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Chapter 32

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Life of Charles Nerinckx

Camillus Maes

published by
Robert Clarke & Co.
Cincinnati, 1880

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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 p590  Chapter XXXIII


Florissant, Mo. — "Our Lady of Light," New Mexico. — Burning of Loretto Convent, Ky. — Cairo, Ill. — Death of Father D. Deparcq. — Denver, Colorado. — Other foundations.

The Lord continued to bless the administration of Mother Berlindis Downs, and the Little Loretto Society grew every day in usefulness.

At the request of Rev. Van Assche, S. J., pastor of the church of St. Ferdinand, Florissant, Mo., who met Rev. D. A. Deparcq, Ecclesiastical Superior of the Lorettines, at St. Louis University, a colony of six sisters was sent to that beautiful little French village, situated about sixteen miles west of St. Louis, in the Spring of 1847. The sisters appointed for this mission were: Mother Eleonora Clarke, superior, Sister Philomena, directress of studies, and Sisters Theodosia, Vincentia, Ambrosia, and Stanislaus, assistants. They arrived in St. Louis on the 21st of June, and were kindly received by the Sisters of Charity in that city. The evening of the same day they went out to Florissant, the Sisters of Charity accompanying them  p591 to the village. The sisters took possession of a two-story brick building and some dilapidated old cabins, formerly occupied by the Ladies of the Sacred Heart,​1 which, together with some three acres of land, they rented on trial for one year for the sum of $200.

The first year was one of great poverty and suffering. The day school, which had been immediately opened, brought but an insignificant income, and, at the end of the scholastic year, there were only fifteen boarders in the academy. The future wore such a gloomy aspect, that the superior had determined to return to Kentucky, when Father Van Assche negotiated with the Ladies of the Sacred Heart for the purchase of the property, and had the buildings and five acres of land conveyed to the Lorettines for the  p592 sum of $1,000. The kind ladies remitted the two hundred dollars for the first year's rent — a liberal donation to the struggling community, and one duly appreciated by its members.2

The sisters now set to work with renewed energy. All were actively employed in various kinds of manual labor; and not only during the first year, but for several succeeding ones, did poor Mother Eleonora and her little community spend many a recreation hour shelling corn, till their hands were bleeding, in order to be able to furnish the community with the daily bread.

The kindness of Mrs. Jane Chambers, and family, of Florissant, and Mrs. Tijghe, of St. Louis, during the years 1847‑48 will never be forgotten. Judge Mullanphy paid the sisters a friendly visit, and, by way of encouragement, handed them a check for $50; he promised, moreover, that, should the sisters persevere in their zealous labors at Florissant, he would lighten the burden of their pecuniary embarrassments, a promise he was destined never to fulfill, as an almost sudden death soon after put an end to his pious designs.

However, Mother Eleonora put her trust in Providence, and bravely met the difficulties that beset her on all sides; nor was her confidence disappointed: the darkest hour before the dawn had passed away, and the academy soon entered upon the prosperous career which makes Florissant  p593 one of the finest educational establishments of Missouri. Five large buildings have been added for academical and conventual purposes, to replace the poor cabins of former days, and year after year some desirable improvement adds to the beauty of the premises.

The heroic Mother Eleonora still lives (1878) afflicted by bodily sufferings, but still enjoying all the youthful cheerfulness and courage of her pioneer days.

A new field of usefulness was opened to the missionary zeal of the Friends of Mary, in the year 1852. Right Rev. J. B. Lamy, Bishop of Santa Fé, New Mexico, having heard of the self-denial of Father Nerinckx' spiritual children, and of the severe training they had gone through, concluded they were the very ones whom Divine Providence had designed for the laborious missions which the Holy See had confided to his pastoral care. He applied for a colony of sisters, and his request was cheerfully granted; faithful to its traditions, and to the injunctions of its founder, Loretto could not refuse a mission which seemed to promise nothing but hardships and privations. Mother Mathilda Wills, and Sisters Catherine, Mary Magdalen, Monica, Hilaria, and Roberta were appointed, and left Loretto on Sunday, June 27, 1852, after Mass, arriving the same evening at Bardstown, where they were greatly encouraged by the Jesuit Fathers. They spent the next day at the Convent  p594 of Cedar Grove, in Portland, and arrived in St. Louis on Thursday morning, July 1st. Archbishop Kenrick sent them to the Sisters of Charity; but, Bishop Lamy not having yet returned from New Orleans, they profited by the delay to visit their house of St. Ferdinand, Florissant. As soon as they heard of the Bishop's arrival, they joined him in St. Louis, and left that city, July 10th, by the steamer Kansas, which was to convey them as far as Independence. A family, and some other persons also belonged to the Bishop's suite.

The sisters had accepted the mission in a true spirit of self-abnegation; yet they little dreamed, as the spires of the city receded from view, how soon Providence was to put their virtue to the test. "There had already been some cases of cholera on board, when, on Friday, the 16th, at two A.M., Mother Mathilda was attacked; her suffering lasted till about two o'clock in the evening of the same day, when she gave up her soul into the hands of her Maker, after having received the Sacraments of Penance and Extreme Unction from the Bishop. Two hours later, the steamer landed at Mr. Todd's warehouse, six miles from Independence. In the meantime, Sister Monica had also contracted this terrible disease, and the landing was truly affecting, the sisters following the couch of their dying sister and the coffin of their Dear Mother. The inhabitants stood in such dread of the cholera that the sisters were  p595 not allowed to enter their houses, and were therefore obliged to remain in the warehouse.

"The next morning, July 17th, three of the sisters, with the Bishop and some other persons, accompanied the carriage which conveyed the corpse of Mother Mathilda to its last resting-place, in the graveyard of Independence. But on the way, they were met by a sheriff, who had been deputed by the authorities to forbid entrance into the town for fear of contagion; however, the Bishop's firm attitude, and perhaps, too, compassion at the sad spectacle, caused this official to relent. They continued their way to the graveyard, and there they saw the cold earth receive into its bosom the remains of her whom they had loved and reverenced. Mother Mathilda Mills was about thirty-three years old, twelve of which she had spent in the convent. She possessed the virtues which adorn a religious, and a sweet and amiable temper which endeared her to all. She had been assistant Superior, and member of the Central Council two years.

"The Bishop now took the three sisters, Catharine, Hilaria, and Roberta, to the town, and left them there, whilst Sister Magdalen remained in the warehouse with Sister Monica. But, on the night of the following Monday, July 19th, Sister Magdalen herself was attacked with the cholera, and made what she believed to be her last confession. The place being ill-suited for ladies, especially religious ones, sick unto  p596 death, the Bishop, unable to make better arrangements, had the two dying sisters removed to tents about two miles from the town. The poor sisters were much better off there than in the warehouse, although they had many inconveniences to bear, and had nothing but the canvas tent to screen them from the burning heat of July. They received every possible attention from the two ladies who formed part of the Bishop's caravan, particularly from Mrs. Dermedy, who treated them with a mother's care. After a few days, Sister Magdalen, began to recover. On Sunday morning, July 23d, the three sisters came from Independence, and heard Mass said by Bishop Lamy, in a tent. On the following Thursday, he took the sisters to Mrs. Chambers, who received them kindly, although Sister Magdalen was just convalescent from the cholera. It was impossible for Sister Monica to proceed any further, her recovery being doubtful; and, in spite of her great desire of pursuing the journey to New Mexico with the others, she returned to Independence until her health should be sufficiently restored to return to the convent at Loretto. As Sister Magdalen could travel in a carriage, although very weak, they left Independence on Saturday, July 31st, to go to camp some four miles distant, whither the Bishop and her company had already gone. After their arrival, the sisters went to confession, and, the next morning, received Holy Communion at the hands of the Bishop.

 p597  "After the death of Mother Mathilda, Sister Magdalen was chosen to fill the office of Superior; this election was approved and confirmed at Loretto.

On the 1st of August, they all travelled together for the first time, but they had proceeded but a few miles when one of the wagons broke down. On the evening of the same day, the sisters' tent could not be pitched on account of the heavy rain, and they remained in the carriages. During the night, the rain continued to pour in torrents, and the warring elements seemed to bid each other defiance. The sisters were much terrified at the unusual fury of the storm, which at times seemed ready to shatter to pieces their frail tenement, and they sought protection in prayer.

"On the Sunday following, August 8th, Bishop Lamy celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass near the first Indian hut on the road, and gave a short instruction on charity to his company, the majority of whom were outside the tent. They reached Council Grove on the eve of the Assumption. They confessed the same evening, and the next morning, according to their rules, renewed their vows in time of Mass, just before Holy Communion. On Sunday, August 29th, they had Mass at Pawnee Fork, where they remained the whole day, and saw the first buffalo killed. On Tuesday, September 7th, the party arrived at Fort Atkinson, Kansas, a short distance from which the sisters  p598 were greatly terrified, seeing themselves surrounded by three or four hundred Indians. These savages always loiter thereabouts, where their best hunting grounds are situated, and, when they can do so with impunity, attack caravans. On this occasion, they seemed peaceable; the Bishop was even enabled to baptize the child of a captive Mexican woman. Still, as their intentions were not known, the Bishop thought it prudent not to make any move, hoping they would retire; but, as they seemed disposed to remain, he ordered his company to march in the evening, and the caravan traveled all night, as the Indians do not generally make their attacks during the night. The sisters remained in the carriages all that day.

"After this, they crossed the Arkansas, and reached Cimarron on Sunday, September 12th. On the 14th, the Very Rev. Vicar-general Machebeuf, with a party of men and animals, met the caravan near Red river. This meeting was most agreeable, and the assistance most opportune, for the jaded animals had just been obliged to rest two days in succession. Friday, the 17th, they reached Fort Bartley; this was the first time they had slept under a roof for nearly two months. Here the Holy Sacrifice was offered both by Bishop Lamy and Father Machebeuf, a pretty large congregation having assembled at the news of the Bishop's arrival. Saturday, the 18th, they reached Las Vegas,​a the first Mexican town they had yet seen. The  p599 next morning, the Bishop said Mass in a private dwelling, not far from the town, and also preached. He remained in Las Vegas, and sent Father Machebeuf on with the sisters. On the night following, Tuesday, September 21st, they arrived at the Bishop's 'rancho,' or farm, about fifteen miles from Santa Fé. During the journey, the Bishop said Mass every Sunday, and the sisters confessed and communicated.

"On Sunday the 26th, the sisters left the ranch and started for Santa Fé, where they arrived at four P.M. The people, with some Mexican priests, went several miles to meet them; as they approached the city, the crowd increased so much that the carriages could scarcely pass. Triumphant arches had been erected, and the bells of the different churches were all pealing. The sisters were received at the door of the cathedral, and presented with holy water by a priest, then led to the foot of the altar, to places prepared for them. The Te Deum was sung, accompanied by Mexican music, i.e. violin, guitars, etc.; the episcopal blessing followed (the Bishop having entered Santa Fé the Thursday previous). The sisters were now conducted to their house, by the Bishop, the Vicar-general, and clergy. The house and all its appurtenances were as convenient as could be expected in New Mexico.

"The sisters did not open school immediately, as they needed some time to apply themselves  p600 to the study of the language of the country: Spanish. In November they received their first boarders, two children who had lost their mother. When they were admitted, the Bishop remarked to Mother Magdalen: 'It is well to begin with an act of charity.' The sisters, however, were amply rewarded, for the two children were baptized the next Christmas, in the convent chapel, and when their father withdrew them from school, he paid for their tuition, whereas the sisters had not expected to receive a cent.

"The school opened in January, 1853, with ten boarders and three day scholars; but, at the close of August, the number had increased to twenty boarders and twenty-two day scholars.

"The house which the sisters occupied had been ceded to them by Bishop Lamy who lived in the same building, but in another square or plazita entirely separated from them. As their house was now too small, he, in October, 1853, gave up the whole to them, and rented another for himself.

"During the Bishop's absence in Europe, in 1854, his Vicar-general bought him the then best looking house in town, called 'la casa Americana,' 'the American house,' because it had a shingle roof, all the other roofs in town being flat and covered with earth. The Bishop finding the house too spacious, and in a more retired part of town, determined to give it to the sisters; an orchard and grounds attached to it were laid out, and every thing being ready, he challenged  p601 with the sisters, who began to occupy their new home in September, 1855."3

Soon after, the sisters secured the title to their new possession from the Bishop on very reasonable terms. Since then the new province has prospered beyond all human expectations, and, besides the house of Santa Fé, which has been called the convent of Our Lady of Light, it possesses the following houses:

St. Gertrude'sº in Mora. It was established in 1874, whilst Father, now Bishop Salpointe was parish priest of that place. The Bishop made a present of the original house to the sisters, having built another one for the persons who lived there in challenge for the one he wished to donate to the sisters. Mr. Henry Bierbaum afterward made a donation of the greater part of the land now in their possession. New buildings have been erected since.

Our Lady of Guadeloupe,º in Taos. Rev. Gabriel Ussel called the sisters there in 1859, and presented them with a lot which he purchased in exchange for his horse and buggy, giving, besides, $600 toward the erection of their new buildings.

A house had also been established in Albuquerque, district of Bernalillo,​4 but was subsequently  p602 broken up. A month later, in 1869, the Convent of Our Lady of Sorrows was founded in Las Vegas, district of San Miguel. At first, Mr. Romualdo Baca offered the sisters a part of his own house for one year; before its expiration, he gave them a deed for the whole house, which, with the grounds adjoining, is considered to be worth $6000. However, the sisters will be obliged to build an entirely new house.

Visitation Academy, in Las Cruces, in the Mesilla valley, belongs to the Vicariate Apostolic of Nebraska, although situated in New Mexico. The sisters were induced to go there, in 1869, by the generosity of Bishop Salpointe, who had already become their benefactor in Mora.

Denver, Colorado, was also founded from Santa Fé, in 1864, but is now supplied by Loretto, Ky.

As the Novitiate of Santa Fé could not supply subjects enough for the Society's many foundations in New Mexico, three sisters from Loretto, Ky., accompanied Bishop Lamy, who, with Father D. M. Gasparri, S. J., two other Jesuit Fathers and two Sisters of Charity, left St. Louis, on his return from Europe, June 10, 1872. "On Friday, 14th," says Rev. Gasparri, S. J., "we started from Leavenworth in caravans, that is to say, in wagons and carriages, for New Mexico; we were in the carriages, and the provisions in the wagons. On the 21st, we arrived at St. Mary's, at that time a reservation  p603 of the Pottawattomie Indians, where the children of the school came out to meet us. We left St. Mary's on the 24th. On the 29th, feast of St. Peter, we camped at a short distance from Junction City, and, toward noon, four peaceable Indians — perhaps spies — came to see us and remained a while with us. On the 2d of July, we came up with a great many trains and joined them, and, on the following day, we met twelve other Indians, and as many more on the 6th.

"On the 16th we camped about three miles below Fort Dodge, and, on the 17th, in the evening, whilst the animals were being unharnessed from the wagons, toward dusk, we were attacked for the first time, by about fifty Indians. We heard that day that many more had attacked other trains very near us.

"We wished to cross the river on the 22d, at a place called Cimarron Crossing, but we could not. In the morning the cholera broke out, and the same evening a young man of our train who came from Ohio died. Whilst he was dying we were attacked a second time by the Indians, now numbering probably over three hundred. The wagons were tied together, forming an oval figure, with the animals in the middle; the Mexicans stationed themselves between the wagons to fire, the sisters remaining in the middle under a tent. We remained there that night.

"On the 23d we continued our journey, and,  p604 toward evening, Sister Alphonsa Thompson, a native of Kentucky, fell sick; night setting in, we camped, and she, being very ill, received the Last Sacrament. The other sisters waited on her all night, and the next day we had to continue our journey; she was put into a wagon with the four other sisters, and when we had halted, she died, at ten o'clock July 24th, being not quite twenty years old. We all felt most sensibly the death of that sister, so much the more, as no remedies could be procured, in those desert plains, to relieve her; on the other hand, the Indians would not let her die in peace. She was buried in the evening, near the road, in a place well marked and known by the Mexicans. A coffin, the best that could be made under the circumstance was prepared for her, and all accompanied the body in procession, a Jesuit father performing the funeral ceremony, and the Bishop following; before leaving a cross was planted over the grave. The poor sister had expressed a desire not to have her body left there, but to have it taken on with us to New Mexico, fearing perchance that the wild Indians, finding it, would desecrate it. But this could not be done, above all, because the cholera had broken out among us, but also because it is said that the Indians always respect dead bodies; God, moreover, would protect, in a special manner, that body, in which had dwelt a soul as pure and innocent as Sister Alphonsa's.

"Onº the 26th we separated from the other  p605 wagons, entering Colorado Territory, and traveled alone, crossing the river July 31st; on the 3d of August we reached Trinidad, and on the 15th Santa Fé, the terminus of our journey."

Referring to the sad death of Sister Alphonsa, Bishop Lamy wrote: "The youngest sister of Loretto died, on the 24th of July, from fright, as I considered it, caused by the attack of the savages. She was eighteen years of age, well educated, and a model of virtue." Miss Eleanor Donnelly has immortalized the event in a sweet little poem, which we copy from the Ave Maria.5

They made her a grave where the tall grasses wave,

'Neath the blue of the Western sky,

And they laid her to sleep where the wild winds sweep,

Through the bending reeds that sigh.

With a swelling heart they were forced to part

A link from that sacred chain,

And though lovely and bright, it was laid that night,

'Neath the sods on the Western plain.

With many a prayer, they laid her there,

To sleep in that cold, cold bed,

While on her bier, fell as holy a tear,

As e'er embalmed the dead.

 p606  Now, the stag may bound o'er that sacred ground,

And the eagle from his eyry scream,

But no Vesper bell comes to break the spell

That wraps the sleeper's dream.

Ah! far, far away, perchance, that day,

A mother's heart was sore.

With an aching void for the Lamb's sweet bride,

Laid to sleep on Arkansas' shore.

O mother dear! soothe to rest each tear,

Thou to glory a star hast given;

And the spirit chain, though rent in twain,

Shall be clasped again in heaven.

In the morn of youth, her young heart's truth

Sought not the earth or its dust;

But her spirit's wings left earthly things

To fold in the bosom of trust.

O bride of the Lamb, thou hast gone home!

In the Virgin's train art thou;

And the songs that rise o'er the dome of the skies

But echo thy virgin vow.

Let fancy bright, on wings of light,

Now seek that lonely grave,

Where flowers bloom and wild birds sing,

By the dark Arkansas' wave;

Let devotion kneel, for there 't will feel

A throb unfelt before,

For incense rare doth fill the air,

Though the worshiper's no more.

There, mortal, kneel one hour to feel

That soothing calm within,

When devotion bows o'er holy vows

And prayer has shackled sin.

 p607  Oh! for the bliss of an hour like this,

When the soul's deep powers thrill

With the magic tone from mercy's throne,

And passion's waves are still.

Lonely grave by the Western wave;

Oh! pure heart sleeping there,

The winds alone above thee moan

Their sad, wild requiem prayer.

E'en the savage here feels a mystic fear

As he stands by that lonely mound,

As the whispering breeze sighs through the trees,

"Thou standest on holy ground."

Then sweetly rest, with the cross on thy breast;

Oh! sweet be thy slumbers here!

May o'er thy head bright wings be spread

By angels watching there!

May no ruder wind sweep o'er thy sleep

Than the breath of Summer roses,

While virtue's tear embalms the bier

Where our martyred dead reposes.

Sister Bridget Spalding filled the office of Dear Mother from 1852 to 1858, when Mother Berlindis Downs was again elected, and remained Superior of the Loretto Society till 1864. When she resigned her authority into the hands of her successor, she had the happiness of counting one hundred and seventy-five sisters who had joined the Society of the Friends of Mary since she first assumed the office in 1846.

 p608  Dear Mother Berlindis was intrusted for the third time with the interests of the Society, August 15, 1858, after a dire calamity, which put to the severest test all the energy of which she had given such unmistakable proofs in former years. "On the 20th of February, 1858," says an eye-witness of the distressing scene, "the convent and church built by Father Chabrat were burned down. The fire originated in the kitchen, about two o'clock A.M., and the house was in full blaze before the inmates were aware of the great danger they were exposed to. The novices had a narrow escape, for, a few minutes after they had been aroused from their slumbers, the floor of the novitiate fell in. It was impossible to arrest the fire; the few men who were on the place made an effort to extinguish it, but they soon found that all their endeavors to stay the progress of the flames were futile. The Blessed Sacrament was removed from the chapel by Rev. Father Wuyts, confessor of the convent, to his own room in an old building on the other side of the yard, and formerly occupied by Fathers Badin and Nerinckx. When he came back, the fire was already sweeping through the church, and he had hardly time to guide the sisters, who were trying to save pictures and statues, out of it, before it was wrapped in flames. Some were almost suffocated by the smoke. The library, which was a very interesting and costly one, and a bell, the like of which was not to be found in  p609 America, and which had been brought over by Father Nerinckx from Belgium, were entirely destroyed. Few articles were saved, and the sisters suffered much for a few days, for, on the very evening of the fire, a heavy snow fell and the weather turned very cold. However, every one seemed to forget herself to provide for her sisters. It was thought, at first, that the loss would be irreparable, and the good sisters were much perplexed and at a loss what to do; but Providence came to their aid, and what was looked upon at first as a great calamity, proved a blessing in disguise. A new church, three times as large as the former one, and a new convent, much larger and better suited to the wants of the community, arose from the ashes of the old structure; old St. Stephen's log-cabin alone remains to remind the Sisters of Loretto of the self-sacrifices of their founder. The speedy erection of the new buildings was mainly due to Mother Berlindis, who superintended the work in all its details."​b

Sister Bertha Bowles was elected Dear Mother in August, 1864. The same year, a new establishment was opened in Cairo under the patronage of St. Joseph, and Mother Elizabeth Hayden gave it the stability and usefulness which distinguish all the institutions of Loretto.

Father Deparcq who had labored for twenty years for the temporal and spiritual welfare of the Friends of Mary, died at the age of sixty-nine years, toward the end of the same year,  p610 1864. The sisters entombed his remains near those of their beloved founder, Father Nerinckx, and the following epitaph marks his resting-place:

In memory of Very Rev.

David Alexander Deparcq,

who was born in Belgium, Sept.

25, 1795. Came to America in 1818.

Was ordained priest at Bardstown,

Ky., in 1819, and labored in the

missions of Kentucky most

zealously during 44 years.

Having spent his life in the noble

discharge of his many duties,

the saintly missionary retired

to Holy Mary's church, Calvary

Convent, to spend the evening

of his days; there, after a linger-

ing illness, borne with patient

resignation, surrounded by his

spiritual children, and fortified

by all the aids of Holy Church,

he calmly passed to the presence

of his Creator, on Nov. 9, 1864.

This memorial is placed as an

humble tribute, by his grateful

Daughters of Loretto, whose

Ecclesiastical Superior he was

for 20 years.

After Father Deparcq's death, the Bishop of Louisville acted as immediate superior until 1869, when Rev. Francis Wuyts was appointed  p611 ecclesiastical superior over all the houses of the Society, now established in many States and Territories. Under his prudent and energetic administration the Friends of Mary increase every year in usefulness, whilst they are all thoroughly imbued with the apostolic spirit which was left them by their saintly founder.

In 1864 was established the convent and academy of Denver, Colorado; founded by the House of Santa Fé, New Mexico, it is now supplied by Loretto, Ky., as is also the one of Pueblo, in the same State, founded in 1875.

St. Augustine's Academy, Lebanon, Marion county, Ky., dates from the same year, 1864. The year following the sisters took charge of St. Joseph's school, Edina, Knox county, Missouri, where Mr. Peter Early provided them with a house and lot.

Dear Mother Elizabeth Hayden was elected in 1870, and directed the Society until 1876, when Sister Dafrosa Smith was elected to succeed her. Under her superior­ship were established: St. Mary's Academy, Elizabethtown, Hardin county, Ky., in September, 1870; St. Mary's of Loretto Academy, Montgomery, Alabama, in 1873; and Loretto Academy, St. Louis, Missouri, in 1874; besides the two alluded to above. Within the last two years, three new houses have been established, viz.: St. Mary's Academy, Moberly, Missouri, in September, 1877; Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Conejos, Colorado, 1877; and Loretto Academy, Springfield, Missouri, 1878.

 p612  One hundred and sixty-five sisters have died, since their holy founder went to his eternal rest; and at present day about three hundred and fifty live in the different houses faithful to the Holy Rule which Father Nerinckx gave them, trying to imitate his many virtues on earth, so to share some day his eternal glory in heaven.

The Author's Notes:

1 A colony of the Sacred Heart Ladies, with Madame Duchesne as Superior, sailed from Royan, France, for the United States, on March 21, 1818. They came at the request of Mgr. Dubourg, who returned to Louisiana in the preceding year. Madame Duchesne and her four companions landed at New Orleans, May 29th; after spending some months with the Ursuline Sisters of that city, they departed for St. Louis, Missouri, which they reached, August 22d; and, about the beginning of September, 1818, they took up their residence at St. Charles, on the banks of the Missouri river, twenty miles west of St. Louis. On September 9th of the following year, 1819, they were compelled to abandon St. Charles, in order to avoid starvation. The ladies remained in St. Louis till December following, and then took possession of their new home adjoining the new brick church at Florissant, on Christmas eve, 1819. They retained the house of Florissant, and used it as their novitiate, till the Spring of 1847, when the novitiate was transferred to Grand Coteau, Louisiana. The ladies reopened their house at St. Charles in the Autumn of 1828, and they are still there.

Thayer's Note: "Madame Duchesne" is St. [Rose] Philippine Duchesne, canonized in 1988. A good biographical sketch is, rather unexpectedly, given at a site devoted to the Potawatomi Trail of Death.

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2 Cfr. "Life of Mother Barat," by Rev. Baunard, Vol. 1, Chap. XIII, XIV, XX, and Vol. 2 Chap. XII.

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3 Extracts from the "Annals of the Convent of our Lady of Light," written in Spanish by Mother M. Magdalen Hayden.

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4 Another was subsequently commenced in Bernalillo itself in 1875.

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5 "Ave Maria," Vol. IX, pg. 455. There are a few inaccuracies in these lines, which may readily be condoned on the plea of poetical license; for instance, "reeds" and "eagle's eyry," which are not to be found on the level prairies of the West.

Thayer's Notes:

a Not the place we usually now think of, but Las Vegas, New Mexico.

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b Not mentioned among the foundations under the superior­ship of Mother Berlindis is that of Loretto Academy at Niagara Falls, Ontario in 1861, operated by the Sisters as a girls' school until 1969 or 1982 (sources differ), and then until 2005 as a retreat center; it played a fairly important rôle in the history of American railroading, of all things! (And with that as bait, you'll find that story elsewhere onsite: A. F. Harlow, The Road of the Century, p241). The property was bought in 2007 or thereabouts by the Sheraton Hotel chain, which plans to build several high-rise buildings on the site but to keep the old buildings as a conference center.

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Page updated: 15 Oct 13