Nov. 10, 1886 – To Rev. Harkins, Holyoke, MA from General Superior Sr. M. Edward, Kingston ON

House of Providence, Kingston
Nov. 10, 1886
Rev. P. J. Harkins, P.P.
Holyoke, Mass.

Your esteemed favor of the 8th inst., which I received a few days ago, is before me, and as the present is the first leisure time I have had since its reception I will offer no further apology for not having answered sooner. In reference to your remark about the Institute having always been “considered a healthy building” I will only say that the cold alone endured there during the fall, winter & spring months is more than sufficient to undermine the health of any female employed therein. You tell me that those whose health has failed are the Sisters outside the “School”. Excuse me, if I say that you are wrongly impressed on this head & to convince you of this bear with me for a moment and I will enumerate – Sr. M. Teresa, who lies in St. Jerome’s graveyard never did aught else in H. than teach in St. Jerome’s School, and the fever to which she fell a victim was contracted there; the late Sr. M. Agnes was exclusively employed in the school until /81 when in consideration of her declining health the Community was obliged to remove her to Mt. St. V.; Sr. M. Genevieve found her sole occupation there until two years ago when for a similar cause she was removed to the Mount; Sr. M Gertrude & Patrick were sent to the Mount last summer for the same reason; and Sr. M Michael has had a bad attack of fever more than once and the physician testified that the cause was that which I have given above. With regard to the “Sisters residence being in the name of the Community” You remember I am sure that this property was not only purchased by us with your permission but at your suggestion for hospital purposes – it was bought and used for many a day before the question of the Schools was brought on the topic and while the Community fully appreciates and is grateful for all the worthy people of St. Jerome’s and their devoted, zealous Pastor has done for us, it cannot be denied that the present building was not purchased, nor did the people contribute thereto with the view of having it used as the Sisters (teachers) residence. You will no doubt agree with me in saying dear Rev. Father, that it was for the “Works of Charity” you brought our Sisters to your Parish and bearing this in mind I am perplexed to know why your “parishioners would object to having our Orphanage and our Hospital affiliated” thereto now since they have known from the time we first went among them that these were the duties which brought us there. Your reference to the number of Sisters employed in the School in comparison with the N.D. Sisters forces me to remind you again of the adage quoted, but to this I simply say that a moment’s reflection will tell you that our Sisters employed in the Schools have nothing to do but come & go finding everything in readiness upon their return – whereas if they were in a house exclusively for their own use they would require a larger number, some who would attend to domestic affairs & who could relieve those in the classes as necessity would require – and I assure you it would be a pleasure to give extra help both in the Schools and elsewhere if there were accommodations for a larger number. This only brings me back to my starting point and bears me out in the assertion that the house is over-crowded and I fully agree with you in saying that “The number of Sisters is quite too small for every department of their employment”, but the condition of affairs renders it impossible for the Community to apply a remedy in this particular. I would not have you think for a moment that the Community as a body nor any member of it undervalues the deep fatherly interest you have always manifested in our welfare – it is all appreciated and I hope it will never be said with truth that your noble deeds will be repaid by us with ingratitude. But this is not coming to the fine point. You have not made any proposition, – you have given me nothing to lay before the Community, and my hands are tied until you do this. Now in conclusion – with regard to the illusion you make to my silence on the matter at issue – not having spoken to you personally etc. when in H. all I can say is that I have had good reasons to justify me in this mode of proceeding & if your memory will serve you it will recall many disagreeable insinuations & remarks thrown out by you from time to time to those who as my subjects repeated them to me. From this you can judge if I have not had sufficient reason to deter me from calling on you, etc, etc.

Hoping to hear from you in the near future
I remain Most respectfully
Sister Mary Edward, Sup. Gen.
Source: 105-C, General Superior's fonds, Correspondence series, Copybook, pp. 74-78, 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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