9 Treasures of the Sisters of Charity Vault
By Carolyn Kesterman, Communications intern
The Sisters of Charity Motherhouse vault holds some of the most important and precious documents to the Community, as well as the personal papers and belongings of the Mother Superiors of the Congregation. Here are nine intriguing items found within.
First Community Prayer Manual
This Community prayer manual was owned by S. Ligouri Kelley, who entered the Community in 1855. The pages contain prayers for the different times of day, and directions are often included in italics stating how the prayers should be recited, such as kneeling, or on what dates variations should be used. Notes on the book state that it is the first such manual of prayers in the Community, most likely from the last quarter of the 1800s.
Register of Members
A handwritten record of members was kept by the Community before computers. Information listed on the records includes members’ names, the date they entered, and the dates when first and final vows were made. The page displayed here contains the entry for S. Mary Agnes McCann (1851-1931), one of the Community’s many dedicated historians and archivists who was responsible for the next treasure.
Handwritten Prayer Book
This prayer book, entitled “Prayers to the Holy Ghost,” was lettered by S. Mary Agnes McCann and presented to Mother Regina Mattingly (1826-1883) as a gift. Along with the carefully written words are pictures every now and then, including a golden dove on the first page and several sacred heart symbols.
Medals of Mother Mary Omer Downing
Mother Mary Omer Downing (1905-2000) was honored by many during her lifetime, well-respected for her ministry in Cincinnati and at the Villa Nazareth orphanage in Rome, Italy. Several awards she had received are preserved in the vault, including these three medals. On the far left is the Archbishop O’Boyle CCD Medal, named for Archbishop Patrick O’Boyle of the Washington, D.C. archdiocese. The middle medal is from Cardinal Richard Cushing, for “outstanding charitable and apostolic services for God and country.” The Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton Medal from Marillac College (seen on the far right) is inscribed on the back with her name and the date she received the honorary degree, August 8, 1967. This medal was given to her for her outstanding service to other women religious.
This scrap book also belonged to Mother Regina Mattingly (1826-1883). It is bound in red with gold and black script reading “Favorite Scrap Book” around a color illustration of a mountain homestead. Inside are prayer cards, dried plants, and several spiritual bouquets, which list the numbers of prayers being given for a person being honored. Some are addressed to Mother Regina with notes on the senders written below in her handwriting, and others belonged to Sisters who had died or given them to her for her collection. One spiritual bouquet is from the Sisters at St. Joseph School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, including S. Blandina. The floral-decorated one pictured here from 1876 is to Mother Josephine Harvey (1819-1895). It lists 600 Masses, 30 Communions, 7,182 Memorare, 810 visits, and 670 beads.
This medical bag belonged to Mother Josephine Harvey, one of the seven Sisters who formed the Cincinnati Community in 1852. Mother Josephine served at St. John’s Hospital (now Good Samaritan Hospital), and this bag would have accompanied her there.
Original Song Book
Bound in a piece of leather, this two-page song book contains an Ave Maria written by S. Miriam Elizabeth Dunn (1911-1997) in 1954 for Mother Mary Romana Dodd (1889-1973). The title page reads, “To Mother Mary Romana on Your Feast Day in Marian Year.” The inside sheet music and lyrics are carefully inscribed in ink.
Many Sisters have been missioned to foreign countries over the years. Crucifixes like these were at one time given to Sisters when they went on missions to be worn around their necks. Made of sterling silver, the backs of the crucifixes bear a sacred heart symbol surrounded by the words, “Sisters of Charity, Cincinnati, O.”
A box in the vault contains three printing plates that make up the Community seal designed by S. Augusta Zimmer (1904-1990), one of the Congregation’s most praised and prolific artists. The three crescents on the cross are for the Seton family, the plow for the Cincinnati Archdiocese, the sun for the charity of God, the mountains for Mount St. Joseph, the wavy lines for the Ohio River, and the fleur-de-lis for St. Margaret of Scotland, the patroness of Community founder Mother Margaret George. The piece with writing is the Community motto, which, translated, means, “The love of Christ urges us.”
These treasures of the vault are just some of the many items dear to the Sisters of Charity Community within its doors. The SC Archives staff works hard to preserve their rich history for the future.