Integrating Parishes: Greensboro

“To work at ending racism, we need to engage the world and encounter others—to see, maybe for the first time, those who are on the peripheries of our own limited view. Knowing that the Lord has taken the divine initiative by loving us first, we can boldly go forward, reaching out to others. We must invite into dialogue those we ordinarily would not seek out. We must work to form relationships with those we might regularly try to avoid.” (23)

“So many of our parishes are richly diverse, composed of people from various cultures and ethnic groups, such that they can be a model for the whole Church and for the country.” (27)

Open Wide Our Hearts:  The Enduring Call to Love a Pastoral Letter against Racism by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

In 1953, Bishop Vincent Waters of the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina ordered all Catholic churches desegregated in the Diocese, followed shortly afterward, in 1955, by the desegregation of Catholic schools.  Over the course of the next twenty years, the impact of desegregation on the Church and the schools was felt across North Carolina.

Since 1928, the Daughters of Charity taught at St. Mary’s School in Greensboro, North Carolina.  In 1949, the school changed its name to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, a parish school designated to serve African-American children.  When desegregation began, students started to attend St. Pius X School, leading to a drop in numbers at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal School.

In 1972, the difficult decision was made to close the school due to declining enrollment, and the Daughters began to re-examine how best to serve the parish community of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.  That same year, four Daughters arrived at the parish to tackle this challenge.

Letter from Father Robert Clifford, C.M. of Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Parish

The first step taken was to reconnect the parish to its roots and change the name back to St. Mary’s.  The next step, in the spirit of Vatican II and the recommendations for lay involvement in the life of a parish, was to create a Parish Council.  This would prove to be even more important in the coming years as the process of desegregation continued within the church and throughout the city.

In 1974, the Diocese of Charlotte, of which the parish was now a part, ended the designation as the African-American parish.  Instead, the parish was to have a defined territory just like all the others in the parish.  The surrounding territory brought together people of different social classes and incomes, as well as brought white and black neighborhoods together for the first time in the parish.

The Daughters of Charity now served at St. Mary’s Center, the social outreach arm of the parish.  Sisters served on the Council, as social workers, directing programs of the Parish, visiting the aged and sick, and working with returning citizens.

First Parish Council meeting, October 3, 1972

According to Sister Agnes Silvestro’s report in 1975, the purpose of the Daughters’ ministries at the parish was defined as follows: 

“St. Mary’s is an integrated parish where staff and parishioners [sic] are working together to become a people pleasing to the Father, a ‘single people,’ a FAITH COMMUNITY.”

She also wrote about the need to balance competing claims to the ownership of the Parish from white and Black members.  African-American members outnumbered white members, yet, according to Sister Agnes, ”whites for the most part [were] more vocal.”

Nonetheless, the Sisters, assisted by the Vincentian priests who ministered to the parish, persisted in their work.  Although the Daughters departed in 1980, they laid out plans for a long-lasting and successful parish.  The interior of the church today has been modernized, but essentially looks much as it did almost 90 years.  From the 1970s to the 1990s, the Parish incorporated even more changes into its community life as immigrant communities from Africa, Asia, and Latin America arrived in the community.

Interior of St. Mary’s Parish today (Source: https://stmarysgreensboro.org/)
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish, 1938

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New Accession: Carney Hospital, Boston

Carney Hospital, circa late 1950s

Materials that are no longer in active or even inactive use by members of the community or at sponsored works of the community steadily make their way to the archives. Sometimes, however, materials get left behind. Sometimes they get left behind for a LONG time.

The Daughters of Charity sponsored and operated Carney Hospital from 1863 until 1997, when administration was transferred to the non-profit health care system run by the Archdiocese of Boston, Caritas Christi.

Before leaving Carney Hospital, Sister De Chantal La Row, the last Daughter of Charity Administrator of the Andrew Carney Hospital, supervised the process of organizing and labelling the collection of archive boxes and memorabilia for shipment. The Archdiocese, through Caritas Christi, was instructed to then ship the collection to The Provincial Archives of the Daughters of Charity for the Northeast Province, located at that time, in Albany, New York. In 2011, the entire archive of the Northeast Province was shipped to Emmitsburg, MD as part of the creation of the Province of St. Louise, including the Carney Hospital collection. It currently consists of 46 archival boxes, nearly 3 dozen oversized pieces, and nearly a dozen artifacts.

100th anniversary banquet of Carney Hospital, oversized and matted (and water damaged)

For reasons unknown, the entire collection never made its way to Albany, and several boxes of records got left behind. From 1997-2015, first Diane Loupo and then Ann Hart monitored the records as they traversed various storerooms around the Hospital, where they lived at the mercy of leaking pipes, hot Boston summers, cold Massachusetts winters, and poor ventilation. In 2018, Ann intervened before the garbage trucks could destroy the materials that never managed to make their way to Albany.

Binders of newspaper clippings from the new accession

About 18 months ago, Sister Maryadele Robinson, a Daughter of Charity for 37 years, who currently serves as Director Emeritus of Laboure Center in Boston, learned from about a room full of archival materials from Dr. James Morgan, the Chief of Cardiology at the now Steward Carney Hospital. They informed Emilia Pisani, archivist for Laboure Center, about the materials. These are the individuals, along with Ann Hart, to whom we at the Daughters of Charity owe a debt of gratitude as archivists and those concerned with preserving the history of the community.

On Friday, October 9, after a year and a half delayed by meetings, staff changes, and the logistics of a global pandemic, the material finally made it to Emmitsburg, all 157 boxes and items of it.

Moving the collection into quarantine

Emilia worked hundreds of hours to prepare an inventory of the materials, through acidic folders and deteriorating boxes. Thanks to the inventory that Emilia created, we can catch some glimpses of what is in the collection. The oldest materials date to 1850, although the bulk comes from the period of 1950-1997. Not only does this collection provide insight into the business operations of the hospital, but it also documents the surrounding community of Dorchester as population and demographics changed in the community over 150 years. It will also provide vital importance to genealogists researching family members who worked at the hospital, as these materials contain employee lists and roles that the archives had previously thought long lost. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the materials are, as far as we can tell now, original, worth preserving, and not duplicates of materials already in the archives.

After two weeks in quarantine, we have seen no signs of mold or pests, and we have allowed any chance of COVID on the boxes to die off. We may not get to processing this material for some time, but once we do, we will determine whether we can add this material to the current Carney collection — with a note documenting that it came long after the creation of the initial Carney collection, and with a note of thanks to everyone who made it possible — or if it warrants a complete re-processing of the collection.

Regardless, it has been a long process to acquire this material and begin to preserve it for the future, but even an initial glance shows that it will be worth it.

All 157 boxes and items in the quarantine space

The Daughters of Charity, particularly members of the archives staff, would like to thank Ann Hart, Diane Loupo, Dr. James Morgan, and Sister Maryadele Robinson for their devotion to the poor and to Carney over the years, and for their role in securing this collection. We would particularly like to thank Emilia Pisani, for everything she has done for the last 18 months (including input for this post). She has gone above and beyond anything we would have ever asked of her. When the COVID crisis has passed, she is welcome here in the archives, truly, at any time. Copies are on us.

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The Daughters of Charity and the Women’s Suffrage Movement: Part 3

This is the third and final part of our series on the Daughters of Charity and the Women’s Suffrage Movement throughout the 1910s, leading up to the Presidential Election of November 1920.  The year 2020 marks 100 years since women in the United States won the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920.  Parts 1 and 2 can be found here and here

After the statements made in prior years by bishops at St. Joseph’s College against suffrage and then the sudden turnaround in response to the rising nativist movements and their attempts to eliminate parochial schools, two entries in October 1920 in the Provincial annals of the Daughters of Charity illustrated the fact that the Daughters and women’s suffrage were now of a like mind, as far as Cardinal Gibbons was concerned:

The “certain bill” mentioned in the second entry was part of a rising nativism in the aftermath of World War I, where individuals and groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, demanded a type of proper Americanness that they considered corrupted and corruptible by Catholicism.  Similar bills gained momentum in Michigan and other states.  Notably, one of the greatest triumph of this movement occurred in Oregon in 1922 with the passage of the Compulsory Education Act, although the Supreme Court struck it down a few years later.

After the long movement for women’s suffrage, the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution became law of the land on August 26, 1920, with the final ratification by the state of Tennessee.  When the Daughters voted for the first time on November 2, 1920, the depiction of the day is almost anti-climactic:

The next year on election day, a similar story illustrates the persistence of the issue, yet presents it as almost mundane occurrence:

Throughout the remainder of the 1920s, no mention of election days can be found, almost as if voting had become a routine event for women, no longer a question of debate.     

Daughters of Charity certainly participate in voting today, facing the same concerns that all Americans do regarding the economy, foreign policy, the environment, social justice, roads, parks, religion, and good governance.  Too many issues are on the table to avoid voting.  Too many people have crusaded in the United States for the right to vote to abdicate that responsibility.

Follow through.  Participate in democracy.  Make your voice heard.  Vote.

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