Category Archives: Emmitsburg

Saints, Blesseds, and Founders in Emmitsburg

This is part of a yearlong series about the early days of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s commemorating the 200th anniversary of the death of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, foundress of the community.  In 1850, the Emmitsburg-based Sisters united with the international community of the French Daughters of Charity.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton is the first North American-born saint recognized by the global Catholic church.  The Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives in Emmitsburg is the largest holder of writings and artifacts of Mother Seton in the world.

Brick and wrapper from Seton home on State Street, New York City

However, Mother Seton is not the only one represented in the collection recognized as a holy person by Rome, nor is she the only foundress of a community in the collections.  We can provide resources and information about a number of other individuals of this caliber!

Father Simon Bruté was Mother Seton’s spiritual director, a Sulpician priest who later became the first Bishop of Vincennes (now the Archdiocese of Indianapolis).  His cause for canonization was opened in 2005, and he was accepted as a Servant of God.  Materials of his in the archives include correspondence with Mother Seton and her family, spiritual writings, the bands he wore for his consecration as a Bishop, and his many drawings and sketches.

“Eternity, Jesus,” Father Simon Bruté, January 11, 1821

Saint Father John Neumann, CSsR,was Archbishop of Philadelphia from 1852 until his death in 1860.  He was canonized in 1977 and was instrumental in bringing the Daughters of Charity to St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum.

Father John Neumann to Rev. Mariano Maller, C.M., Provincial Director, July 29, 1852

Canonized Popes Many Daughters have been lucky enough to meet the Successors to St. Peter, sometimes as part of a crowd, and sometimes in more serious business.  The most notable occasion relating to the community’s history was Saint Pope Paul VI, who canonized Mother Seton in 1975, thus making Mother Seton’s canonization bull itself a relic of a saint.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta – often still known as Mother Teresa – made a three-day tour of the United States in 1975.  During her visit, she visited the Shrine of the just recently canonized Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton alongside her more formal trips to the United Nations and Washington, D.C.  The archives contains photos of her visit.

Almeide Maxis Duchemin – later known as Mother Theresa Duchemin – was a student of St. Joseph’s Academy from 1819-1823 from around ages 9-13.  She became a founding member of the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore and became the first African American Superior General of a white religious majority community when she co-founded the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  The archives contains records of her schooling at the Academy.

Mothers Elizabeth Boyle and Margaret George were companions of Mother Seton and members of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s who founded their own communities; the Sisters of Charity of New York in 1846 and the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati in 1852, respectively. 

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Voices of Students

 “Soon scenes may change, soon friends prove untrue

When for I rove, from dear Saint Josephs view

Yet naught can chase, thy image from my mind”

-From “Farewell to St. Joseph’s,” 1830, by “Remember Maria”

This is part of a yearlong series about the early days of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s commemorating the 200th anniversary of the death of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, foundress of the community.  In 1850, the Emmitsburg-based Sisters united with the international community of the French Daughters of Charity.

In many archives that gather administrative or corporate records, the voices of the people who used those services can be frustratingly absent. Luckily, the collection of St. Joseph’s Academy, the school founded by Mother Seton and the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s, features many of the voices of students, including their creations and their writings. 

Some of the earliest examples of students’ surviving works include their needlework samplers, several of which come from the era when Mother Seton directly ran the Academy before her death in January 1821. 

Needlework by Mary Jamison, July 1812, St. Joseph’s Academy Student, 1810-1813

While the number of surviving student mementos from Mother Seton’s era are limited, they become more voluminous as time goes on until St. Joseph’s Academy received a charter as St. Joseph College in 1902.  Other markers of the students’ work include “premiums,” which are what would be called in the modern day certificates of achievement or small awards for top performers in the class in different subjects.

Premium earned by A.C.A. Grace, June 30th, 1825
Later programs listed out all premiums. This one is from 1854

Other materials in the archives contain some more direct creations from students of the Academy.  Although we refer to it as “Sr. Joannah Hickey’s Journal,” this small volume dated 1830 contains writings from a variety of individuals.  It includes the complete version of the poem at the start of this post.

“Farewell to St. Joseph’s,” by “Remember Maria,” 1830

The Sister Mary Raphael Smith Scrapbook contains similar pieces, written by Smith herself, other sisters, and students of the Academy.  Sister Mary Raphael had been a student at the Academy before becoming a Sister; she later became Directress of the school.  In addition to poetry, the scrapbook contains accounts of events that occurred in the Academy between the 1830s and the 1890s.

Accounts of the death of Father Burlando, by Sister Madeleine O’Brien, Mary Huneker, and others

A handful of these additional “Scrapbooks” from the Academy exist across the middle of the 19th century.  Other materials address the education provided by the Academy more directly.  Katherine McDonough’s lecture notes from 1899 show an average day of education in science, geology, and grammar.

The students of the Academy also contributed to a display of their schoolwork for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.

Art and Schoolwork displayed at Chicago World’s Fair

In addition to a lucky genealogist looking for an Academy student-ancestor who may stumble upon their ancestor’s writing or work, the collection provides a valuable tool of the community and its earliest mission in the United States, along with a picture of education during this time period.

St. Joseph’s Academy on the true lawn tennis court

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The Emmitsburg Community Chorus and Sister Jane Marie Perrot

When Sister Jane Marie Perrot was a child, she asked her parents if she could take piano lessons.  The ongoing Depression meant that her parents had to say, “no;’ they couldn’t afford them. When Sister mentioned this to Sister Loretta Larking, one of the Daughters of Charity who taught her at St. Joseph’s Academy in Portsmouth, Virginia, Sister Loretta made sure that the young child would have music in her life.  Thus began a career and a vocation for Sister Jane Marie.

Sister Jane Marie Perrot

Sister began teaching music at her first mission at St. Ann’s School in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  At nearly every school where she taught, Sister Jane Marie would, at least part of the time, be involved with children and their appreciation of the arts.  In addition to her teaching duties, she studied organ at the Peabody Conservatory and received a Master of Arts from The Catholic University in 1952.  She eventually became the music director at St. Joseph’s Central House and St. Joseph College in Emmitsburg in the mid-1960s.

When the reforms of Vatican II were introduced, Sister Jane Marie was not one to shy away from a new era of Church history.  She used music and song to “open up” worship, and, in postulant formation, emotional and experiential forms of evangelization.

Among her evangelization projects was the Emmitsburg Community Chorus, which continues today more than 20 years after Sister Jane Marie’s death.  The chorus began with amateur singers from parishes in Frederick and Carroll Counties in Maryland and Adams County in Pennsylvania.  Known for its yearly Christmas concerts that take place in the Basilica of Saint Elizabeth Seton, it also performed around the Frederick, Western Maryland, and Gettysburg areas.  Sister Jane Marie served as the director from 1968-1973.

In 1975, the world received news of the canonization of Elizabeth Seton, the founder of the Community in Emmitsburg and the first native-born North American saint.  At the invitation of the Vatican, the Emmitsburg Community Chorus, 45 strong, traveled to Rome to sing alongside musicians from the U.S. Army bands stationed in Germany and the Sistine Chapel Choir in St. Peter’s Square for the assembled crowds and St. Pope Paul VI as part of the canonization ceremony.  Sister Jane Marie took up the baton for the Chorus once again.  She became the first woman to conduct a choir in St. Peter’s Square.

Sister Jane Marie before performance in Rome
Sister Jane Marie “in action” in upper right-hand corner conducting the Emmitsburg Community Chorus
Arrangements and logistics for the performance in Rome

Sister Jane Marie was highly respected in the world of music education.  In 1978, she co-founded with Father Virgil Funk the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, receiving the Association’s award for Educator of the Year in 1996.  She was responsible for an arrangement of the Christmas Novena, performed by the American Daughters of Charity each year before Christmas, and she composed several other hymns.

In 1982, Sister Jane Marie was involved in an automobile accident, severely restricted use of her left arm after a car accident.  Afterward, she was unable to conduct in her preferred vigorous, expressive style.  This did not mean, however, that she could not compose or arrange music, and she continued to direct celebrations, liturgies, and arrange music at the Seton Shrine before her entry into the Ministry of Prayer in 1988. Sister died in December 1998.

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Filed under Canonization, Emmitsburg Community Chorus, Sister Jane Marie Perrot