Category Archives: Education

Sister Formation Movement and Marillac College, St. Louis

Marillac College students in class, 1960. Some twenty-five communities sent Sisters to Marillac and all took classes together (used with permission of Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives)

Marillac College students in class, 1960. Some twenty-five communities sent Sisters to Marillac and all took classes together (used with permission of Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives)

Forty years ago, Marillac College in St. Louis closed its doors and graduated its last class of Sister students. Marillac, begun in the late 1950s and located on the grounds of the provincial house of the former St. Louis Province, was unique in that it was a Sister Formation College. It combined a liberal arts education with the spiritual formation of young Sisters. A 1963 article in The SIGN Magazine described Marillac as:

“a nun’s place, a shining, modern $5.5 million place on a 180-acre estate where college life is lived to its fullest in a nun’s habit. In this sense Marillac is a college like any other, but it is also unique because of its position at the forefront of the Sister Formation Movement, which aims at improved training of nuns. Ultimately, some 170,000 U.S. nuns are involved in the consequences of the movement, as well as six million students in Catholic elementary and high schools who come under the influence of nuns in the classroom.

Marillac, aware of the stake and its role, prizes its sudden success as a new college whose first degrees were awarded only four years ago. Yet, it already has achieved accreditation with highest commendation from the North Central Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges, the same prestige accreditation accorded undergraduate studies at Chicago or Saint Louis Universities. Moreover, the Sacred Congregation for Religious in Rome has singled out the college for special praise.

Both accolades stem from Marillac’s pursuit of excellence under the aegis of the Sister Formation Movement, which came to the fore in the past ten years in response to directives from Pope Pius XII stressing the best possible training tailored for religious. Many orders established special college programs for their members, but the Daughters of Charity of St. Louis Province went a few giant steps further. They not only built Marillac for their own members but opened its classroom doors – free of charge – to religious communities throughout the country. Besides the 25 orders represented in the student body of 350, a cross-section of 15 different orders have members on the faculty.

… For Daughters of Charity, who comprise about two-thirds of the student body, Marillac provides a five-year program, with the novitiate year coming between freshman and sophomore years in the college. Students from other orders normally enter in sophomore year and live off campus in their own juniorates under the direction of a mistress. This enables the young nuns to maintain the distinctive spirit of their orders. Moreover, Marillac turns the nuns over to the rules of their respective orders every day between noon and three o’clock, producing a kaleidoscopic round of religious life, manifested in twenty-five different ways.”

After the College closed, the College grounds and buildings were sold to the University of Missouri-St. Louis. They are now used primarily for studies in the health sciences.

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Filed under Education, Formation, Ministries, Pius XII

They don’t teach penmanship anymore …

“For centuries, cursive handwriting has been an art. To a growing number of young people, it is a mystery. The sinuous letters of the cursive alphabet, swirled on countless love letters, credit card slips and banners above elementary school chalk boards are going the way of the quill and inkwell.”.
–Katie Zezima, “The Case for Cursive”. New York Times, April 27, 2011

The Times story shows the dramatic change from the 19th and 20th centuries, when cursive handwriting (also known as penmanship) was a standard part of the school curriculum and a variety of methods existed to teach good penmanship. Our library collection includes four such manuals; their covers can be seen below. All of these manuals were donations; we do not know if they were used in Daughter of Charity schools. However, manuals such as these were widely used, and they are an important link to writing and recordkeeping systems from earlier times.

(Images used with permission of the Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives)

Baltimore Business College Method of Penmanship (Baltimore, MD: Baltimore Business College, 1907)

Baltimore Business College Method of Penmanship (Baltimore, MD: Baltimore Business College, 1907)

Edward C. Mills, Business Penmanship (New York: American Book Company, 1916)

Edward C. Mills, Business Penmanship (New York: American Book Company, 1916)

Zaner Manual

Zaner Method: Arm Movement Writing, Manual 144 (Zaner & Bloser Company, Columbus, OH, 1915)

A.N. Palmer, Advanced Edition, Palmer Method of Business Writing (New York: A.N. Palmer Company, 1929)

A.N. Palmer, Advanced Edition, Palmer Method of Business Writing (New York: A.N. Palmer Company, 1929)

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Filed under Education, Ministries

St. Mary’s School, Philadelphia and the Civil War, 1862

(Civil War account from St. Mary’s School, Philadelphia used with permission of the Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives)

Throughout this year we’ve been highlighting stories connected with the Sisters’ service in the Civil War. Sisters served in many places, doing many different types of work. Sometimes, as in the account below, they were called to duty on very short notice. In December of 1861, two Sisters at St. Mary’s School in Philadelphia died of smallpox, including the Sister Servant (local community superior). A new Sister Servant, Sister Blanche Rooney, was missioned to St. Mary’s in early 1862. Things changed dramatically for the Sisters soon afterward. The account below was written by an unknown Sister.

…the school and everything went on well until May [1862] when Superiors told [Sister Blanche Rooney] to close the School as soon as possible, in June, as they all wanted the Sisters to go to the War … The School was closed, and final preparations made; we left the dear old School June 22. When we got to Baltimore we met our dear Father B. [Fr. Francis Burlando, Provincial Director] and the Sisters who were to join us, we numbered eleven, then. We had taken to boat for Norfolk, and went from there to the Naval Hospital, in Portsmouth, which was to be our place of labor until further orders. Each two Sisters worked together, a young and an older one. The Sister whom I helped was a good nurse, so that we got along well. After being there a few weeks, the Doctors asked the Sister Servant if the Sisters could take charge of the clothes room, that the Ward master had it, and that it was impossible for them to get the right articles of clothing when they wanted them for any operation or for the sick. The Sister Servant spoke to the Sisters about it; the charge fell to my own Sister and myself; when we opened the door we saw sights: the clothes were piled on the floor four or five feet high; they could not be scattered, as the place was narrow. After attending to the sick all our time was spent in the clothes room, until we got it [in] good order, which thing we accomplished, in a few weeks. The last week of August we were told that all had to leave the Hospital, as it belonged to the Navy, the sailors met with an accident on sea [sic], a boiler exploded, and several sailors were scalded; so they needed the Hospital for them. We soon got ready to start, when we reached Baltimore the Sister Servant told me that we were not to return to St. Mary’s School, through some misunderstanding. I was very sorry to hear this, I loved the work because we were with the very poorest of the poor, and there was so much good accomplished. We visited the poor and the sick every afternoon after school hours. We got the Ladies of Charity interested in the work, they helped very much and did much good. Thus closed our existence, or the existence of the Sisters of Charity, at St. Mary’s School.

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Filed under Civil War, Education, Ministries