Mar. 8, 1892 – To General Superior Sr. M. Edward, Holyoke MA, from Archbishop Cleary, Archbishop of Kingston, Virginia Beach, VA

Virginia Beach
Mar. 8, 1892
To Rev. Mother M. Edward, Superior General,
House of Providence,
Holyoke, Mass.
Dear Mother Superior,

I sympathize with you and the faithful Sisters of your Institute in the persecution you are now undergoing. Again, I say, have confidence in God and the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and also in the justice and goodness of the Holy See.

The purpose of the present methods employed against the Sisters who remain faithful to their vows of religion, seems to be the working of disorder to such a degree as to make it appear to the authorities in Rome that the restoration of peace and tranquility in your two houses in Holyoke is absolutely impossible.

This will not, I think, weigh much with Propaganda in favor of separation, when it is made plain that the disturbance of order and peace is the work of those who aim at separation and strive to prevent the return of tranquility in the two Convents.

When they will be constrained to recognize the rights of religious Superiors to govern and rule the internal discipline of their Convents, and the duty of the Sisters to fulfil their vow of obedience by submission to their legitimate Superiors’ directions in regard of all internal and domestic arrangements of each Convent, then and not till then, will peace of conscience and mutual charity be restored to the Sisters.

I consider it advisable and in some measure necessary, that you should place your cause in the hands of some qualified person in Rome, who will present your statements before the Propaganda in due form, and will by means of the knowledge of facts supplied to him by you, be enabled to meet the counter statements and allegations of those who call for disintegration of your religious Institute. Although I have laid your case very fully before Propaganda and you also have expostulated against the division of the Institute and supplied numerous facts and arguments in support of your cause, it is possible that your adversaries may allege many things injurious to you and your cause, which you could not disprove, in as much as you may never hear what they are.

The decision of Propaganda already given in your favor, is very assuring. But you have unscrupulous adversaries to deal with who will stop at nothing to gain their end. If you give charge of your cause to a suitable person in Rome, who is practised in affairs of this kind, he will be recognized in Propaganda as your agent, and will be permitted to see my statement and yours on the main question, and will also be informed of the facts and statements (now unknown to you) on which your adversaries base their contention, and thus he will be enabled to give a reply in your name and behalf. Moreover, you can write in English only, and this is a difficulty against you; whereas your representative will present your cause and all documents in your favor to the Cardinal Prefect in Italian or Latin. I think if you apply to Right Rev. Mgr. O’Bryan, Via Sistina No. 20, Rome, Italy, he will readily undertake your business. Of course, he is to be paid a suitable stipend for this trouble. He has had considerable practice in presenting cases to Propaganda and is familiarly known to the officials there. He writes Italian as freely as English and knows the forms required for the due presentation of your case. I think you may safely place it in his hands. The question having been already decided in your favor, the course is more clear for Mgr. O’Bryan. I am sure he will be allowed to see my exposition of your course and your own defence. The arguments advanced by me and you have been favorably accepted already, and Mgr. O’Bryan will continue to urge them and to show that they are not displaced by whatever new theories or allegations the separatists may now concoct.

Forward to him copies of my instructions and mandate delivered to the Sisters through you when you proceeded to the renewal of your visitation a fortnight ago.

Your testimonies regarding the disturbing and disloyal conduct of Beaven and Sr. Providence, from the beginning of the movement of separation and especially after receipt of Cardinal Simeoni’s decision, will explain the absolute necessity of my action in issuing the mandate of obedience to your authority under pain of Ecclesiastical penalties. Nothing less would suffice to control insubordination and help you to bring to the Convents the peace and harmony they enjoyed previous to the scheme of separation.

Forward to him also my letter addressed to you last Saturday in support of your outraged authority. He will readily understand the frivolity of the two pretexts alleged in defense of the contempt of religious vows.

Write to him a plain, full and exact account of all that has been done to frustrate your efforts in the cause of peace. State nothing but facts and supply evidence of those facts by such testimonies as you can procure. Show the relations between Beaven and Providence and their methods of perverting the minds of the Sisters. Make it clear that there was no possibility of regaining peace and good will for the Convents, so long as Sr. Providence, the head organizer of the whole movement, and contumacious defender of resistance to all authority, even that of Propaganda, remained in Holyoke.

Beg the Cardinal Prefect to issue an order to the Bishop of Springfield to restore the Blessed Sacrament to your Chapels, and (what is of supreme importance) to give the Sisters another Confessor, one who is possessed of the Spirit of religion and has not identified himself with any party in this unhappy dispute.

For the rest, I leave you to God and the Holy See, I don’t know any other advice to give you beyond what I have given. My health has not been good since my recent attack of Grippe, and moreover I have been excessively worked. I must therefore, give myself to quiet in this place of retirement whither I have come for a few weeks. May God be pleased in His Mercy to restore to your two houses the happiness of His peace and concord, of which they have been deprived by that unfortunate petition for disintegration.

I remain, dear Mother Superior, Yours faithfully in Christ,
James Vincent Cleary, Archbishop of Kingston
Source: 407-409-A, General Secretary Fonds, Annals of the Congregation/Generalate series, Volume 1861-1892, pp. 263-266, 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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