Sisters of Service: Breaking Free of the Monastic Tradition to Serve the Abandoned Ones

By Beck, Jeanne R. | Historical Studies, Annual 2000 | Go to article overview

Sisters of Service: Breaking Free of the Monastic Tradition to Serve the Abandoned Ones


Beck, Jeanne R., Historical Studies


As a particular field within the discipline of Canadian history, women's organizations have only recently been accepted as a topic of major research importance. Even more rare was any extensive study of women's work within the structures of the major religious denominations. As Ruth Compton Brouwer has pointed out, even historians who were committed to women's history gave these women little attention, unless their involvement with religion served "as a way-station on the road to feminist consciousness. Personal spirituality and transcendent concerns have been largely overlooked along with forms of religious activism that did not necessarily bear fruit in a larger sphere for women."(1)

Until recently, this neglect has been particularly apparent in the study of women in Roman Catholic religious orders in Canada. Again, Brouwer's analysis can be applied for she has also noted that in a period when feminist historians have associated organized religion with patriarchal and repressive structures of authority, little encouragement was given to the historian who wanted to investigate the role and personnel of women's religious orders.

An equally important reason for the dearth of these studies has been the inaccessibility of the extensive and valuable resources in the archives which are privately controlled by Catholic dioceses and religious orders. In Canada, the orders themselves have not until very recently, examined their records as sources of information which could reveal their relationship with the secular world. Yet, when access to their archives was granted to a few secular historians, new information and new casts of characters have emerged which have resulted in fuller and more accurate explanations not only regarding religious history, but also in the fields of Canadian social, political, and educational history.(2)

It is within this context that I, as a secular historian whose previous research was focused on the origins of Canadian Catholic social thought and action, welcomed the opportunity to write the biography of Sister Catherine Donnelly, S.O.S., a farm girl from Alliston, Ontario and the founder in 1922 of the Sisters of Service, the first English-speaking Canadian Catholic women's religious order. She has recently been cited as one of "the Top Ten people who helped shape the church in Canada," who was inspired to found an order that would "break the mould [which] required religious women to wear distinctive habits and live removed from society under a strict rule."(3)

The majority of the sources for this paper were located during research for my recent biography of Catherine Donnelly. Her papers and related documents are in the private archives of the Sisters of Service, to which I was given full access. Members of the order were privately interviewed, and several sisters wrote revealing memoirs of their novitiates and of their subsequent personal encounters with Catherine Donnelly. Relevant papers were also secured from the private archives of several other religious orders and dioceses. Altogether, these hitherto private sources provided information on previously unrecognized people and events in twentieth--century Canadian religious and secular history.

Many of Catherine Donnelly's private papers were lost during her long life of ninety-nine years. She appears not to have kept a formal journal; thus the most important information concerning her youth and career must be gleaned from her casual references in letters recovered from her friends, both secular and religious, her family, and from the several short essays on her early life and career which she wrote following her retirement in 1956. Her handwritten charts which listed in detail all of the schools where she taught between 1902 and 1956, and Ecumenism Blossoms, her eighty-seven page memoir on her purpose and role in founding the Sisters of Service, have survived. Catherine never lost her remarkable memory nor her professional teacher's concern for accuracy and careful punctuation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Sisters of Service: Breaking Free of the Monastic Tradition to Serve the Abandoned Ones
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.