A TOUR OF OUR AMERICAN ROOTS
RECALLS HISTORY AND A CENTURY OF CARING
Story written for Ministry on the Move
by Sister Jean Stickney, LCM
March 3, 1993
It is with great pride and joy that I write this article in an attempt to share some of the wonderful feelings and thoughts that were mine during our recent tour of the first Little Company of Mary convent on 4130 South Indiana Avenue. The building, as it stands in good condition, today is known as the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church. The Pastor, Dr. Lou Rawls, graciously welcomed our wide-eyed group to visit our American roots and tour the buildings which today he and his group of dedicated associates are so proud.
As you may know, in 1896 a three-story brick building was built on the lot adjacent to the original frame house which our sisters called their first American home.
As our gracious hosts warmly welcomed us to this historic place, my mind wandered as I imagined the joy and gratitude felt by the eight Sisters who first lived in their new convent. This three-story building with finished basement, must have seemed very spacious and modern compared to their first modest frame home donated by Mr. Charles Mair in 1893.
The well-worn stairs remain today as a vivid reminder of the following 45 years in which many families came to the Sisters seeking nursing care for a loved one at home. Never were they refused, no matter what the illness, distance from the convent, or their ability to pay.
Many small bedrooms lined the halls. As I entered each room, I pictured our Sisters with Typhoid slowly recuperating in those rooms after nursing patients during the epidemics. I wondered, in which one of these rooms did Sister Elizabeth, a novice, make her Profession of Vows on the day of her death in 1898? I felt a deep sense of renewal knowing that many women with dedication and commitment came to join our pioneering sisters in a “Journey of Unconditional Love” which continues today.
As we entered the parlor and gathered in front of the fireplace, I could still feel a cozy atmosphere and a sense of community realizing that this was the place where our Sisters had celebrated holidays as well as holy days. Here they supported one another, laughed, and read and re-read letters from Sister companions in Ireland, England, Rome and Australia. Many meetings, plans and beginnings must have been discussed here in this fireside room. It must have been right here in November of 1896 that Mr. Charles Mair presented the Sisters with a large donation, on the day McKinley was elected President and in hopes of an economic recovery when “people felt more secure.”
It was here that 81 women gathered to begin the first Auxiliary Membership Drive in 1926. Here they made plans to establish their first hospital in Evergreen Park. As we moved to the Chapel, along the left wall we admired three large stained-glass windows. The middle window depicts the Calvary Scene, and the inspiration for the title of our community. It was this little group that stayed in the company of Mary on Calvary who remained faithful to Jesus. Faithfulness was the grace that our Sisters prayed for daily as they experienced many peaks and valleys, hopes and struggles in this new and unfamiliar land. I sensed that it was here that our most generous benefactor, Mr. Mair and his new bride, joined with the Sisters as they celebrated the opening of the new convent.
The other stained glass windows in the Chapel, worn but in recognizable condition portray Saint Veronica, Saint Stanislaus, Saint Patrick and Saint Cecelia. How appropriate for these windows to adorn the first LCM chapel as they depict the special patrons of our Community, especially of the first two superiors, Sister Veronica and her successor, Sister Patrick. It was truly a unique experience to behold the windows and to know the special meaning they hold.
Another special moment was catching a glimpse of the Seven Last Words of Christ, still readable, as inscribed on the beams and borders along each wall in the first Chapel. Although some words had been replaced by recent repairs, the statements and their deep meaning remain today.
Father, Forgive them for they know not what they do.
Amen, Amen! I say to thee, this day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.
Woman, behold thy son: Son, behold thy mother.
My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?
It is consummated.
Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.
Having the opportunity to view the symbols that embody our spiritual traditions as Little Company of Mary Sisters, made Sister Nancy, Sister Kathleen, Sister Joseph and myself, as the new generation of Little Company of Mary Sisters, feel very much at home in this historic place.
I am certain that you will all agree that we are each indeed, very fortunate to be here in the year 1993, as we dig for our roots, recall our heritage and celebrate 100 years of our Little Company of Mary ministries in America.