Sisters of Charity Federation Archives

Sister Mary Emma McKinley, SC Interviewed by Sister Sally Duffy, SC August 19, 1978

Item

SCCincinnati_McKinley_Mary_Emma.jpg

Text

TAPE #110

SISTER MARY EMMA McKINLEY
INTERVIEWED BY: Sister Sally Duffy on August 19, 1978
Born March 28, 1893 in Cleveland, Ohio
I had a very happy home-life. My dear mother and father
created a home of happiness. We were nine children, I am
the second youngest. When I spoke of entering the
Community, my father was much disturbed. He wanted me
to stay with them, but gradually, he changed his mind and
gave his consent. He wasn’t happy to have me enter. I had
a sister who had entered nine years ahead of me.
When I entered I was two weeks short of 19 years old.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO ENTER RELIGIOUS LIFE?
I had had a craving to be a Sister for several years. I did
have a little struggle to know where to go. Our Pastor
wanted me to go to the Saint Joseph Sisters. He said: “You
can lead as great a holy life here in Cleveland as you can in
Cincinnati.” But, that didn’t satisfy me. So, I kept to my
decision, and, thank God, I entered the Sisters of Charity.
I entered on March 15, 1912.
WHAT HAD BEEN YOUR CONTACT WITH THE CHARITIES?
I had had the Sisters of Charity up to the sixth grade, then
we moved to another parish and I had the Sisters of St.
Joseph, so perhaps that was the cause for the little conflict.

WAS THERE ANYTHING SPECIFICALLY THAT DREW YOU TO
THE SISTERS OF CHARITY?
All I can say is the goodness and mercy of God that He
directed me here. I have thanked Him many times for my
religious vocation and especially to the Sisters of Charity.
WAS THERE ANYONE IN PARTICULAR WHO INFLUENCED
YOUR DECISION?
No, I can’t say so.
WHO WAS YOUR NOVICE MISTRESS?
Sister Mary Teresa Troy was our Novice Mistress, and Sister
Hyacinth Sullivan gave us our spiritual instructions.
WHAT WAS YOUR NOVITIATE LIKE?
It was what one would expect in religious life. It was not too
easy, and yet, I loved every minute of it. We had regular
instructions, prayers, domestic duties, many friends among
the Novices and Postulants, a very kind Mistress. So, my
Novitiate was very happy.
YOU WERE NOVICE MISTRESS YOURSELF FOR MANY
YEARS, IS THAT CORRECT?
Yes, I was Novice Mistress from 1927 to 1933 then for one
year I was with the Postulants only.

WAS THERE MUCH DIFFERENCE FROM YOUR OWN
NOVITIATE AND YOUR POSTULANCY?
No, I often say to my former Novices now, “How hard it
must have been for you, but I went through the same thing
and I could only give you what I, myself, had.”
WAS THERE A CERTAIN STRUCTURE IN YOUR NOVITIATE?
Very definitely.
WHAT WAS THAT STRUCTURE LIKE?
We were made acquainted with the Constitutions and our
Praiseworthy Customs both of which are very beautiful. We
had them read once a month so that we really got to know
them.
WHAT WAS THE SPIRIT LIKE AT THE TIME OF YOUR
NOVITIATE?
I think there was a deep spirit of prayer. We got along
beautifully together, and yet, I don’t remember ever having
any close, dear friends, but I still love my Novitiate friends.
There are seven of them still living.

HOW MANY PEOPLE ENTERED THE COMMUNITY WITH
YOU?
Sister Agatha Eppley and I were the only two to enter on the
same day. In the years gone by, girls entered on the day of
their choice.
We had planned to come on the feast of St. Joseph because
I had a special devotion to St. Joseph, but my sister, Sister
Agnes Joseph, was a school teacher and she couldn’t very
well leave her classroom in the middle of the week to come
down to Cincinnati with me. So, we entered the Friday
before St. Joseph’s day, on the 15th of March.
HAS THE SPIRIT OF THE COMMUNITY CHANGED OVER THE
YEARS FOR YOU?
No. For me, it has not, and I think for most of the older
Sisters it has not... and even the middle aged Sisters.
I think that the very young members have not had sufficient
training in the Spirit to really know and love what it is.
HOW MIGHT YOU SUGGEST THAT THE YOUNGER SISTERS
BE TRAINED IN ORDER TO SHARE IN THE SAME SPIRIT
THAT YOU SHARE?
First of all, pray to the Holy Spirit asking Him to direct their
spirit and give them the spirit of a true religious. I think we
have always had a very beautiful family spirit in our
Community.

ARE YOU FEARFUL THAT WE MAY LOSE THIS SPIRIT?
I say, I don’t worry about the Community because I feel
confident that the Sacred Heart is going to take care of our
Community. Our Sisters have always been very devoted to
the Sacred Heart, the Blessed Mother, and St. Joseph.
And, yet, I am deeply concerned because I do feel that a
much more worldly spirit has crept in. I can’t say that I
blame anyone. I think that it is the spirit of the world
creeping into religious life.
HOW MANY YEARS HAVE YOU BEEN IN THE COMMUNITY?
I finished my 66th year last month.
AS YOU LOOK BACK ON THOSE 66 YEARS AS A SISTER OF
CHARITY, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THEM? WHAT
HAVE THEY BEEN LIKE FOR YOU?
They have been a fulfillment of my hopes. I have been very
happy, very happy.
DID YOU HAVE DIFFICULT TIMES, OR PAINFUL TIMES?
Well, we all have our daily little worries about our duties and
whether we are doing right or wrong. But, for the most
part, I have had no real worries in the Community.

WHAT HAS IT MEANT FOR YOU TO BE A RELIGIOUS
WOMAN FOR 66 YEARS?
It has much meaning. I look back over the years and think
only how wonderfully merciful God has been to me. I feel
that my life has been one continued chain of blessings both
spiritual and temporal. I especially look over those years as
mirrors of total commitment and complete satisfaction.
The only regret I have is that I am not far better than I am
today, that I have not made better use of all the wonderful
spiritual and temporal lessons God has bestowed upon me.
WHAT IS YOUR IDEA OF COMMUNITY...WHAT DOES
COMMUNITY MEAN TO YOU?
I think that Community should be first of all dedication to
the cause of God, it should be lived in common with the
Sisters in a spirit of love and helpfulness. Our convents
should be, and I hope are, homes of peace and happiness.
I am very sorry to hear now of so many Sister living outside
of the convents, in apartments, living privately. I don’t think
that is community life.
Community means working together. All of this must
certainly have an effect on the prayer life of the Sisters. We
need one another.

SO I HEAR YOU SAYING THAT COMMUNITY IS VERY MUCH
THE PRAYER PART AND SUPPORT OF EACH OTHER.
Not only in the prayer life, yes. Our prayer life must come
first, but also, in our life as Sisters, real Sisters living
together, loving one another, helping one another wherever
we can. I am so often just overwhelmed with the kindness I
see most of our Sisters showing to other Sisters, especially
those who need help.
HAS THE PRAYER LIFE OF THE SISTER OF CHARITY
CHANGED DURING THE 66 YEARS THAT YOU HAVE BEEN IN
THE COMMUNITY?
Well, that is a lot of personal questions and I can’t answer
except for myself. I would say, for myself, no, it has not
changed. In fact, if anything, it has increased and
beautified. My community life means more to me today than
ever.
SAINT VINCENT HAD THE IDEA THAT FOR A SISTER OF
CHARITY THE STREETS ARE HER CLOISTER. HOW DO YOU
INTERPRET THIS IDEA?
We do not have a cloister in the strict of the word, but by
saying that the streets is our cloister means that even
though we are mingling with the world at all times, meeting
with people of all stations, we must be ready to help
everybody and at the same time, live the life of a cloister in
our own lives. This is the real spirit of recollection. I must
admit that it is not easy to do this. It takes much practice,
much hard work, much prayer, and a closeness to God.

KNOWING THE CHANGES SINCE VATICAN II AND ALL THE
CHANGES IN THE COMMUNITY SINCE VATICAN II, DO YOU
FEEL THAT THESE CHANGES HAVE MOVED US CLOSER TO
THE PEOPLE, OR HAVE THEY MOVED US AWAY FROM THE
PEOPLE?
Well, I think taking off the religious habit has removed us
from the people. I know, many Sisters say they can reach
the people better in worldly clothes. But, I cannot agree
with them. I have heard so many, many times, oh so many
times, “Sister, it is so good to see you in a habit.” So, I
really feel that the habit has a big part to play in our life as
witnesses to the world.
Then, too, our work among the sick, the poor, the lowly,
little children, and people of all ranks, must draw others
closer to God.
I KNOW THAT YOU HAVE BEEN NOVICE DIRECTOR AND
ALSO POSTULANT DIRECTOR, WHAT OTHER APOSTOLIC
MINISTRIES WERE YOU INVOLVED IN?
Well, for twenty of those years, I was local Superior in
several schools; I taught in the elementary grades, most of
the time I taught the 8th grade.
SO, MOST OF YOUR COMMUNITY LIFE WAS SPENT
TEACHING?
Yes.

WHERE WERE SOME OF THE PLACES THAT YOU WERE ON
MISSION?
Do you want to know all of them?
SURE!
St. Joseph’s, Dayton for 9 years; then, I went to St. Leo’s,
Detroit, for 3 years; than down to Memphis, Tennessee in
1925; in 1927 I returned to the Motherhouse to take charge
of the Novitiate and in 1933, the Postulate. In 1934 I was at
St. Dominic’s School, it was a brand new school, just
opened. There I had to teach 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. From
there I went to Holy Angels, Sidney and to St. Luke’s,
Detroit. In 1943, I was back in Dayton, but this time, at
Sacred Heart School. Then I was one year at St. Elizabeth,
Norwood. In 1950, I went to St. Joseph’s, Springfield, from
there to Saint Savior, Rossmoyne for 6 years. Then I went to
Annunciation School in Clifton for another 6 years. In 1966,
I returned to the Motherhouse. I became a resident at
Mother Margaret Hall in October of 1975, and I have been
there ever since.
Mother Margaret Hall is all that anyone could wish for in the
way of a nursing home. Along with hospital care, we have
real family life. There are over 200 hundred Sisters in Mother
Margaret Hall at the present time.

WHEN YOU ARE OUT ON YOUR MISSION EXPERIENCES,
YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU WERE A TEACHER MOST OF
THE TIME. WERE YOU INVOLVED IN ANY OTHER TYPES
OF WORK DURING THE TIME THAT YOU WERE TEACHING?
Yes, I had charge of the servers, I guess that’s about all.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE EVENT AS A
SISTER OF CHARITY, WHAT STANDS OUT THE MOST IN
YOUR MEMORY OF ALL YOUR YEARS OF BEING A SISTER
OF CHARITY?
One thing is the day we had permission to make perpetual
vows. We made these in December of 1927. Up to that time,
we had made vows for one year and renewed them each
year. Mother Irenea requested Rome that we might make
perpetual vows and all those Sisters who were in the
Community long enough made perpetual vows. From that
time on, it has been the custom for Sisters to make
perpetual vows after their years of temporary profession
which was usually from 5 to 6 years.
WHO WERE SOME OF THE PEOPLE WHO WERE IMPORTANT
IN YOUR LIFE DURING YOUR 66 YEARS, AND HOW WERE
THEY IMPORTANT TO YOU?
A great many people...my Superiors, my own friends, the
pupils among those whom I taught... I guess that’s about it.

WHAT WAS IT THAT THEY DID TO MAKE THEM
IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Mostly their lives, they were persons of integrity, they had a
love for the Community, and for God, and in general were
really friends, helpful friends.
A FEW MINUTES AGO, YOU READ TO ME A LIST OF ALL
THE MISSIONS THAT YOU SERVED ON... THEY WERE
QUITE NUMEROUS. WHICH WAS YOUR FAVORITE
MISSION?
I really can’t say. I liked every mission I was on. Some were
easier than others but that didn’t matter. There was a spirit
in the house and the joy of my vocation that made them all
more or less the same.
WERE YOU ON ANY MISSIONS WHERE THE SISTERS OF
CHARITY ARE NO LONGER SERVING?
Sacred Heart, Dayton is no longer on our list; St. Joseph,
Springfield has only one Sister; St. Luke’s, Detroit no Sisters.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PARTICULAR COMMUNITY STORY THAT
YOU COULD SHARE WITH US?
I think I’ve told you enough.

DID YOU SAVE ANY OF YOUR NOVITIATE NOTES?
I don’t think I have them in writing, but I know that I have
them in my heart because they were made so vivid to us
that they made a deep impression. I thank God, along with
my comrades, I think that we have kept them in our hearts
all these years.
YOU KNOW THAT I’M A NOVICE RIGHT NOW. WHAT
WOULD YOU SUGGEST TO ME, THINGS THAT WOULD
REALLY HELP ME, OR BENEFIT ME IN MY RELIGIOUS LIFE?
WHAT KIND OF ADVICE COULD YOU GIVE TO ME?
Well, that’s a big order. First of all, be serious about your
vocation, realizing that after the gift of Faith, it is the
greatest gift that God has given you.
Be faithful to your prayers, your prayer life, the sacraments.
What I would like to say is live a real community life, but I
realize that on some conditions today, that is very hard.
I think that a lot of people who are coming to religious life
today are just as sincere, just as fervent as Sisters ever
were. I think that they want the spirit of sacrifice, and I’m
afraid that they are not getting it. The world has entered
into the Community far too much. There is very little
restraint on a young Sister of the present day. We have to
have structure, we need Superiors to guide us, we need our
companions, good faithful, holy souls to help us along the
way. But it is all worth the trials, it is well worth all the
difficulties you may encounter, and I only hope that our
young people today will enter religious life with a strong
determination to leave the world, and devote themselves to

Christ and His work. We must expect sacrifice. Christ has
given us the best example. Is there anything He did not
sacrifice for all of us?
Be strong-hearted, determined to follow the inspirations of
the Holy Spirit and beg Him every day to draw you closer to
His sacred heart and to His blessed mother.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN TO PULL THE
COMMUNITY AWAY FROM THIS SPIRIT OF WORLDLINESS
THAT YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT?
I would like to see the new members of the Community
spend their first days, months, and even a couple of years,
at the Motherhouse. The Motherhouse of Mount Saint
Joseph is truly our house of prayer. It is the home of the
spirit of the Sisters of Charity and we all need that as a
foundation before we are able to go out on our own.
Strike your roots deep in religion. Don’t be looking out for
anything that is easy. If we give ourselves to God, He will
put us where we are needed, He will give us what we need
to do the work He wants us to do, and surely we will be
happy.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD DURING
THOSE 66 YEARS?
My relationship with God has been that of a child for my
heavenly Father, trusting in the Sacred Heart and His
Blessed Mother, and devotion to the Holy Spirit.
Also, we are to go back to following the spirit of Mother
Seton. We hear so much about the charism of Mother
Seton. One of her charisms was devotion to the Blessed
Sacrament. Formerly, it was a rule for all Sisters to spend
one half hour adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, daily.
Some have drifted away from this. We need Christ in the
Blessed Sacrament, please go back to the habit of spending
this time with Him.
I know that if you were to read the Constitutions and
Praiseworthy Customs as we knew them, as we still know
them, you might think some were absurd, perhaps some
little requirements were unnecessary. But for the most part
every one played its own part in forming our character and
educating us in the life of a religious and strengthening us
against the temptations and the desires of the world.
END OF TAPED INTERVIEW

Dublin Core

Title

Sister Mary Emma McKinley, SC Interviewed by Sister Sally Duffy, SC August 19, 1978

Subject

Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati; Monasticism and religious orders for women -- Catholic Church -- History; Catholic Church --- Education -- United States -- History

Description

An interview with Sister Mary Emma McKinley by Sister Sally Duffy. The interview was conducted soon after Sister Sally entered the Community in 1977 and her subject, Sister Mary Emma, had previously served as a Mistress of Novices from 1927 to 1934. The discussion centers on the stark changes to formation and religious life in the United States during the twentieth century. This recording is a part of the oral history series housed at the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati Archives.

Creator

McKinley, Sister Mary Emma, SC; Duffy, Sister Sally, SC

Source

Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati Archives

Publisher

Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati Archives Oral History Series

Date

8/19/1978

Rights

Online access is provided for research purposes only. For rights, reproduction, and use requests or more information, please contact the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati Archivist

Format

Audio/mp3
Audio/cassette
Application/pdf

Language

English

Type

Oral History

Identifier

Sister Mary Emma McKinley, SC Interviewed by Sister Sally Duffy, SC August 19, 1978

Coverage

1912-1978

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Duffy, Sister Sally, SC

Interviewee

McKinley, Sister Mary Emma, SC

Location

Cincinnati (Ohio)

Original Format

Audio/cassette

Duration

37 Minutes 39 Seconds

Citation

McKinley, Sister Mary Emma, SC; Duffy, Sister Sally, SC, “Sister Mary Emma McKinley, SC Interviewed by Sister Sally Duffy, SC August 19, 1978,” Sisters of Charity Federation Archives, accessed April 24, 2024, https://scfederationarchives.org/items/show/34.

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