Sisters of Charity Federation Archives

Hughes, Sister Mary Clare, D.C. Oral History




JUNE 17, 2019
Transcribed July 9, 2019 by Scott Keefer
Sister Mary Clare, Welcome. It’s good to have you with us today. I wonder if you could tell us
something about your vocation story.
Well I’m happy to be with you and to talk about the community rather than my vocation story,
but I’ll tell you a little bit about how I came to the community.
In the summer of [19]42, my sister said to me, “Clare, are you going to the community or not?”
And I said “OK, do you have to know?” Well, she said, “if you’re going to the community, I’ll
get married in August. If you’re not, I’ll have a Thanksgiving wedding.” Well, I said, “Kitty,
maybe you’d better consider August.” So she was married August 29, and I left home on
September 8.
I already had one brother in the seminary and one other sister married, and shortly after I came to
the community, two brothers were conscripted, and there was no one home with my mother. So
if I hadn’t come that September of ’42, I don’t know when I might have come, or if I would have
But anyway, I did come in September of ’42, and I postulated at old Mt. Hope [in Baltimore],
and we had about 20-some other women postulating with me at Mt. Hope, and it was a great
time. Getting used to living with more than your own family, getting used to living with the
sisters day by day – because in high school we went home at the end of the day. We didn’t live
with them-- Mt. Hope eventually became Seton, but when I was in postulatum, it was called Mt.
Hope, so I should be referring to it as Mt. Hope. I left Mt. Hope to go to the seminary around
December 2 of 1942, and my vocation date – the day I recorded as entering the community – is
December 14, 1942.
I was in the seminary ‘til January of ’44, and I was missioned to St. Joseph’s School,
Martinsburg, West Virginia, and I was missioned to the third and fourth grade. Of course, I
knew discipline was a problem, but Sister Imelda Maillette was a first and second grade teacher
separated from me by a cloak room. So she helped me out, and gradually the discipline became
possible for me.
So you began as a teacher?
I began as a teacher, but, in January of 1946 my Sister Servant received a call from Emmitsburg
to ask me if I would consider entering nursing. Well, I had one time thought of nursing, so I
couldn’t say no to the community, although I was very, very happy teaching and happy in
Martinsburg. But as I say, I couldn’t say no.


So I left there within a week to come up to St. Joseph’s, because I was getting to the class in the
College, and the second semester had already started. So that was the reason for my quick exit
from Martinsburg.
I had two other sister companions, Sister Annina Scharper and Sister – I think her name became
Mary, I’m not sure – I knew her as Angelica Ahl, and the three of us went through nursing
together. [note: Sister Angelica’s name became Sister Margaret] From the College, we went
down to old Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C., and we had women companions in class
with us, and they were delightful. We went through our basic nursing with some courses out at
Catholic University, because we were matriculating for a Bachelor’s of Science in nursing, so the
degree had to come from the Catholic University. It was called Providence Hospital’s School of
Nursing at the Catholic University when I went there.
As I finished my nursing program with my baccalaureate, Sister Isabelle [Toohey] asked me if I
would continue and matriculate with my Master’s program, which I did do. So I didn’t leave
Providence Hospital until January of ’51, at which time I was missioned to Jacksonville, Florida.
On my first mission to Jacksonville, Florida, I was named Director of Nurses, and in those years,
the Director of Nursing had both nursing service and nursing school, but of course I had an
assistant in the school and an assistant in nursing service, but they were very happy years.
I was a very young sister on that. There was only one other young one, Sister Jane Francis
Fairley. All the other sisters were elderly and it so happened that the community asked me in
May of – I’m not sure the year, but I’ll think of it later – if I would become the Sister Servant
and administrator. Well, my father and mother had taught me obedience, so no matter how I felt
about it I had to say yes. So I followed Sister Evelyn Roach as the administrator and Sister
The sisters were delightful. They were just delightful. They supported me in many many ways.
For instance, one sister was approached by one of the doctors, and he said, “Sister isn’t Sister
very young to become the administrator?” And Sister Philomen [Scholl] said to him, “Doctor,
Sister is older than the Queen of England.” She didn’t say by a couple weeks though. But that
was the type of support I received and it was just delightful.
That helped a lot, didn’t it?
It was a great help, a great help. And I had others. Pauline Mitchell who was just a wit of our
creation and so many other sisters. Of course, in those days, we had many more sisters assigned
in the hospital. Unfortunately, they began to dwindle.
I was administrator there for just two years when the community asked me if I would go to
Saginaw, Michigan as the administrator because Sister Camilla, who had been the administrator
there was chosen as our treasurer. So sister came to Emmitsburg, and I went from Jacksonville,
Florida to Saginaw, Michigan in January, the coldest month.


When I got to Saginaw, all I could see was grey. It was grey outside. Everything inside was
painted grey. It was just a grey situation. Sister Constantia Clark was assigned to help me in
Saginaw the construction being done when I went there. She also thought it was too grey for
everybody, so when it came to painting our refectory, we had three grey walls and one coral
wall, and it just made all the difference in the world in our lives, because three times a day we
had the benefit of that brightness and looking at our sisters in a very bright way. So we loved it,
and I loved it, and I loved Saginaw.
Another advantage, one block away was St. Vincent’s Home. So we had another community of
sisters nearby, and that was delightful. They came over every Sunday morning for the second
mass. Those were the years when we had a second mass on Sunday, and then we went back to
St. Vincent’s to have breakfast with them. It was just such a comradery, and we looked forward
to those weekends, and they looked forward to our coming over to their house.
Nice community time.
It was a beautiful community time. I received word, however, after two years in Saginaw that I
was going to be missioned here to the Provincial House, and I was going to be a member of the
Council. Sister Eleanor [McNabb] had just been made Visitatrix in August.
In January, I was missioned from Saginaw – you’ll note that was two years exactly that I was in
Saginaw – and Sister Marie Daly happened to be in Saginaw when I left. So we drove down to
get a train in Detroit, and as we drove down to Detroit, we listened to the takeoff of [Alan]
Shepherd going out into outer space. So I always remember that astronaut’s feat in relation to
when I left Saginaw.
What a memory!
Then I came here to Emmitsburg and found out that I was going to be acting as the assistant to
Sister Eleanor, which I thought would never going to work out, that I didn’t have enough
experience, that I wasn’t old enough. However, God was very generous in his graces, and his
sisters again-- the support, they practically carried me along. I couldn’t help but do OK. I don’t
know that I did well, but I did OK.
I remained here, believe it or not—I think I was here 21 years, 12 years as assistant to Sister
Eleanor and nine years as Visitatrix. So that totals I think 21 years.
In those 21 years, many things happened as far as community and vocation is concerned, and I’ll
bring them up as we talk a little bit more, like the canonization of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the
beginning and continuation of general assemblies in the community. It was a great grace to be at
the first one. We had one that was scheduled for two years in a row over Christmas and New
Year. It was I think 1968 to 1969. The Perfectae Caritatis indicated that all communities must
have assemblies and elect their general superiors. Well we were already electing our General
Superiors by the Sister Servants of Paris. But with the new constitution, that election was
designated to be carried out by the general assembly.


During the 21 years that I was here at Emmitsburg at that time, many, many major events took
place, and I was very blessed to be here for those particular events.
For instance, we closed the [St. Joseph] College. That wasn’t a fortuitous event, but it was a
historical one, and it occurred in 1973, but there were other community events that were even
more historical that I shared in, such as going to the general assembly. That only could be an
experience that I wish every Daughter of Charity could in her lifetime experience.
It is such a community event that—it’s just almost unbelievable to tell somebody when you think
that there is a Visitatrix and one or two delegates from every province in the world participating
in that meeting, and you just realize the depth of community experience that’s there and the love
of the community as expressed by those members of the general assembly and how for the sake
of the community they worked hours and hours into the evening and early morning hours to get
the best in our constitutions so that our community could have the strongest community life in
order that we would take care of the poorest of the poor.
And oh! Some of those sisters lived in such poor countries. To hear the representatives from
Madagascar and Mozambique speak, it was wonderful for we Americans to learn from them
exactly how they took care of the poor. It encouraged us, motivated us to come back to our
country, our United States of America, and do even more for the poor if that were possible. It
was just such an experience of service of the poor as we experienced an even wider community
living among the members of the assembly, and we were doing that to strengthen our community
life, our prayer life, for the service of the poor.
What a grace!
Such a wonderful privilege and such a wonderful, wonderful grace!
The assembly started in Rome because that’s where the Church asked us to start. But guess
what. The mayor of Rome had all these religious communities moving into Rome, and we were
tax-free. So he went to the Holy Father and asked that the Church stop asking the communities
to have their headquarters in Rome because he needed more tax money, and we were coming in
and coming in, but not taxable.
How interesting!
In the summer of 1946, I was home here at St. Joseph’s for summer courses, and Mother
Antoinette Blanchot was elected during that summer. She stopped here at Emmitsburg, so we
had an opportunity to meet her, and what a fortunate occasion that was because we all became
fascinated with her writings as she took office in Paris. It was just a great gift to have met her on
the way to Paris.
That was special.


I came to Emmitsburg from Saginaw in January of 1952, and I do think I’ve mentioned this
before, but I was here for the exhumation of the remains of Elizabeth Seton, which took place on
October 26, 1962.
For those of us who have never been present for one, I was very taken with the strict legality of
it. We all had to take oaths that we would not touch anything, that we would not move anything,
and we kind of stayed in the same position all during the exhumation. And when the two
pathologists took the bones of Elizabeth from the coffin that she was in and laid them out on—I
would say a door, it was a long board—they put all the bones out to identify them, and they
identified them by her height and other indications that they – the professionals – knew but I
didn’t know.
One of the things they told all of us was that one of the phalanxes of one of the toes of Elizabeth
Seton was missing, and they could not go on without that. So we all were quite concerned that
this would throw off the process of the beatification, but fortunately one of the secretaries
remembered that there was a relic of Elizabeth Seton in the safe of the Visitarix’s office. So we
waited while she went and got that phalanx, and that pathologist verified that it was the missing
phalanx of the toe and then they verified that it was a completed skeletal remains of Elizabeth
Seton. What a privilege that was.
Was any of the clothing left?
You know, I don’t remember whether any of the clothing was left, but if it were, it would have
been just pieces of clothing. I would have remembered if it were a dress or a cape or her cap, but
I do not remember that. All I remember was the dust and the bones and the little coffin.
I came to Emmitsburg in January of 1962 and was named, God help me, Provincial assistant to
Sister Eleanor McNabb. Of course, because I was assistant, I had opportunities for which I am
most grateful and which I thank God every day that they were available to me.
I was present for the beatification of Elizabeth Ann Seton on March 17, 1963, and that was the
last official act of Saint John XXIII. Of course he was not Saint then, he was John XXIII. But
we could tell even then that he was not well. You could tell it from his eyes, the dark, dark, dark
circles of his eyes. But it was such a glorious occasion. We who were there had to thank the
many, many sisters, college graduates, friends of the community who had worked so hard for
Elizabeth’s beatification. They had had all types of petitions signed and sent to Rome, and it was
they that should have been fortunate enough to be there. But we tried to represent them by
expressing our gratitude to them to Elizabeth on that special occasion.
In December of 1963, Mother Guillemin visited Emmitsburg. I should know much more about
that visit. But unfortunately, at this point, I remember just the highlights. One of the highlights
was Mother wanted to see the lights of New York. That amazed me because I know the city of
Paris is called the City of Lights, but she wanted to see New York. So we went to New York in
the early evening. We crossed all the bridges of New York so that Mother Guillemin would have
a good look at New York City from different vantage points. The next day we took her to view
the windows so she could see the windows along Fifth Avenue that were fixed for Christmas,


and of course, we took her in to Saks Fifth Avenue so that she could see the decorations. But
you know right well we didn’t buy anything at Saks Fifth Avenue. And of course, Mother didn’t
know what Saks Fifth Avenue was, but the decorations were glorious to view, and we were
happy that we were able to show them to Mother Guillemin.
And she was happy to see them.
Oh, I’m sure she was happy to see them.
Of course, there are two very particular occasions that occurred later in the month of September
of 1964, and the first one was the change of the habit. And if I recall correctly, it was September
12, and, miraculously, the whole world changed on December [correction: September] 12,
whenever that date was in their country. Because Father Slattery and Mother Guillemin had
gone to Spain because the Spanish sisters would be the ones that would gave up the most in
changing the habit, since they had had—even while we wore the cornette, they wore a different
headpiece. But Father and Mother asked them if they would change, and they agreed to change.
So the whole world changed on that date of September 12. We’ve had to be very grateful.
So they agreed to go along with it, and that’s why everyone was so grateful.
They agreed, and they changed. It’s remarkable, I was here at the Provincial House, and we
were a much larger group of sisters here then than we are now that it went so smoothly. But one
sister, after mass, went back upstairs and took off her new coif and put on her cornette and went
about her daily chores. One of the workmen saw her and immediately got in touch with another
sister to tell her that Sister Frances Miller had changed back into the old habit. So the sister
explained to her that we would no longer change after mass and put on a different coif or a
different cornette, because in the old days that’s what we did. We wore a special a apron and a
special cornette to mass and holy communion and after breakfast. We changed them, and that’s
what Sister Frances did.
She was just keeping with tradition.
But it was wonderful that everyone was able to change throughout the world. And of course you
know, as everybody does, that the coif changed quite quickly. I don’t remember the date that we
got word that the white wouldn’t curl underneath the blue as we first did it and it was straighter
and looked much more finished and tailored. But everybody... it’s remarkable, the simplicity
that was manifested in that change. All regretted losing the cornette because it was so widely
known and we received it when we received the habit. But everyone was so simple in accepting
the decision to change the habit, and, as we all remember, it was recommended by the Second
Vatican Council. And I was just so amazed and full of thanksgiving that that change went as
well as it did.
It was all grace.
Grace through and through.


Later that same month of September, the 20th to be exact, I think only something like eight days,
a week and a day, another enormous change took place for all the sisters here in Emmitsburg,
and that was our move from the old Provincial House to the new Provincial House. Remember,
that was two gigantic changes for the sisters in this mission, because they were primarily the
older sisters of the province, the older ones who were here because they could no longer manage
steps or some of the physical conditions on the missions, or they were in the infirmary. We had
a great number of sisters here, but they accepted that change so beautifully. The sisters came in
from the missions to help walk with the sisters, or if they needed to be driven down to the new
provincial house, they went along with them.
In essence, it became a bit of excitement instead of a chore. It became almost a celebration, and
that helped to make everybody so accepting and so grateful, because when they saw the new
provincial house and all the amenities it had provided each one of us, we couldn’t help but be
It was beautiful.
It was beautiful, there’s no doubt about it. Of course, as you recall, we didn’t have the basilica
for many, many, many months. The chapel was in the large room beneath the basilica, which
was not divided up as it is now, it was just a large auditorium at that period.
The alter was on the stage, but as I approached that chapel one morning, that’s when I became
aware of the difference in our habit. I entered those three little steps down into what is now the
museum of the basilica, and you saw nothing but the dark, dark, dark headpieces, which you
didn’t see upstairs because the sisters weren’t in rows next to one another. But down there we
had to sit in rows in order to fit ourselves in, and it was the area where I was very aware of the
difference in the habit. But again, that was just a feeling, and I could thank God that the change
went well, and it was better for everybody that we had change.
I remember people saying how dark everything was because we were used to seeing the white
cornette and the white collar in the back, and it was all dark blue.
Yes, it was very, very dark
And just another P.S., I was a postulant in 1964, and we could not wait to get into the basilica,
which we called the big chapel. And we decided we would be in for Christmas, and Christmas
came and went and we did not get in it. So we finally went in it on January 16, 1965, and we
declared, that must be Christmas.
I think that’s very important that it be known and recognized that we really didn’t move in ‘til
January 16, that date sticks into my mind. And the crucifix had a corpus on both sides.
That’s right. The large crucifix over the alter had a corpus on either side of the cross. Later, I’d
say maybe a year or so, might have been earlier, someone pointed out that that was not


liturgically correct, that we just had the corpus on the side of the cross that the congregation
viewed. So the figure on the reverse side of the cross was removed, and I have to say I don’t
know where it went or what happened to it. But it was a gorgeous figure, but unfortunately...
I’m sure some church has it now.
Someone told me that they gave it to some church. I don’t know which one it was.
I’m sure it was given to a church, but I’m not sure which one at the moment.
Another momentous occasion arose during my years up here, and that was the establishment of
the domestic, provincial, and general assemblies, and it was so edifying – and that’s the word
that meant the most to me, it means the most to me right now – it was edifying to see how
everyone in this facility entered into that preparation. Because those of us who were in the
community at that time remember we had to fill in little blocks along the edges of all the papers,
and that was a bit hard for fingers that were arthritic or old, but the sisters entered into that very,
very industriously. And they wanted to share, because this was the community’s future, they
wanted to share in those questions, and knew that their questions would represent them at the
assembly. So they worked very hard on those first questionnaires. It was wonderful to see.
And then of course, after those went to Paris, we entered into our first provincial assembly, and
that was held in what is now the Shrine. It was the large space under the big chapel as it was
called then. It was not yet known as the basilica, and that assembly was held in that room. And
we do have pictures to go along with this, I know. But the table was up front, and at the table sat
Sister Eleanor and Father [Charles] O’Connor, and, I’m pretty sure it was sister Mary Carol Eby
was the secretary of the assembly. Although by constitution, it was probably the provincial
secretary, so I think Mary Carol must be up there reporting, but I’ve seen a picture and reviewed
it so often, and it shows Father and Sister Eleanor and Sister Mary Carol giving a report at the
microphone, and I think that’s why her name immediately came to my mind.
That room was filled because our province then comprised the whole Eastern seaboard, Ohio,
and Michigan. So that room was filled. But at the election of delegates for the assembly during
those days, Sister Hilda Gleason and myself were elected as delegates to the first international
The reason I’m stressing the word international is that assemblies were held in the community
before this, but they were only attended by the Sister Servants of Paris. And of course we had to
remember that we had a couple hundred houses in Paris. So it was a large assembly, but it was
limited to the particular geographical area. Again, by mandate of Perfectae Caritatis, our
constitutions were looked at and updated and representation from all the provinces was indicated
as the best way for all the Daughters of Charity to be represented at the general assembly. So it
was with such anticipation that we went to that general assembly, and believe me, we took every
Daughter of Charity with us, because we knew that we were only there as delegates it was


Now, the Visitatrixes were ex officio, but the delegates were delegates elected by the provincial
assemblies. So we were very conscious. It’s amazing, when you are elected, how conscious you
are of being the representatives of those who elect you.
But it was such unusually new experience for the delegates who were there. We learned how to
accept and sit while somebody spoke in Portuguese, or somebody spoke in Spanish, or somebody
spoke in Italian, or somebody spoke in French, or somebody spoke in English to be very mindful
of what they were saying. And this was not as difficult as it sounds, because we had
simultaneous translation. Every member of the assembly had simultaneous translation, and that
was such a great benefit to each one of us, because no matter what the delegate or Visitatrix, no
matter what language she spoke in, we got the translation in our own language. What a
tremendous benefit that was.
During the assembly, on August 11, 1968, Sister Hilda Gleason was elected a General
Councillor, and that was a real privilege that she should come from our province. We know now
that the holy spirit was behind our voting that day, because Sister Hilda, after her term as
General Councillor, was missioned to Taiwan, as Vice-Visitatrix of Taiwan, and then later
became the Visitatrix of Taiwan and served the community so admirably both as General
Councillor going all over the world in that role and then establishing the community and
similarly helping to establish the Church in Taiwan with such a tremendous role, and Sister filled
it admirably well.
Two of the Sisters in Taiwan under Sister Hilda were Sister Evelyn Frank and Sister Annina
Scharper. Neither of them had any study in the Chinese language, so they were both named to
go to the University, and they attended the University for two years and became, in that being
together, great friends, and that friendship has endured to this day. When Sister Evelyn was
Mother General, she had occasion to come here to the United States on business, and she always
stopped to see Sisters Annina. It showed us that a happy friendship can exist in our community
and remain very strong and loving and still be just such a boon to everybody around them, not
just the two of them, because we shared in that friendship as well.
It’s not my intention to give a chronological history in giving my autobiography, but as I relate
community events, I think it’s important to name the date when something happened, or to give
the date when something happened, so I am aware that as I mention what happened in my life, I
am giving dates and just ask you to forgive that and understand why I’m doing it.
We like to have dates.
Oh good, we like to have dates, well that’s good.
Mother Chiron came to Emmitsburg in January of 1969 for the erection of the five provinces of
the United States. From the original two provinces, which were established in 1910, the St.
Louis and the Emmitsburg province, were to be subdivided into five provinces. For that
occasion, Mother Chiron came to Emmitsburg, as did the sisters, as many as could, from the
other provinces to be present for that at the establishment of their new provinces. It was a
wonderful occasion.


We know that the provinces of Los Altos Hills [California]; St. Louis, Missouri; Evansville,
Indiana; Albany, New York; and Emmitsburg, Maryland were established in January of 1969.
Many wonderful things occurred because of that division into those five provinces, and we see
God’s hand in that because more Daughters were able to become acquainted with other aspects
of their province, of their missions, of their ministries, and able to take greater part in it. We see
that that was a wonderful event not just for the community, but for the Church, because we were
better able to serve the poor through the division of the provinces.
Of course, history has changed that, and we’ve reunited, but that is history. That’s what happens
in history, but at the time of the division into the five provinces, there was an upsurge in interest
in the community and a greater ability to serve the poor in our various missions of the five
provinces, so it was a wonderful event.
It was the right thing to do at that time.
Right thing to do at that time. It was the right thing.
A major change occurred for the Emmitsburg province in July of 1972 when the sisters of Villa
St. Michael in Baltimore, Maryland moved here to the Emmitsburg campus, and that involved
133 sisters. I was on-deck for that, and it was so remarkable, and so enjoyable, and so edifying if
I may still use that word to see how those sisters took that change. Now you remember, most of
them would be in the 80s and 90s and some even in the 100s, but they came up here as delighted
as they had been to go on their first mission, because it was something new for them, and it gave
fresh views and fresh things to do to sisters who had been settled in their retirement in
Emmitsburg. It was wonderful occasion for us who lived here as well as for those who were
coming to join us in our community life here in Emmitsburg.
Believe it or not, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, now Saint Teresa of Calcutta, visited Emmitsburg in
October of 1975, and I have done a little bit of math on that, that was just the following month
Mother Seton was canonized in September of ’75, and Mother Teresa came in October. And her
reason—expressed reason for her visit was to visit the tomb of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.
It was an unusual visit in every sense of the word. The Council had to be the night before in
Wheeling, West Virginia for the retirement festivities of Bishop Hodge Joseph Hodges [Joseph
Howard Hodges]. He had been a product of our St. Joseph’s School in Martinsburg and had kept
close to the community all through the years, so the Council was scheduled, and the people in
Wheeling had bene notified that the entire Council would come.
When we heard about Mother Teresa’s wish to come here, and her schedule wouldn’t allow for
any changes, so we were in Wheeling ‘til about 11:30, and then we drove back to Emmitsburg,
and I don’t think anybody who took that trip was in bed before 2:30 or 3:00, and Mother was due
here at 8 in the morning. That’s the only time that her schedule would allow. But you know, it’s
like everything else, if you turn it over to God, it works out well. We didn’t show too much
fatigue that day, and Mother was bright eyed and so interested in anything we could share with
her about Saint Elizabeth Ann.


She stayed through the dinner hour, and I can still see her standing by the mike, where you so
often stand Maureen [addressing interviewer], just where that mike is now. She stood and talked
to the entire community.
And what did she talk about? She talked about love. How all of us need and appreciate loving
and how anyone with whom we come in contact in our various apostolates, as they were called
then, needs to be shown love. It was such a simple but effective message for every Daughter in
that refectory, and we had to express our gratitude to Mother Teresa for that, because it was
message that everyone valued, and it also showed Mother Teresa’s great sensitivity to any
audience that she might be speaking with, and I think her visit brought great benefit to any of us
who were present here for it.
Recently, there was an anniversary of that visit, the 50th anniversary of that visit, and the pictures
came up on the email on the iPhones, and one of my nieces told me that her son had pictures of
Mother Teresa visiting Emmitsburg that day. They were on email; we had not put them there.
So I think that maybe the Frederick Post would come that day to take pictures of Mother Teresa
and seen that they got on the email for the 50th anniversary of her visit. Because to Frederick,
that was a visit to Frederick County, not just to St. Joseph’s, Emmitsburg.
Richard McCullen, our Superior General, visit Emmitsburg in 1982. His warmth, his wit, and
his wisdom charmed all of us. Two stories associated with his visit are always in my mind.
The first is that the five Visitatrixes came together with Father to receive council and to ask
questions of him, and during that visit, the five Visitatrixes and Father went out to the Shrine of
Saint Vincent on the grounds of the Provincial grounds because it was in a new setting, and
Father was going to re-bless the statue. He did do that, and we were conscious during the
blessing that there was a reporter there because she had her little pad and was making notes with
what was occurring and what remarks Father might have made. But it surprised us because we
finished the blessing, but the young lady cornered Father and kept him for quite amount of time,
and we just stood off waiting for him to join us for our continuation of our meeting.
However, it went to over half an hour. So the other Visitatrixes went inside, but I waited for
Father. When the young lady finally left, he came to me and said “Sister, I’m sorry about that,
but that was that young lady’s livelihood.” How conscious I was by that remark, that Father was
always conscious of his service of the poor and showed his great compassion and understanding
of other people.
Another story that happened while Father was here. He was very busy during the day, so he
went to see the Villa sisters after supper. Of course, many of them were already in bed, but that
didn’t phase Father. He went from room to room, and he’d say to the Sister as he entered
“Sister, would you care to receive my blessing?” and of course they’d say yes.
We went into this one room, and he said that to the sister, and the sister said “Oh Father, I’d be
happy to have your blessing.” And with that, she pulled her hands out from under the covers,
and she had black woolen gloves on [holds hands together in front of her]. Of course, Father and
I wanted to laugh, but we had to hold our mirth until we left sister, because it just showed her


great reverence for the blessing of God, particularly when it was given to us by our Superior
That visit showed his great concern for every sister, because it wasn’t just the Visitatrixes he met
with. He’d greet every sister, and if she wanted to stop, he’d stop. It just showed me a
completely wonderful side of Father, just to see him in action, and his gift of sharing himself
totally. He really gave himself completely.
During that same time period, Jimmy Carter, the President of the United States, also visited the
Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Accompanying him were his wife, Rosalyn, and her mother,
his mother-in-law. After touring the Shrine and listening to a brief account of Elizabeth Ann
Seton’s life, he was very relaxed, comfortable, enjoyed what he was seeing and hearing, and did
not seem a bit hurried.
As he was leaving, the sisters gathered around the front door, and he was there among us, and I
mean among us because the Daughters surrounded him. As he left, he gave me an embrace, and
that picture was picked up by many of the newspapers in our country, and circulated, but happily
it was because he was at the Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.
That was special to have him visit wasn’t it?
Oh, it was very special to have him visit. Rosalyn was very simple also, and the mother-in-law...
She was part of the little party. They stood in the Shrine over by the alter of Elizabeth Ann
Seton and just asked any questions and listened to our responses and anything we shared with
them. It was a lesson for me in true simplicity. True simplicity. And I’m sure other sisters
could tell you many other things about that visit of President Carter. But it was really a highlight
of my years here in Emmitsburg. The President of the United States and the head of the
Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity. I see them as two wonderful events
in my time at Emmitsburg.
I should have said this first. The day before our President came to the Provincial House, the FBI
crawled all over our place. Every nook and cranny of the Basilica, the corridors that he was
going to traverse, the lobby that he was going to enter in to, it was crawling with FBI men. But
of course, the Daughters enjoyed it, because they saw what happens when you do have a person
who is subject to all types of untoward people who might want to get a hold of him. They have
to be very careful where he goes. We understood it, and we just enjoyed the FBI men. We
would try to converse with them, but they were serious about they work. They didn’t really enter
in. They were gentlemen, but they were about their business.
Throughout my terms here in Emmitsburg, I was very much aware of the support I received from
our Vincentian brothers, and that included believe it or not Father [William] Slattery, Father
[James] Richardson, and Father McCullen during my terms. I was also here for other terms like
Father [George Gregory] Gay’s, but it was after I was out of office that he came. However,
Father Slattery was not only admired by we the Daughters of Charity of Emmitsburg and the
United States. When we did go over to the assembly, we saw the respect, love, genuine
appreciation of our French sisters for Father Slattery.


This is just a little aside, but you know when we changed the habit back in 1964, the whole
world changed at the same time, because Mother Guillemin and Father Slattery went to Spain
and asked the sisters of the two different habits there if they would change to the universal one,
and they all agreed. So on that day of the change of habit, the whole world changed, and I just
thought the pair of them, Sister Guillemin and Father Slattery could convince anybody to do
what the Lord wanted us to do.
Thank God for that.
Yes, thank God for that.
In addition to the generals that gave assistance to me, I have to be very aware of the Directors
who shared their understanding, their knowledge of the community, their appreciation of what
the Daughters of Charity were doing with me and what an assistance that was in my years, and I
must particularly mention Father [Charles] O’Connor and Father [John] Cusack. I know they’re
both in Heaven now, and I hope they’re praying for this province and the larger St. Louis
province as it is now, because they really worked with us at the grassroots, and I think they can
present our situation to God and get his adit. We always have God’s support, I’ve no doubt of
that. But even more mindful they will make him of what we are doing down here, I’m sure.
I cannot forget though that we also had the Brothers in town. At one point we had five priests at
the priests’ house in town. They came over here for confessions. They came over here for all
types of liturgies because the Shrine was fairly new at that time. We had many, many types of
events and liturgies, and our Vincentian brothers were always on deck. You could count on
them. We could have 15 bishops, but hidden behind those bishops were our dear C.M. brothers,
and were they wonderful to us. I’ll have to tell almighty God how grateful I am for them.
As I listen to myself, I keep hearing the word “thanksgiving,” and that’s a word I know I will
always associate with my vocation, my years in Emmitsburg, my understanding and working
with so many different wonderful sisters and priests, particularly our Superiors. There all owed a
deep gratitude, but I’ll come back to that a little later.
After I left the terms up here in Emmitsburg, I worked for a number of years in different
apostolates. I was at Providence Hospital for two years, Jacksonville for another two,
Bladensburg for two, and then in 2000, I was asked to assume the directorship of the Shrine of
Saint Elizabeth Ann, and I filled that role to 2005.
That made me so aware, as I was jotting those dates down of how my life here in Emmitsburg
was so intertwined with that of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, our American foundress, because I
was here for her exhumation, her beatification, her canonization, her removal of relics from the
College chapel to our Provincial House chapel, her removal relics from above the alter of the
Provincial House chapel to where they are now in her little Shrine in our basilica.
As the years passed, I saw what other Directors in the Shrine have done and how they have had
so many different programs and booklets and occasions to invite the public and how we are


progressing in making Elizabeth Ann Seton known to more and more Catholics. It is, as I want
to emphasize, the part of so many of our lay staff that are doing that.
But the seed is growing.
The seed if growing because so many come and are greeted so well by our staff of the Seton
Shrine that many of them do return, and even return from distances. It is with great gratitude that
I’m aware that that’s occurring.
From the Shrine, I was assigned to the ministry of prayer in the Villa St. Michael, and I came
here in January of 2006. What a tremendous missioning that was for me because being here at
St. Michael’s Villa, has really been the zenith of my vocation. I am here among many wonderful
Daughters of Charity who have had all types of experiences, all types of encounters with the
poor, all types of experiences that they share with us, we share with one another, and it has been
so enriching. I myself must say, I think my years at the Villa, as I remarked earlier, are the
zenith of my vocation. It is such a grace and a blessing to be here among them.
Here I celebrated my 75th year of vocation, and here, as I said, I live with such marvelous
Daughters, and without trying, just being, there is a togetherness that is most unusual, and so
affectionate, so caring, so supportive.
I just think that God saved the Villa, and he saves it for many sisters, as their last mission
because I am with so many excellent Daughters, and we are all on the road to deeper
companionship with Jesus, so there is a union among, and a purposefulness among us, not
artificial, it’s just there. It’s part of us. It’s such a great experience of community.
I have always loved the community, but I think I have experienced it in it’s completeness, it it’s
fullness here at Villa St. Michael. Thank God for the Villa. Thank God for my sister
companions. If I could sing, I would sing the hymn “Praise God from Whom All Blessings
Flow,” for as I worked on these taped minutes of my autobiography, I was more and more aware
of the fact that my life was one complete succession of graces and benefits from God.
I know family, faith, community are tremendous blessings from God, but all of them, faith,
family, and community, have become deeper in my awareness of God’s goodness to us by living
in the Villa. I cannot stress that enough.
I would put that at the basis of all my happiness in all my final years of community living.
We’re all getting ready to join him. We’re all trying to deepen our companionship with Jesus, so
that when he comes for us, we will love him as much as we can, and that forms a bond that I’ve
never felt before. I’ve always loved community, always stressed that the three middle words are
“You” and “I,” and it has to be together we form community. But in the Villa, it is not just
expressed, it is lived and it is felt. And it propels me forward, and I thank God with all my heart
for my years at the Villa, and also for all his blessings of faith, community, family, anyone else
that I received during my whole life, I want to thank him for them. But the zenith is the Villa.
And we thank you, because you have been a blessing to us also.

Sr. Mary Clare Hughes - 1.jpg

Dublin Core


Hughes, Sister Mary Clare, D.C. Oral History


Hughes, Sister Mary Clare, D.C.
Catholic hospitals
Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul
Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. Emmitsburg Province


Sister Mary Clare Hughes, D.C. discussed her life in community as a Daughter of Charity. She began her career as a nurse at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Jacksonville, FL and St. Mary’s Hospital, Saginaw, MI before becoming Assistant Visitatrix of the Eastern Province of the Daughters from 1962-1969, Assistant Visitatrix of the Southeast Province from 1969-1974, and Visitatrix of the Southeast Province from 1974-1983. Relating to her time in office, she discusses the first Provincial and General Assemblies of the community after Vatican II, the changing of the Daughters of Charity habit, the exhumation of Elizabeth Ann Seton in anticipation of her beatification, the division of the five provinces in 1969, the closing of St. Joseph College, the building of the new provincial campus in Emmitsburg, and important guests such as Saint Teresa of Calcutta and President Jimmy Carter. She also discusses her close collaboration with General Councillor Sister Hilda Gleason and Vincentian Superior Father Richard McCullen.


Hughes, Sister Mary Clare, D.C.
Schmalzried, Sister Maureen, D.C.


Daughters of Charity, Province of St. Louise




Keefer, Scott (Transcriber)


Rights owned by Sister Maureen Schmalzried, D.C. Permission for any type of publication of archival materials, including text, photographs, video, or audio must be secured from the Daughters of Charity Communications Director before publication. Contact archives staff for appropriate forms and contact information.


RG 1-3 Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Collection
RG 3-4 Habit Collection
RG 4-31 Rev. Richard McCullen Collection
RG 6 (General Councillors) Hilda Gleason
RG 7-4-5 Erection of Five USA Provinces Collection
RG 9-4-1 Sister Eleanor McNabb Collection
RG 11 Emmitsburg, MD – St. Joseph’s Provincial House Collection
RG 11 Emmitsburg, MD – Seton Shrine Center Collection
RG 11 Emmitsburg, MD – Villa St. Michael Collection
RG 15 Provincial and General Assemblies






Oral History


Hughes, Sister Mary Clare, D.C. Oral History




Hughes, Sister Mary Clare, D.C. Schmalzried, Sister Maureen, D.C. , “Hughes, Sister Mary Clare, D.C. Oral History,” Sisters of Charity Federation Archives, accessed July 14, 2024,


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