June 25, 1886 – To Sisters of Holyoke Mission, MA from General Superior Sr. M. Edward, Kingston ON

House of Providence, Kingston
June 25, 1886
To the Sisters of the Mission
Very dear Sisters,

It is with a sorrowful heart that we prepare to address you today as the news we have to impart, while it is a warning to each one of us, is of a nature to humble and confound us.

This morning our Rt. Rev. Bishop performed an act in our Community which will ever be remembered by those who witnessed it, viz: the giving of a Dispensation to Sister M. of the Visitation in her vows of Poverty and Obedience and her severance from our Sisterhood forever. About 10:30 His Lordship (accompanied by his Secretary) arrived, interviewed the aforesaid Sister privately, and then summoned the Council. He requested that we make known to him her disposition [illegible] of the Superior and her Council. We accordingly did so and he then asked us and our Assistants individually if we had any objection to his giving the Sister her dispensation as he knew we were all well acquainted with the circumstances of the case. Having received our answer he went on to say that he had done all in his power by repeated exhortations, prayer, etc. to help her to gain back her vocation which she had lost, but all to no avail and that in her present disposition she would do no good for herself or her Community hence a Dispensation from her religious obligations he considered necessary. He then addressed her (S.M.V.), told her she was about to leave the place of safety wherein in God had placed her to go into a land of danger and he earnestly prayed that God in His Mercy would not deliver her up to the power of the world, the flesh and the demon. He told her he would dispense her from her vows of Poverty and Obedience but that the vow of Chastity with all its obligations remained upon her. He assured her that this was the first act of the kind he had performed since he became a Bishop and as he said before, he did it because it was considered necessary to prevent a greater evil. She then (at the Bishop’s request) placed herself on her knees and he formally dispensed her from the two vows above mentioned. He spoke most kindly to her and asked her if there was anything he could do for her. She then signed the document which sealed her fate, and which severs her from our Companionship henceforth. The Bishop told her she could never again become a member of the Community, even though she should sincerely wish it. He then withdrew to the Community Room where all the Sisters were assembled and after a few words of friendly greeting the non-professed were dismissed with His blessing and he spoke at some length to the professed members. He referred very feelingly to the act he had just performed – the releasing of one of our members who was with us but not of us; from her vows of Poverty & Obedience which would notwithstanding this, stand against her at God’s Judgement seat and for which she would infallibly have to account. He said she had lost her Vocation through a wrong use of the Sacraments from which she should have drawn strength to resist the urgent claims of depraved nature. He exhorted us particularly to be ever fervent in our thanksgiving after Holy Communion, to never weary of telling our Blessed Lord that we are His entirely and forever, that we rejoice in the happiness of being numbered amongst His chosen children, and to pray correctly for the graces necessary to discharge faithfully the duties of our holy calling.

At the conclusion of the Bishop’s remarks, we judged it prudent to impose silence (in virtue of obedience) among all the Sisters relative to the action which had just transpired whether among themselves or otherwise and we hereby impose a like instruction upon you. Once you hear this letter read, you are not to hold any conversation whatever among yourselves or with others about Sr. M.V. departure, the reasons that led to it or any other circumstance connected with it. Let it be to you, our dear Sisters, a matter of deep reflection, for your own good and of sorrow for her downfall, thanking God with your whole heart that you, through His grace, still have what she lost.

For the rest dear Sisters we ask you most earnestly to beg of Almighty God for us grace to direct aright the little Bark entrusted to us and that He may not depart from us in the discharge of duties sometimes so painful as almost to overwhelm our poor weak nature, and fervently entreat Him to protect the little ones confided to our care that not one of them be lost.

In the most pure and Sorrowful Hear of Mary
Your most devoted
Sister Mary Edward, Supr.
Source: 105-C, General Superior's fonds, Correspondence series, Copybook, pp. 61-66, 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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