By Mary Flynn, Archivist
The theme of this issue of Charity Alive focuses on women working together to help other women. The articles highlight the contributions of the Sisters and other women make. In sharing the history of the congregation, the ministries in education, orphanages, and social services are often highlighted. In this article, I wanted to share ministries within the congregation – Sisters helping Sisters.
The idea for this article came from a photo I recently came across of an elderly Sister in a sweet moment with another Sister. Sister Elizabeth Clare Burnett is standing and has her hand on the face of Sister Mary Clarissa Conlan. At the time of the photo, Sister Mary Clarissa was the oldest Sister and first in priority in community. She was a pioneer Sister to the congregation’s first ministry in New York, Our Lady of Angels, in 1924.
SC-0569 Sister Mary Clarissa Conlan (sitting) with Sister Elizabeth Clare Burnett (standing) at Mount Saint Vincent Motherhouse in 1978.
The photo was a part of a slideshow from October 1978 of the ministries of the Halifax Vice-Province. The Halifax Vice-Province was comprised of the Sisters in Mount Saint Vincent Motherhouse Retirement Community.
The accompanying text to the slideshow highlighted the many ministries of the retired Sisters in the Vice-Province: “Every sister is loved, needed, and has something significant to offer.” Prayer was, and remains, a main ministry of many of the retired Sisters. We still see these acts of service in Caritas and Elizabeth Seton Residences. Sisters share their gifts by singing in the choir, serving as sacristans, bringing the infirm Sisters to mass, taking Sister to appointments, caring for their homes, and so much more.
SC-0578 Sister Teresa Clare Farrell with her bookmobile at Mount Saint Vincent Motherhouse in Halifax, NS in 1978.
#1267 S. Catherine Monica Keating bringing communion to the sick at Mount Saint Vincent Wellesley in Wellesley Hills, MA.
Sister Betsy Groome leading a sing-a-long at Elizabeth Seton Residence in Wellesley Hills, MA on July 24, 1991. From left to right: Sister Anita Vincent Costello, Mrs. Groome, and Sister Betsy Groome. From photo album #447.
SC-0594 Sister Annette Harland taking care of the plants in Mother Berchmans Residence in Halifax, NS, 1978.
Our Lady of Lourdes Sanatorium in Lourdes, NS, 1966. Photograph by Sister John Mary McNeil from photo album #465.
Finally, I thought of a short-lived but important ministry in the congregational history: Lourdes Sanatorium. Our Lady of Lourdes Convent was founded in 1882 in the small town of Lourdes about 150 km away from Halifax. Ailing Sisters had been sent to the rural convent to convalescence, as it was believed that the sulphur in the air was healing.
By 1910, there were a number of Sisters afflicted with tuberculosis and Mother Mary Berchmans sought to find a place for these Sisters to convalesce. Lourdes Sanatorium opened in July 1912 and immediately served as a home for the tubercular Sisters. As space permitted, laywomen and Sisters from other congregations were admitted to the “San.” Eventually, the TB cases subsided and the death rate dropped, so the Sanatorium served as a home for Sisters with other ailments, such as cancer. Eventually the building served as a retirement home for aging Sisters before closing in 1964 and burning down in 1972.