Oct. 27, 1886 – To Rev. Harkins, Holyoke, MA from General Superior Sr. M. Edward, Kingston ON

House of Providence, Kingston
Oct. 27, 1886
Rev. P. J. Harkins, P.P.
Holyoke, Mass.
Dear Rev. Father,

For a long time past I have desired to speak or communicate with you on a little business matter, but for obvious reasons deferred doing so, from time to time. However duty obliges me to speak now were I to defer longer I would be guilty of a grievous wrong to those whom God has committed to my keeping/care – therefore I humbly beg to submit to your consideration what follows, and will rely on your sense of justice as well as upon your natural kindness for a happy result.

You may have observed that the health of our Sisters employed in Holyoke is rapidly declining – be this as it may – I feel obliged to assure you that such is the case and the oft repeated testimony of the Physician bears me out in declaring that this is attributable to the class rooms in which they are employed together with the crowded condition of the House in which they live.

Year after year, as you know, they have generously and cheerfully labored notwithstanding the difficulties which have been, so to speak, their daily bread, but the impure air of those school rooms together with the cold they have endured therein have done more towards the breaking down of their constitutions than I could begin to tell. This indeed has been a great drawback, but if it were the only one it would be more easily endured. After their day’s hard labor they return to a house in which they have neither a suitable Com. Room, Refectory nor Dormitories; the close proximity of these places to the patients’ apartments renders it impossible to keep the air I may say free from contagion. If you regard this as an overdrawn picture, you would confer a favor by asking one of the Sisters to show you these several departments and then I think you would be convinced of the fact that I have not spoken too soon.

Do you not think dear Rev. Father, that in all justice and making due allowance for the mortified, self-denying life we are supposed to lead, that it is far too much to expect Sisters who have breathed poisonous air of an hospital all night, to do justice to 40, 50 or 60 children the next day, in rooms which in themselves are sufficient to cast a gloom over both pupils and teachers.

When you asked for our Sisters, if you remember you promised to do for them as you had done for the Sisters of Notre Dame -ie to provide them with a house, etc., etc. and I think you will agree with me in saying that they have worked for the interests of Religion equally as well & the Community has waited patiently thus far for the fulfillment of the promise. I am constrained now to ask you to make some proposition to better the condition of the Sisters and while awaiting a reply I will not fail to have the Sisters pray earnestly that God may inspire you to do whatever will redound most to the Glory of His Name and the benefit of Religion generally.

Hoping that you are very well,
I am dear Rev. Father Most Respectfully yours
Sister Mary Edward, Supr.
Source: 105-C, General Superior's fonds, Correspondence series, Copybook, pp. 71-73, 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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