Sisters of Charity Federation Archives

Sister Anna Denise Murphy, S.C. Oral History

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Sister Francis Maria Cassidy, SC
Sister Anna Denise Murphy, SC
July 6, 1983
Sister Noreen Neary, SC
November 17, 2020

Sr. Francis Maria:
We're visiting at Saint Anne Villa this morning. It's July 6th 1983 and I'm sitting in a lovely,
cheerful parlor. And sitting next to me is ... And we've been chatting for a little bit about the
[House of Divine Providence and Home for Incurables in Ridgewood, New Jersey]. Your name
is Sister Anna Denise Murphy and I'm Sister Francis Maria Cassidy. And I'm just recording that
I'm visiting you in this lovely, cheerful parlor. Sister Bea Guider has given us a very nice room
here to ... Sister Anna has agreed to tell us something for the record, for history, about her
memories of the House of Divine Providence for Incurables in Ridgewood. So, SisterSr. Anna Denise:
You see, there was a little cottage, I'll tell you that point. Across the way from the House of
Divine Providence, and [Mrs. Andrew Fuller] owned that house. It was a little cottage.
Sr. Anna Denise:
... and do things for her. And when she died, she gave all that property to Sister Sarah Joseph
[Morning], where Mount Saint Andrew is. All that property she gave to Sarah Joseph.
Sr. Francis Maria:
That would be across the street?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yes. The big house. Nothing was there then, when I was there. And then you see, Sister, this is
funny, she had a lot of lovely flowers, Sister. And she had a horse, the woman had. She had a
horse, and I think a dog. And she had a parrot. And you see, the people in our house used to go
over there. She had lovely flowers, and they used to pull the flowers. And Sister could hear miles
away, that parrot would holler, "There they are." And that meant she'd come out and chase them.
But Sister, I think you could hear in New York, he'd holler every time they'd come. He'd holler
and she'd have to chase them. She used to give some of the flowers for the chapel. And then, of
course it was very ... every Sister did their work there. No help of any. They had one girl, a
lovely young girl. She's now the Sister. But she was Maria Melania here.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Yes.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Her Sister, Mary Crowe.
Sr. Francis Maria:

Yes, I know Sister Melania.
Sr. Anna Denise:
She used to have to help me because I didn't know much. So in the morning, [Sister Maria
Melania Crowe] used to tell us at the table. "Please, Sisters, could you do without milk? Or could
you do without bread?" Or something, "Because I ain't got enough for the patients." They'd say
yes. And then Sister Sarah Joseph had a wagon and a horse. This is funny, too. And I'd have to
get up at three o'clock in the morning, and go in that wagon with her. And she'd go down to
Newark, to Walsh to get the meat for nothing. He had a big, big meat store, but she'd have to go
there before the man would open.
Sr. Anna Denise:
And, Sister, she had a little bell. And she stuck that bell and she'd ring it for the Angelus. Now
this is true, and every time she rang, the horse…
Sr. Francis Maria:
Nodded his head.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yes, he was used to that.
Sr. Francis Maria:
It was a signal.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Then when we'd come home, Sister, we'd have to take care of the patients and fix them, get ready
for Mass. It was very hard because…
Sr. Francis Maria:
Do you remember the year that you went there, Sister?
Sr. Anna Denise:
I think it was either 1916 or ‘17, because I entered in 1915.
Sr. Francis Maria:
So then you were just a novice?
Sr. Anna Denise:
What?
Sr. Francis Maria:
You were just a novice.

Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh, [unintelligible]. And then you see, Sister, they had a great big room there, a beautiful room.
Best room there. And they used to fix this up and have it. But that was for [Mother Mary Xavier
Mehegan]. She used to come and stay. That was before I was there, of course. And they used to
say, "Fix the room." And they put a big chair for her, and she used to see the sisters, see? And
she'd stay there a couple of days. And of course, the sisters were so happy that she was there.
Sr. Francis Maria:
It would be like a visitation, but it would also be a little vacation for her.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh, she loved it. She loved Ridgewood.
Sr. Francis Maria:
It was getting out into the country, even though here is country.
Sr. Anna Denise:
You see, now it's all built up. Before there was there nothing for miles and miles, there was
nothing there, no houses, only that little cottage. And across the street where Mount Saint
Andrew’s was, there was nothing there but woods. But now it's all built up. And of course, the
house is burnt; they have a church there now.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Yes. I've been to that church. Do you remember anything about that fire?
Sr. Anna Denise:
About what?
Sr. Francis Maria:
The fire that burned…
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh, yes. You see, Sister, Mr. Cullen in Newark used to give girls to them. I don't know, they
were poor. So this girl, after the fire, they said she was a firebug, I don't know. And up in the
attic, of course, they had nowhere. They never had wheelchairs. They had crutches and all that.
And she must have sent up there fire. I remember, the whole attic went on fire and we had such a
hard time because most of those people were crippled. And we had to try and get them
downstairs and out, and everything. That was in 1925.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Oh, you have a good memory for dates.
Sr. Anna Denise:

Yes, that was from 1925. I forget that date, but it was 1925. And they had to get out. We had to
try and get them out. So the firemen in Ridgewood were very quick, Sister. They helped us.
Because the ones in Ridgewood didn't come right away, but the firemen in Paterson came.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Oh, it was the Paterson firemen who helped you?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yeah, they did all the work. The Ridgewood firemen came after, but they wasn't so quick. They
took their time. But the firemen in Ridgewood, they did, they came.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Paterson first, and then the Ridgewood people came.
Sr. Anna Denise:
But Paterson did everything.
Sr. Francis Maria:
But before the fireman arrived, I imagine you must have been helping the patients.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh, we had to get them down, Sister, because they were crippled. And then each sister tried to
get them down, and [Sister Mary Valentinia Morin] had a great big dormitory with patients. It
was a big floor. And then the next floor was Sister Lethia's. And the next floor was mine. And
we had to try and get them out. The smoke alone would kill them, Sister.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Were there any injuries?
Sr. Anna Denise:
What?
Sr. Francis Maria:
Were there any injuries?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Well, not there, but then we put them over to Mount Saint Andrew’s was there. And a good
many of them died with fright. None of them [unintelligible]. They died with fright. They were
so crippled, Sister, it was hard to get them down.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Sister, was this fire at night?

Sr. Anna Denise:
No, Sister. No, thank God it wasn't at night, I think it was in the afternoon, as far as I know. But
it wasn't at night, I know that.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Well, that was a blessing.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh, yes. And we got them out, anyway. But, see, they were so sick, Sister, it was hard to get
them out. We got them out. And of course, I was the youngest Sister there, and they depend upon
a lot. At that time you couldn't say no. Whatever you were told to do, you had to try.
Sr. Francis Maria:
It was easier in a way.
Sr. Anna Denise:
What?
Sr. Francis Maria:
It was easier in a way in that you didn't have to make a decision.
Sr. Anna Denise:
And Sister Sarah Joseph had charge of the whole farm. She had charge of getting the meat. Then
there used to get a great big bake... I forget, it was Ward’s. The name was Ward’s. They'd give
them big bags of flour and they’d make the bread. They had a big room, I remember, and two
great big ovens. And you see, we had to get up at three o'clock in the morning once a month or
every second week and they’d make the bread. But at that time, Sister, you couldn't break your
fast, don't you remember?
Sr. Francis Maria:
I remember, until after communion.
Sr. Anna Denise:
They'd say to me, "Hurry up." I'd have to come down, and they'd make the bread. Oh, Sister, the
smell of that bread would make you eat, but you couldn't touch it. And Sister Sarah Joseph had
charge of it. Sister Valentinia and Sister Louise Adele [King] was there, and [Sister Mary Esther
Mahoney] was there. And [Sister Mary Simeon Ward], she died here. And Sister Valentinia died
here. All those Sisters used to work, so we used to get ... And then after that I'd have to go up and
get the patients ready for the priest.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Now, I hope you had some bread before you did that. Was this before Mass?

Sr. Anna Denise:
Nothing.
Sr. Francis Maria:
And you were young.
Sr. Anna Denise:
You had no time for that.
Sr. Francis Maria:
You were young. You must have had such an appetite.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Even the other Sisters didn't. They were used to that.
Sr. Francis Maria:
But I'm think thinking about the smell of that bread on an empty stomach.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yeah. And those Sisters, they got over ... I guess God took care of us. And those old Sisters, my
goodness, what sacrifice they did. So then I'd have to get the patients ready for Father… oh,
Father Keough.
Sr. Francis Maria:
See, it worked.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yeah, you got it. Father Keough was there. And he used to hear the patients' confessions. But
he'd have to have a bell, because they weren't able to go out and in. And when he was still with
the confession, he rang this bell. We'd have to go in and take the patient out and bring the other
one in, see? They were crippled.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Oh, yes.
Sr. Anna Denise:
They had no elevator, Sister. Food came up on dumbwaiters, and I had a pantry and this woman.
Oh, she was a little bit of a nuisance, and she used to take and upset the tray, so I went to her. So
when she came out of confession, she says, "Father Keough told me what to do about you. He
helped me. He said, 'Don't bother with her pantry. Stay away from it. You don't want to go
there.'" But he did this for me.
Sr. Francis Maria:

That was his way of helping you?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yeah. So she stayed away.
Sr. Francis Maria:
He was a good psychologist.
Sr. Anna Denise:
She didn't go in anymore, see?
Sr. Francis Maria:
Yes.
Sr. Anna Denise:
But I was nice to her. That didn’t bother, because Sister Melania always told us, "Sisters, you
have to put up with a lot. They're sick." And I told you about the rosary, did I?
Sr. Francis Maria:
No, not yet.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Well, this woman was very sick, Sister, and she was all crippled. And she was a good Catholic.
And I had a nail in her room. And on that nail I'd have to put the rosary. And she went through
her eyes. Nails used to go into her hands. But we had no medicine. We had carbolic, but we had
a doctor that would come once or twice a year. And he'd always say to me, "Little Sister, you
have to wear gloves," you have [unintelligible]. And I had other patients…
Sr. Francis Maria:
You mean your hands were burned from the carbolic?
Sr. Anna Denise:
What?
Sr. Francis Maria:
Your hands were burned?
Sr. Anna Denise:
You had to put it in water to fix it because we had nothing else. That was the only thing that
would wash her. Because, Sister, if we left that hand there, the worms would get in, see the
flesh…
Sr. Francis Maria:

Sure. Did you find this hard to do?
Sr. Anna Denise:
No, I was young and strong, Sister. I was young and strong then. I thought when you went to the
community you had to do whatever you've got to do.
Sr. Francis Maria:
We hear so much today about Mother Teresa of Calcutta working with the indigent poor in India
and in other parts of the world, and we wonder how she can work with these people who are so
ill, but as you say…
Sr. Anna Denise:
Those people couldn't have [unintelligible], because it was incurable. Because the priest, and this
woman used to get them down by [unintelligible], living in the little huts or something, they were
poor, see? And we had one [Sister Mary Cortona Byrne], she was [unintelligible]. She used to
make the clothes for them, but Sister, she got cancer.
Sr. Francis Maria:
I'm sure she has a beautiful face in heaven.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh, yeah. They put her in the parlor, and there used to be an undertaker in Paterson. He used to
come. Of course, they had their own graveyard there.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Yes, I see. They had their own graveyard at the House of Divine Providence?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh, yeah. They had a big graveyard. Father Keough said Mass and everything, and they got
everything. But I was young. I didn't mind it. And you see, I was sent there, and Sister, Lord
have mercy on her, Melania and Mary Crowe, the woman had to have a bath. Of course, I'd
never bathed anyone in my life. So I put the woman in the tub. And, Sister, I guess I was rubbing
her with my eyes shut. I rubbed her so much, we had those fluted caps... in the tub.
Sr. Francis Maria:
She threw you in?
Sr. Anna Denise:
She put my head in. The woman got tired of me rubbing with my eyes shut, I didn't know any
better. Oh, you know those fluted caps?
Sr. Francis Maria:
I sure do.

Sr. Anna Denise:
All the starch… I went up to Sister Melania. "Mother of love, what happened to you?" Well, I
said, "Sister, that woman put my head in the tub." "Why? Sister, dear, you must keep your eyes
open when you bathe people." I said, "Sister, I never bathed…"
Sr. Francis Maria:
You were embarrassed?
Sr. Anna Denise:
No, I didn't know. I was dumb. I said, "Sister, I never bathed anyone." Oh she said, "I know you
didn't. But if you're bathing them, keep your eyes wide open." For years gone by, they had that
joke on me, because all the [unintelligible].
Sr. Francis Maria:
And you know those fluted caps were hard to come by.
Sr. Anna Denise:
See, the other Sisters, they were much older. They knew about it, and then you see…
Sr. Francis Maria:
You had no training for this.
Sr. Anna Denise:
What?
Sr. Francis Maria:
You had no training for this kind of work.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Well, I never did. I was young. And then Keough used to come at Christmas, and he used to
visit, eat dinner with us. And then at Christmas, you see, the people in Paterson and Knights of
Columbus used to send pails of candy. And we had to take every bag we had and put candy
inside, and we'd give it to the patients. Of course, they thought they were in heaven, in heaven on
Earth for a bit of candy. We'd give it to them. And then on the 8th of December, Sister Melania
gave us 50 cents. Oh, we were [unintelligible] because Sarah Joseph used to take us to Paterson
and we used to buy a lot of stuff.
Sr. Francis Maria:
With your 50 cents?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh my goodness.

Sr. Francis Maria:
That was a fortune then.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yeah. Everything was cheap then. And Sister Valentinia came home and she said to Sister
Melania, "Guess what?" She said, "I was in in that store and I got this little ham, 50 cents."
Sr. Francis Maria:
No.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh, everything was cheap then.
Sr. Francis Maria:
What could you buy for 50 cents today?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yeah, that was in Paterson and I guess he gave it to her cheaper. At that time they had lots of
love for the house and the Sisters.
Sr. Francis Maria:
She probably told them that's all the money she had.
Sr. Anna Denise:
So, the Sister in the kitchen, I think it was [Sister Anna Josephus Lucey], the Sister in the kitchen
fixed it and gave it to us, a little piece. Then at night, we had recreation. And Sunday night,
Sister Melania, she was at every exercise. We had to be there for recreation, and she used to sit in
a big chair, Sister. And you know who she reminded me of? One time I saw in a book, I don't
know what book, Mother Seton with the Sisters around her. And she'd have us around there, and
she'd tell us ... I know one story she told me.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Was she the Sister Servant?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh yes, she was. But one story she told me, she told us the old [Sister Mary Catherine Nevin]. I
didn't know her.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Oh, Mary Catherine Nevin?
Sr. Anna Denise:

Yes. The first. That's when she was 50 years old. She stood and she said to the Sisters, "Pray for
me. I'm 50 years serving God, that I did His work and everything right – that's what I want," she
said. I know that, she tells us other things. And they had a Victrola, but it was those round ones.
Maybe you don't remember them. They were like this, the old ones. And I’d have charge of them
and I'd have to put the records in. And Sunday night, for dessert we had a big thing of apples.
Sr. Francis Maria:
The sisters’ recreation time?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yeah. But oh, Sister, we were happy.
Sr. Francis Maria:
You were happy. You worked hard, you were very happy.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh, we had no time, Sister. When I used to go down to recreation Sunday, some poor patient that
would walk around. I'd say, "If anything happens, call some way." Because they had no
telephones or things like that. But, oh, Sister Melania was so good. She was at every exercise,
and she was just like ourselves.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Yes. She is very sweet. Now Sister, were there some Sisters there at the time you were there,
who had been there in Mother Xavier's time?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yes, I'll tell you who was there. Sarah Joseph was there, and Mary Esther was there. They told us
about the big room, as I told you about. And Sister Louise Adele was there. She had charge of
the priests – the front of the house and the priests. And then they had a Sister, that I think she
was there too. [Sister Cornelia Agnes O’Rourke].
Sr. Francis Maria:
Cornelius?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Agnes Cornelius. She had charge of the meeting, and the prayers, and everything. Then in the
convent where we were, Sister, from the top of that room where we were down to the bottom,
they had a big glass door and you could see the Blessed Sacrament and then the next floor was
the choir, and then of course, down below. But Sister Melania used to always tell us, she'd say,
"Sisters, when you go in the chapel, I want no talking. God is there."
Sr. Francis Maria:
Now, do you remember any of the other stories about Mother Xavier? Do you remember
anything they told you?

Sr. Anna Denise:
No, I don’t know because I wasn't there. Only what they told me.
Sr. Francis Maria:
I know, but what they told you. Now she would come…
Sr. Anna Denise:
The sisters used to go in to see her, and she loved Sister Melania, and she loved to stay there
because she could go around, and she used to talk to them and tell them things.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Talk to the sisters and talk to the patients?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh, they loved it. Of course, I wasn't there. I entered in 1915.
Sr. Francis Maria:
I understand, yes.
Sr. Anna Denise:
But they told me this room was beautiful, but I know one time Sister Valentinia went to Paterson
with the fifty cents and she bought a lovely cup and saucer. See, they had nice things at the table
for Mother Xavier when she came. And she used to say, "Sisters, I want the same as you people
have." Melania used to say, "The sisters thought so much of you, Mother, that they thought
they'd buy the cup and fix a place."
Sr. Francis Maria:
Well, that's a very nice insight into how humble a woman Mother Xavier was.
Sr. Anna Denise:
What?
Sr. Francis Maria:
She was very humble, Mother Xavier. She wanted no fuss.
Sr. Anna Denise:
She was like a mother. So she bought this cup. I saw it after. That room was never touched.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Oh, they kept that room?
Sr. Anna Denise:

That was locked up and she used to come. Then there was St. Joseph's Hospital [in Paterson,
New Jersey]. There was a Sister before Mary Clare, [Sister Mary Irmina McDonough] or some
name like that. But she was a great friend of Sister Melania. And Sister used to go there. She
used to give Sister Melania some gauze and medicine for the patients.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Sharing.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yeah, so she used to take us. So this time she took me, and we had [inaudible 00:19:46]. Sister
Irmina, that was her name.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Sister Irmina?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Irmina. Before Mary Clare got there. And she said to Sister Melania, "I wish could have that
little Sister, she could be a nurse." Oh, my heart was broken. And then Sister Melania said, "Oh
no, Sister. We need her. We need her very much."
Sr. Francis Maria:
Sister Irmina wanted you at St. Joseph's Hospital?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yeah, to become a nurse. But I was so frightened, Sister. Sister Melania said, "No, we need her
mostly there." She said, "Sister Melania, your sisters work 10 times harder than my nurses." She
said, "They ain't got all that work to do." But, oh Sister, it was awfully hard. I guess you're tired
listening to me.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Sister, I could go on listening forever. Do you remember how long you were there at the House
of Divine Providence?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Well, I was there ‘til the fire. And after the fire, I was there two years, and we were sent over to
Mount Saint Andrew. But they had no room for everybody. Sister Valentinia had to go over, and
this one had ... They had no room for me over there, so I was there three years and then I was
sent out to another mission. But the other mission wasn’t anything.
Sr. Francis Maria:
You must have missed it when you had to leave.
Sr. Anna Denise:

But they had no room over there, Sister. They had room for all the other nuns, see.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Sister, can I go back to that special room they had set up for Mother Xavier?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yeah.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Was that destroyed in the fire? Was that room destroyed?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Everything was destroyed.
Sr. Francis Maria:
So that lovely cup and saucer that you spoke about?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yes, my goodness. At that time, everything was wonderful. [Sister Valentinia would] come and
she'd say to Sister Melania, "Look what I bought." Because we had bowls. "Look what I bought."
Sister Melania said, "Oh, a cup and saucer for yourself." "Oh, no, no," she said, "for Mother
Xavier." Then Sister Melania said, "Oh, that's very nice. We'll put that at her place when she
comes." But Mother Xavier didn't want it. Mother Xavier said, "I'll have the same as the sisters."
But then Sister Melania said, "Sister Valentinia spent her big money, 50 cents."
Sr. Francis Maria:
50 cents. Did you see that cup and saucer?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yes.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Do you remember what it looked like?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Well, it was a fancy cup and saucer. It had little flowers around it and flowers on the thing. Of
course, at that time everything was wonderful and they put it at her plate.
Sr. Francis Maria:
That was very special for her. She didn't want it.
Sr. Anna Denise:

She didn't want it. "I want the same." Sister Melania said, "Mother, listen. She spent her whole
50 cents to buy the cup and saucer," so Mother Xavier said, "All right, I'll use it as long as
Valentinia did that."
Sr. Francis Maria:
Ah, she didn't want to hurt her.
Sr. Anna Denise:
But you see, they told me before that they loved Mother Xavier. When she’d come, the house
was lit up. And Sister Melania said, "Don't do anything special for me. Give me everything the
Sisters have the same."
Sr. Francis Maria:
Mother Xavier would say this.
Sr. Anna Denise:
And she used to come down, and she used to be for recreation. But they'd all be so happy. She
was a great friend of Melania. Of course, Melania was much older. And she loved them.
Sr. Francis Maria:
When Mother Xavier would come, I suppose she'd rest a bit, she'd be at recreation with you.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Melania used to say to the Sisters, "Now Sisters, don't go in the room to Mother Xavier ‘til after
dinner. She just went to Mass and she wants a rest."
Sr. Francis Maria:
Give her a chance.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Sister Melania used to go and see her.
Sr. Francis Maria:
When you think that she had such a responsibility in the community on her shoulders, and she
wasn't young at that time.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Who?
Sr. Francis Maria:
Mother Xavier.
Sr. Anna Denise:

Yeah, but she loved it. She loved that place.
Sr. Francis Maria:
She loved to come. As I have read, this was one of her very favorite projects, this House of
Divine Providence.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh, she loved it. But Sister Melania used to go with her around the grounds, and then she was
very good. She'd go and see the sick people. And she used to say to Sister Melania, "Oh, Sister,
they are God's people. They are God's people going to heaven." And she used to say to some of
the people, "If you get to heaven, don't forget Mother."
Sr. Francis Maria:
Mother Xavier would say that?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yeah, because you see, they had suffered so, and they had nothing.
Sr. Francis Maria:
She was depending on their prayers.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yeah, they were poor people. They didn't have half of the clothes when they'd bring them in.
And the women in Paterson were mostly good to work.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Yes. But there was a great concern in our community for the poor.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yeah. Oh, Sister, they were poor. Then you see, when they die ... When the doctors told me, I
used to say to them, "You'll be in heaven pretty soon." And then at ten o'clock in that house, in
the sun parlor, they said the rosary and they said the prayers, and they used to go around the
rooms. Of course, the ones in the rooms wouldn't hear them. But they had to tell them that the
rosary was beginning and they'd pray.
Sr. Francis Maria:
And they would say it from their beds.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh yes, they'd say it and they used to pray for the sick. And they always prayed for the
community. And praying for different ones dying. When I think of it now, I don't know how ... It
was very hard, Sister. Because you had nobody to help. You had to bathe them. You had to see

that the rooms were clean. You had to see that the food came up on the dumbwaiter. You had to
fix your tray.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Is that what you did in your pantry? You spoke about having charge of a pantry?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh, that was where the trays were. That belonged to the floor. That belonged to your floor.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Yes. You carried the trays?
Sr. Anna Denise:
What?
Sr. Francis Maria:
You carried the trays to the patients?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yeah, we had to carry the trays. And sometimes, what's her name, Mary Crowe used to help me
with the trays. She was very good.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Mary Crowe?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Mary Crowe. She wasn't a sister. And her sister is here, [Sister Maria Melania Crowe]...
Sr. Francis Maria:
Sister, you mentioned that you did all the work yourselves, the sisters did. You did haveSr. Anna Denise:
We had to. We had no nurses.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Yeah, you had Mary Crowe to help you.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh, yeah. We had no nurses. That's why Sister Irmina used to say, "Your sisters work more than
the nurses." We had no nurses.
Sr. Francis Maria:

There was just one thing I wanted to ask you about, I know that you had no help in the house, but
how about the grounds? Did you have any man who helped you?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yes, I forget what he was. But he never came in the house. He did that for charity. He came to
the grounds for Sister ... He came from Paterson, too. I forget what his name was now. Patrick
O'Neill, some name like that.
Sr. Francis Maria:
It's a good name. Did you ever hear the story of a man, a deaf mute who couldn't speak, who
Mother Xavier had here at Convent Station and whom she sent out there to the House of Divine
Providence when he became very ill?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Well, I heard of it, but you see, I was never there in her time.
Sr. Francis Maria:
I know you weren't there, but do you remember anyone talking about him?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Well, Valentinia and I think it was Sister Esther, Mary Esther. She had charge of the men's
house. She used to tell how he was deaf, and Mother Xavier used to talk to him and the sisters.
But of course, Mother Xavier always went to the poor. She went to those cripples before she
went to us. When she'd come in the house, and she'd seen Melania, of course. And Melania had
to take her round to the different floors. She saw those patients. I don't know how they managed
it. She'd go to all the patients.
Sr. Anna Denise:
And of course those patients, Sister, when they heard they were here, if she wasn’t there, they’d
be sick, they loved her. She'd say to them, "You're suffering for God. You're poor, and you'll get
reward in heaven."
Sr. Francis Maria:
Yes, and I think knowing that it was coming from her, it meant a great deal to them.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh yes, they loved ... They had nothing else, the poor things. What did they have?
Sr. Francis Maria:
Well, Sister, you've given us a very, very beautiful first-hand…
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh, maybe I talked too much.

Sr. Francis Maria:
No you didn't. Some first-hand personal memories, and you've made me see that House of
Divine Providence in action.
Sr. Anna Denise:
We had nothing. There was one Sister, she used to sew. They didn't have an electric machine.
They had that…
Sr. Francis Maria:
A little foot pedal machine?
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yeah, and she had charge. Of course, there was never anything new. Because I remember one
time, Sister Valentinia, her mop wasn't much good and she threw it out. Now listen to this, Sister
Melania was around, she brought the mop upstairs, she washed it. Sister Valentina went to her
and said, "Sister, have you got any kind of a mop?" She said, "Yeah, here's the one you threw
out."
Sr. Francis Maria:
Oh, she was so careful about poverty.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh, you didn't have it. She didn't have it. You had to be careful of everything. And I know one
thing I meant to tell you, this is funny, too. Sister Mary Matthew [Grogan] was there and old
Sister Simeon was there. She had charge of the laundry. She's the one that used to help the sister
with the cancer. And she used to have a day or two that she'd close the laundry and go down and
help. And Mary Matthew was there. But we used to [unintelligible] sewing, and Mary Matthew,
she was very funny.
She'd have a needle, and she had no thread. She had no thread. Sister Melania said, "Mary
Matthew, when are you going to get the thread through the needle?" So she told one of the sisters
to give her the thread, but Sister Melania always put it in a nice way.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Yes, she went through the motions of sewing.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Yeah, she was nice. And you could go to her. She was like a big mother.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Yes. Well, your memories are so kind, Sister. And I'm so glad that you were able to recall so
much. Your dates and names.
Sr. Anna Denise:

They used to tell me when Mother Xavier came, "Oh, the whole house was in glory."
Sr. Francis Maria:
Oh, that's a beautiful way to…
Sr. Anna Denise:
Sister Melania used to give [unintelligible]. Of course, the Sisters, I guess they didn't have much
to put on, a decent cap or something to see Mother.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Yeah, I hope you didn't have to wear the cap that you went into the bathtub in.
Sr. Anna Denise:
They’ll think I'm crazy.
Sr. Francis Maria:
That is funny, no.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Of course, we had to have aprons and beads and a cape, and they'd dress up what they had for
Mother Xavier, because the whole place would be lit up when she’d come.
Sr. Francis Maria:
As you said, it was a glory when she came.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh, they loved it. Even the patients loved it. She loved the patients because they were poor. She
used to say to the Sisters, "Sisters, they're suffering for God. They have nothing. And when they
go, they go to heaven." And I said one time to Sister Melania, "I hope they're praying for us."
And she said, “Yes, they pray for us."
Sr. Francis Maria:
And I hope they're still praying for us. Sister Anna Denise, I hope that you're praying for our
lovely community.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh, I do. I pray every day.
Sr. Francis Maria:
And I thank you so much.
Sr. Anna Denise:

I thank God I have my brain. I can go in the chapel and pray. And you know the sisters here,
every time… I say, "You think I'm a prayer book, don't you? Will you pray for this one, will you
pray for that." I love to pray. But God is good, Sister. My brain.
Sr. Francis Maria:
God is very good. Your mind is wonderful.
Sr. Anna Denise:
All my life I didn't do anything right, don't you know?
Sr. Francis Maria:
Well, that's the way you see it.
Sr. Anna Denise:
The woman I kept my eyes shut with, that was wrong.
Sr. Francis Maria:
When you gave her the bath?
Sr. Anna Denise:
You had to be told about it.
Sr. Francis Maria:
That was very, very mild. I'm sure that…
Sr. Anna Denise:
I think it was dumb. I said to Sister Melania. "Oh," Sister Melania said, "No, Sister. You were
innocent." At that time…
Sr. Francis Maria:
Well, now, Sister Anna Denise, thank you very much for your memories.
Sr. Anna Denise:
Oh, I kept…
Sr. Francis Maria:
No, you didn't. Will I see you at the picnic in a little while?
Sr. Anna Denise:
No, I'm not going [unintelligible]
Sr. Francis Maria:
You're not going out to the picnic?

Sr. Anna Denise:
[unintelligible]
Sr. Francis Maria:
All right, well I hope I'll be able to talk to you again. Thank you for sharing.
Sr. Anna Denise:
And I thank you for listening to me.
Sr. Francis Maria:
Oh, I loved it. I had an absolutely beautiful time.

Dublin Core

Title

Sister Anna Denise Murphy, S.C. Oral History

Subject

Murphy, Sister Anna Denise, S.C.; House of Divine Providence Ridgewood, NJ; Sister M. Melania Crowe; Mount Saint Andrew Villa Ridgewood, NJ; Paterson, NJ, Mother M. Xavier Mehegan

Description

Description of Sister's early years at the House of Divine Providence; stories of Mother M. Xavier

Creator

Murphy, Sister Anna Denise, S.C.; Cassidy, Sister Francis Maria, S.C.

Source

Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth

Date

July 6, 1983

Contributor

Neary, Sister Noreen, S.C. (Editor)

Rights

Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth

Format

Audio/mp3

Language

English

Type

Oral History

Identifier

Sister Anna Denise remembers her early years at the House of Divine Providence and recalls stories of Mother M. Xavier

Coverage

July 1983

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Cassidy, Sister Francis Maria, S.C.

Interviewee

Murphy, Sister Anna Denise, S.C.

Original Format

cassette tape

Duration

0:32:19

Citation

Murphy, Sister Anna Denise, S.C.; Cassidy, Sister Francis Maria, S.C., “Sister Anna Denise Murphy, S.C. Oral History,” Sisters of Charity Federation Archives, accessed July 14, 2024, https://scfederationarchives.org/items/show/62.

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