda and imploring His Eminence most humbly and on bended knees, to deliver the one word that will restore tranquility and religious harmony in these two Convents, viz., that the decision delivered by Cardinal Simeoni last December to the Bishop of Springfield be final and that the unity of our Institute is to be preserved.
I have reason to know from a letter written me by the Bishop of Springfield, in which he declares that what Rome decides he will bow with submission and be satisfied. I know he would acquiesce in this decision and the result would be immediate peace. Indeed I have ascertained from a Sister belonging to the party of separation, that the good Bishop was himself disposed to accept Cardinal Simeoni’s Mandate as final, but was over-ruled by the more persistent members of that party.