Move from Hawthorne to Maryknoll
On October 15, 1912, with the air of an Irish king bringing visiting royalty to his favorite castle, Brother Thomas McCann drove into the shaggy old Hilltop Farm in Ossining with the brand new name of Maryknoll. He made a royal gesture, welcoming them, “Well, here we are!” and then singing with his beautiful voice: “Home, sweet home. Be it ever so humble!”
One after another the three secretaries climbed down stiffly from the carry-all vehicle. Margaret Shea, red-cheeked, bundled in a horse blanket and snuggling the cat; Mary Louise Wholean, gray with chill in spite of the carpets under which she and Anna Towle had hidden from the wind; Anna herself, a newcomer, with a beautiful youthful face, and striking white hair, carrying, of all things, an armful of summer hats – as out of place, season and use as April’s daffodils.
Anna made straight for the Seminary kitchen, saying, “Where’s Mollie?” Mollie came out, put her arms around each one of them and hurried them in to warm themselves by the kitchen stove. “When the priests and boys are served,” Mollie said, “we’ll have our supper right here at the kitchen table together, as snug as you please. There won’t be a stove in our house for a few days more at least.”
These transplants from Hawthorne to Maryknoll felt that this inconsequential shift of personnel—three today, three more tomorrow—made up a really momentous occasion! They knew that they were not coming to a well-prepared house. Mr. and Mrs. Jenks and their family had just vacated it the day before. Part of their furniture, awaiting a moving van, still clogged the lower rooms and hallway. Carpenters and plumbers were already at work making repairs and dirt. Mollie, with her position as head cook at the Seminary, had no time to work any transformation in this hodgepodge.
To commemorate the day of their coming and to honor the great Carmelite whose feast it was, Father Walsh had already christened the old house “St. Teresa’s.” Then Mollie opened the door, went ahead into the darkness and lit a kerosene lamp, and the other three followed her into the house, knowing they were home.
Arrival of Sara Teresa Sullivan,
Mary Augustine Dwyer and Nora Shea
In the afternoon of October 16 Sara, Mary Augustine and Nora arrived. They had a tour of their new home from the first floor to the third. It was an old-fashioned building with twenty-two rooms. The long room at the front would be used as an office for The Field Afar magazine. Back of this was a large hall, then the community room, dining room and kitchen.
Also on the first floor were two small rooms that could serve eventually as a chapel. With the rusted pipes, loosening plaster, rough floor boards and leaking roof, the old lodge challenged Mollie’s homemaking and ingenuity, and taxed Father Walsh’s feeble finances to bring it into repair.
Making St. Teresa’s Lodge a Home
The Teresian Diary gives a good picture of the days following the move from Hawthorne, as Mary Louise writes: We are still camping out in the Seminary Kitchen for our meals.
We piece out the number of chairs by using boxes and making a bench out of the ironing board, and we manage to make three knives and forks do service for eight people, each one sharing with her neighbors and, in case of emergency, appropriating the potato knife and toasting fork.
Mary Joseph returned to us on October 17th, having been relieved of her duties in the Seminary kitchen by the arrival of a new cook, an aspirant Brother. We are still living with trunks packed and bureaus locked. We worked under difficulties with no light, and no heat. The cistern is now full of water and the water is full of worms. Mary Joseph and Margaret continued the settling process of laying rugs, placing furniture, hanging pictures, and painting the altar between times. We welcomed with joy the advent of heat in our radiators, real heat which drove away the shivers that have been chasing each other up and down our spinal columns for weeks.
The old house had charm and character, and Mollie gave herself cheerfully to making the most of its good points. She loved it most of all because it was the cradle of a great hope.
The Teresians of Maryknoll
After the secretaries were settled at Saint Teresa’s Lodge, Mill Hill Father McCabe, who had been helping at the Maryknoll Seminary, sent a postcard from England to them. He addressed it to “The Teresians.” The name took hold immediately and the secretaries, already dedicated to Saint Teresa of Avila, became “The Teresians of Maryknoll.”
The First Christmas Eve 1912
Mother Mary Joseph in her sharing with the Novices, January 2, 1947, tells the story of the first Christmas Eve at Maryknoll in 1912:
The snow was still falling on a hillside already so thickly blanketed that no familiar land-marks were in sight. Father Walsh with Bradford, “our boy of all work,” appeared at St. Teresa’s Lodge with horse and sleigh and I was asked to go to Ossining to advise Father on his Christmas shopping. I sat in the sleigh, while Father looked things over in the stores. Bradford brought out the presents for inspection. There was a gift for each of the Secretaries which had to be wrapped later.
Father Walsh apparently did not think it was proper for Mollie to go into the store with him, so she sat patiently outside in the open sleigh in freezing weather!
Mary Louise notes in the Teresian Diary:
The first Christmas at Maryknoll began with a Midnight Mass sung by Father Price with Father Walsh playing the organ. As we walked over to the Seminary, our path was lighted by the clear brightness of a full moon and stars that sparkled with joyful radiance. The spirit of Christmas was in the air and when later Christ was really born again in the hands of the priest and in our own souls, it all seemed quite as wonderful as if we had been present at the Savior’s coming in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago.
At sunrise we had two Masses here. Father Walsh said them both and for the first one we sang three hymns, Holy Night, Adeste Fideles and Judea’s Sacred, Silent Hills. After the second Mass, Father had his breakfast in the room next to the chapel that we had arranged as a sacristy, and we went to the dining room for our feast – properly so-called because we had grapefruit! We were filled with the thoughts that Father suggested to us at Mass, a deep gratitude that we were allowed to be here, and a keen appreciation of his privilege and ours.
After breakfast, Father Walsh came out to wish us each a Merry Christmas and not long after, Fr. (John I.) Lane and Fr. McCabe telephoned their greetings.
The secretaries had a delicious Christmas dinner together, with surprise cards that Sara and Mary Augustine had made. After dinner, Mary Joseph and Nora left for their allotted days at home.
Bradford drove them to the train and Mary Augustine rode with them. They were waved away from the house with brooms and feather dusters, and at the Seminary gate they were bombarded with snowballs by the students who were having a snow frolic!
Mary Joseph Again Accepted as Directress for the Year
The Teresian Diary for January 19, 1913:
We each signed and gave to Father Walsh this Sunday morning, January 19, 1913, the following form:
I am willing to acknowledge Mary Josephine Rogers as our directress at St. Teresa’s Lodge, until January 6, 1914, and I promise to do my best to assist her, realizing that community life demands self-surrender for the glory of God, for the salvation of souls, and for my own spiritual progress.
Father prefaced his conference by a few words on our acceptance of Mary Joseph as our directress, urging us to help her and to relieve her in every way possible, and assuring us of love and devotion on her part towards us.
A Uniform Dress for the Teresians
The Teresian Diary for February 6, 1913:
Mary Joseph dressed up in her ‘habit’ which Anna is making. We were all delighted with it and Father pronounced it good. The material is gray gingham, with a white collar and cuffs. The skirt and waist have plaits for fullness, and there is a cape or circular collar extending over the shoulders. Around the waist there is to be a cincture of heavier material than the dress. At the end of this, the Chi Rho is to be embroidered in blue, and at the neck we are to wear the medal of Blessed Theophane Venard.
Anna finished Mary Joseph’s ‘habit’ and began the others. When all the Teresians put on their new gray uniforms, Brother Thomas was nearly prostrated at the sight of the “old ladies in gray” and Father Walsh remarked that he was strongly reminded of his visit to Sherburne Women’s Prison, not many miles outside Boston!
Just a Postscript
Sr. Anna Maria Towle, M.M.
Anna Maria was born in Ireland, and was 48 years old when she joined the women-helpers, becoming the seventh member of the community. She arrived first at Maryknoll in Ossining on October 4, 1912, where Mollie was overseeing the Seminary Kitchen. Then on October 6, Mollie brought Anna to Hawthorne where she stayed with the secretaries till they moved to Maryknoll. Anna brought with her a seemingly infinite capacity for work, and her special talent was sewing. When Sr. Anna Maria died on February 4, 1944, Maryknoll Father John Considine said she possessed the ”sacrament of the present moment” ~ living in a perpetual now, as if she seemed to say: If someone comes to me now, I give myself completely to them now for they need me now! Her life became a perpetual now bridging eternity. She lived calmly, happily in this continual now, till she passed gracefully into the eternal now!
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Question for Reflection
How does the spirit of the first seven Teresians grace our lives today?
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The above Reflections were adapted from To the Uttermost Parts of the Earth by Camilla Kennedy, MM; Maryknoll’s First Lady by Jeanne Marie Lyons, MM; 1912-1913 Teresian Diary; and Archival Documents.
Maryknoll Contemplative Community for the Sisters CentennialRetreats-Reflection Committee