Category Archives: Pius XII

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.


Filed under Education, Formation, Ministries, Pius XII

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Virgin of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe

(Image reproduced by permission of the Provincial Archives)

Among the wonderful art works in our collections, the Provincial Archives boasts a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast is today, Dec. 12. According to a note attached to the back of the painting, a Mr. O’Conway of Philadelphia paid $200 for it in 1811 and presented it to Elizabeth Ann Seton. The donor, Mathias O’Conway, was the father of Cecilia O’Conway, first American Sister of Charity with Mother Seton. Another O’Conway daughter, Isabella, was a pupil at Mrs. Seton’s school on Paca Street, Baltimore.

During her time in the historic White House on our campus here in Emmitsburg, the painting was displayed over the altar in the chapel. At some point, the note concludes, the painting was hung in the Novitiate where it hung for years “with a lamp burning before it.”

About Our Lady of Guadalupe
In December 1531, on the hill of Tepeyac in present-day Mexico City, an Indian named Juan Diego witnessed five apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Speaking in Juan Diego’s native tongue, Mary instructed Juan Diego to tell the bishop to build a shrine on that spot. The bishop did not believe Juan Diego’s story, and asked for a sign that it was true. As a sign, Mary left her image on Juan Diego’s cloak. The original cloak can be seen today at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Pope Pius X proclaimed Our Lady of Guadalupe the patron of Latin America in 1910. Pope Pius XII declared her Queen of Mexico and Empress of the Americas in 1945, and Patroness of the Americas in 1946. Pope John XXIII invoked her as Mother of the Americas in 1961. Pope John Paul II beatified Juan Diego in 1990 and canonized him in 2002.

For more information on Our Lady of of Guadalupe see

A present day sponsored ministry of the Province of St. Louise is Proyecto Juan Diego, founded in 2003 and based in Brownsville, Texas. Proyecto Juan Diego’s mission is to care for and improve the education and formation, social and health services for the families within a targeted area in Brownsville, Texas. For more information about Proyecto Juan Diego, visit their website.

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Filed under John Paul II, John XXIII, Ministries, Pius X, Pius XII, Popes, Social Work

Sisters at St. Martha’s House, 1947

Pope Francis isn’t the first pope to interact with the Daughters of Charity who run Casa Santa Marta in Rome. The account below comes from the diary of the Sisters who traveled to Rome for Catherine Laboure’s canonization in 1947.

(Account of the Canonization of Catherine Laboure, 1947, used with permission of the Provincial Archives)
THERE’S GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS: This slogan of the early Californian prospectors has descended to the level of a jest, yet how much truth and tragedy it holds! Worn with fatigue, ravished by fever, fainting with hunger, consumed with loneliness, those hardy men held on and went on because of the gold which they knew was hidden in the western hills. Their slogan, with a modern re-phrasing is ours, as Rome’s Seven Hills, the Pincian, the Capitoline, the Palatine, the Esquiline, the Coelian, the Janiculum, the Vaticana, – lie before us. They are gold of historical evidence for the archaeologist, gold of marble and bronze and silver for the antiquarian; gold of classical beauty in column and arch and fountain and villa for the architect; but more abundantly than all else, these hills hold for the Christian heart the gold of indisputable proof of the Church’s earthly beginning. Here one touches a pillar to which Paul was fastened, and venerates the spot on which Peter was crucified; one follows the winding ways of the catacombs in the bowels of the earth, and then walks awestruck through the grandeurs of temples converted into Churches. Rome has preserved in stone the history of the growth of the Church. Were it possible in the order of nature to drop an acorn into plaster of Paris which would retain every change end development as that acorn became a giant oak, one would have a parallel of what has happened historically to the Church in Rome. Yes, there is gold in the hills about us, and we ask Our Lady , House of Gold, to direct us to those veins which will enrich most our spiritual lives. We have a decade of days – July 17 to 26 – in which to do our “prospecting” and then comes the Great day of Blessed Catherine’s canonization.

SAINT MARTHA’S HOSPICE: Happily, we are domiciled at Saint Martha’s within the shadow of the Dome – literally within its shadow – Saint Peter’s. We share this privilege with one hundred and fifty other Sisters. Many many more than that will come to Rome for the great occasion, but as many of the pilgrims are also housed here, the other Sisters must seek hospitality at the other houses. We have fifteen in Rome which forms a Province in itself; a Province without a Seminary however , Sisters who enter for the Province of Rome receive their training in the Seminaries of Sienna, Turin, or Naples. Saint Martha’s is not included in the Province of Rome, but depends directly upon Paris.

It is difficult to find out much about Saint Martha’s because we are here at such a furiously busy time. We are told that it still retains something of its wartime status, inasmuch as some two floors are given over to persons who were invited here during the war and who cannot now, for political reasons, return to their country. The French ambassador whom Petain assigned to the Vatican is one of those persons; so also is the Bishop of Budapest, a most holy man who must live in the chapel. We frequently assist at his Mass and he is to be seen kneeling, wrapt (sic) in prayer in the back of the chapel every time we go for Community exercises. There is a Cardinal Granito de Bolmonte who has a suite of rooms here, but I rather think that is in the order of things and not the result of the war. Quite a host of Monsignori who act as Secretaries to various Vatican officials live here.

AN ANCIENT COMPANION GIVES HISTORICAL TIDBITS: One day at recreation the floor was happily given to a dear ancient who has been more more than fifty years and we listened avidly as she talked mentioning the various Holy Fathers she has known with the same affectionate familiarity with which one speaks of successive Sister Servants. The Sisters have been here since 1864, though the present Saint Martha’s , a modern looking building, was erected only thirty years ago. It was amusing to hear Sister tell how, in the evil days of the [1870s] when Rome was divided between those who flew the white flag of the House of Savoy and the black flag of the Papacy, one of the Sisters flung her black shawl to the breeze to denote the loyalty of the House. It was good too, to hear her tell, though one sighed for the change in the times, of how great industrialists of Italy, France and other countries used to come with hundreds of their employees at one time, to make the holy pilgrimage, The charge then was two francs a day and Sister delighted in telling us what was given for that amount.

It was easy to see that Leo XIII was her favorite “Saint Pere”. She said he would frequently have ripe fruit gathered from the garden, taste one or two himself and then send them over to Saint Martha’s with the message: “Tell the Sisters the Holy Father has eaten a few”. In 1900, the great year of the Jubilee, he said to the Sisters: “This year because of the thousands of pilgrims, you will be over-burdened with work. Of course, you have obligations of your Vows as usual, but as for rules which prescribe penance and mortification- no, no, not this year, I have written to your Most Honored Father Fiat. You will be working for the Holy Father this year. He needs you to keep your health and strength.” At the end of his Jubilee, His Holiness thanked them for their services. At the close he not only gave “them his blessing, but I quote: “He caressed our cheeks with paternal tenderness,”
Benedict XV came to see the Sisters seven times and was most interested in them and in their work. The present Holy Father [Pope Pius XII] has not visited them, but he grants them many privileges, for they are a part of his household. When we asked this Sister how many canonizations she had seen, she dismissed the matter with a shrug and said: “Oh, so many I could not count them” No man is a hero to his own valet and even canonizations, the crowning pageantry of the Church, can become commonplace.


Filed under Benedict XV, Catherine Laboure, Church History, Leo XIII, Pius XII, World War 2