Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Between the pages in a prayer book...

In addition to the prayer cards, In Memoriam cards, and numerous obituaries my mother kept between the pages of her prayer books, I found this news clipping. It was folded up very small and tucked into the very centre of a prayer book.

The article is from the Irish Press, dated 5 July 1951, and entitled 'They Become Blue Sisters'.  The clipping details in images the ceremony of receiving the habit of congregation, which joined these young woman, as nuns, to the community of the Little Company of Mary, popularly known as the Blue Nuns. The ceremony took place in Rome, Italy. The image in the bottom right, with the nuns in full habit, was taken in the garden of the Mother House, Via San Stefano Rotundo, Rome.

When I first found the clipping I had no idea why my mam had kept it. My mother had celebrated her 20th birthday in May of 1951, so I wondered if she was connected to one of the young women in the photograph. When perusing the names, I noticed two from Dublin, and wondered, had my mam known either of these two women, or any of the other women in the picture, and thus kept the clipping as a remembrance of this special time?

Founded in 1877 by the Venerable Mary Potter, whose own mother Mary Martin was Irish born, the Blue Sisters' first community was in Nottingham, England. The vocation of the Blue Sisters is the nursing of the sick and the dying. The name 'Blue Sisters' finds its origins in the fact that the veil of their original traditional habit — tunic, veil and wimple — was blue. The article gives a list of the branches of nursing for which nuns were qualified, as follows:

All the Sisters study for the State Qualification in the various countries in which their hospitals are established, and all branches of nursing are included: General, maternity, mental, public health, infant welfare, mothercraft, etc. The Sisters are also trained in X-ray, pathology, occupational therapy and bookkeeping.

By 1951, when this article was published, the order had five convents in Ireland — Limerick, Fermoy, Abbeyleix, Carlow and Dublin — as well as foundations in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, South America, the United States, South Africa, Rhodesia, and Malta.

A couple of days after I found the clipping, I did a little research to find the Mother House of the Little Company of Mary in Ireland. After locating their address, I sent an email, along with a copy of the clipping, and asked if it could be passed along to anyone featured in the article who might still be connected to the community. After the passage of so many years, I wondered if seeing the clipping might spark memories in those who viewed it, and in particular any recollections of my mother. Whether or not I could make a connection, I imagined seeing the article might evoke happy memories for someone.

A little while later, I received a lovely email from the Mother House sending me blessings, thanking me for the clipping, and saying they would pass it along. A few days after that I received another message. This message is from one of the nuns in the images. In part it reads:

Dear Jennifer,

Firstly I would like to start by offering you my very sincere sympathy on the death of your beloved mother, may her gentle soul rest in peace.

Unfortunately Jennifer I did not have the pleasure of knowing your dear mother, at least not to my knowledge unless I had dealings with her on the medical field as I was a nurse in my younger days. I feel she must have been a very special Lady and the fact that she kept the pictures in her prayer book she no doubt said the occasional prayer for all of us which I am deeply grateful for, as it would have helped me in my vocation.

I was so excited on receiving the pictures as they brought back many happy memories of the various stages of my noviciate days!

My sincere thanks Jennifer for the trouble you went to and for the pleasure you gave me.
God Bless

Although Sister did not know my mam, her reply completely uplifted me, for which I am very grateful. Perhaps I will never discover exactly why my mam kept this article, but I am very glad she did.

Maybe there is someone else out there for whom these names and images will be meaningful. Perhaps one of your family members is among them. Here are the names and place of origin for those included in the photographs, along with their religious name:

Collette White (Liverpool): Sister Collette White
Mary Butler (Kilcommon, Thurles, [Tipperary]): Sister Agatha Butler
Kathleen Fleming (Edinburgh): Sister Catherine Fleming
Nora Fitzgerald (Killarney): Sister Gabriel Fitzgerald

Noreen Fitzgibbon (incorrectly identified as from Dublin; actually from Limerick): Sister Michael Fitzgibbon
Carmel Kidd (Dublin): Sister de Montfort Kidd
Maria [no surname given] (Rome): Sister Maria Goretti

Two other women are included in the image on the bottom right of the article. They are:

Sister Fidelis Mullins (near Gort [Galway])
Sister Antoinette (Argentina)

Below I have posted the article in parts, so that you might get a better view. As always, click on the images to view a larger version.

Are there any Blue Sisters on your family tree?



  1. I love finding things in books, especially old things! Lovely article! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Laura! I love finding old things in books too; it's like hidden treasure.


  2. Such a lovely find! I wish one of ours was on there.

    1. Thanks Charlotte! It is a lovely find. Sorry none of your people are listed.


  3. What a treasure you found!

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2014/03/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-march-14.html

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    1. Thanks very much Jana! Such a lovely surprise.


  4. What an interesting article! I wonder if your mother ever thought about becoming a nun. Could that have been why she kept the article? I hope you find your mother's connection to these sisters or the order one day.

    1. Thanks very much for your comments Nancy! Although at some point my mom may have contemplated becoming a nun, her siblings say she was always focussed on the idea of getting married and having a family. One of the names in the article sounds very familiar to me, so I've been doing a little more digging and hope to soon have an answer.



Comments on this blog are always deeply appreciated; however, in the spirit of true collegiality, I ask that you do not write something you would not say to me in person.

This blog is CAPTCHA free, but because of spammers, comments moderation is in operation for posts older than two days.

Any comments that are mean-spirited, include URLs which are not connected to the post topic, contain misinformation, or in any way resemble advertising, will be removed.

Cheers, Jennifer

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...