Link to download: Month of Remembering
During this month of November, and especially on the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, we remember our beloved dead. Ways to celebrate the dead are as varied as our cultures. However we celebrate, it is for one purpose: to bring to mind, to remember, to make alive again, those we love who have physically departed from us through death, but remain with us in memory.
For us as a Congregation, our celebrations take on a special significance during our Jubilee Year. We naturally call to mind our beloved foundresses, Madeleine and Pierre, and our beloved Claudio. Who can imagine the pain of separation experienced by those who knew them and loved them, when they passed from this life to the next? The small artifacts, the letters and anecdotes, cannot tell the whole story of their lives. So much is left unsaid; so little, really, is known.
Bishop Dubuis’ own words give insight into his daily life:
“I am in the best of health now, but for two months I have been between life and death, given up by the three best doctors in San Antonio. I would have liked to have visited with you while I was recuperating, but I did not have a priest to relieve me, and I could not, with good conscience, leave 8,000 Catholics without a priest. Several would have died without the Sacraments. You can judge the type of apostolic work I do by this single story: Each year I baptize from five to six hundred children; I assist at from three to four hundred weddings, and I help bury from two to three hundred people. Then I have to minister in German, English, Spanish. We have only a hundred or so French families” (Claude Dubuis, in a letter to his parents found in Treasured Tidbits, Sr. Nadine Luebbert).
Something of the character of Mother Madeleine is told in this short vignette from Promises to Keep (Slattery, Volume 1). News had reached Rev. Mother Angelique that the first Sisters in Galveston had reverted to wearing the cornette with which they were familiar. Madeleine was given the responsibility of bringing the Sisters into line:
“Sister Madeleine became the spokesperson for the newly arrived novices, and through her unwavering insistence that the directives of Rev. Mother Angelique be followed, she finally convinced the others that they must return to wearing the veil and adopt the habit given them by the Sisters in France. Sister Madeleine’s actions clearly demonstrated to Bishop Dubuis her steadfast determination to uphold whatever she believed in as well as her strict obedience to the religious superiors in Lyon. It was this exactness that prompted him to name her the first superior of the foundation in San Antonio” (Promises to Keep, pg 22).
We know so much about Mother St. Pierre, especially from her many, many letters that reveal so much of her character. From the Congregation’s annals, we know:
“[Mother St. Pierre] is described as being a ‘remarkably pleasing and amiable person’ and also as ‘a mother in the truest sense of the word.’ In writing to the sisters, she sometimes refers to herself as ‘your old mother,’ ‘your old ma’ or ‘Big Mama,’ an affectionate title given to her initially by Sister Mary Gabriel Wheelahan and used often by the children at St. Joseph’s Orphanage, referring in a gentle way to her physical stature but also to her warm-hearted motherly ways.”
“The two foundresses of the San Antonio community, Madeleine and Pierre, seemed to be exact opposites yet complementary one to the other. Madeleine was small of stature; Pierre was robust. Madeleine was quiet, timid, retiring, and initially, at least, unsure of her ability to lead others. Pierre, on the other hand, was gregarious, fond of singing and dancing, and courageous in undertaking new ventures.”
One time, when Bishop Dubuis proposed that Mother St. Pierre return to Galveston, Madeleine replied, “No, no! If you take her, I also will go! We are different, but we cannot live apart. We must work together. “The spirit of both foundresses, one of serious and strict observance of the rule, and the other lighthearted simplicity would endure into the future of the Congregation.”
Quotes from Promises to Keep, Volume 1
Sr. Margaret Patrice Slattery
Questions to ponder
Do these memories of our founders strengthen your will to serve? Can they still be example for you, for us, as we move forward into the next thing?
Does reflecting on our heritage give us the courage to hand over our legacy? To whom do we give it?