Father Peter Mathias Abbelen, Father Spiritual of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in North America, and confidante of Mother Caroline, wrote an account of her life shortly after her death. In the introduction to this work, Bishop J.L. Spalding, Bishop of Peoria, describes Caroline’s “Catholic spirit.” His reflection on Catholicity, though written in 1893, is especially timely today. Father Abbelen is buried in Elm Grove, Wisconsin, near the grave of Mother Caroline.
“The growth of the Church in the United States, as that of the country itself, is due to the co-operation of many races, and if this co-mingling of heterogeneous elements has its disadvantages, it is, on the other hand, productive of good. A strong people is more impressed by the qualities than by the defects of those with whom it is thrown into contact, and the presence of many races here will teach us a more comprehensive wisdom, a broader tolerance, a wider sympathy. Here, for the first time, the selfishness, the hardness and narrowness of nationalism, shall cease to exist. As we give to each individual the largest liberty compatible with the rights of others, so we hold that immigrants from whatever part of the world have the right to maintain their customs, languages and religious practices, since, to be a true citizen of a country such as this, it is only necessary to be a good man, a lover of liberty and a foe of injustice. The best are slowest to abandon the old ways, and they who are most faithful to the memories and lessons of their early life will be found most faithful also to the duties imposed upon them by new surroundings. Mother Caroline, whose spirit was truly Catholic, did not consider, in receiving applicants for admission into her community, the country in which they were born, but the dispositions and qualifications they brought to the work.”
P.M. Abbelen and Rev. J.L Spalding. Venerable Mother M. Caroline Friess, First Commissary General of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in America: A Sketch of her Life and Character. Leopold Classic Library