History of the US Province  Part V

Growth of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit in the U.S. continued throughout New England. In Hartford, the house at 118 Main St. was becoming quite crowded. By 1915 the building served as the Provincial House as well as the Juvenate and Postulate (the first two stages in the formation process for religious life), and boarding house for working  women. The pastor of St. Mary Parish in Putnam, CT, where  Daughters had been ministering since 1913, notified the Provincial of the availability of an attractive property which had been the estate of a wealthy mill owner, George M. Morse. The Provincial, Mother St. Charles Borromée, felt this would be a good opportunity for expansion. Bishop Nilan of the Diocese of Hartford agreed and approved the acquisition. The Provincial  then took the necessary steps to carry out negotiations for the purchase. She bought the Morse estate for $11,750 with funds coming from the province account and a loan from the Bishop. In giving his approval, Bishop Nilan had urged the building of a new wing;  this was done before the Sisters moved in with Father Bedard of Putnam overseeing the project. Before the Sisters moved in Mother St. Charles had a large bronze statue of the Sacred Heart erected on the front lawn. This figure still welcomes visitors to the property today.

Sister borromee Sister Anne Sister Louise

On November 7, 1917 the move was completed.  The Morse “mansion” had become the Provincial House and the location of the Juvenate and Postulate. The Hartford property remained the boarding house. The new Provincial House was blessed a week later and its first inhabitants were:
Provincial                               Mother St. Charles Borromée
Secretary                              Mother Louis du Sacré Coeur
Mistress of Postulants             Mother Emilienne Marie
Directress of Studies              Mother Francis Marie
Teacher of Juvenists              Sr. St. Florentine
Music Teacher                       Sr. Anne de la Providence
Sacristan and Receptionist     Sr. Amelina
Domestic Service                  Sr. Marie Yvonne
Laundry                               Sr. Claire Joseph
Sixteen Juvenists and Postulants.  
A milk cow and thirty chickens that had been donated helped provide sustenance for the group. This period of growth and transition occurred at a time when much of the world was in turmoil. A special time of trial erupted in 1914 with the start of World War I in Europe. The French sisters in the United States were very much concerned about their loved ones and their homeland in the midst of the conflict. Communication, at times, was practically nil. The war also  impacted the young American women who went to France for their novitiate. Six American Sisters who had been in France to make their novitiate pronounced their vows on August 8, 1914. They were due back in the U.S. at the end of that month, but the war caused them a notable delay before they were able to return home.  Another group had left for France to begin their novitiate shortly before the start of the war. After profession, they remained a few months in England and arrived safely  home at the end of 1915. Although all the Sisters came through safe and sound, this had been a source of considerable worry for the Congregation and the Sisters’ families. The French Sisters in the United States tried to manifest their patriotism and love of France in a number of ways as they carried out their respective apostolates. For example, Mother Marie Alvarez appealed to her friends in Hartford for woolens for the French troops and many Sisters knitted stockings and sweaters for the soldiers.

Sister Anne  Morse Mansion chapel

By April of 1917, the United States had joined in the war which made the voyage across the Atlantic a truly dangerous trip. In spite of the perils brought on by the use of submarine warfare, fourteen postulants sailed for France in the summer of 1917, accompanied by three Sisters. The trip was kept secret because the women were traveling on a military boat. Fortunately, the good God protected the Sisters.

postulants colline kitchen

In addition to the hardships of the war, the influenza epidemic struck in 1918  causing many more deaths. With the war over, Americans went about life as usual. There had been great strides in technology just before and during the war. This technological knowledge was now being applied to peacetime items such as electrical household appliances, transportation, and communication. Daughters of the Holy Spirit’s ministries continued to flourish until brought to a halt by the Great Depression of 1929 and later by World War II.(to be continued)

For more information about the History of the U.S. Province, please contact Sr. Marian St. Marie at marianst.marie@gmail.com. She will be happy to respond to your questions or comments.


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