Digitzed Materials Available: Mother Seton Guild and Seton Causeway

Good news! Working with our partners at Catholic Research Resources Alliance – CRRA, we have digitized and made available every edition of the Mother Seton Guild Bulletin and the Mother Seton Causeway! These publications were an integral way of invigorating the laity and promoting Elizabeth Ann Seton’s recognition as a saint. Beginning in 1941, they cover the acceptance of her canonization cause and her Beatification. In 1973, the series transitioned to a new title, “The Seton Causeway,” which covered her canonization in 1975 and the celebrations in Rome and the United States.

The link below will take you to a subject guide for the entire run of the newsletters. You can also search “Mother Seton Guild” or “Seton Causeway” and narrow your search down by date.

https://vufind.catholicresearch.org/vufind/Record/docead_MSGB_?fbclid=IwAR3iACIFoOXvwWIcUTjqdvW0xTnFf1uKQDY9jQHOQNyql2_boSGSUYEukoU

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The Daughters in Canada

The first ministry of the Daughters of Charity in Canada occurred before Canadian Confederation of 1867, when three British North American provinces – Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick – united to form one federation, the Dominion of Canada.  Just as the American Civil War was about to begin south of the border in April 1861, the Council of the Daughters received a request from a friend and collaborator in the Vincentian Family, Bishop John J. Lynch, C.M.  One of the co-founders of Niagara University in New York, Bishop Lynch accepted the role as Bishop of Toronto the previous year and asked the Council to approve the operation of an Industrial School for Catholic girls.  The next year, the Daughters agreed to staff a similar school for boys, sending four Daughters to each institution.  The initial Canadian project was short-lived, however, and, due to the small Catholic population in the still very Anglican portion of the Confederation, the Daughters withdrew in 1868.

It took 80 years for the Daughters of Charity to return to Canada, when Bishop Phillipe Desranleau of Sherbrooke approached Mother Blanchot, Superioress of the Daughters, with a request for the Daughters to serve at a nursery for abandoned children.  The new Canadian community was made up of three Daughters from France and two from the United States.  The Canadian community was established as a “Vice-Province,” which was under the direct administration of a General Councilor in Paris.

Sisters Isabel Toohey and Mary Basil Roarke (seated, middle and right) travelled north from Emmitsburg for the installation of the first five French sisters in Sherbrooke

By 1953, there were four small houses of sisters throughout Quebec:  in addition to Sherbrooke, there was the Asbestos Maternity Hospital, the elderly and maternity hospital in Coaticook, and the Home for the Elderly at Viger Square in Montreal.  Additionally, Toronto saw the re-opening of a house under the Slovenian province of the Daughters.

By the 1960s, the Daughters in Canada were primarily engaged in ministry in hospital or hospital-likeministries.  The Quiet Revolution led to wide-ranging secularization in Quebec, and the Daughters saw a quick shift away from administrative roles to personalized outreach ministries, serving in parishes and in the community at soup kitchens and shelters for the unhoused.

Canada’s status in the global community of the Daughters shifted back and forth from Vice-Province to Region, an experimental new designation under the authority of the Motherhouse.  In 1976, Sister Balance Tremblay became the first Canadian to become Vice-Provincial, and in 1980, the community increasingly worked with waves of immigrant communities from Vietnam and Latin America.  By 1998, there were just two houses left in Montreal and Coaticook, and the Canadian community was formally combined with the Northeast Province of the United States in Albany (which subsequently became one of the forerunner Provinces of the modern Province of St. Louise; the former provincial house in Albany still flies both the American and Canadian flags).

“DC Northeaster,” the newsletters of the Albany Provincial House at the time of the merger, September/October 1998

In the nearly 25 years since then, the Daughters have continued to serve in parishes and particularly among the immigrant communities.  This is fitting, as the Canadian community of the Daughters has often been a majority immigrant one, with members often being from other nations and provinces.  One particularly interesting story is that of Sister Michelle Nguyen, who became a member of the Northeast Province at the time of the Canadian merger.  Sister Michelle arrived in Quebec as both a Daughter of Charity and a refugee from Vietnam, who used her position and experience to help others in the Canadian community’s ministry with immigrants and refugees.  She told her story to the Miraculous Medal Shrine as part of their “On the Move” series last year: 

We would like to thank Sister Judith Mausser, DC for her assistance in providing and translating materials from the Motherhouse Archives in Paris for this piece.

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Flannery O’Connor at Marillac College

“…finding every word addressed to our dear Saviour as really present and conversing with it, I became half crazy…”

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

“If [the Eucharistic host] is a symbol, to hell with it.” 

Flannery O’Connor

Drawing upon her Catholic faith and time growing up in Savannah, Georgia, Flannery O’Connor drew upon the beauty, complexity, and baseness of the American South to become one of the 20th century’s pre-eminent writers of the Southern Gothic genre.

O’Connor was most famous for her short story collections, which combined elements of disfigurement and grotesqueness with imagery from her Catholic faith, nurtured in the Protestant South.  Throughout her life, she was a member of the mid-century Catholic intellectual tradition, subscribing to Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker and having a reciprocal artistic admiration with the writer and Trappist monk, Thomas Merton.  She considered the epitome of the modernist synthesis of Catholic theology and scientific discoveries to be found in the writings of Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit priest and paleontologist, who synthesized the divinity of humanity with the modern discoveries in the field of human evolution.  O’Connor began each day with the prayers for Prime (sunrise), or the First Hour of the canonical hours, followed by 7 AM Mass at Sacred Heart Parish in Cullman, Alabama.

In 1962, Marillac College in Normandy, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis city limits, was at its height.  The College was an experiment of the Daughters of Charity in having a college for professed and novice members of women religious communities.  Unlike other colleges, every student was also a sister.  Like other colleges, it had clubs, activities, and, of relevance to the Provincial Archives, a literary journal, of which there are two known complete collections. 

On Halloween 1961, Flannery O’Connor arrived to give a talk at the College.  Her second novel, The Violent Bear It Away, had just been published, and she sat down to discuss it with Sister Paul Matushek, later known as Sister Cecile.  Sister Paul’s write-up of the book and of the meeting made its way to a lengthy piece in the Winter 1962 edition of the Marillac Magazine.  Sister had the joy of presenting her interpretation of a novel and the author confirming that the reader did, in fact, get it right!

Early the following year, O’Connor donated a manuscript page from her story “The Lame Shall Enter First” to the special collections at Marillac College.

Article in the Marillac College Forum on the manuscript acquisition.  Pictured are Sr. Regina Mary Priller and Sr. Paul Matushek

Shortly after this event at Marillac College, the entire world witnessed the convening of the Vatican II conference, the most significant event in the Church in the last 500 years.  The Daughters would exchange their recognizable cornette for a simpler blue habit.  At the start of the conference, acolytes of O’Connor’s noted more annotated works by the modern Thomas Merton and the 5th-century scholar St. Jerome on her bookshelf.  The author and the Daughters both continued their witness to their faith throughout the modernizing movements of the Roman Catholic Church in the 20th century.

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