Written on: August 27, 2014
The following was written and delivered by Sr. Ann Zita Crudden,GNSH
Good morning! Today, we are celebrating our Foundation Day. Ninety-three years ago, in Buffalo, NY, the first group of Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart met to establish a new, autonomous Congregation.
All of you, our friends, neighbors, and Residents who join us throughout the year are aware of our Foundress, St. Marguerite d’Youville, who began the first group of Grey Nuns in Montreal in 1737. In the years that followed, Bishops from other Canadian Provinces asked for Grey Nuns to be sent to serve in their areas. Between 1840 and 1849, three separate groups of Grey Nuns were established in St. Hyacinthe, Ottawa, and Quebec. In 1857, the Grey Nuns of the Cross from Ottawa established D’Youville College & Holy Angels Academy in Buffalo, NY. They also began schools and hospitals in Ogdensburg & Plattsburg, NY, and Lowell, Massachusetts.
But, how and why did we come to separate from the Ottawa branch? Who were the ones responsible for such a move? Allow me to introduce three original Grey Nuns of the Cross from Ottawa who were the source of our beginnings.
First, there was Sr. Mary Angela McGittrick, a native of Buffalo, NY. Although she attended public schools, she also received private lessons from our Sisters who staffed Holy Angels Academy. She entered the Novitiate located in Ottawa in 1871. Immediately following her Profession in 1873, she was appointed to be the second Mistress of Novices. Later, Sr. Angela taught in various schools in Ottawa until 1880, when she was named Superior of Holy Angels Academy in Buffalo. She also served as Superior of Immaculate Conception Convent in Lowell, Massachusetts and Sacred Heart Convent in Ogdensburg.
The second Nun directly involved was Sr. St. Vincent de Paul Quigley, born in Lima, NY; later her family moved to Rochester. Eventually, she became a resident student at the Rideau Street Convent in Ottawa. She entered the order in 1888, and taught in schools in Buffalo, Lowell, and Ottawa. When a Superior for the Ogdensburg Orphanage was needed, she accepted this position.
Finally, there was Sr. St. Veracunda Quinn, born in Ireland. Her family settled in Boston, Massachusetts. She entered the Ottawa Novitiate and was professed in 1888. She served for years as teacher and Mistress of Boarders at D’Youville Academy in Plattsburg, NY and Holy Angels Academy in Buffalo. In 1916, she was named Superior of Sacred Heart Convent in Ogdensburg, NY.
Almost all of these institutions were for English speaking students. It soon became apparent to the Sisters serving in the U. S. that an English-speaking Novitiate was needed in order to meet the needs of the young women who wished to join the Order, and to guarantee their proper formation. Since all those who entered the order had to travel to Ottawa for their formation, where everything was conducted in French, it became increasingly difficult to attract American vocations.
During the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s, petitions for an American Novitiate were presented to the Ottawa group. Although permission was actually granted twice, it was never carried out. The original purpose was not to separate from Ottawa, but simply to have a Novitiate located for the English speaking candidates. Several Clerics were supportive of this, including Bishops Turner and Dougherty of Buffalo, and Archbishop Quigley of Buffalo (the brother of Sr. Vincent de Paul), who later was sent to Chicago.
When it became apparent that the pleas for an American Novitiate went unheeded, Denis Cardinal Dougherty now of Philadelphia urged Sr. St. Vincent de Paul to compose a petition to be sent to Rome with reasons for requesting separation. This had become critical because of a decision that had been made by the1918 Ottawa Chapter of Affairs, which discontinued the education of young boys. The result would be that the Grey Nuns would no longer be able to teach at St. Mary’s Academy in Ogdensburg, and Sacred Heart Convent would close. Other elementary schools where the Grey Nuns taught would also be affected. To avoid this, the Sisters had to move quickly.
Sr. St. Vincent de Paul noted the following reasons for this separation:
Many new missions had to be refused because of the lack of English speaking Sisters – few American & English-speaking Canadians were entering the Grey Nun Community.
Finally, in April of 1921, the three Sisters met with the Apostolic Delegate to Canada He noted that Mother St. Albert, Superior General of Ottawa, and the local Archbishop no longer opposed this separation, and that he felt it was God’s work. He even thought it was possible that the first Superior General, and foundress of the Ottawa group, Mother Elizabeth Bruyere, was interceding for them.
By May 12th, the decree granting separation was given at Rome. This decree arrived on June 3rd, the first Friday of the Month of the Sacred Heart. Mother St. Albert notified the Sisters that the General Chapter of the newly-formed Congregation would be held on August 24th, 1921, at D’Youville College/Holy Angels Academy, Buffalo, NY. Delegates were chosen, and preparations were made. Cardinal Dougherty presided over the Elections and addressed the Sisters. In his remarks, the Cardinal cautioned the new Congregation to remain faithful to their Religious spirit. “No religious congregation has a guarantee of perpetuity unless it continue in its original spirit of fervor.” Just as St. Marguerite d’Youville’s last words to her Sisters: “…let the most perfect union reign among you.”, Cardinal Dougherty urged the new Congregation to remain Charitable.
In today’s Responsorial Psalm, we prayed: “Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.”
Thus, a new chapter was begun. As you join us in celebrating this anniversary of foundation, we ask you to continue your support and prayers that we Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart may continue to serve God and the Church, the People of God.
Sr. Ann Zita Crudden, GNSH entered the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart in September of 1960; that’s almost 54 years ago! She has worked for THE READING CONNECTION with students who have “learning differences”, such as Dyslexia and ADD/ADHD since 1997. In her free time, Sr. Ann Zita enjoys reading.