From the Archives

Excerpt from St. Peter’s Convent, Lowell, MA annals, 1918. Sisters of Charity – Halifax Congregational Archives.

by Mary Flynn, Archivist

As we finish out the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s hard not to draw comparisons to the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic that similarly affected the world more than 100 years ago. A common thread in the Congregational history and charism is responding to a call to serve those in need. We’ve seen that spirit in the stories of the Sisters caring for cholera patients on McNabs Island and the creation of hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes, and other social services.

In Massachusetts, schools were temporarily closed not long after the start of the 1918 school year. In our archival records, we get a glimpse at how the Sisters responded to the call to join the relief effort by caring for the ill and their families.  

In the excerpt from the St. Peter’s Convent, Lowell annals shown above, the annalist writes, “towards the latter part of September 1918, an epidemic of Spanish Influenza broke out all over Massachusetts. The Religious of all the different orders were called upon to assist the doctors and nurses in relieving the stricken families. All our Sisters volunteered, but as only seven were needed, the following chosen ones took up the grand work. Sister Superior, Sisters Teresa, Philip, Cyprian, Leo Vincent, Cecily, and Rita Agatha. They went to the homes of the people, carried them nourishment, prepared them for death, and in cases where whole families were stricken, it was necessary to attend to all the household duties. Two of the Sisters visited the Isolation Hospital at appointed times.”

In nearby Lawrence, the Sisters at St. Patrick’s Convent served their local community: “A hospital, tents on a part of Tower Hill known as Emery Hill, was opened for the benefit of the sufferers … many of our Sisters were there, sometimes six at a time, leaving early in the morning and returning at six each evening. Every precaution was taken to prevent the Sisters from contracting the disease.” 

Two pioneer Sisters from the foundation of the Halifax Infirmary, Sisters Mary Gregory Lyons and Mary Austin Higgins, traveled to Massachusetts with two laywomen to staff a temporary hospital in Newton. In Wellesley Hills, some students at the Academy of the Assumption quarantined under the care of the Sisters. Though many of the Sisters and their pupils were infected with influenza in Massachusetts, only one Sister, M. Cecilia Keating of St. Peter’s Convent in Dorchester, died.

Eventually, the flu outbreaks subsided in Massachusetts. The temporary hospitals closed, schools reopened, and Sisters resumed their places at the front of the classroom.

More Charity Alive – February 2021

Reflections on our Chapter Statement

Sisters Anne Harvey, Mary Beth Moore, Judith Park and Margaret Coppenrath reflect on the Chapter Statement that shapes the vision of our Congregation for the next six years.

A Post-Pandemic Church: Prophetic Possibilities

The 2020 Chapter call to “…embrace our own vulnerability, trust the presence of the Spirit …and commit ourselves to …care for one another…” had special meaning for me because it came in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic as I was completing my third book on healing the Church from the wounds of the clergy sexual abuse crisis. 

An Associate Story: The Circle of Charity

The path I am following today I believe was influenced by my connection to the Sisters of Charity.  I started as a Palliative Care volunteer at our local hospital.  I was invited to join the Hospice Board six years ago.  

Compelled by Love, You Responded

Please continue to partner with us as we work to heal the wounds of the embittered, be peacemakers in troubled places, and bring the compassion of the One who calls us to those who need it most.

From the Archives

A common thread in the Congregational history and charism is responding to a call to serve those in need.

Charity Alive – November 2020


This month’s theme engages us with the theme of transition.

Celebrating Nonagenarians

Celebrating our Sisters who are over 95 who have continuously evolved over their 7 decades of service and community within the congregation.

We Remember Them

From the 1890’s to the present day, some 1070 sisters of twenty-seven different religious communities taught, nursed, cared for the children, women and men of this Diocese. That included about 167 Sisters of Charity of Halifax.

“Come Walk With Me”

On this 200th Anniversary of Elizabeth Seton’s death and entrance into her beloved Eternity, she invites us to spend a few moments with her in the Valley of St. Joseph.

From the Archives

As the Sisters of Charity – Halifax embark on a new transition of leadership at the end of 2020, we’re looking back at another time of change in the community.

2021-02-22T15:46:13+00:00By |Comments Off on From the Archives
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