Posted by: newenglandarchivist | May 14, 2014

Vatican II Scrapbook

Vatican II Scrapbook_1 cropped

There are many scrapbooks contained in the Boston and Ipswich Provincial Archives here in Ipswich, MA. Some are assembled to collect memorabilia, but many hold clippings from important events, such as the Second Vatican Council. It is unsure just which Sister of Notre Dame arranged this scrapbook, but her interest and hopes are contained within the fragile binding that hold the now brittle pages together. I have digitized them and converted them into a pdf file which can be read here. Vatican II Scrapbook

Posted by: newenglandarchivist | March 18, 2014

Archivists’ Meeting in Namur

Heritage Center_54
View of the Missions of the Sisters of Notre Dame throughout the world
Click on image to enlarge

From March 1st to March 8th I was most fortunate to be included in a meeting of the archivists for the Sisters of Notre Dame throughout the world. It was thrilling for me to actually be in Namur, Belgium and to speak with sisters from the Congo, Nigeria, Brazil, Peru, South Africa, Kenya and Belgium. I am one of four archivists for the SNDs in the U.S. but hearing the struggles of the other archivists to maintain their collections meant so much to me. As part of the meeting, I was able to visit the nearly completed Heritage Centre housed at the Motherhouse in Namur. This amazing museum focuses on the lives of St. Julie Billiart and Francoise Blin de Bourdon, the founders of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, as well as the history of the Congregation of Sisters. If anyone has the opportunity to visit Belgium, it is well worth the trip to see this newly constructed Heritage Centre. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the museum as well as all the stories conveyed through text, video and images.

While in Belgium for the meetings, I was also fortunate to visit Cuvilly, France, the birthplace of St. Julie. Below is a photo of the reconstructed home of St. Julie as well as the welcoming center for visitors.

Cuvilly 2Cuvilly 10
Site of St. Julie’s birth                            Visitor’s Center for Julie’s birthplace
Click on images to enlarge

Posted by: newenglandarchivist | February 20, 2014

Ipswich Novitiate Dedication

Ipswich Novitiate Aerial View

On July 4, 1962, the completed novitiate in Ipswich, Massachusetts was dedicated. Opened just a few months before the Second Vatican Council was convened, the building was to house the dozens of postulants and novices who were entering the Sisters of Notre Dame. Today, it houses the Ipswich Province administration and the Congregational Mission offices. The building and grounds are also available for retreats.

As part of the Dedication, the Pilot newspaper published a special issue devoted exclusively to the Novitiate and the Sisters of Notre Dame. Ipswich Dedication Newspaper

Posted by: newenglandarchivist | January 8, 2014

The Needs of the Time: Needlework in Notre Dame Schools

Syllabus overviewSyllabus Grade 7
Overview of syllabus                     Example of sewing taught in Grade 7
Measures 8″ x 10.5′

From those first days when St. Julie Billiart gathered young girls to teach,
the emphasis was always on training them to be able to do for themselves.
While the curriculum shifted and expanded in the passing years to accommodate
parents’ expectations, sewing remained an integral part of the Notre Dame education.
But as St. Julie said, the Sisters were not “gathered to teach. . . children all kinds of fashionable work.” She believed that girls needed to be trained in manual work. With manual work, they would have the means to support themselves.

In 1895, the American Sisters of Notre Dame privately published their curriculum,
Course of Study in the Academies and Parochial Schools of the Sisters of Notre Dame,
The volume outlined grade by grade the coursework to be taught. These lessons included mathematics, history, geology, meteorology, science, reading, penmanship, bookkeeping, music, religion, literature, geography, physics, astronomy, languages, and lastly, but by no means least, needlework. The needlework curriculum presented in specific detail the stitches and abilities to be taught in each grade. In second grade, the girls learned the simple hem stitch. By the ninth grade, when most of the girls graduated, they would have learned everything they needed to sew their own clothing.

A year after the publication of the curriculum, Sister Sabina Clancy (1869-1947) created a visual syllabus of those needlework lessons for the first seven grades. This visual syllabus, now more than a century old, offers a window into the history of Notre Dame education. While this particular curriculum and syllabus is no longer in use, in the spirit of St. Julie, Notre Dame education continues to prepare students for today’s world by addressing the needs of our time.

The display and exhibit, The Needs of the Time: Needlework in Notre Dame Schools, is available for viewing in the Boston/Ipswich Archives Monday through Thursdays 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Posted by: newenglandarchivist | November 19, 2013

St. Julie Billiart Canonization Film

MND Julie OH

When I sent off the 16mm film of the Canonization of St. Julie Billiart to be digitized, I had no idea what was on the film. To my surprise, there was no sound and was only 12 minutes long. Though filmed on June 22nd, 1969, it seems much older, perhaps because it is silent.

To view the film, click here.

A little over 8 minutes into the film, the camera lingers on 3 of the Sisters of Notre Dame’s Superiors–Sister Loretto Julia Carroll, Sister Mary Linscott and Mere Josepha de St. Francois.

Posted by: newenglandarchivist | October 31, 2013

Julie Billiart’s Beatification

Beatification Album 029 adjustedBeatification Album 025 adjusted
Click on pictures to enlarge

I have just recently finished organizing the material focusing on the Sisters of Notre Dame’s founder, St. Julie Billiart (1751-1816). Included with the many documents, pamphlets and books is a wonderful old scrapbook assembled in 1922. From May 11 to May 15, 1922, the city of Namur, Belgium hosted a celebration in honor of the beatification of Julie Billiart, which occurred in Rome on May 13, 1906.

While many aspects of my work are fun, never do I enjoy it more than when I view old photographs. The picture on the left is a view of portion of the parade in Namur during the celebration. On the right, take a look at people. Some are aware of the camera, but my favorite image is of the boy who has turned directly to the camera with a big smile on his face. Though he’s long gone by now, I wonder whatever became of him.

Posted by: newenglandarchivist | October 15, 2013

Roxbury Academy Centennial Scrapbook

Roxbury Academy 1889
Academy of Notre Dame, Roxbury, MA in 1889

In the world of archives, dealing with scrapbooks is problematic. Though wonderful as artifacts, the material used not long ago was acidic and quickly deteriorated. When I discovered the Roxbury Academy Centennial Scrapbook in the Notre Dame archives, I was both delighted and horrified. The material pasted onto the pages was incredible–lovely programs and invitations to school events, mingled with photographs and news clippings. But the pages they were mounted on were so acidic, I knew the situation required action in the not too distant future.
Roxbury Scrapbook image
Scrapbook page before restoration.

As seen above, the items are wonderful, but the brittle, acidic pages were damaging the items. Fortunately, the North Bennet Street School in Boston offers a solution. One of their interns in their bookbinding department was willing to remove the hundreds [and possibly thousands] of items and remount them onto acid free paper.
Roxbury Scrapbook image after restoration
The same page mounted onto acid free paper.

Last week, I was able to pick up the Roxbury Scrapbook. The clean, acid free pages offer protection to a valuable artifact in our archives. Now housed in a new box, it is ready to last another century.

Posted by: newenglandarchivist | October 9, 2013

Peabody, MA Fire of 1915

St. John's Garden
Memorial Garden at St. John’s School
built in remembrance of the victims of the 1915 fire
Peabody, Massachusetts

It’s hard to imagine these days, but at one time the necessity of fire escapes in schools or most public buildings was debatable. On October 28, 1915, a fire swept through St. John’s School in Peabody, Massachusetts, killing 21 children between the ages of 6 and 17. Only 2 days before, a fire drill had been conducted by the Sisters of Notre Dame. Unfortunately, two days later, a fire somehow started in the basement just before school began. By the time it was discovered just after the morning bell rang, it was already too late. Smoke filled the corridors, adding to the confusion and panic.

To learn more about the Peabody fire of 1915, check out the October issue of the Annals from the Archives.

Posted by: newenglandarchivist | September 9, 2013

Sisters of Notre Dame during WWII

Namur Church after bombing 1944 edited
Namur Church after 1944 bombing

The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur kept up a steady correspondence from the beginning of their founding in 1806. Exchanges between Sisters and Superiors are interspersed with more formal letters directed to the Order’s government and various rules.

Included in these thousands of letters are many personal ones sent by the Sisters to family members. Among those are the letters of Sister Julie de la Sainte Famille (1874-1958). Sr. Julie was born Julia Chisholm on Nov. 4, 1874 in Cambridge, MA, the daughter of Colin and Katherine T. (Carroll) Chisholm. She took her first vows in 1900 as a Sister of Notre Dame. Through her warmth, evident in letters to her family, and her abilities, she served as president and Superior at Emmanuel College in Boston between 1931 and 1933. She also taught at Trinity College and later served as the General Councillor for the Sisters of Notre Dame’s mother house in Namur, Belgium. Her letters home describe in vivid detail what life was like during the war and of the bombing of the Order’s mother house in 1944, during which 6 Sisters of Notre Dame were killed. Below is one of her letters home. Sister Julie de la Sainte Famille died March 12, 1958 in Worcester, MA. [Click on image to expand]
Sr. Julie de la Ste. Famille letter 1944 edited
December 1, 1944 letter from Sister Julie de la Sainte Famille to family living in Melrose, MA

Posted by: newenglandarchivist | August 22, 2013

St. Augustine’s School, South Boston

St. Augustines Class of 1913 edited
Class of 1913, St. Augustine’s High School

St. Augustine’s School opened in South Boston in 1895. The Annals describing those first years tell of an overwhelming response to the school’s opening. The Sisters had planned on eight classes, most likely thinking that they would have only elementary age children. The day of registration came and one tale indicates just how overcrowded the school would become:
The Teacher of Grade One for boys conducted to their future class room, seventy-two gentlemen. She thought to win their hearts at once by announcing that they would be permitted to visit the school before going home. The news was received with delight, and Sister, blessing in her heart the docile quiet boys, stepped to the door to answer a knock. A slight noise attracted her attention. She turned to find but six boys in the room. No time was to be lost. Six men and as many boys were pressed into service and soon the seventy-two were seated as before and all avenue of escape cut off.”
The first week, the Sisters had over 600 children enrolled, filling ten classrooms. They had but eight teachers. After much scrambling, they finally had ten teachers for ten classes. For the next three months, the school admittances continued and by Christmas over 850 students filled the school. The first High School Graduation occurred in June 1899.

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