Even 21st century travel can be fraught with mishap—lost luggage, missed connections, weather delays, exotic illnesses—but generally most travelers do not risk life and limb to reach a destination. Not so with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur as they journeyed to the New World in 1850. It was not a journey for the faint of heart! Sister Mary Alenie’s letters share their amazing journey from Antwerp, Belgium, to San Jose, California.
Edited for length and content. We hope you enjoy this series from our archives.
PART 1 – The Start
August 14, 1850, Antwerp: As the wind was contrary, we were obliged to wait nearly two weeks, until the change, which took place August 13. On the morning of that day, the Captain came to inform us that we would sail that evening. During the afternoon Rev. Father Schoff, S.J. came to hear our last confession on Belgian soil, soil so dear to our hearts. Here we took our final “Adieu,” of our beloved Sisters with considerable emotion on both sides – but not a tear was shed by the Missioners, as being so privileged as to be chosen for America filled our hearts with too much joy and gratitude. The sacrifice, in leaving country, relatives and by far, not least, our beloved Mother Constantine and our cherished Sisters was oh! so peacefully offered to God in whose foot prints we now really felt we were stepping. Such were our sentiments as we entered the carriage and drove through the streets of Antwerp for the last time.
We reached the wharf about 6:30 p.m. S. Supr. M. Stanislas had given a bottle of brandy to S. M. Donatilde to be used in case of sea sickness. As Sister got out of the carriage the bottle fell and broke, the strong scent soon let the bystanders know the contents of the bottle which made them enjoy a good laugh. The vessel, the “Fanny,” belonged to M. Spilliart of Antwerp. It was to be our home while crossing the Atlantic. Five cabins containing ten berths were assigned to us. We entered them and placed ourselves in the hands of Divine Providence, confident that we would reach the harbor of New York in safety. After supper we had recreation followed by night prayers. The first night passed very quietly.
On the 14th the wind continued favorable. The anchor was raised and we sailed as far as Flessingue. Unfortunately for us the wind changed during the day driving us as far back. We passed the sailing vessel “La Vierge Marie,” which also belonged to Mr. Spilliart. I should have said the remains of the ship which had been wrecked. We were to sail on that vessel, but God in His goodness did not wish us to perish, hence put obstacles in our way which prevented our departure at that time.
Cannibalism on the High Seas!!
The Captain and ten Sisters were the only cabin passengers. Notwithstanding the 10,000 francs, we had paid for our passage to America, our very dear Mother had amply provided us with all kinds of provisions but heaven seemed to delight in delaying us by sending contrary winds, thus making it impossible for us to advance. Our provisions were rapidly being consumed hence we dreaded starvation on the ocean, and to increase our fears the captain told us that on his preceding voyage he had passed through that terrible ordeal. On such occasions it is customary to cast lots on all on board, even on the captain – on whosoever the lot falls that one must be killed and eaten. On that trip, the lot fell on a sailor boy. As soon as he was informed of his destiny he asked the Captain, if a vessel were sighted, would he be spared. The poor boy receiving an affirmative answer quickly mounted to the highest mast and with the aid of a spy-glass sighted a ship at a great distance. Filled with untold delight he hastened to give the joyful news to the captain who immediately hoisted the “flag of distress” on the most conspicuous mast attracting the notice of the approaching vessel. The good Captain had nothing but rice on board and this he shared abundantly with the vessel in distress.
PART 2 – Provisions, Mutiny, Seasickness
On August 20 all on board were made happy on seeing a steamer approaching our vessel, and who do you think came to us? Rev. Father Isaac, S.J. with our dear Sisters M. Gonzales and Leopoldine from Antwerp. They were sent by our beloved Mother Constantine with an abundant supply of provisions.
On August the 24 our Captain went ashore at Terneuse and told the Pastor that he had 10 religious on board, going to America, who would be very happy if they could hear Mass and receive Holy Communion before sailing. The good Pastor most willingly acknowledged how welcome we should be and asked the Captain to discharge the cannon, on our leaving the vessel, so that he would be ready to receive us. The next day, the weather magnificent, the river calm, the sailors rowed us safely ashore. As there are no religious in that little town, we were quite a curiosity.
Now only one desire remained ungratified, that of having favorable wind. During the 24 days we anchored before Terneuse, our provisions were diminishing. Fortunately we were able to procure others before launching on the briny deep.
On Wednesday, Sept. 4, 1850, the Captain made his usual daily visit to Terneuse, and on his return handed us a letter from our beloved Mother Constantine. At the end she said, “Now, my very dear Sisters in the name of the good God, I command you to start.” Scarcely had we finished reading this sentence when the Captain hastily entered the cabin saying, “Good news, Sisters, the wind has changed at last. We leave immediately.”
But, oh, the terrors of sea sickness seized us which under this feeling, we cared very little what became of us. We felt that nothing save death could relieve such anguish. Impossible to depict the sleepless night of torture. S. M. Donatilde and S. M. Xaverias were the only ones spared, but their gentle ministrations could give no comfort to the poor sufferers.
The following day between 5 and 6 a.m. we were opposite England. We were then able to rise and go into the cabin just in time to hear the Captain say – “Sisters by a special protection of the good God, we find ourselves almost miraculously on the broad ocean. We are sailing on the Atlantic. I have never made this distance in my life in that space of time. It has always taken eleven or twelve days.”
Mutiny on Board
The dangers naturally attending all sea voyages seemed nothing compared to the one in store for us. One Friday evening after supper while the captain was conversing with us in the cabin, the first mate entered carrying a very large lantern. In this lantern was a man’s skull under which was written in large conspicuous letters “Prepare for death.” He stood before every one of us, showed the contents of the lantern, then left the room. We then asked the captain for an explanation of that scene! His reply was that he had until now concealed from us that there was a mutiny on board. The captain in the second cabin wished to kill the captain and first class passengers then take possession of the ship. He had already gained to his side one half of the steerage passengers. The captain however did not seem anxious as the Azores Islands were in sight and this disturber could easily be put ashore.
We all begged and implored of the captain not to make the first attack. This he finally promised but remarked, “I must make preparations for self-defense.” As the captain did not know at what moment the mutineers would break forth he told us not to appear on deck the next day and to keep our port holes and blinds closed. That night he loaded 18 pistols, 18 guns, 2 cannons, sharpened 18 swords, 18 knives, 18 daggers etc. then during the dead silence of the terrible night of Sept 18, 1850 discharged the artillery from the deck. This was done to let the mutineers see that preparations were being made for any emergency. We, in the meantime, were perfectly resigned to God’s holy will. Still the danger was such as to give us an opportunity of making the Sacrifice of our lives to our heavenly Father. Nothing more took place during that eventful night. The wise measure of the captain in discharging the artillery opened the eyes of the insurgents and their wicked scheme was not carried out.
Stormy Seas, Preparing for Death
From Sept 18th we had very calm weather, not advancing more than 4,5,6,7 knots per hour. On Sept 28th our vessel was surrounded by beautiful dolphins. We remarked to the Captain that these dolphins were beautiful to see. “Oh, yes,” he replied, “very beautiful to look at, but their harboring around the vessel predicts the approach of a very severe storm.” All the sails of the ship were ordered lowered. Scarcely had this been done when the wind began to rise and in a few moments we were tossed by a most terrific tempest. Not an eye was closed during that night as the storm increased until September 29, feast of St. Michael, when it was at its heights, as we had already prepared for death. This new danger did not disturb our peace of soul. We realized that we were in the hands of God.
Dear Sisters, I could never attempt to describe to you the grandeur, the sublimity of a storm at sea. The power of God, so visibly manifested in the midst of the tempest – the violent irregular motions of the vessel, the howling of the wind, the constant creaking of the ship, which seemed ready to be rent asunder at every lash of the waves, which seemed to meet the skies. Every moment we imagined that we would be buried in the deep ocean. It was impossible to prepare any meals during the time of the storm. We lived on Pilot bread. The cook tried to boil eggs, which he put in a net, and suspended to the lamp, but the movement of the vessel was so violent, that they were all broken, and bespattered us. The odor made us more ill than the rough raging sea. Sr. Xavarius and M. Donatilde, the only two, who were able to wear their religious habit, had them ruined. The remainder of the colony wore their morning wrappers with their colored kerchiefs which were so stained, that they caused many a merry laughter later on.
The storm raged until Tuesday October 1st when the weather became calmer. On Monday the 7th our Captain informed us that we had escaped another great danger. A water spout had struck the ship. Fortunately our Captain who was on watch perceived it in time to save us. The poor emigrants were the greatest sufferers, as their cabins were all under water. Every person on board (the ten Sisters excepted) lent a helping hand at the pumps, with God’s help this was the means of assuring our safety once more.
PART 3 – Becalmed, and Finally the New World
After the storm comes a calm. This we experienced on the feast of St. Francis Borgia, October 10th. We were becalmed. Our vessel stood perfectly still. The waters of the ocean were so exceptionally clear that we could see a most beautiful variety of colored stones of its bottom. While in this motionless state, a very large whale was perceived spouting around. Here again God’s protection hovered over us, by directing the whale in an opposite course and our poor vessel was spared one more upset. In the evening of the same day, we witnessed the grandest sight of our voyage, a sunset at sea! How different from on terra firma. We were really lost in contemplation. If Saint Theresa was wrapped in contemplation at the sight of a little flower, how sublime would have been her vision at this grand scene. We fairly besieged heaven with fervent prayers for a favorable wind that would bring us to the land of our desires. The next day God heard our prayers and our ship made 6,7 & 8 knots an hour. We profited by our delay to study the English language. Sr. Eusebius, who was quite proficient in that language, kindly gave us lessons.
I omitted telling you that our captain is a very fervent Catholic. He has great devotion to the Blessed Virgin and daily retires to his cabin where he says his rosary before a picture of our Blessed Mother. Are you surprised then, to hear of our numerous miraculous escapes? This good captain loves St. Anthony and recites his litany very faithfully on Tuesdays. When we were within 500 miles of New York another terrific storm came upon us, and this attended by more danger, as we were near the sand banks that border the shores of America. We learned afterwards that a vessel which had braved the terrific storms of mid-ocean was wrecked here as the fog was so dense they could not see the rock which caused their destruction.
On the morning of October the 20th the first rays of the sun revealed to our eager gaze the shores and mountains of the “New World” the land of our sighs and hopes – Oh! How grateful we were. Our eyes fairly feasted on the dense forest covering the grand picturesque mountains. We entered an immense basin called the lower bay at dawn of the day on the feast of St. Ursula October 21. At 11 o’clock we reached the interior harbor. The captain of the Fanny as I previously stated, was very prudent. He feared going any further in with our vessel, so taking up a collection of $100 among the passengers, arrangements were accordingly made with the pilot to bring a tug boat to draw us to the wharf. This was done very carefully through the rocks without meeting any accident. We were doubly thankful to God, for this great favor as the week previous a large sailing vessel had been wrecked on these very rocks. We were prepared to pay heavy custom house duties, having a large number of well filled boxes but St. Anthony was our business agent and a very successful one at that. The captain invited the custom house officer to dine with us. We found him exceedingly obliging. Our boxes were not opened. They passed free of duty. When the custom house officer returned to shore, he kindly sent us a basket containing a variety of delicious fruit.
PART 4 – Heading for Oregon
The Sisters traveled inland and made it to Ohio. Sr. Mary Alenie was given charge of the writing and French lessons in the boarding school and in surveillance in the day schools to practice English. While the convent in Cincinnati was a second Namur, Sister longed to be sent to Oregon to work with the Indians. Her favor was granted.
My joy was intense. I wept for gratitude. From that moment I devoted myself with double zeal to learn English and practice on the piano which I had not touched since leaving school in 1844. Immediate preparations were made for our departure on the first steamer that would leave for the Pacific Coast. We left our dear convent in the evening. It was as dark as the night we arrived so we saw nothing of the City. We went directly to the Ladies of the Sacred Heart on reaching New York, just as we did months previous.
We left on May 13th. The weather was lovely and we were not as seasick as on the first voyage. We were six Sisters, four from SND and two O.S.D. so between us had two cabins, three berths in each. Our voyage on the Empire City was a very pleasant one.
Thursday, May 22, 9 a.m. found us at the entrance of the Chagres River [in central Panama]. A canoe rowed by Indians came to meet us, took us to the middle of the river then left us there and went away. In a few moments a severe tropical rain came near sinking our little canoe. The day passed and still found us in this distressing plight. Before leaving the steamer, we had put on calico dresses hence we were completely drenched. When the rain stopped we saw the shores of the Chagres River crowded with men crying out, “Ladies go no further. You will be murdered tonight.” But what could we do? There we were stationed in the middle of the river without oars so could not stir. Our party consisted of nine persons, Rev. Father O’Connell, Mr. & Mrs. Hefferman and the six Sisters. As it grew dark ten naked Indians armed with knives, daggers and bundles of dried roots came to our canoe.
The moment of our death had not come yet. Divine Providence inspired Dr. Rabbé (a Jew) to come to our rescue. He came to us accompanied by other gentleman, well armed with pistols. These good gentlemen told the Indians they would kill them if they did not row us at once to the shore. Dr. Rabbé also obliged them to return our money which they threw on the sand bank. Two German gentlemen went ahead of us in a canoe while good Dr. Rabbé conducted us to a hotel near the River. Once there we were glad to be able to change our dresses and take supper for we had no dinner that memorable day. The room assigned us contained two beds. A piece of calico was an apology for a door. We had seen a crowd of men in one of the rooms trying to rest before traveling next day. Rev. Father O’Connell insisted on our trying to sleep assuring us the he and Mr. Hefferman would guard the calico, one on each side, with loaded pistols. Sleep was impossible, tired as we were. The Indians were roaming around the hotel with their musical instruments which sounded like a hammers striking a tin pan. Of course we did not take off our clothes.
PART 5 – Panama Travails, Beauty and Danger
The sun rose brilliantly on the morning of the 23. The weather was delightful. After refreshing soul and body by prayer and breakfast, the good Dr. Rabbé told us we could take passage on a small steamer that ran from Chagres to Gorgona. The landlord advised us to take provisions for one day as Gorgona would be reached by evening. Early in the morning, guided by our visible Angel D. Rabbé, we boarded the steamer considered superb in those days. While on deck admiring the grandeur of the tropical scenery we heard loud voices saying “Ladies down stairs!” We obeyed, but Mrs. Hefferman said “I’m not going down. I must know and see what is going on.” A few moments afterwards she came to us saying that the gentleman requested us to go down stairs as they wished to save us from the unpleasant sight of two muddied bodies floating on the river. These unfortunate persons proved to be the two Germans who started in the canoe before us. The Captain then informed us that the preceding week a family of eight persons had been murdered by the Indians and their bodies thrown into the Chagres River. At that time the United States was building a railway across the Isthmus of Darien, but the work was carried on very slowly, the men being frequently in a starving condition, as the provisions forwarded them by the government were taken and the messengers killed. This caused great delay as no one was left to tell the tale, and no means of communication from the workmen.
As the Chagres River was very low, the steamer made little headway. The first day we were sand bound, our provisions giving out. Fortunately we had with us a box of tea which our dear S. Supr. Louise sent to our Sisters in Oregon. This we gave to the Captain and indeed it was most gratefully accepted. At the end of the third day the Captain went on shore to look for means of getting to Gorgona. During his absence we went to walk on the shore to admire more closely God’s beautiful scenery. How can I describe the mountains, cascades, rivulets, the beautifully shrubbery and gorgeous flowers wafting their perfume far and near. We could in these enchanting surroundings almost forget our perilous situation. How our hearts were uplifted to the great Creator.
When we returned to the steamer, our walk had made us very thirsty and a glass of Chagres water was given to us. We felt its poisonous effect at once. Good Father O’Connell came near dying. We fabricated a bed with carpet sacks (there was no such luxury as beds on the Steamer) and applied such restorations as were at hand. He revived. Thanks be to God, but rather slowly.
The captain’s return was hailed with delight as he had succeeded in getting a large rowboat which took us to Gorgona that evening, very tired and half starved. Our accommodations were somewhat better than Chagres. Still this means very little. Noise and bustle were the same throughout the long weary night. Impossible to sleep. We gladly welcomed the dawn of day and blessed the Lord for preserving us again that frightful night.
Part 6 – Traveling by Mule
After breakfast we were told that our mules were ready. My first care was to recommend our caravan to the mercy of God and the whole celestial court. Taking our little Manual I drew the 23rd Psalm V. 5 which imparted comfort to me as it reads “I sought the Lord and he heard me, and delivered me form all my troubles.” This verse remained in my mind the remainder of my journey. I paid $64.00 for 4 mules and the transportation of our baggage as far as Panama. A boy between 12 & 18 was to be the guide of the company. Just as S. M. Domatilde mounted her mule gave a jump which prostrated the poor Sister to the ground to the great amusement of the lookers on. Rev. Father O’Connell had a very slow mule. So had your humble servant. Fortunately for us, the good Sisters of Mercy in New York had provided us with drawers. We were glad of their forethought while crossing the Isthmus. We found them a necessity.
Two gentlemen joined our company. One remembered leaving his coat at the hotel and returned to Gorgona for it, so his companion continued alone. I say alone as we were obliged to travel single file. Through the mountain gorges, one mule trots very quickly, another slowly while the third is very slow. The grandeur of the scenery is a subject of deep meditation as in some places the passage seems almost miraculous. Our boy guide was only seen in the evening. Happily the mules were drilled to the road.
Dear S. Francis de Sales and all my dear Sisters, to describe the roads crossing the Isthmus of Panama, you must go through it to conceive any idea of its dangers. Streams have to be crossed on mules. Frequently the water is so deep that it is impossible not getting the feet wet. Then there is dry rugged land, deep into which the poor mule would stumble, or projections from the mountains which obliged us to bend over on the neck of the mule to avoid being crushed. In passing through a forest the foliage was so dense that we were grateful to escape with our clothes intact. S. Louise, one of the Dominican Sisters, left her veil entangled in the branches. Again we had to ascend a mountain which seemed to reach to the skies by a narrow winding path, to the left of which was a deep precipice. We feared to turn our heads, lest we become dizzy and roll to the bottom. We came across mules that had dropped dead under heavy burdens.
At one point of this perilous road, I was entirely alone. God alone knew where the rest of the company was. This just happened to be the most rocky place. My mule which until now had travelled very slowly, took fright and began running so quickly that I was thrown off on the sharp rocks. God in his mercy stopped the mule. Otherwise my head would have been crushed to atoms as the foot which had got tangled in the poison oak on our excursion on the banks of the Chagres River had become so swollen, that I could not extricate it from the stirrup. I remained some time in this trying position, renewing the sacrifice of that life which He had spared on the Fanny and on the Chagres River. I was at that moment perfectly calm and resigned to God’s holy will, grace worked in my soul. I felt this one of the happiest moments of my life (I never had an unhappy one) but this bore the same impress of pure joy, as on the day of my First Communion and my cherished vows. Still God’s holy will was to prolong an existence, so desirous of proving His greater glory. Rev. Father O’Connell’s mule and Mr. Hefferman’s also were so slow that they found themselves far behind the company and were greatly surprised to see me head downward, one leg upward. Rev. Father O’Connell’s first words were, “Poor Alenie, poor Alenie!! Now we shall keep you near us.” With the help of these kind friends I was able to mount my poor mule again.
Mrs. Hefferman had given me a belt containing $200 when we left the “Empire City,” saying that the Indians might suspect she had money and would kill her, but would never touch a religious. The responsibility of this money gave me a very uncomfortable feeling. As we rode along, we saw a man hanging to a tree. Rev. Father O’Connell and Mr. Hefferman went to him very quickly and to their great joy found that he was not dead. The poor man soon revived and we recognized him as the gentleman who had left the hotel at Gorgona with us and whose companion had returned for his coat. The Indians had taken the $200 he had for his passage to California. He was placed on Mr. Hefferman’s mule then we four continued our journey.
That evening we came in sight of Panama. Here, the beauty of the surrounding country surpassed anything we had yet seen. The high mountains covered with luxuriant vegetation and the waterfalls glistening under the rays of a gorgeous tropical sunset wrapped our souls in sweet contemplation. On entering the town, we were taken to a hotel where a Spanish supper was prepared for us. This cooking is so different from what we had been accustomed to that we could hardly eat it. Our sleeping apartment was a very large room, containing berths like on steamers in place of beds. The heat was so intense we could get but little sleep, notwithstanding the loss of it during the last nights of terror. As S. M. Donatilde was putting on her bonnet in the morning, an enormous cat jumped out. These disgusting animals had been promenading from berth to berth all night.
Part 7 – Panama Fever, Steamer Travel and Secret Baptism
Rev. Father O’Connell kindly went in search of a convent. Only one remained in which there were four very old religious of the Immaculate Conception. We were taken to this place that once bore the name of Convent but was in such a dilapidated condition that it resembled a barn more. Like our hotel in Chagres the door was a piece of calico and the rooms were partitioned off by the same materials. Hammocks were used in place of bed. These the other Sisters slept in, but as I was suffering from the Panama fever, a mattress was placed upon the floor so I had the humiliation of lying on what was considered the best.
These good religious were so poor that they could not let us have our meals, so the Dominicans and Sisters of Notre Dame went in the town to buy what we needed…The four Religious of the Immaculate Conception had neither chairs nor benches. They sat on their heels with their little dog near them. When Rev. O’Connell saw the poverty of these religious, he thought is better for us to return to the hotel where we would be much more retired as we would not be obliged to leave the house to procure our meals. As our hotel was near the Bay, we could easily walk on its shores. We gathered a most beautiful collection of pebbles which would give me so much pleasure to send you, my dear Sisters.
The steamer we intended leaving on was so crowded, besides having sickness on board, we preferred waiting for the next opportunity which presented itself in the early part of June. The Sara Sands, an English steamer, was making her last trip to California before returning to England and we gladly secured passage on her. The Sara Sands was at the entrance of Panama Bay, and we were conveyed to her by a little tug boat. There are no such conveniences as wharves in Panama, so we were obliged to allow ourselves to be carried by Indians to the tug. However, Sr. Louise O. S.D. would not consent to this arrangement. She preferred walking upon the marshy beach, but, alas! The tide rose suddenly and the poor Sister would certainly have been drowned had not the Indians hurried to her rescue and brought her drenched to the skin, but thank God safe, to the tug where we anxiously awaited her. When we reached the Sara Sands, we were obliged to climb up steep ladders to reach the deck. This was a perilous feat, as the ocean was exceedingly rough. At every step we expected to be carried away by furious waves. But here again the good God sent His angels to shield us from danger.
During our first night on the ocean a frightful tempest came upon us, followed by an earthquake, which is said to be far more terrible on the ocean than on land. The next day the weather was delightful and we realized we were on the ocean whose calm rippling waters drew from Balboa its significant name, Pacific. A number of immigrants were huddled together in the steerage, while the cabin passengers number forty-five. Among them was a lady whose babe lay at death’s door. The poor mother expressed deep regret that there was no Protestant minister on board to baptize her darling. On hearing this I carefully watched a favorable moment to open Heaven for this precious soul. My earnest desire was granted. The afflicted mother left her little one a few seconds. During that time I slipped in, baptized the dear child, then hurried away. The next day it went to heaven and we hope obtained graces for its parents.
Part 8 – California, at Last!
My good S. Supr. Francis de Sales, you can easily imagine our gratitude in nearing our destination in safety after undergoing so many dangers since embarking at Antwerp August 13th, 1850. Saturday, June 28th we were making great headway on the coast of California. On Tuesday, July 1st the fog was so dense that the pilot steered towards Oregon, but at mid-day, perceiving his mistake, retraced the route to California. We entered the great “Golden Gate” so appropriately named and so majestic to behold. We were really on the waves on St. Francis Bay. If the magnificence of the scenery, the calm waters of the bay, so justly ranked among the finest in the world, impressed us so deeply, the sight of the town and its ports relating to it had quite a contrary effect. There we realized one was the work of the Creator, the other of the creatures. When the steamer reached the harbor, a crowd of men boarded her. The first information given was that of a terrible conflagration during the preceding month which had destroyed the greater portion of the City. Then one women would be told “Your husband has lost everything he had,” to another “Your husband has gone with another woman,” to another “Your husband was murdered” etc., etc., etc., Men could kill one another in the street without being arrested. All this had been foretold us in a sermon given by Rev. Father before we left Antwerp. The very name of California was a synonym for the rendez-vous of all the criminals of the universe whose only aim was to get gold by murder or robbery. I remarked to the Sisters “What a blessing we are not to remain in such a country.”
When Rev. Bishop Alemany accompanied by his vicar Rev. Father Langlois boarded the vessel, Rev. Father O’Connell knelt for his blessing, but his lordship bade him rise quickly saying, “We cannot do this in this Protestant country.” Having placed the two Dominican Sisters under his vicar’s care, he turned to me and remarked, “So, dear sisters, you are here at last. You will all remain in California. We have no convents, no schools. You may go where you wish. This new country is at your disposal.” I then respectfully informed his lordship that our Superior General had given us strict orders not to remain in any place they wished to keep us as our Mission was for Oregon. “Well, then,” his lordship replied, “half may go, the other half remain here.” “Oh, no, my Lord,” I quickly answered, “that cannot be.”
The good Bishop listened very patiently to me then quietly taking a letter from his pocket said, “Sister please read this.” On opening the letter I found it to be from Sr. Supr. Loyola stating that, during her long stay in California waiting for us, Divine Providence had made other arrangements and it was evidently the holy will of God that the Sisters of Notre Dame should have a foundation in California. Immediately on reading this letter I felt a complete transformation in my sentiments. I felt perfectly happy, calm and resigned to the holy will of our heavenly Father. I said to myself, “This is indeed God’s own work. I did not ask to come here. I dislike the place. I begged of our dear Mother Constantine to send me to Oregon, to have the merit of obedience now I am perfectly satisfied. I am in the hands of the good God. He will take care of me as He has always done. I have always experienced great happiness in perfect submission to His holy will.”