by Sister Ann Taylor, Congregation Archivist
Paging through a current magazine, I was intrigued by an article entitled Famous Last Words. Thinking that I was in for an educational experience focused on exceptional people, I continued reading. To my great surprise, the article was written about obituaries! The author's question to her readers: How often do the dead get to speak to the living? Answer: Every day on the obits page!
As I read further and reflected on the topic, I immediately connected with our own CSJP practice of maintaining an "obituary" collection of all our deceased members, Lest We Forget. Moments come into all our lives when we remember family members, friends, and associates who have finished their own earthly journeys. But memories fade and are often none existent when it comes to deceased sisters in religious congregations - markedly so when the sister died "long before my time." Mother Teresa Moran, our third Major Superior (1902-1919), had the sensitivity and foresight to prevent this from happening.
As archivist, I located the Ordinances from the Fourth General Chapter held in June 1909, and found a very meaningful paragraph among the decisions made by the Chapter members:
The names of all our deceased sisters, with a few edifying remarks on the special characteristics of each, might be kept in the Mother and Provincial Houses, so that young sisters may imitate their virtues, and grow up with a grateful remembrance of those who labored for the establishment of the Institute.
During her later term as Assistant to the Mother General, Mother Teresa assisted with the development of Lest We Forget. In 1945, the first copy rolled off the press in Jersey City's printing room for The Orphan's Messenger and Advocate for the Blind. The obituaries of the first 134 deceased sisters became a reality.
The foreword to this first copy reads: "Multum in Parvo" (much in little) and might easily be the phrase which most fully describes the biological sketches contained in this volume. Here, in brief form, is outlined the life story of these members of our community, who, having passed bravely and generously their time of probation in the Church Militant, have been called to enter into the joy of their eternal reward .....We accept this labor of love (Mother Teresa's work) gratefully as a precious heritage."
For the past 70 years the regional archivists and scribes have maintained this tradition in loose leaf format. Lest We Forget deserves a scan on your computer (link to main Lest We Forget page). Join us in sharing the breadth and depths of the work performed by our foremothers as we sing "Standing on the Shoulders."
"We must be signs of hope and healing in the midst of the cultural reality in which we find ourselves."
Ann Rutan, CSJP