Jan. 25, 1893 – To Prefect of the Sacred Congregation, Rome, Italy from General Superior Sr. M. Edward, Kingston ON

Convent of Sisters of Charity, Kingston
Jan. 25, 1893
To His Eminence, Cardinal Ledochowski
Prefect of the Sacred Congregation,
Rome, Italy
May it please Your Eminence,

Our Most Reverend Archbishop has informed us that Your Eminence by letter dated the 10th of last Dec. communicated to him the decree of the Sacred Congregation separating our houses in Holyoke, from this Parent house in Kingston. As in duty bound, we reverently submit to the authority of the Holy See in this, as in all other matters.

Our Archbishop has likewise informed us that Your Eminence, in the same letter intimated the unwillingness of the present Bishop of Springfield to acknowledge our claim to the $6045.00, collected by us, outside the Diocese of Springfield, unless we produce a written agreement between the late Bishop of Springfield and this Kingston house showing that moneys thus collected by us outside his Diocese, should be the property of the Parent house of our Institute, or give sufficient proof of such agreement having been entered into.

We rely on the equity of the Sacred Congregation to give favorable consideration to the following statements:

1’ No written contract of any kind, or any matter whatever, was at any time made between our Community and the deceased Bishop of Springfield. It was not his practice to regulate affairs of this kind by writing. He like many other Bishops in these countries, having few priests to assist in Episcopal work, and being obliged to busy themselves with missionary duties from which Bishops in Europe are exempt, don’t find time to commit all their acts to paper; and they regulate the less important matters by verbal instructions; in fact, during the number of years we have been in Holyoke, frequently visiting the good Bishop in reference to our business, we met always alone in his parlor and took our instructions from him by word of mouth, and never saw with him a Secretary, nor did we hear that he employed one.

On the other hand, we as religious sisters, holding Bishops in highest reverence and having special confidence in the integrity of the late Bishop of Springfield never doubted the sufficiency of his word, for the security of our rights, and would have considered it unworthy of us, and disrespectful to him to demand a written agreement.

2’ The present Bishop of Springfield, Mgr. Beaven, had not yet been ordained priest when we made our arrangements with his predecessor and consequently, cannot bear witness against our claim.

3’ I myself was present, as companion of my Superior General [Sr. M. John O’Donnell], at the interview with the deceased Bishop, Mgr. O’Reilly, (R.I.P.) when he concluded this agreement with our Institute in the year 1874. I was Local Superior of the house in Holyoke at the time. Proposals had been made to us to purchase the property on which the Hospital under our care stands in that City. The Superior General came from Kingston to Holyoke to examine the question, and, first of all to settle definitely with the Bishop our relations with him and his Diocese, in regard of property and our respective rights thereto; which settlement of rights had just then become more necessary, because we had become a Legal Corporation by the Charter of the State Government of Mass. The Superior General took me with her to Springfield to see the Bishop on the subject. He told us that being a young Bishop he was not fully acquainted with the rule prevailing in other Dioceses for discrimination of the rights of Religious Communities, from those of the Bishops, in regard to moneys acquired by our quest from the charity of the faithful; but that he would make inquiries. He bade us come to him again after a week and he would give us his answer.

At our interview with him the following week, the Bishop stated that whatsoever moneys we might collect from the faithful of his Diocese for our works, should be considered Diocesan property, and should remain in his Diocese, if at any time we should cease to work in his Institutions or leave the Diocese; but that whatsoever moneys we might receive from outside his Diocese by quest or otherwise, should be regarded as belonging to this Parent house of our Institute in Kingston.

The Superior General, to whom the deceased Bishop, Mgr. O’Reilly, made this declaration in my presence is now deceased, and I am the only witness of the fact now living. I give my testimony with as lively a sense of my responsibility to state the exact truth, as if I were on my death bed, and, should the Holy See require it, I am prepared to confirm my testimony by oath. I may be permitted to remark that, if the rights of religious sisters, or even of the clergy, guaranteed to them by their Bishops verbally and without written contract, be regarded as void after the Bishop’s death, even when the Bishop’s guarantee is attested by the sole surviving witness of the agreement made with him, numberless persons, religious and clerical, in these countries will suffer injustice.

4’ I send to Your Eminence, herewith a letter (No.1) received by me from our Sister Mary Leonard, who is at present attending the sick in a distant part of this Diocese. She is one of our Sisters who collected the $6045.00, from the faithful in several of the Western States of America for the erection of the Orphan Asylum in Holyoke; and she testifies that in undertaking the tedious and extremely laborious work of soliciting alms all over the Western States, she believed and is satisfied that the other Sisters believed the alms thus collected outside the Diocese of Springfield were to belong to this parent house in Kingston, in the event of the house in Holyoke being at any time separated from it. She is the only surviving one of the four Sisters who went on that expedition of questing in the far West and devoted themselves to it for nearly two years continuously.

5’ In further corroboration of my testimony, I also send herewith to Your Eminence, by the advice of our venerable Archbishop, a letter received from Mgr. O’Reilly, of Springfield, dated 8th May, 1885, which I trust, will be regarded by the Sacred Congregation as strongly confirmatory of my testimony respecting the arrangement made by that good Bishop, with our Superior General in my presence in the year 1874.

I was then Local Superior General of the Institute, resident in this Mother house in Kingston. Our Orphan Asylum in Holyoke required enlargement. The building was our property, and was held by us under the Legal title of our Corporation. It had been erected on our land and at our expense by means of money lent by this Parent house to the branch-house in Holyoke, together with the $6045.00, collected by us outside the Diocese of Springfield.

Before proceeding to enlarge the building, I wrote to Mgr. O’Reilly asking his permission to collect alms in his Diocese for this purpose. The enclosed letter is his reply (The original). I simply ask Your Eminence and the Sacred Congregation, to weigh the Bishop’s words:

a) He requires me to give him a declaration in writing that the moneys we might collect for this purpose within his Diocese should be paid back to the Diocese, if ever we would sell the place or relinquish the care of the Orphan Asylum; and this written engagement he demands, not for his own satisfaction, but for the satisfaction of his priests, who might otherwise apprehend that the alms collected in their parishes if once invested in our property, and identified with it might be lost to the Diocese in the event of our selling the house or discontinuing our services in the Diocese of Springfield.

b) The Bishop in this letter, in express terms and very significantly limits the required engagement to the re-payment by us of “whatever is given by the Diocese”. Had he understood that the proceeds of all collections made by us, whether outside or inside his Diocese, were the property of the Diocese, there would be no meaning in the limitation of his demand to the re-payment solely of the moneys collected within his Diocese.

c) Which argument is, I most respectfully submit to Your Eminence and the Sacred Congregation, rendered conclusive in support of my testimony, by the fact that whilst the good Bishop required our written guarantee for re-payment of all moneys given by his Diocese for the benefit of the Orphan Asylum, he makes no demand whatever, nor does he make the remotest suggestion, that the $6045.00, collected by us outside the Diocese and already invested, with his knowledge in the same Orphan Asylum, should at any time or under any circumstances be payable to his Diocese.

We now leave this question of our claim to re-payment of those $6045.00, to the justice and equitable consideration of Your Eminence and the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda.

Hoping and praying that in our present distress and sorrow we shall not be deprived of our pecuniary rights, hitherto undisputed, and most necessary for us in order that we may be relieved in some degree of the heavy burden of debt that lies upon us, on account of the erection of our new Asylum for the Aged and Infirm poor.

On one other subject we humbly entreat Your Eminence to give us your kind attention and necessary protection. We have faithfully complied with the order of the Sacred Congregation regarding the division of our Institute, allowing the Twenty Five Sisters who had voted for separation from Kingston, to remain in Holyoke, and recalling the Fifteen other Sisters, who had declared for continued adhesion to this Mother house. To make everything quite sure, and prevent disputes, our Archbishop required each of these Fifteen Sisters to give a declaration in writing that she had not voted in Holyoke for separation from Kingston. One of these Sisters having confessed that she had so voted, the Archbishop sent her back to Holyoke forthwith.

Two of our Sisters secretly fled from this House, and, by Your Eminence’s permission, have been received into the House in Holyoke. There is also another of our Sisters there, who at her own most urgent request, was permitted by our Archbishop, to go to the House in Holyoke shortly before the formal separation of the two houses took place, she being carnal Sister of the present Superior of that House. Thus the Diocese of Springfield now retains Twenty eight of our Sisters.

Nevertheless, the young Bishop of Springfield, Mgr. Beaven, is not content to allow us enjoy any peace in our holy vocation. He pursues us with the same unfriendly spirit and irregular methods by which he succeeded in promoting discord and rebellion in our Convents in Holyoke.

Contrary to the well known rule of conventual discipline, which forbids religious Sisters to issue or receive letters from outside without the knowledge and permission of their Superiors, Mgr. Beaven endeavors to hold surreptitious correspondence by letter with some of the Sisters of this Community, and, to insure these letters passing into the hands of the Sisters to whom he addresses them, without the knowledge or supervision of their Superior, he “registers” all such letters and demands from the postal Officials a receipt of delivery into the hands of the person whose name is inscribed on the back of the letter.

We cannot ascertain how many such letters he has sent into this Convent in this irregular manner. But I have intercepted two of them, addressed to good Sisters of this Community, both of whom are natives of this Diocese of Kingston, and are doing their work faithfully and religiously among our Community. Mgr. Beaven’s letters offer to them the choice of quitting our Kingston Institute and going to Holyoke.

This is a solicitation and a temptation, calculated to disturb their minds and engender discontent.

Our Venerable Archbishop informs us that it is contrary to Ecclesiastical discipline for any Bishop to meddle in a disturbing way with another Bishop’s Diocese or its Institutions, and that the Holy See is always ready to extend its protection to the aggrieved Bishop and to rebuke the aggressor. We hope and trust that Mgr. Beaven having obtained all that he wanted, and we having suffered so much with resignation to the will of the Holy See, we shall henceforth be safeguarded against his unworthy attempts to renew in this House the disaffection and disorder he created in our houses in Holyoke.

Herewith I send to Your Eminence 2 letters (No. 3 & No. 4) containing the conscientious and emphatic declaration of these two Sisters, that they are contented and happy as members of this Kingston Institute and, hope, by God=s grace, to remain in it for the service of the poor all the days of their lives.

In conclusion, we most reverently ask Your Eminence to pardon the great length of this statement in consideration of the gravity of the questions involved. We have had much sorrow and affliction of mind throughout the past three years: we are reduced in numbers and resources – we only beg to be allowed to do our religious work in peace according to our vocation, and be sustained by the Holy See in our right to the restoration of the moneys belonging to us, in our Houses at Holyoke.

We humbly pray God to bless Your Eminence and long preserve you in life and health.

Your Eminence’s most dutiful child in Christ.
Mother Mary Edward, Superior General
Source: 105.6-C, Mother Mary Edward General Superior sous-fonds, Correspondence series, Letter January 25, 1893, 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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