Cave of Candles
A Cave of Candles / by Dorothy V. Corson

The Sisters of the Holy Cross at St. Mary’s

Meanwhile at St. Mary’s there was a growing restlessness with the situation and the unauthorized oppressive control Sorin held over the Sisters of the Holy Cross at St. Mary’s.

The second publication in the Hesburgh Library stacks, a book, is titled Superior Generals, Volume II Centenary Chronicles of the Sisters of the Holy Cross (pp. 84-104). Of particular interest is the chapter on Mother M. Augusta, first Superior General of Saint Mary’s of the Immaculate Conception who played a pivotal role in this conflict. Excerpts from this book detail the events that transpired on the St. Mary’s side of “the road to Niles.”

It was written by Sister M. Madeleva in 1941, 55 years after the crisis. Mother Madeleva was president of Saint Mary’s College from 1934 to 1961.

Mother Madeleva profiles Amanda Anderson’s origins before she was “clothed in the habit of the Sisters of the Holy Cross and received the name of Sister Mary of Saint Augusta.” In subsequent pages she traces her early years as a nun and her achievements leading up to 1882 when she was elected the first Superior General in the history of the college. She concludes Chapter V with this warm description of Mother Augusta’s last mission at Saint Angela’s Academy in Morris, Illinois before her election as Mother General.

Mother Madeleva begins her chronicle of the impending crisis with these excerpts from Chapter VI entitled:

“Sudden the Worst Turns the Best to the Brave”

In Mother Augusta who took Mother Angela’s place, Father Sorin had met his match. Her courage and fortitude strengthened by nursing duties during the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, Mother Augusta’s resolve was firm to change things. Even so, she was twice banished from St. Mary’s by Sorin who had more than once stepped beyond the bonds of his authority. Soon, she too, almost succumbed to Fr. Sorin’s unrelenting exercise of power.

“One Fight More”

Mother Madeleva titles her next chapter, “One Fight More,” as she chronicles a crucial move on Mother Augusta’s part and the synchronicity of that meeting.

When they presented themselves at the Episcopal residence the message from the monsignor came back, ‘I cannot see you. I am leaving for New York.’ While they were deciding what to do the monsignor’s secretary came from one of the rooms. Mother Augusta’s companion approached him and introduced him to Mother Augusta. He greeted her warmly and granted her request to deliver her communication from Rome to Monsignor Satolli.

The Monsignor returned with the letter in his hand. He greeted Mother saying, “Mother, I have come to ask your forgiveness, to beg you to believe me when I tell you that I was deceived, misinformed. Go back to Saint Mary’s with my blessing and my promise that Satolli will never again interfere with Mother Augusta and her Sisters.”

She then learned that the monsignor’s secretary had been the secretary to Cardinal Simeoni and it was he who had handled all the correspondence regarding the community approval from Rome. It was he who had written the Roman letter which Mother had requested him to hand to Monsignor Satolli.

Mother Madeleva ends her chronicle of the events at St. Mary’s, shortly after Father Walsh’s death in 1893 with this cryptic statement -- “Before the election of 1895, adjustments had generally been made. . .” -- leaving the eventual outcome of this unsolved mystery, untold. The third act and the final curtain had yet to be played -- to the benefit of all concerned. However, the title of Mother Madeleva’s final chapter would have been appropriate for the last act of this drama:

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