NDMU Students Participate in SSND Heritage Tour in the US

With Sister Cathy and Sister Beatriz in Woodhaven, NY

Sister Therese Marie Dougherty and Evelyn Spratt, Director of the Morrissy Honors Program at Notre Dame of Maryland University, led two Morrissy Honors students on an SSND Heritage tour May 23-30. Following in the footsteps of Blessed Theresa and Mother Caroline, the participants read relevant selections from their letters as they visited current SSND ministries in the places where they traveled.  

On the journey, train, rental car, ferry and plane replaced the pioneeers' stagecoach, wagon and steamer, but the travelers enjoyed warm SSND hospitality everywhere they went. While on the train, they read Blessed Theresa and Mother Caroline's accounts of their trans-Atlantic voyage and their disappointing experience at St. Mary’s, PA. The tour participants were welcomed in New York by Sister Cathy Feeney and the staff of the SSND Educational Center in Woodhaven, Queens. Having had an introduction to the GED and ESL programs at the center, the visitors had the opportunity to interact with the women studying there.

Sister Beatriz Martinez, who resides at the Center, described to the group her ministry as the SSND NGO representative at the United Nations. The next day the modern day pilgrims took a ferry to Ellis Island to get in touch with the immigrant experience of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They ended the day with a tour of the United Nations.  

Very early the next morning, the group boarded a train to Rochester, NY, where Sister Evelyn Breslin and her friend, Janice Incavo, took them to the remaining façade of St. Joseph’s, our first SSND foundation in Rochester and now a historical monument. From there we drove to the Learning Center where we met a few of the children and their tutors. Sister Evelyn was a great hostess at dinner at the waterfall which led Blessed Theresa to call Rochester the most beautiful city in America.  

With Sister Evelyn in Rochester

The following day was spent at Niagara Falls, so loved by Mother Caroline, and continued on to Buffalo for the night. After an early flight to Chicago the next morning the travelers met Margarita Silva, SSND Associate and ESL director at Corazón a Corazón, a SSND sponored ministriy. Over brunch she described her program and gave some pointers for sightseeing in Chicago. The group was happy for the opportunity to have dinner with Sister Catherine Sarther, who had spent several years in the School of Education at Notre Dame of Maryland University.

The final day proved to be a fitting climax of the pilgrimage. The group drove to Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, where the SSND archivist, Michele Levandoski, took them to the cemetery at Elm Grove to visit Mother Caroline’s grave, as well as the graves of Father Abbelin, her longtime friend and spiritual director, and may other SSNDs.  

On their return to the archives they examined, among many other things, Mother Caroline’s luggage, rocker and desk, and a magnificent monstrance that had been a gift from Father Abbelin in honor of Mother Caroline. After lunch and a presentation by Michele on early SSND history in America, Sister Joan Penzenstadler joined in to provide information on the beginnings of SSND in Milwaukee and the history of Mount Mary University. Treating the visitors to views of gargoyles and other interesting architectural elements at Mount Mary, Ssiter Joan also gave a tour of the adjacent Trinity Woods, the lovely new residence for the retired Sisters who formerly lived at Elm Grove.

At Mother Caroline's grave in Elm Grove, WI

While the tourists could not cover all of the 2597 miles that Mother Caroline and Blessed Theresa traveled back in 1848 with St. John Neumann, the whirlwind week was a great opportunity to become acquainted with those early years and with the beautiful ministries in which their spirit lives on. Blessed Theresa and Mother Caroline were surely smiling on the trip participants and all those SSNDs who welcomed them so warmly. "We are grateful to all who contributed to this blessed experience," Sister Therese said.

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