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.

2 Comments

Filed under Flannery O'Connor, Marillac College

The Life of an Archival Intern

This is a guest post by our archival intern for the semester, Jenna Brady, Mount St. Mary’s University class of 2023.

My time at this internship has been a very enlightening experience, as it has served to not only give me more information on the history of the Daughters of Charity, but has also been extremely instructive about the processes of archival work. I have had the opportunity to work on many different projects while I have been working at the Daughters of Charity Archives including recording West Provincial Newsletters from the 1970s, transcribing Italian letters, transcribing the oral history of Sister Isidore Allain, and assisting in putting together one of the exhibits that are on display. In this post, I would like to discuss my encounters with each of these projects and highlight some of the skills I have been provided with through my work.

The first project that I was able to focus on during the internship was going through the newsletters from the 1970s of the West Central Province. The newsletters chronicled many important events that happened for the sisters throughout that time including the canonization of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and many important meetings that would take place in Rome that the sisters would attend. The newsletters also served to chronicle the monthly lives of the sisters and their many placements throughout the province. These newsletters showed the progression of the province as things around them began to change in the world during the 70s. I recorded all of these newsletters into an excel sheet that will provide information about people and places mentioned within the newsletters so that it is easier to pinpoint the information.

While working in the archives, I also had the opportunity to listen to and transcribe the oral history of Sister Isidore Allain. This allowed me not only to hear Sister Allain’s story through her own words but also to understand all of the work that goes into transcribing an oral history. Its an experience that will certainly stick with me as I was able to hear a firsthand account of history from the direct word of the woman who lived through it. It also helped me to see how an individual story tied into the overarching period of the West Central Province.

The final project that I want to mention working on is the exhibit that recently opened in the archives on April 26th. There are now two new exhibits open in the archives both focusing on the lives and works of the sisters of the province. The exhibit that I was able to assist with highlights all those who live and work at the Emmitsburg campus in the different departments. It was an honor learning about all of the different departments and people who assist throughout the various ministries that occur here.

The experiences that I have had while working at the Daughters of Charity Archives have given me a deeper understanding of everything that is included in archival work and it has been an honor being able to learn so many new things. I have truly enjoyed my time here and look forward to learning even more about the sisters in the future.

Leave a comment

Filed under Archives

Our Four Campuses: Emmitsburg, Maryland

This is part one of a four-part series on the history of the four primary campuses in the Province, which correspond to the locations where the four provinces that formed the Province of St. Louise had their provincial houses:  Emmitsburg, MD; Albany, NY; Evansville, IN; and St. Louis, MO.

The foundation of the Emmitsburg campus, the oldest of the four campuses in the current Province of St. Louise, came from Mother Seton herself when she founded St. Joseph’s Free School.  Although this is applying the term anachronistically, the “campus” at the time would have consisted of the Stone House, where the Sisters lived when they first arrived, and the historic St. Joseph’s House, also called the White House.

Mary Jamison’s needlework of St. Joseph’s Academy in 1812, the oldest “photo” of the campus in the collection

As St. Joseph’s Free School developed into St. Joseph’s Academy, more buildings were added to the campus.  By 1902, when the Academy was re-incorporated as St. Joseph College, the campus featured classroom space, student dorm rooms, a library, art studios, living quarters and chapel for the Daughters, and an area for the Provincial Council, as well as a Seminary for the formation of the Sisters.

St. Joseph’s Academy, 1850

Between 1964 and 1965, the current St. Joseph’s House was built, allowing the Sisters, Seminary, and Council to move away from the College.  The move took place on September 12, 1964, with employees on hand to assist the Sisters in the move. 

The building’s original layout featured a central courtyard with four spokes:  “A Wing” was Seminary, “C Wing” the postulatum, “E Wing” the Council offices and Administration, and “K Wing” the Chapel and Shrine of the recently beatified Mother Seton.

The new Provincial House under construction, 1963, with the old campus in the background

In 1972, the Villa St. Michael, the Sisters retirement facility in Baltimore, permanently moved to the Provincial House in Emmitsburg, filling the top floors of rooms.  In 1975, with the canonization of Mother Seton, the process began to convert the Daughters’ chapel into a place of public veneration at the tomb of the Saint.  In 1979, the Seton Shrine Museum opened in its current location beneath the Basilica.

The large amount of downsizing that the Province and the campus had experienced after the 1960s allowed for the Daughters to begin to partner with good works in the area.  From 1992 to 1994, construction for St. Catherine’s Nursing Home took place, offering a home and care for the elderly that continues to this day.

In 2008, the Marian Center closed.  Having been created in 1953 to spread devotion to Mary, this ministry created Miraculous Medals and red and green Scapulars, along with the distribution of educational materials.

In 1998, the Seminary, now Interprovincial and covering all provinces of the United States, moved to Los Altos California (it has since moved to St. Louis). 

In 2011, the four provinces merged, and the modern iteration of the Provincial Archives was created.  Moving from their spot at the end of E-wing, the new repository made it one of the largest archives for a community of women religious in the country.  It opened to researchers in 2013

Touring the archival repository under construction, October 2012

In 2013, the Daughters sold A-Wing of the campus to Homes for America to create Seton Village, a series of low-income apartments for senior citizens, fulfilling a valuable need in Northern and Western Maryland. With E-wing now empty, in the early 2020s, the Daughters began talks to partner with Mount St. Mary’s University for a new home for their Physician’s Assistant program.  Sister Teresa George, the current Provincial Treasurer, discusses the collaboration on the Live Significantly podcast in the episode “Sister Teresa George:  Synergy.”

Other changes are coming to the Seton Shrine, as they expand their space on the campus to present high-quality historical and spiritual exhibitions on the life of the community’s American Foundress and the Sisters of Charity Federation communities.

The campus on a summer day, 2014

Leave a comment

Filed under Emmitsburg, St. Joseph's Academy