A Tribute to Catholic Sisters, 1899

A PRIEST’S TRIBUTE TO NUNS. Mgr. Conaty’s Sermon at the Georgetown Convent. (The New York Times, May 31, 1899)

Washington, May 30— Cardinal Gibbons, Papal Delegate, Mgr. Martinelli, and other prominent Catholic churchmen took part today in the second-day’s celebration of the centennial of Georgetown Convent. It is estimated that at least one thousand women, representing every State in the Union and many of the Latin-American countries, took part in the ceremonies. Solemn Pontifical Mass was celebrated this morning, Cardinal Gibbons officiating, and Mgr. Conaty, Rector of the Catholic University, preaching the sermon.

Dr. Conaty’s sermon was a review of the notable work of this venerable institution of Catholic education, and a tribute also to the saintly character and noble activities of the nun. He spoke of the simple and devoted life of the recluse as particularly constituting a bulwark “against the tide of irreligion that is sweeping us from the moorings of faith.”  

“The daughter of wealth,” said Dr. Conaty, “gives up wealth and freely adopts poverty; the daughter of fondness and of home love gives up father and mother that she may be the devoted child of God. Gifted with intelligence, trained in the ways of scholarship, she consecrates her life to instructing the ignorant, lifting up the fallen, giving hope to the despairing, begging bread for the starving, nourishing the sick, caring for the leper, mothering the outcast.”

“The nun, properly understood, is as the sunshine of our life, the very salt of our society, the aroma of our existence. No wonder the child loves her, for he finds in her something more than earthly love; no wonder the tears drop from the soldier’s eyes as she lifts his drooping head and administers sweet charity to him, for he hs never seen elsewhere such charity; no wonder the scoffer ceases his scoffing as she passes, for she is purity, religion, life, love—she is indeed an angel of God in our sinful world.”

An alumnae reunion occurred this afternoon.

NOTE: Monsignor Thomas James Conaty (1847-1915) was Rector of The Catholic University of America from 1896 to 1903, when he was named Bishop of Monterey-Los Angeles (now the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Monterey). The Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School was founded in 1799 as the Georgetown Academy for Young Ladies. It is the second oldest Catholic high school for young women in the United States, after the Ursuline Academy in New Orleans, which was founded in 1727.

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