A Celebration of All

Several years ago, the archives received a call from a man looking for information about a sister. His father stuttered as a child and was often teased by classmates. His first-grade teacher at St. Martin of Tours School in St. Louis told him to see her after school, because she thought she could help. Sister would have the child do odd activities such as speaking with a mouth full of marbles or walking backwards while talking. After several weeks the exercises worked, and the boy was able to speak without stammering.

The man on the call said that his father told everyone he knew about sister and what she had done to help him. His children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews all knew about this woman and the effect she had on his life. The only problem was that he could not remember her name. The man was now in his 80s, his health was failing, and his son wanted to give him the gift of sister’s name. It did not take long to find her – Sisters Theophane Byrnes.

For the past year, staff at the SSND North American Archives have been celebrating 175 years of the SSND in North America. The focus has been on sisters who were the first to achieve a particular honor, sisters who were trailblazers in their fields or who were the first to achieve a particular milestone.

As far as we can tell, Sister Theophane did not achieve any “firsts” nor was she blazing trails. But none of that mattered to this one child. The archives staff hear similar stories all the time. In the last 175 years, SSND have taught, loved and helped countless children. In later years, they expanded their ministries to include the elderly, people living in poverty, refugees and those in crisis. When SSND see a need, they work to find a solution. While it is always interesting to learn about sisters who were the first to do something, it is important to remember that many, many sisters did equally amazing things in a quieter way.

For the last month of the 175th anniversary celebration, staff want to celebrate all SSND in North America by showing pictures of sisters being themselves. Enjoy.

(Click on the image below to scroll through the slideshow.)