Month: May 2018

Where the Heart Is

mcshea
Bishop Joseph Mark McShea (SFDS Pastor 1952-1961)

Our Fifth Pastor, Bishop Joseph Mark McShea (who became first Bishop of Allentown in 1961), was uniquely connected to Saint Francis de Sales parish in Philadelphia.

SFDS made a familiar first pastoral assignment for the Bishop, after working for the Vatican in Rome and Washington DC through World War II. The Parish Monthly Bulletin reported in 1952 that “Bishop McShea’s appointment to St. Francis de Sales is truly a ‘homecoming” for he completed his elementary schooling in our parish school, served Mass at our altar, was a member of the Boys’ Battalion, and left the parish to continue the studies which would enable him one day to return to St. Francis as pastor and bishop.”

In his first remarks as a newly-consecrated Bishop, McShea recalled “the countless times when I too sat and knelt in these pews; when I walked up these aisles to the altar rail to receive Our Blessed Lord in Holy Communion. These Stations of the Cross bring back memories of Lenten Devotions. At the shrines I kneel in spirit again to pray with you to The Blessed Mother, to Saint Joseph, and the gentle Bishop, Saint Francis de Sales, the heavenly patron of this parish. So too the rectory, the school, the auditorium and school yard abound in remembrances of boyhood experiences…”

 (Why is SFDS School not listed on McShea’s “permanent record”? Early Freshman classes at the new West Catholic High School for Boys appear to have been held at Transfiguration Parish, which must then have been mistakenly recorded as his grade school. “Joe McShea’s” attendance here – and minor boyish mischief — was remembered and confirmed by his SFDS School classmates).

McShea’s roots were deep in our parish. He especially remembered “those days in the Twenties when at the same altar I knelt to serve the daily Mass of Bishop Crane. On entering the pulpit, I recall other times when I stood here with the good Bishop in the days of his failing eyesight to read to him in a low tone the Sunday announcements, that he might repeat them aloud to the people…”.

In addition to serving at the altar for our church-building Second Pastor, Bishop McShea had two other historic links with our parish. He noted: “my family home stood on Farragut Terrace (number 928) and was sold to the parish in 1925 to help provide space for the enlargement of the school;” and his will, when he died in 1991, specified a Latin quotation for his tombstone, which translates “I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of thy house…” Do those words sound familiar? Look up at the inscription in the mosaic on our sanctuary walls!

Advertisements

Another Mother Theresa

theresa maxis icon
“Mother Theresa Maxis
The Holder of the Fire”
© 1995 SSIHM Monroe, Nancy Lee Smith, IHM Iconographer

From 1999 to 2014, the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), who run SFDS School and the IHM Center For Literacy, also operated a site called the Theresa Maxis Outreach Center at MBS, offering food, clothing, and life management skills training to those in need.

Who was Theresa Maxis?

That’s a complicated, inspirational, and deeply American tale.

Mother Theresa Maxis Duchemin, co-founder of the IHM order, was the daughter of Marie Anne Maxis, a Haitian refugee, brought to Baltimore in the 1790s by a French family named Duchemin. Her father was a British officer, briefly visiting American relatives. Marie Alma was born in 1810, and, like her mother, took the Duchemin name. According to documents in the Scranton IHM Archives, “The Duchemins were childless. Providing the little Marie Alma, or as she was usually called, Almaide. (a San Dominican nickname) …the same advantages of education and training which they would have given a child of their own, they saw her develop into a beautiful cultured woman of extraordinary intelligence…” bilingual in French and English and racially-mixed.

While attending a non-Caucasian Sunday School, Almaide met two young women hoping to establish the first religious order for women of color (long before the Civil War), and a boarding school to educate Haitian refugees. Almaide enrolled as their pupil, which functioned as her novitiate, and became one of the founding Sisters of the Oblates of Providence in 1829, taking the professed name of Theresa Maxis.

When the Baltimore Archdiocese tried to disband the Oblates, Mother Theresa was invited to the newly created state of Michigan. There, with Father Louis Gillet CSsR, she co-founded the IHM Sisters in 1845 with a mission to educate French-speaking immigrant girls. In 1855, Bishop (today Saint) John Neumann invited her to expand the teaching efforts of her sisters to Susquehanna County in the Philadelphia diocese. Then, a “jurisdictional dispute” between the bishops of Detroit and the newly-formed Scranton diocese in 1859 moved Mother Theresa “to the Pennsylvania foundation, which later became a separate branch of the congregation.”

An Immaculata University history recalls her fortitude: “Because of many difficulties and misunderstandings, Mother Theresa was forced to leave…” and spent 17 years exiled with the Grey Nuns of Ottawa in Canada. Bishop Wood invited her to return to West Chester in 1885, where she died in 1892. “Mother Theresa’s legacy of courage, peace and service to the poor continues now in three IHM congregations of Monroe, Michigan; Immaculata; and Scranton, Pennsylvania.”

Perhaps our IHM-strong parish needs a new memorial in her name!