History of the US Province  Part 4

Provincial houeIn a few short years, the Daughters of the Holy Spirit presence in the United States had expanded. At the instigation of Bishop Tierney, a Provincial House was established in 1905 in Hartford. The home of the renowned educator, Henry Barnard, at 118 Main Street was purchased for this purpose. At first the Sisters gave lessons in music, French, and sewing. Later, a boarding home for working girls was opened in the Provincial House. This venture was so successful that by November, 1906 a new addition was built. The Barnard House was now called St. Elizabeth. Bishop Tierney had also wanted Sisters to open a day care center in Hartford and thus purchased a large colonial house at 244 Main Street in 1908. The Sisters who had been at St. Vincent’s at 28 Charter Oak Place moved to the new house.  Unfortunately this was not successful due to several factors. By 1909 the Bishop had closed the day care center. On the other hand, St. Elizabeth was quite successful and becoming crowded. The Provincial House provided a place for sick Sisters, a novitiate, and the home for working girls. On December 2, 1909, a house was purchased at 7 Charter Oak Place and was called St. Ildefonse. This is now the present day Bethany Community. There is a possibility that a neighboring house at 6 Charter Oak Place was also purchased but this has not been confirmed.

The Spirit’s breathing forth was evident. A clear sign of growth was the arrival in 1906, of the first American postulant, Marie Pinelle (Sr. Ernest Alvarez) from Swanton. She soon was joined by Cora Marquis (Sr. Cecilia du St. Esprit) from Leominster, and Ida White (Sr. Alvarez de St. Yves) from New Haven. In July the three left for France for their Novitiate; in 1908 the first Americans pronounced their vows as DHS.

St Ann ConventAnother area of Hartford beckoned. St. Anne School in the French-Canadian parish had been staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chambery but these Sisters had withdrawn; the Daughters now stepped in to replace them. For the first four years the Sisters who were teaching at St. Anne’s walked from St. Elizabeth on Main Street to the school on Putnam Street. Eventually, the pastor, Father Charles Bedard, was able to provide housing near the school.

Not all the ventures were successful. DHS presence in Buffalo was short-lived. In 1903, Bishop Cotton of Buffalo, requested Sisters to run a day care center. When the four Sisters who had been chosen arrived in the city, they discovered there was no convent and no day care center. The Sisters of St. Joseph came to the rescue, providing the Daughters with hospitality. The Bishop now asked if the Sisters would take care of the sick poor instead of running a day care center. It was agreed, however none of the Sisters knew English nor did they know anything about nursing; they had been trained as teachers. The local weather was also a source of suffering.  Buffalo, located on Lake Erie, experiences “lake effect weather”. During much of the winter the city is buried in snow with a very cold, damp climate. The French Sisters were not acclimated to this and suffered considerably. Early in 1904, Mother Marie Alvarez traveled to Buffalo and decided that the Daughters would leave the area.

Another short-lived venture occurred in 1906 in Detroit, Michigan at St. Mary’s Home for working girls which was run by laywomen.  One of these women was an acquaintance of the Barnards, former owners of the Provincial House. With the Barnard’s encouragement and the approval of Bishop Tierney and the Superior General, Mother Marie Alvarez accepted. Seven Sisters traveled by train to Detroit and were warmly received by the city’s other religious. However, upon arrival the Sisters discovered things were not as rosy as had been presented. The house was too small; funds were extremely low therefore adequate help could not be hired. The Sisters did much of the household upkeep besides running the home. In addition the Sisters were expected to pay $52.00 a month in the home they were staffing. It wasn’t long before the Sisters were very overworked and suffering from deprivation. To add to the difficulty,  Detroit, just as  Buffalo, is a lake city. Its position on Lake Erie caused much suffering for the Sisters with the snowy winter’s cold and dampness. By mid-1907, the situation had become impossible; the Daughters left Detroit.

St. WilliamsTwo brief ventures occurred in Massachusetts. The pastor of St. William in Mittineague, a section of West Springfield, wanted a parish school therefore requested Daughters from Mother Marie Alvarez. In 1905 Sisters arrived to work in the French-Canadian parish where they were warmly welcomed. The parish was poor but the Sisters were happy, that is until there was a change of pastor. The new pastor was Irish causing the French-Canadians to fear losing their language and faith. At this time in American history, different ethnic groups did not often get along. Tensions arose; there was a lack of cooperation and support. Unfortunately, the Sisters were caught in the middle. In addition, there were not enough Sisters to carry out the mission thus Daughters withdrew from Mittineague in 1921.

Manchaug Another parish requesting Daughters was in the small Massachusetts town of Manchaug. The pastor wanted Sisters for his new parish school, St. Anne. And thus they arrived in 1906. This also proved to be a difficult situation. Economic problems exploded in the town when the major cotton factory was sold and then closed down. People, out of work, went out of town to find jobs. This certainly affected the school. The final blow came when a devastating fire destroyed much of the town including the church, rectory, school and convent.  Eventually, a good portion of the town was rebuilt, but not the school, therefore, the Daughters left Manchaug. However the seeds had been sown. Two young women from Manchaug entered the Daughters. They were Sr. Cecile Angelique and Sr. Lydia Therese St. Jean. 
As time passed, more young American women joined the Daughters of the Holy Spirit.  Expansion continued.  Daughters spread through the Massachusetts towns of:  Leominster, Chicopee, West Warren, Fitchburg, and Fall River. In Vermont, Graniteville and Winooski Park were opened. In Rhode Island Daughters moved into Providence, Pawtucket, and Newport.

Further growth in Connecticut continued in Moosup, Wauregan, Jewett City, and Putnam. In New York, Tupper Lake was opened.  Clearly, in spite of some short-lived ventures, the Spirit was leading the Daughters to become well established in the United States.


leominister moosup
pawtuckett pawtuckett
jewsett city fichburg
providence providence
jewsett city st mary putnam
nazareth home  


Please share your comments and/or questions with Sr. Marian St. Marie at marianst.marie@gmail.com or give her a call at 860-928-0891 ext. 121  We would love to hear your memories of the Sisters in any one of the places mentioned in the above article



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