Marking a Century of Presence in Putnam

A century or 36,500 days ago on Wednesday, November 7, 1917 the US Province of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit moved into its new headquarters at 72 Church Street in Putnam, Connecticut.  This small mill town incorporated in 1855 already boasted an active Roman Catholic Parish and an elementary school staffed by the Sisters of Mercy. 

Upon their arrival in America in 1902 the Daughters of the Holy Spirit established their Provincial House in Hartford, CT.  However, it soon became apparent that the facility was too small to accommodate the Sisters and the growing number of boarders.  So the notice went out that the DHS were house-hunting. 

Morres mansion in its early stages
Morse estate in its early stages
Morse estate in its early stages

Meanwhile in Putnam prominent mill owner and business entrepreneur George M Morse, a native of Providence, Rhode Island,  had settled in Putnam in the spring of 1856 in a lovely home, sitting on a hill overlooking the Quinebaug River.  Mr. Morse and his wife Melora had ten children who enjoyed the open space and fine accommodations of the property on the hill until Mr. Morse’s death in 1914 when the estate was placed on the market.

Morse estate in its early stages Morse estate in its early stages

Morse estate in its early stages

Morse estate in its early stages

Our province historian, Sr. Marian St. Marie, in her text “God’s Spirit Breathes Forth” reminds us that the pastor of St. Mary Church of the Visitation in Putnam, Rev. Charles Bédard, notified the Provincial, Mother St. Charles Borromée, that this building and extensive property were for sale.  Bishop Nilan of the Hartford Diocese  (the Diocese of Norwich did not exist at the time) immediately approved the purchase, lent the Sisters $5000.00 cash needed to supplement their reserved funds and blessed this major undertaking with the suggestion that a new wing be constructed as soon as possible to provide space for annual retreats, for the care of sick sisters and for postulants as well.   Mother St. Charles jumped at the opportunity and paid a cash amount of $11,750 for the Morse estate and, with the ongoing guidance of Father Bédard, moved forward with the construction project which included the placement of a large statue of the Sacred Heart on the lawn in front of the main entrance.

Provincial House 1917 Milk cow in residence

Provincial House 1917

Milk cow in residence

After a couple years of hard work the official transfer of the Provincial House from 118 Main Street in Hartford to its current location in Putnam took place.  On November 10th Fr. Bédard celebrated the first mass in a temporary chapel, and one week later Bishop Nilan visited the Province’s new seat and conferred his episcopal blessing upon it and its residents: the provincial, her council, several staff members and 16 juvenists (candidates) and postulants.  Also to be noted as residents on the property were a cow and 30 chickens donated respectively by the family of one of the sisters and the sisters in Manchaug and by the community in Wauregan.

Provincial House today Sacred Heart statue at main entrance today
Provincial House today
Sacred Heart statue at main entrance today

One hundred years have passed.  Times indeed have changed.  The Provincial House building and ground appearances have been modified, adapted and modernized as needs have required, but one thing has persisted over these 1200 months – the Spirit is alive and well in all sisters, staff and those who grace these hallowed halls with their presence on an ongoing basis.  It remains to this day a true “house of charity’ à la DHS. 

Mother St. Charles at celebratory liturgy Cake with PH design
Mother St. Charles at celebratory liturgy
Cake with PH design

A special Mass of gratitude  commemorating the 100th anniversary was celebrated in the Provincial House Chapel on Sunday, November 5th.  Mother St Charles Borromée made a guest appearance to greet the assembly and to mill about with them after the liturgy.  Bread was broken with several guests and the community of sisters in residence, and all enjoyed the delicious celebratory cake boasting the image of the Provincial House.  Stories were shared, historical and possibly hysterical moments were recalled and a unique feeling of belonging to this ‘house’ pervaded the gleeful atmosphere. 

Sisters admiring cake

Sisters admiring cake

The photos help us visualize the Provincial House then and now and also give us a taste of the celebration.  For more information on the history of the Provincial House, you may contact Sr. Marian St. Marie at marianst.marie@gmail.com. Better yet, why not stop in for a visit?

 

 
 

© Copyright 2016 Daughters of the Holy Spirit, USA Province
72 Church Street  Putnam, Connecticut 06260 USA  860-928-0891

 
Director's Circle