Mar. 15, 1892 – To Mgr. O’Bryen, Rome Italy from General Superior Sr. M. Edward, Holyoke MA

Convent of the Sisters of Charity,
Holyoke, Mass.
Mar. 15, 1892
Rt. Rev. Mgr. O'Bryen
Rome, Italy
Dear Rev. Monsignor,

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.

With profound respect, I am, Rt. Rev. Monsignor
Your obedient child in Christ,
Sister M. Edward, Sup. Gen.

Letter No. 1 enclosed in the above;

Mt. St. Vincent,
Holyoke, March 12, 1892
Rev. Mother M. Edward, S. G.

Our Dear Mother,

Having gone to the Convent in the City on the Feast of the Presentation with the permission of my Superior, Sr. M. Ignatius, to make a short visit with the Sisters, Sr. M. of Providence, Superior of that Convent, introduced a private conversation concerning the Separation from the Mother House, after which I was troubled knowing the advice and directions which you, Our Mother, had recently given. Sister held out some inducements to me which I thought she fancied would influence me to remain. She told me that the Mother House would not flourish, giving two reasons for this: first, that were Archbishop Cleary dead, his successor would not look upon us as favorably and the means provided by His Grace for maintenance of the house would be withdrawn. Secondly, that when a Mother House was established in Holyoke, many of the Sisters in Kingston at present would leave there and come to Holyoke, thus diminishing the number considerably. She even named several to me whom she surmised would come: Sisters M. Teresa, M. Philomena, M. Ursula, M. Ephrem, M. Joseph, M. Rosalia and the three Sisters recently called home - M. Philip, M. James and M. Ambrose. Sr. M. of Providence also told me, that should Rome decide in favor of Kingston, she knew three Sisters who would take off their religious habit rather than return to the Mother House.

Knowing how distasteful going abroad to solicit alms is to me, she explained that little of this was to be done here, and that there was less intercourse with seculars.

Notwithstanding that, I had told Sister I sought no counsel in the matter for the reason that I had decided to return to the Mother House. She persuaded me not to act through any sentimentality but to ask counsel at once. I understood her to mean from the Confessor, Rev. Dr. Beaven. She concluded this conversation by saying that you, Our Mother, wished to hold the balance of power and, I think, this is the reason she gave for the Mother House being refused to Springfield.

Sr. M. of Providence also entreated me never to repeat to you, Rev. Mother, what she had said on the subject, but I feel that such a promise could not be conscientiously made, consequently, on my return to the "Mount" I slightly referred to what had transpired, to my Superior.

And I have also decided, Our Mother, to give you the substance of this conversation with Sr. M. of Providence.

I trust, Rev. Mother, that this trifling information will not increase your anxieties concerning your devoted children of the Mission, one of whom I am happy to sign myself

Sister M. Beatrice

Letter No. 2 in document to Msgr. O Bryen

House of Providence
Convent of Sisters of Charity,
Holyoke, Mch. 12, 1892.

Dear Rev. Mother,

At your request and for your encouragement, I am pleased to state simply: that during my eight months residence at this Mission, I have not been openly influenced by any person to join the party seeking separation from our Mother House, but, I believe, on many occasions, Sr. M. of Providence endeavored to influence me by contrasting the difference between the Countries, Convents, occupations, etc, etc, remarking too the severity of the discipline of the Mother House and how easy and pleasant things could be made here for the Sisters.

Besides, she said, when she succeeded in obtaining control over a Mother House in this diocese, she would not keep any old, decayed branches (referring to Sisters). She would cut them off and cast them into the world: thus preventing their interference with her youthful, vigorous tree.

Our Mother, I was shocked and disedified on hearing those remarks and I prayed that God would not permit Sisters who had labored faithfully for so many years in His service, to be victimized in order to gratify her ambitious views.

These sentiments expressed by Sr. M. of Providence, taught me to fear her and avoid all intercourse with her except what charity and my daily duties required.

Moreover, Our Mother, my honest opinion is that our Director, Rev. Dr. Beaven, is one of Sr. M. of Providence's ablest supporters in this scheme of separation. For instance, when addressing the Sisters in full assembly, concerning a communication received from the Mother House, making known that a decision had been given in Rome, viz. that no separation of these Houses from the Mother House in Kingston was to take place, he said "I am here by the authority of the Bishop of Springfield, to announce to the Sisters that there is nothing definite or final arrived at yet". Just as soon as the decision comes from Rome to the Bp. of Springfield, he will have the Sisters informed thereof - that the Status quo still exists.

A second proof of Dr. Beaven's valuable assistance in endeavoring to accomplish the work of separation was the presenting (personally) the petition for signatures. This petition to be sent to Rome to show how many Sisters desired it. This signing was done at a private interview between each Sister and Rev. Dr. Beaven, less than a week before your arrival, Rev. Mother, to finish your Visitation. In the third place, Dr. Beaven protested publicly against your action as General Superior in ordering the removal of Sr. M. of Providence and encouraging her in her disobedience, saying in the name of the Bishop, that he forbade her or any other Sister to leave this Convent until the so-called appeal had been answered.

Your humble and obedient Child

Sr. M. Angel Guardian

Letter No. 3

House of Providence, Mt. St. Vincent,
Feb. 10, 1892.

Dear Rev. Mother,

On Tuesday afternoon, Rev. Dr. Beaven called and asked me if I had been authorized to state in public to the Sisters that no separation was to take place? I said, "I was not". He said he did not mind while it was only spoken of between two or three privately, but when he heard I had given it out publicly, he came to do what he was authorized to do by Bishop O'Reilly and asked if he could see the Sisters. I said "Yes, I would assemble them". He read the following: "That he, Dr. Beaven, had been appointed by Bp. O'Reilly to look after the interests of this Community in His Lordship's absence". Then he said he wanted to say a word to the Superior and asked me if I was commissioned to give this publicly to the Sisters? I said "no Doctor". The question "was it a private letter?" was next put to me to which I replied "Yes, Doctor". He went on to say that since the Status quo was placed on the Community by Rome, Bp. O'Reilly had as much to do with it as Archbishop Cleary and when officially apprised by Rome that there could be no separation, he would make it known to us, until then, things will remain as they are.

Dr. Beaven said if he knew it was to be thus announced, he would have advised to the contrary, for while to a few it might be pleasing news, to many it would be beyond the hearts' endurance and hoped grace might be given them to bear it. He feared on account of the communication between the two Houses, it would get into Holyoke, if it had not reached there already, and to say the very least of it, the act was very discourteous to the Bishop of Springfield and a mistake on my part.

Hoping you are very well, I am
Most affectionately yours,

Sister Mary Ignatius

Letter No. 4

On the 9th day of February at request of Rev. Dr. Beaven, who said he represented the Bishop of Springfield, I assembled the Community. Rev. Dr. Beaven, in presence of all, "blamed me for announcing to the Sisters that decision had been received from Rome, and that all idea of separation of the Houses in Holyoke from the Mother-house in Kingston, must be abandoned." He said "that while to a few it might be pleasing news, to many it would be beyond the hearts' endurance" and hoped grace might be given them to bear it

Sr. M. Ignatius, Sup. Mt. St. Vincent
Sr. M. Presentation, Asst., Mt. St. Vincent
Sr. M. Loretto, Asst. Mt. St. Vincent

Letter No. 5

Holyoke, Feb. 25, 1892
Rev. Mother General
House of Providence

Dear Rev. Mother,

An event occurred this evening, which I thought it better to inform you of Rev. Dr. Beaven called a few hours ago and after a consultation with Sr. M. of Providence, the Sisters were told to assemble in the Community room. Rev. Dr. Beaven then addressing the Sisters said owing to a communication which had been sent from Kingston to Mt. St. Vincent, and though a private one, was given publicly to the Sisters, stating that a decision had been given in Rome regarding our Community trouble here and that it was favorable to Kingston, "I am now here by the authority of the Bishop of Springfield to say that there is nothing definite or final arrived at. Just as soon as the decision comes from Rome to the Bp. of Springfield, he will have the Sisters informed thereof. The Status quo still exists. I will now give you an explanation of the meaning of 'Status quo'. It means this, that there can be no changes made, everything must remain undisturbed.

The Bishop of Springfield cannot make any change here, neither can His Grace, the Archbishop of Kingston make any so that things must continue as they are until notified by the Bishop of Springfield.

There is another matter of which I wish to speak to the Sisters about: The Bishop asked me last Autumn to attend to it, he left it to my own judgment to decide the time and I consider the present very opportune. I will now see the Sisters privately". The Sisters then presented themselves individually.

This is a statement of the case as correctly as I think it can be given.

Hoping, Dear Rev. Mother, that I may soon have the happiness of seeing you, I remain in the Sacred Heart.

Yours affectionately,

Sr. M. I. Conception
Sr. M. of the Cross
Sr. M. Berchmans
Sr. M. Leonard

Notes: Another two copies of this letter exists as individual letters. 105.6-C, Mother Mary Edward General Superior sous-fonds, Correspondence series, March 15, 1892.
Source: 407-409-A, General Secretary Fonds, Annals of the Congregation/Generalate series, Volume 1861-1892, pp. 273-282, 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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