New York 100 years - Further Notes and Acknowledgments


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Marie de Saint Sauveur, née Nathalie Jouvert. After attending the Sixth General Chapter in Rome, from May 24 to June 12, 1908, St Sauveur returned to Mexico after stopping in New York for a few days. The political situation in Mexico erupted in civil war in 1910. It is estimated that during the next 10 years, at least 2 million people became casualties of this war. The community of Guadalajara had to disperse. In 1914 the sisters had to leave the country; some went to the United States, others to Cuba and to Spain. Suddenly in the midst of this, Marie de St Sauveur suffered an episode of paralysis. She recovered but realized that her memory was failing and her energy diminishing. In this condition, she went to the Seventh General Chapter that took place from January 31st to February 20, 1914. After the chapter she went to the community of Namur in Belgium. This house had been opened in 1901 to receive the French sisters who had been displaced by the laws against religious institutions passed by the government of France. In June 1914, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, triggered a series of alliances and war declarations. Soon all of Europe was involved in a bitter war. The city of Namur suffered greatly during this war. Our sisters were a peaceful presence for others in the midst of great upheaval and pain. Marie de Saint Sauveur stayed in Namur until the end of World War I, her health gradually deteriorating. After the war she was transferred to Málaga, Spain, a country she loved and had left with regrets years before. Eventually, she became totally paralyzed and suffered terrible head aches. Three months before her death, Sauveur became blind. On January 6, 1922, at 70 years of age, this generous and courageous woman completed her journey held fast by the vast, dark though comforting hand of God.

Marie de Sainte Véronique Giuliani, née Gwendoline de Raymond. After returning to Rome on May 5th 1908, Veronique never ceased to be involved in the apostolic ministries of the house of Rome. At the same time she continued her service to the Congregation as Assistant General of Belgium, England, and Germany until her death, January 28, 1932 at the age of 79.

Mary of St Matthieu, née Marie Antoinette Canny. Matthieu continued to work in New York, helping to establish many ministries that would become the hallmark of our congregation in the United States among which were the Retreats; Catechesis for children and adults; Mission Works; the Association of Mary Reparatrix as well as the Associations for working women and for Spanish-speaking people. A very popular, free, lending library was created. The sisters also offered hospitality to all sorts of charitable groups. In 1912 the congregation bought two houses adjoining the rectory. One was outfitted for retreats and the other for community use. During WWI the house at 29th St and 5th became a center of continual prayer for peace. Many Army chaplains chose to celebrate the Eucharist at St Leo’s church for groups of soldiers and nurses departing for the front. As a means of earning their living the sisters began making altar breads in 1924 for themselves and for 12 parishes. They created night lights and a variety of other artistic works. In 1924, St Matthieu was transferred to Ireland. On the day of her departure a group, led by Mgr McEntyre, went to the quay to say their last goodbyes to St. Matthieu. In the Annual Letter of that year it is noted that “The Lady Associates made a very substantial contribution for the maintenance of the Sanctuary Lamp in her name, so that her heart and those of her daughters would be forever united in this flame of love.” She died in Dublin in 1940 at the age of 86. Those who were there say that a little smile was playing on her lips. Her last words were “Thank you.”

Countess Annie Leary. The countess continued to appear regularly in the social pages of the New York Times attending parties and organizing Bazaars for a number of charitable organizations. I was not able to find much information about the “Christopher Columbus Art and Industrial Institute” after the sisters left. In 1914 the city of New York bought the charming little houses at 51 and 53 Charlton Street and razed them to widen Varick Street and to build the Seventh Avenue Subway. Annie’s dream of creating an Italian university was dashed. Annie Leary, helper of thousands of New York’s poor died of a stroke on April 26, 1919 in her home at 1057 Fifth Avenue. In her will she left the house on Fifth Avenue and the house in Newport with their furnishings and bric-a-brac to her niece Anna Leary, whom she named executrix of the will. In it we also read: “The Archbishop offered me the privilege of providing for the building of a Sacristy connected with St Patrick’s on Fifth Avenue and 50th Street and, having promised me that there shall be reserved for the burial of my own mortal remains and those of members of my family, a vault directly beneath the altar of said Sacristy to contain the remains of eight persons. I therefore give and bequeath to said Archbishop and his successors, $200,000 to be used for Sacristy and vault, and further it is my wish and I direct that my mortal remains shall be buried in said vault and also those of the following members of my family now entombed in a vault under the old Mott Street Cathedral: my father, James Leary, my mother Catherine Leary and my brothers, Arthur, Charles C. and Daniel D. Leary.” Her niece Anna was not up to the task of selling properties and investing large sums. Money was lost. Annie Berry Vant and Alice Berry sued their cousin Anna Leary. Representing the archdiocese, the archbishop’s attorneys also brought suit to safeguard what Annie Leary’s will had designated for the Church. By the time things were settled it was 1926 and there was not enough money left to build the Sacristy and the vault. Annie’s remains and those of her family were left in the family vault at old St Patrick’s Cathedral on Mott Street. It is fitting that she who did so much for the poor immigrants rests on the edge of Little Italy and Chinatown.


I thank the members of the 100th Anniversary Committee of the Region of the United States for accepting my offer to write a novelized history about the beginnings of our Society in New York City for posting on the congregational website during the months leading to our September 2008 celebration. The members of the committee are: Ann Kasparek, Judy Frasinetti, Veronica Blake, Margaret Hoey, Gerry McCullagh, Joan Pricoli, and Lucy Mahler.

Several anonymous sisters, long deceased, found certain events important enough to note them in written texts. Gratitude is also due to those who wrote journals and saved letters. These sources were helpful beyond measure in recounting the story.

Maria Jesus Platero generously searched the congregation archives to provide me with accurate information and touching details of the life of our sisters.

Eva O’Brien, Bernadette O’Driscoll, Genevieve Wojnar, Margaret Hoey and Ann Kasparek took precious time to look through photo albums for pictures of faces and places related to our beginnings in the USA. Pat Mullen found some articles and New York City photos which enhanced the telling of the story.

Edna Dolan not only translated everything from the original English into French, but cheered me along with her comments.

Lourdes Rodarte read over my Spanish translations to see if they were well expressed. She encouraged me with her appreciation and with her enthusiasm which caused her to read the story to others.

Veronica Blake, editor extraordinaire, patiently reviewed my Cuban English and offered priceless advice. She also took on the daunting task of organizing my largely web-based bibliography for publication, and the whole text and resources for digital retrieval.

Judy Frasinetti and Gerry McCullagh, in-house publishers, used their expertise to include my work in the 100th Anniversary booklet.