A 17th Century Reexamination of a 4th Century Saint’s Legend

by Alan Krieger, Theology and Philosophy Librarian

Spine and front cover of binding.

Hesburgh Libraries has recently acquired a fascinating and important early modern work on the story of St. Ursula, a fourth-century British princess who tradition relates was martyred along with her 11,000 female followers by the Huns while on a pilgrimage to Rome. Vita et Martyrium S. Ursulae et Sociarum Undecim Millium Virginum etc. (Coloniae Agrippinae, 1647) by the Jesuit Hermann Crombach is an extensive defense of the legend’s historical veracity, as well as a detailed attempt to identify as many of her virgin companions as possible.

There was a resurgence of St. Ursula’s cult in the seventeenth century that witnessed the publication of a number of titles related to her; this tome “provides the most encyclopedic hagiographic coverage of the cult ever published.” ( Cartwright, The cult of St Ursula and the 11,000 virgins, 2016, p.21-22). This renewal of interest in the saint should probably be seen through the lens of the Catholic Reformation, in which detailed investigations into the authenticity of relics, saints’ legends, etc. were held up as proofs of the church’s reliability in transmitting her traditions.

Beginning of text.

Crombach’s exhaustive approach even included an attempt to identify as many of Ursula’s companions as possible and the inclusion of three finely engraved maps attempting to trace the route of the retinue from southwest England to Rome, before they turned north and were martyred in the defense of Cologne—besieged at the time by the Huns.

The first map, added between pages 270 and 271.

We have identified only five North American library holdings of this work.

Opportunities for Research Visits to Notre Dame’s Special Collections

The Rare Books and Special Collections at Hesburgh Library welcomes visiting scholars whether they wish to consult one book or to spend many days immersed in our collections.

A number of research grants and awards are made available by a variety of institutions which may be of interest to people considering travelling for research visits. These are administered and funded by various groups, and so the information in this blogpost is intended to serve as a signpost to different opportunities, and to encourage readers to follow the links to the relevant grants and awards.

Dante Studies Travel Grants

With the Devers Family Program in Dante Studies, the Center for Italian Studies co-sponsors travel grants for faculty and graduate students from other institutions whose research would benefit from on-site access to Notre Dame’s special collections on Dante, the Ambrosiana archive, or other of its Italian holdings. For more information, please contact devers@nd.edu.

The Italian Studies Library Research Award

The Center for Italian Studies and Notre Dame International jointly administer an Italian Studies Library Research Award. This award provides grant funding for scholars to use the collections of the Hesburgh Libraries for research in Italian studies. Research awards are intended to defray the cost of travel and accommodation for research visits of one to three weeks in duration. Applications from international locations are encouraged. Read more about this award and access the application on the Center for Italian Studies’ website.

Keough-Naughton Library Research Award in Irish Studies

The Keough-Naughton Library Research Award provides grant funding to assist scholars who travel to the Notre Dame campus to use the collections of the Hesburgh Libraries for research in all aspects of Irish studies. This award is funded and administered jointly by the Keough Naughton Institute for Irish Studies and Notre Dame International. Information and application instructions for this grant may be found on the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies website.

Cushwa Center Research Travel Grants

The Cushwa Center provides research grants for the Study of Catholicism in America. Information on their opportunities for research in the University of Notre Dame Archives and the Hesburgh Libraries may be found on the Cushwa Center’s Research Travel Grants page.

Hibernian Research Awards

Funded by an endowment from the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, these annual awards provide travel funds to support the scholarly study of Irish and Irish American history. This grant is administered by the Cushwa Center of Catholic Studies. Information is available on the Grant Opportunities page of the Cushwa Center’s website.

A Day in a Life of the Warsaw Ghetto in Photographs

by Natasha Lyandres, Head of Special Collections and Curator, Russian and East European Collections

Special Collections recently acquired two World War II era photo albums featuring original photographs from within and outside of the Warsaw Ghetto’s walls.

Although the albums lack dates and inscriptions, they probably belonged to а German soldier who visited Warsaw sometime after the establishment of the Ghetto in November 1940 and before the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in April 1943.  At the height of its existence in 1941, the Warsaw Ghetto included more than 500,000 Jews from Warsaw and surrounding towns. They lived in subhuman conditions in a small area segregated from the rest of the city by wire and brick walls. Fueled by years of massive Nazi propaganda, the occupied Warsaw was a popular destination for Wehrmacht soldiers who came here to see for themselves the “authentic” East European Jews and their culture. 

Three men standing in the Warsaw Ghetto. (MSE/REE 0042-1, fol. 4r)

The first album presents a broad spectrum of people and activities taking place inside the Ghetto walls.  It comprises twenty-four photographs probably taken during a single day as the photographer strolled through the streets documenting his encounters with the doomed inhabitants. The images vary from close up portraits of people directly facing the camera to more general depictions of the busy street life, misery, and suffering.

The photographer captured “typical Jewish” men with long beards wearing traditional attire, women with strollers in the park, rickshaws used for transporting people and goods, crowded marketplaces with inhabitants trying to make a living by selling potatoes, warm water, and the obligatory Star of David armbands, uprooted families arriving to the Ghetto from nearby towns, homeless children begging for food, and people collapsing and dying on the sidewalks from hunger and diseases.

The Old town. (MSE/REE 0042-2, fol. 18r)

The second album presents forty-seven photographs depicting mostly street views and buildings on the “Aryan” side of Warsaw, including images of the Ghetto wall (Ulica Graniczna), views of the Old town with its charming narrow streets and alleys, palaces with Nazi flags and German soldiers, and historical monuments, many of which were later destroyed. This album also contains several aerial views of the soon to be destroyed city and bridges over the Vistula river. 

Taken by a perpetrator, these photographs serve as important historical evidence of the Holocaust and Nazi atrocities in Poland.

The albums are currently on display as the September spotlight exhibit in Special Collections. After the exhibit closes, they will be digitized. They will soon be available on the Marble (Museums, Archives, Rare Books and Libraries Exploration) online platform.

RBSC is closed Monday, September 5th, for Labor Day.

Upcoming Events: September 2022

Please note that the corridor outside RBSC is temporarily narrowed to a pedestrian tunnel due to ongoing library renovations, but we remain open regular hours.

Please join us for the following public events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, September 1 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar: “How Contini Worked: The Critic’s ‘Scartafacci'” – Ryan Pepin (University of Notre Dame).

Friday, September 16 at 3:30pm | The Diary of Pelagia Rościszewska: Facts, Secrets, and Surprises – Dariusz Skórczewski (John Paul II Catholic University).


Daughters of Our Lady: Finding a Place at Notre Dame, an exhibition of materials from the University of Notre Dame Archives curated by Elizabeth Hogan and reflecting on the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Notre Dame, opened late-August and will run through the fall semester.

The current spotlight exhibits are Three Sisterhoods and Two Servants of God (June – September 2022) and A Day in a Life of the Warsaw Ghetto in Photographs (August – September 2022).

RBSC will be closed Monday, September 5th,
for Labor Day.

Rare First Edition of an Early Catholic Criticism of the Protestant Reformation

by Alan Krieger, Theology and Philosophy Librarian

Hesburgh Libraries has recently acquired an extremely rare first edition of Johannes Cochlaeus’ Glos Vn̄ Cōment Doc. Johānes Dobneck Cochleus von Wendelstein, vff CLIIII: Articklen gezogen vss einem Sermon Doc. Mar. Luterss von der heiligen Mess un̄ nüem Testamēt (Strassburg, 1523).

Cochlaeus (1479-1552) was one of the most prolific and rhetorically ferocious Catholic critics of the early Protestant Reformation and in this work attempts to refute one of Luther’s published sermons on the Mass, accusing him of being a “new Hussite” and likening him to the Bohemian reformer Jan Hus, who was burned at the stake in 1452. Cochlaeus repeatedly stressed Luther’s preference for Hussite teachings on the Eucharist over those embraced by the Church and assailed him for breaking down religious law, true penance, and the authority of any institution to determine proper religious belief and practice. In particular, the author attacks Luther’s denial of transubstantiation—the doctrine that the bread and wine are transformed into the flesh and blood of Christ during the act of consecration—and the latter’s substitution of “consubstantiation”, the view that the substance of the bread and wine coexists with the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.

“Ultimately, Cochlaeus juxtaposed Luther’s preference for ‘your bread of Hus’ to the Church’s ‘body of Christ,’ a contrast that echoed Cochlaeus’ earlier accusations of Luther’s idolatrous veneration for Jan Hus and further showed Luther to be resistant to all forms of legitimate ecclesiastical authority.” (Haberkern, Patron Saint and Prophet, p. 228-9).

We have found only one other North American holding of this edition.

WWII as Seen Through the Eyes of the Japanese Navy

by Hye-jin Juhn, East Asian Studies and Metadata Librarian

The book, The Dignified Appearance of the Imperial Navy (帝国海軍の威容), published on December 8, 1942,  provides an insight into the Japanese WWII military point of view.

The first chapter, the “Basics” or the “Foundations” (基礎篇), describes in detail how, in 1941, the Japanese Navy prepared its preemptive strikes against the United States and the Pacific colonies of the former British Empire.

On the chapter title page is the seamen’s weekly schedule. “Training” is planned for every day of the week; There is neither Saturday nor Sunday, but two Mondays and two Fridays.

Monday: training (訓練)
Monday: training (訓練)
Tuesday: training (訓練)
Wednesday: training (訓練)
Thursday: training (訓練)
Friday: training (訓練)
Friday: intensive training (猛訓練)

The photos in this chapter show the sailors performing daily military tasks, exercising, dining, etc. They also highlight the battleships, military planes, and weapons.

This photo shows the subservient relationship of the sailors to the guns above their heads.
The caption reads: “A weapon is the spirit of a military man. For a sailor, the battleship is the largest weapon; the cannons are the battleship’s most important weapon…”

The second chapter, the “Outcome of the War” (戦果篇),  presents a panorama of images of Hawaii, Malaya, New Guinea, and other targets in Southeast Asia, shortly after bombing by the Japanese planes. The photos were not intended to be realistic or artistic. Nor do they appear to attempt to “entertain” or “thrill” their audience, as today’s “war pornography” does. Seen from the distant sky, the smoke shrouds the ongoing destruction below.

For the Japanese at the time, these images likely evoked a sense of pride and superiority, and promoted a worship of the Navy, its weapons and machines, and especially of the provider of those weapons: the emperor. These images were meant to “promote unity, suppress individuality, defend hierarchy, and still dissent.” (See “Revolution by Redefinition: Japan’s War without Pictures,” by Julia Adeney Thomas, in Visualizing Fascism.)

In the preface, there are various references to “sound”:

“Breaking the thirty-years’ silence, early in the morning of the eighth day, the Japanese Imperial Navy briskly woke up and raided Pearl Harbor of Hawaii…”

卅年の沈黙を破つて蹶然と起きった帝国海軍は,開戦劈頭の八日朝,ハワイ眞珠灣を急襲し…

“The spirits of the Japanese Imperial Navy, reinforced by iron-like silence and bloody training, were released, and finally shed a brilliant light above the world.”

鐵の沈黙と血の訓練とによって倍はれに帝国海軍魂喀,遂にその燦然たる光を全世界に放つたのである.

“The photos included in this book respond to the emotional cheers (voices) of 100 million Japanese citizens.”

本帖に収録した寫眞は,…一億国民の感激のに答へんとするものである.

Original-Format Facsimile of a Medieval Treasure

by Julia A. Schneider, Ph.D, Medieval Studies Librarian

Any questions about the thirteenth-century French artist and architect Villard de Honnecourt and his work must be answered by the one portfolio of sketches and notes he left behind, or not at all: it is the only known example of his work. The original manuscript of the portfolio, which contains more than two hundred drawings on thirty-three leaves of parchment, was produced sometime between 1220-1240.  Although almost all of the notes and drawings appear to have been made by the author, a few have been added or altered by subsequent owners. It came to the library at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Germain-des-Prés at the beginning of the eighteenth century, surviving a fire there. At the end of 1795 or beginning of 1796, it was taken to the Bibliothèque imperiale (now the Bibliothèque Nationale de France) in Paris, and there it remains under the shelfmark Ms Fr. 19093, entitled Album dessins et croquis (Album of drawings and sketches). 1

The Hesburgh Libraries recently acquired an original-format facsimile of this medieval treasure, published in 2018 under the title Cuaderno de Bocetos de Villard de Honnecourt de la Biblioteca Nacional de Francia, Ms Fr 19093, by Siloé Arte y Bibliofilia in Burgos, Spain (with an additional commentary volume forthcoming). Several other print facsimiles of this interesting collection of drawings have been made before, but none manage to show the original context of the drawings and artist’s notes in the same way that the original-format facsimile does. Because they provide real context, including the size, feel, and content of the ancient and medieval books that they copy, original-format facsimiles open the contents of books, book production, and intellectual history—the treasures of our past—to students in a new way.

This facsimile is no exception in terms of offering us a glimpse into the world and thoughts of an itinerant artist. The notes within the portfolio, written in the Picardy dialect of Old French, tell us that he has traveled extensively; the included drawings indicate his interest in a wide variety of subjects, from extremely detailed  gothic church architectural elements to mechanical plans, from stylized depictions of the Crucifixion to images of humans in a variety of naturalistic poses, animals, and insects, some with geometric underlay as part of their form. The way that they are put together also gives us an understanding of the life of the owner: the portfolio is made up of  parchment leaves gathered from multiple sources of differing quality and sizes, sewn loosely together and bound in “a pigskin folder… a suitable size for slipping into one’s garments when traveling on horseback.” 2

For more on Villard de Honnecourt and his work, see: 

Barnes, Carl F., Jr and The Bibliothèque National de France. The Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt : A New Critical Edition and Color Facsimile (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, MS Fr 19093) with a Glossary by Stacey L. Hahn. Burlington, VT.: Ashgate, 2009. 

Barnes, Carl F., Villard de Honnecourt—the Artist and his Drawings: a Critical Bibliography. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1982. 


Footnotes

1. Barnes, Carl F. Jr. and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, The Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt: a New Critical Edition and Color Facsimile (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, MS Fr 19093) with a Glossary by Stacey L. Hahn (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009), 3. 

2. Ibid., 3-4. 

Navigating Ideas of “Progress” in Puerto Rico’s Prensa Literaria

By Joyce Rivera González, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Anthropology

Although Puerto Rico’s current two-party system might seem familiar to those interested in the American political landscape, Puerto Rican political parties are not necessarily defined by fiscal and/or social liberalism or conservatism, but instead by their views on the future political status of the archipelago. The two main political parties are the New Progressive Party (PNP), which seeks Puerto Rico’s full annexation into the Union as its 51st state, and the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), a party which designed and implemented the current political system of the Estado Libre Asociado (loosely translated as “Commonwealth,” but literally translated as “Free Associated State”). 

Rare Books and Special Collections’ Puerto Rican holdings include 27 issues of the periodical Prensa Literaria: Revista de Cultura. Dating from 1963 to 1966, this magazine highlights key debates and tensions in the development of Puerto Rican politics and identity following the new Constitución del Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, ratified in 1952.

WHO ARE WE? WHERE ARE WE GOING? 

Prensa Literaria was edited by major literary and political figures in Puerto Rico, many of whom were affiliated with the PPD. 

The PPD was a pivotal player in the postwar transformation of Puerto Rico. The party’s leader, Luis Muñoz Marín, was dubbed the architect of a new Puerto Rico and became the first democratically-elected governor of the archipelago in 1948, a role he held for 16 years. His political magnum opus was Operación Manos a la Obra (Operation Bootstrap), a massive industrialization political programme that began in 1947 and would transform the Puerto Rican economy, society, and political landscape in the years to come. For the average working-class poor, weekly wages more than doubled, life expectancy rose from 46 to 69 years, and basic living standards and infrastructure would vastly improve for all Puerto Ricans between 1953 and 1963 (see Ayala & Bernabe, 2007). Yet many of the PPD’s projects also depended on manufacturing incentives for US-based corporations, which dramatically reshaped the economy of the territory and broader Caribbean, detrimentally limiting economic and political self-sufficiency to the region. 

The whirlwind of change and industrialization that characterized the 1950s on the archipelago created what many scholars have identified as a collective existential crisis of sorts. This is reflected in an editorial by Ernesto Juan Fonfrías that appears in the September 1965 issue of Prensa Literaria, entitled, Who/what are we? Where are we headed? Fonfrías, a scholar, writer, and one of the founding members of the PPD, muses,

Many aspects of Puerto Rican life have not yet acclimated to the momentum of progress that has come to provide its benefits, almost all of a sudden but in times of crisis, because it met an unprepared average citizen, orphaned from moral, educational, and religious values, which are necessary to any civilized man’s wellbeing […] The result of economic progress has impaired the individual’s moral capacity to be and feel. 

Muchos renglones de la vida puertorriqueña no se han atemperado al impulso de progreso que vino a regar sus parabienes, casi súbitamente pero en momentos de apuros, porque encontró al ciudadano promedio impreparado [sic], huérfano de muchos de los valores morales, educativos, y religiosos que son necesarios en el haber de todo hombre civilizado […] El producto del progreso económico ha dañado la capacidad moral del individuo para ese alto estar y sentir. 

THE JÍBARO IS GONE, AND THE LAND IS UP FOR SALE 

In his front-page editorial “El jíbaro se acaba y la tierra se vende” (“The jíbaro [rural peasant] is gone and the land is up for sale”) in the May 1966 issue of Prensa Literaria, Fonfrías further examines Puerto Rican identity during an era of change. 

Perhaps the jíbaro is disappearing from the countryside, but his mark on history will remain, his criollo lifestyle, his cultural heritage and his milestone in civilization, which shall never be forgotten […] Who knows? Maybe the more civilized we become, the more jíbaro we become in our love for the land! […] Progress is good and so is the jíbaro

Tal vez el jíbaro desaparezca de la ruralía, pero quedará su quehacer histórico, su criollo vivir, su acervo de cultura y su hito de civilización que no se olvidarán […] Quién sabe si mientras más civilizados, seguimos siendo más jībaros en el amor a la tierra!  […] El progreso es bueno y el jíbaro lo es también. 

Fonfrías takes on the very ideal of cultural nationalism—the jíbaro—in this passage. Through his seemingly benign, yet arguably patronizing discussion, he approaches the quandary (paradox, for some) that stood at the very core of the PPD ideology: ¿y no podrá haber progreso y jíbaro también? (“could there not be both progress and jíbaros, as well?”)

As in the previous issue, we see Fonfrías struggling to reconcile economic changes (“progress”) and industrialization with social and cultural realities and ideals. These debates intersected with conversations regarding the archipelago’s political status. In its early days, even under Muñoz Marín, the PPD supported independence, but this stance slowly and quietly eroded. Prensa Literaria  best captures the centrist positioning of the political status quo that emerged as a result of the PPD’s political evolution, still in effect to this day.

REFERENCIAS 

Agrait Betancourt, Luis. “La idea independentista de Luis Muñoz Marín (1913-1931).” In Luis Muñoz Marín: ensayos del centenario. Edited by Fernando Picó, 1-15. San Juan: Fundación Luis Muñoz Marín, 1999. 

Ayala, Cesar y Rafael Bernabe. Puerto Rico in the American Century: A History since 1898. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2007. 

Cortés Zavala, María Teresa y María Magdalena Flores Padilla. “La Revista Puertorriqueña: el periodismo cultural y sus redes hispanoamericanas.” Revista de Indias 75, no. 263 (2015): 149-76. 

Díaz Quiñones, Arcadio. El arte de bregar: ensayos. San Juan: Ediciones Callejón, 2000. 

Duprey Salgado, Néstor R. Independentista popular: las causas de Vicente Géigel Polanco. San Juan: Crónicas Publicaciones, 2005. 

Grosfoguel, Ramón, Frances Negrón-Muntaner, and Chloé S. Georas. “Beyond Nationalist and Colonialist Discourses: The Jaiba Politics of the Puerto Rican Ethno-Nation.” In Puerto Rican Jam: Rethinking Colonialism and Nationalism, pp. 1-38. Edited by Frances Negrón-Muntaner & Ramón Grosfoguel. Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press, 1997. 

Pantojas-García, Emilio. “Puerto Rican Populism Revisited: the PPD during the 1940s.” Journal of Latin American Studies 21, no. 3 (1989): 521-557. 

Serra Collazo, Soraya. “Explorando la Operación Serenidad.” In Explorando la Operación Serenidad, pp. 7-10. Edited by Soraya Serra Collazo. San Juan: Fundación Luis Muñoz Marín, 2011. 

Upcoming Events: August 2022

Please note that the corridor outside RBSC has construction barriers due to ongoing library renovations, but we remain open regular hours.

There are no public events currently scheduled for August. Please check back for events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections during September.


An exhibition of materials from the University of Notre Dame Archives reflecting on the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Notre Dame will open mid-August and run through the fall semester.

The current spotlight exhibits are Three Sisterhoods and Two Servants of God (June – August 2022) and Fifties Flair and Seventies Feminism Presented by Two Magazines (May – August 2022). The latter exhibit will be replaced towards the end of August by an exhibit showcasing two recently acquired World War II era photo albums featuring original photographs from the within and outside of the Warsaw Ghetto’s walls.

RBSC will be closed Monday, September 5th,
for Labor Day.

Three Sisterhoods and Two Servants of God

Materials displayed in this spotlight exhibit come from the collections of Rare Books & Special Collections (RBSC) and The University of Notre Dame Archives. Please note that the corridor outside RBSC has construction barriers, but we remain open to all.

by Jean McManus, Catholic Studies Librarian

The Sisters of Loretto (SL) founded 1812 as The Friends of Mary at the Foot of the Cross, Washington County, Kentucky

The Oblate Sisters of Providence (OSP) founded 1829, Baltimore Maryland

The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA) founded 1849, Wisconsin

These three distinct societies of women religious, featured in the June-July Special Collections spotlight exhibit, have their origins in the 19th century United States, on the frontier, among immigrant Catholics in the east, and in the Midwest, with varying experiences in relation to slavery, racial segregation, and discrimination in the American Catholic milieu. In their different places and motherhouses, these groups of sisters have cared for orphans and widows, educated children, and all have continuously responded to the “needs of the time,” in the words of Sister Rita Michelle Proctor, OSP, the current Superior General of the Oblate Sisters of Providence. Gender, race, religion, and place shaped and continue to shape their stories. 

Sisters of Loretto

The Sisters of Loretto were founded as the Friends of Mary at the Foot of the Cross in 1812, among the earliest sisterhoods established in the United States. The founding Sisters—Mary Rhodes, Ann Havern, and Christina Stuart—worked with Belgian missionary Fr. Charles Nerinckx, who became their clerical founder. Nerinckx supported the new society by writing their Rule, helping to build Little Loretto, their first home, and commissioning the print displayed here. The landscape in the engraving is fantastically rendered via the European imagination by the Belgian printer, but also rather accurate in portraying the rough hewn buildings, barefoot sisters, and split rail fence around their buildings.

The Sisters of Loretto relied on enslaved people to provide labor at their several missions before Emancipation, and also brought some African American women into the society as oblates, with different rules and professions. The story is not simple or altogether documented in the archives. The Sisters of Loretto today are present in the United States, and around the world, and center education, peace and justice in their work. More historical investigation appears in the LOREtto blog posts, written from the archives at the motherhouse in Kentucky. In 2000, the community erected a memorial to honor persons enslaved at their missions. Sisters of Loretto continue reckoning with their historical relationships with people of color at Little Loretto and other places, as they research their own and related archives regarding slavery and Native American children at Loretto-run schools.

Klyn Loretten in Noord-America. Petit Lorette Etats Unis de L’Amerique. Little Loretto Kentucky United States of America. [Belgium], 1816. [Hesburgh Library, Special Collections Prints • PRINT-1816-01-F1]

Oblate Sisters of Providence and Mother Mary Lange

Foundress Mother Mary Lange of the Oblate Sisters of Providence was still alive in Baltimore when members of the order responded to the invitation of Rev. Ignatius Panken, S.J., to educate Black Catholic children in St. Louis in 1880. They marked anniversaries of service in education and care of orphans in 1905 with a celebration and printed souvenir. The extension of their mission to St. Louis was consistent with the principles of their founding.

Mother Mary Lange

From the souvenir program of the Silver Jubilee of the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Saint Louis, Missouri, 1905.

In 1828, Elizabeth Lange, who was born into a Catholic family and educated in Cuba, had emigrated to a French-speaking Catholic enclave in Baltimore and was already teaching Black children at a school in her home. Urged by the French Sulpician priest who became their ecclesiastical director, Fr. James Joubert, Elizabeth Lange (who became Sister Mary Elizabeth Lange) with fellow teacher, Maria Balas (who became Sister Mary Frances), Rosine Boegue (who became Sister Mary Rose), and Almaide Duchemin (who became Sister Mary Therese) began the work to minister to the children of Haitian refugees by making formal professions in July 1829. As the OSP website history proclaims, “The Oblate Sisters of Providence is the first successful Roman Catholic sisterhood in the world established by women of African descent.” The cause for sainthood for Mother Mary Lange recognizes her heroic virtue in founding and sustaining the Oblate Sisters of Providence to educate African American Catholic children in Baltimore and beyond. Her cause for beatification was opened in 2004, and she is a Servant of God. 

Oblate Sisters of Providence moved to St. Louis in 1880 and taught Black Catholic children at St. Elizabeth School. Changes in parish makeup led the Sisters to establish St. Frances’ Orphan Home (1882-1952) and St. Rita’s Academy (1912-1950), both ministering originally to girls. Eventually the order founded schools in eighteen states–by the 1950s there were over 300 OSP Sisters teaching and caring for Black children.

St. Frances’ Orphan Home First Communion, 1902.

From the souvenir program of the Silver Jubilee of the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Saint Louis, Missouri, 1905. [MO St Louis – OSP, 1905, PROW 10/02. University of Notre Dame Archives.]

The two items featured in this exhibit point to 25 years of sustained effort and growth by the OSP Sisters in the St. Louis area. The interior pages feature an iconic photograph of foundress Mother Mary Lange, with a short history of the order. Also included are photographs from the St. Louis missions, such as the “First Communion class of the orphans, 1902,” showing 18 girls, two Oblate Sisters, and one white priest.  Later, in 1930, a Golden Jubilee was celebrated, marking 50 years in the St. Louis area. The challenging circumstances faced by the OSP Sisters in St. Louis are well documented in Ann Rosentreter’s 2016 thesis, Black, Catholic, and female : the Oblate Sisters of Providence in St. Louis, Missouri, during the interwar years.

Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and Sister Thea Bowman

Left:  Lead Me, Guide Me : the African American Catholic Hymnal. Chicago: G.I.A. Publications, 1987.
[National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, CNBC 15/12. University of Notre Dame Archives.]

Center: Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA, portrait, ca. 1990 [University President Rev. Edward “Monk” Malloy (1987-2005): Graphics, GPML #1996-6 box B:37, University of Notre Dame Archives.]

Right: Lead Me, Guide Me–Book of Signatures, 1987 [National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, CNBC 15/62. University of Notre Dame Archives.]

Finally, we have a glimpse of the work of the Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, Sister Thea Bowman, now a Servant of God, who was educated by the FSPA Sisters in her home town of Canton, MS, became a convert to Catholicism at age 9, and entered the order as a determined 15 year old girl. She taught and worked for racial reconciliation in the Catholic church, and evangelized through song, particularly advocating for a Black Catholic tradition. Sister Thea Bowman died in March, 1990, and weeks later the University of Notre Dame honored her with the Laetare Medal, the first time the medal was given posthumously. 

The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have long pursued their mission of education along with their devotional practice of perpetual adoration. The Sisters continue to lift up Sister Thea Bowman by supporting her cause for sainthood, and the foundation started with her input and name. The Sister Thea Bowman Black Catholic Education Foundation provides scholarships for Black students to attend Catholic colleges and universities.

One result of Sister Thea’s evangelization and ministry is this 1987 hymnal, Lead Me, Guide Me, a collaborative project with a host of Black Catholics that includes her essay, “The Gift of African American Sacred Song.” The hymnal signature book includes hundreds of signatures, many dated May 23, 1987, a month after the publication of Lead Me, Guide Me. Perhaps it was a book launch and celebration? Sr. Thea Bowman was part of it, as her signature attests.