Sisters of Charity Federation Archives

Quinn, Sister Patricia, SC, Interview


Pat Quinn.jpg


Sisters of Charity of New York
Interview with Sr. Patricia Quinn, SC
September 26th, 2019: 10:34AM • 36:32
Angelica Bullock 00:00
Today is September 26th, 2019. The interviewer is Angelica Bullock. The interviewee is Sister Pat
Quinn. We are in the Archives at Boyle Hall and we are in the Reading Room. And the time is 1:37 pm.
Sr. Pat, can you state your full name?
Sr. Pat Quinn 00:25
My full name is Sr. Patricia Ann Quinn.
Angelica Bullock 00:32
And your religious name?
Sr. Pat Quinn 00:36
My religious name, Patricia Carmel Quinn.
Angelica Bullock 00:42
And what is your current age?
Sr. Pat Quinn 00:44
Right now? I'm 73.
Angelica Bullock 00:48
And do you remember the day that you entered the congregation?
Sr. Pat Quinn 00:53
I do remember some of it. I don't remember all of it. I remember coming my parents and my family. And
being out on the lawn. And then at a certain, of course, my mother was upset. Not that she wasn't
happy for me. She was just upset that I was leaving home, I guess. And then I remember I suppose a
bell rang, and we went in to the postulatum and changed into our postulatum, lot of clothes, postulant
clothes, and came back out. I think we came back out, I'm not sure. I know we had benediction that day
before the parents left. So that's all I remember about that day. It was a long time ago.
Angelica Bullock 01:39
Do you remember what was your age?
Sr. Pat Quinn 01:41
I was 17 and-one-half at the time, and that was 1963. And I've been in the congregation now 56 years.
Hard to believe; the time has gone by very fast.
Angelica Bullock 01:56
Okay, so now we're going to just talk a little bit about your family life. Where were you born?


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Sr. Pat Quinn 02:03
I was born in Manhattan on the Upper West Side, actually on West 105th Street, and that's where I
grew up and lived until the time I entered. My parents had come from Ireland in the 1920s and from the
same town, Longford, in Ireland, and I had one sister and four brothers; I'm sorry, not four brothers,
three brothers. There were five of us all together. One brother is my twin brother, Mike. So there were
five all together. I had a cousin in religious life, she was Sr. John Carmel. That's how I got to have
Carmel as part of my religious name and she later became my sponsor when I entered. The parish I
belonged to was Ascension on West 107th Street was the church, on 108th street was the school that I
went to for grammar school. Then I went onto Blessed Sacrament High School on West 70th Street.
Angelica Bullock 03:23
And how did you pick those schools, or how did your parents pick those schools? Well, in those days,
like now, you had to take a test to get into the high schools. And that school was close to me, I was on
105th and that school was on West 70th street and it was also a Sister of Charity school. So I guess the
location helped a lot, you know, it wasn't that far to go because you had to go by bus. So then when I
entered, of course, I went to the college here (College of Mount Saint Vincent). And I also went to
Hunter College. I got my master's degree in Hunter (College), and I got another master's degree from
St. Joseph's Seminary, Masters of Religious Education.
Angelica Bullock 04:19
What was your Masters degree in?
Sr. Pat Quinn 04:20
From the Mount (College of Mount Saint Vincent), English. That was my first degree. And at Hunter my
Master's was in teaching reading. So I was in school you might say from in college anyway from '63 to
Angelica Bullock 04:42
Sr. Pat Quinn 04:45
And sometimes going down to Hunter after teaching all day, because that's when you took your
courses for your Masters. So you taught all day, then you got on the subway, went down to Hunter,
came back at night.
Angelica Bullock 04:59
That sounds tiring.
Sr. Pat Quinn 05:01
It was tiring.
Angelica Bullock 05:02
Did you usually do that travel by yourself or were you doing that with other sisters?


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Sr. Pat Quinn 05:08
It depended on the course. Another Sister in my group lived with me at the time. I can't remember if we
had courses at the same time, though. Could be we went together, I forget. But it was after school and
Saturday mornings sometimes, depending on the course, as I said.
Angelica Bullock 05:35
And how did you decide to get Master's degrees? Did your superiors suggest that to you? Or was that
something you wanted to do? Or a little bit of both?
Sr. Pat Quinn 05:44
Well, no, when I first was assigned, I was assigned to St. Peter and Paul School in the South Bronx.
And I had to finish my degree here at the Mount. So I went on Saturdays till I got that degree and then
after that, we didn't really have superiors assigned to us. So it was really by choice. But you needed to
have a Master's degree, you know. And since I was in school, I enjoyed getting the Masters in teaching,
reading, since I was teaching younger kids. And then I went on in the Seminary for the MRE. That was
a choice also.
Angelica Bullock 06:29
Can you talk about your time at the Seminary a little bit?
Sr. Pat Quinn 06:33
Well, it was just classes that were held at the Seminary that you could get a Master's in religious
education. I wasn't part of the Seminary with the fellows who were studying to be priests. It was classes
that you could get after school or on a Saturday so you can get your degree. It was good. The classes
were good. It was taught for the most part by Seminary professors who were teaching the seminarians
So they were good courses, you know, in dogma, morality, scripture. There was a fourth one I forget
what it is, morality, I forget. So I got my degree there and I think it was in '81.
Angelica Bullock 07:22
Okay, let's go on. Why did you join the Sisters of Charity of New York?
Sr. Pat Quinn 07:28
Primarily because of the Sisters that I met at Ascension and Blessed Sacrament. I had a cousin who
was a Sister of Charity at the time, and I wanted to teach especially young children, and that was the
charism of the Sisters of Charity; education. I waited till after high school because I kept on fighting with
myself whether I really wanted to do this or not. So I said, "I think I will just enter and get this off my
mind." So I had a petition to Mother Loretta Bernard, she was the President of the Congregation at the
time, and the Council. And I waited til the last possible day to petition and thinking if I didn't like it, well, I
will leave, but at least it will be off my mind, and I will stop thinking about whether I wanted to be a
Sister of Charity or not. So it's obvious I didn't leave; here I am. My sponsor was my cousin, Jackie
Dunne. She was Sr. John Carmel. She was my first cousin. And so she became my sponsor. My
parents didn't object, they said whatever you want to do. They wanted me to be happy. So whatever I
wanted to do, and that's what I wanted to do. So I petitioned and entered on September 8th, 1963.


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Angelica Bullock 09:11
Did you think that maybe it was easier to have a cousin who was already a Sister in the order?
Sr. Pat Quinn 09:20
I guess it was, but after I entered I didn't see her, except well, maybe a couple of times during the year,
they had Saturday or Sunday that we have sponsored visits. And then everybody's sponsor would
come that day, but I didn't see her any more frequently than I did before I entered.
Angelica Bullock 09:51
Were you in different buildings?
Sr. Pat Quinn 09:55
Well, I was here at the Mount she was over I think at the time at St. Barnabas. When I entered I
remember going up there to talk to her at Barnabas. And then she was in other places as the years
went on. But that's where she was when I entered. I liked the Sisters that I had in school. I loved my
first-grade teacher. Sr. Thomas was her name, Sr. Thomas Marie Callahan. And my eighth-grade
teacher, Sr. Marion Margaret Sullivan, both of whom are deceased. And of course then I also had my
cousin, But the sisters in grammar school and high school were really an inspiration. You know, they
were always there. They gave us a good education. You know, and I liked seeing them walking around
the neighborhood. After school, I guess they went out in partners and they walked. We would always
see them on the avenue walking. I felt like they were with us, you know, in the neighborhood.
When I became a postulant, I had Sr. Agnes Connelly. She was the mistress of postulants and Sr.
Kathleen Hanrahan was the mistress of novices. And I truly enjoyed the novitiate. I liked everything
about it. Even though at times I was homesick, I still enjoyed being there. You know, and they were
very good. Later on we had the juniorate. It was one of the first juniorates and it was located up here in
LeGras. Yeah, it was in LeGras and that was the juniory. One time, Sr. Ellen Quirke in charge of the
juniory. She gave me a task, she's gave me a can of green paint to go out and paint all the windowsills.
Well, I did but, unfortunately, I never stirred the paint. So every windowsill was a different green. So she
said, "Didn't you stir the paint?" I said, 'No, I never painted windowsills before in my life.' But anyway, so
that was interesting.
After the juniory, I went up to St. Joseph's (Seminary) here in Yonkers to live. To get some more
courses done. That was an innovation too. Because until then, it took the Sisters years and years to get
their first degree. We had the opportunity of studying while we're in the juniory and also, another year
after that, we lived on mission and we came back each day for classes. So we really were able to get,
credits and that was a great help to us. Because when we were sent down on mission, there weren't
that many more courses that you needed to get on a Saturday. Because you had many of your credits
So then it was at that time of Vatican II. When I was in the novitiate, Vatican II started. Things were
always changing in the Community and in the Church, so you kind of got used to rolling with everything.
We were the first ones who entered who wore veils, instead of those white shower caps that you see a
postulant, pictures of postulants wear; we didn't have any of that. People came with their curlers and


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the veils were see-through, they would just like net and that went across and it tied behind, underneath
your hair, see-through So that was a big innovation for the Congregation. Then as time went on when
we came to First Vows, they had a habit, a newly designed habit that was supposed to look more like
Mother Seton. It was designed by Bergdorf Goodman. It was shorter; the capes were very short. None
of us liked it.
Angelica Bullock 14:29
Why not?
Sr. Pat Quinn 14:31
First of all, we didn't like looking different from everybody else. We did have that same high collar, and
we wore black, sheer stockings with it. And pumps, we didn't have those tie Oxfords that we had. We
had pumps, but I don't think any of us enjoyed wearing that. We were supposed to wear it on Sundays
but most often we went back to what we had been wearing as novices. But things were always
changing at that time. And that year after the juniory when I was sent to St. Joseph's, Yonkers is where
I met my dear friend, Sr. Kieran (Mulligan). She was stationed and teaching there, and we became fast
friends from that time on. I only lived with her there for that one year, but our friendship has endured all
these years. Yeah, we just clicked right off. You know, I thought I was going to be staying there
because they had said that the mission that you went to where you were studying for that year would
be the mission that you would be assigned to. However, there were no class openings. So for most of
us, they had to change us, because there were no classes to give us. For the most part, we were
teachers. So that's when I was sent after that year down to St. Peter and Paul for my first teaching. I
taught the second grade there.
Angelica Bullock 16:13
And you have any memories from St. Peter and Paul you would like to share?
Sr. Pat Quinn 16:21
Well, we had great kids. We had a big school. We had about 500 kids in that school when I first went
there. And it was a very good school. It has since closed, it closed last year there. But the kids were
great. The parents were great. It was a nice community there of people and sisters. When I went there,
there were 12 sisters. Not that everyone was in the school but they were in the Convent. And we did
aside from teaching, we did do home visiting, we visited the families, in their home and a lot of time in
the evening you could send for parents. They would come to the Convent if you had problems with the
child, to talk to you. So, I also did the CCD and I ran the CCD there. So that was another, from First
Communion all the way to Confirmation I taught, and I ran it. So we were very busy there. I was at St.
Peter and Paul for 36 years. And then when the Convent closed, I moved up to St. Peter. St. Peter to
teach, but I lived up in Sacred Heart at first and then I moved from Sacred Heart to the Mount where I
am now.
Angelica Bullock 18:06
How did you feel when it closed. The school has been around for a long time?


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Sr. Pat Quinn 18:12
The school was still around but what happened was that the Sisters were aging. We had Sisters there,
some had died, but we had Sisters who got sickly and had to go to the Convent of Mary the Queen. We
couldn't keep that Convent going and it closed in 2014. I traveled back and forth for one year to that
school while I lived up in Sacred Heart. But we had no Sisters. Michelle McKeon was the principal there
at that time when it did close, just within the last year or two it closed. It's a charter school, I think. We
used to have not only our school, but we had a branch of Cathedral (High School) there. They could go
there for one year. So we also had the girls from Cathedral. It was a nice school.
Angelica Bullock 19:21
Do you have any opinions on Catholic schools now, especially since your schools have Sisters in
Sr. Pat Quinn 19:31
Well, we don't have many Sisters in the schools. Because we don't have the Sisters. It's unfortunate,
but it's harder and harder to run the schools money-wise. So I go to St. Peter twice a week, as do some
of the other Sisters as volunteers. But we don't have any sisters on staff. In most of the schools, it's lay
faculty. Years ago, the Sisters of Charity had the schools up and down Manhattan, practically every
parish up and down there were Sisters in. But we just don't have the Sisters now. But the lay staff is
doing a great job with them. But money continues to be a big problem. And it's very hard for people to
afford tuition. I don't know how they do it. They must give up a lot because the tuition is so high.
A funny thing happened, there was a little boy that I taught at St. Peter. I taught him in the first grade.
And every day I would see his mother and say hello to the mother. He was there for first, second, third
and I think fourth grade and each day I'd say hello to the mother and sometimes the father would be
there waiting to take this little boy home. They moved up to Wappingers Falls, and they lived opposite
our school up there, St. Mary's, that we have in Wappingers Falls. We don't have the Sisters there. Sr.
Kieran (Mulligan) was there for a long time. Anyway, I was up there one time just within the last three or
four weeks. And who did I meet in Walmart of all places, but this mother. And so we're standing there
talking, and we're talking and talking. It turned out, I had taught the mother in St. Peter and Paul. Now
when I think about her I say I think I do remember her as a little child, but I would have to see a picture.
Well, she was so shocked. She said, "I did have a Sr. Patricia," not realizing I was the one. We haven't
seen or talked to each other about school, you know. I never realized and she was so shocked, and
she said, "Oh, my sister is here. You taught my sister, too." So she brought over her sister who was
shopping. We had a great conversation about people they knew, people I knew who was there. They
knew the Sisters that had been there. As one of them said, her sister said, "The sisters there were like
our mothers because our mothers were working and not there all the time." You know, but they said,
"The Sisters were like our mothers. When we were got to school, we were at home." Of course, the little
boy goes to school up there now, but she says, "Wait till I tell Ensly," that's the little boy, "wait till I tell
him that you were my teacher too." So you never know where you're going to meet these kids now who
are not kids anymore. They're adults raising kids, but we had nice people there.
Angelica Bullock 23:13
How do you feel about your students that still remembering you and the nice words?


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Sr. Pat Quinn 23:19
Oh well, that's nice. Yes. And it's nice to see that they've gone on and they're successful, and that they
enjoyed their time in the schools. I'm still in contact with some who have their own children. Now, this
girl in Florida that I taught I think I taught her in the fourth grade. She has a girl now who's a senior in
high school. And we email back and forth, and she sent pictures and things. It's nice. And it's nice to
know that they appreciated the sisters that were there and the education they received. There's a boy
in All Hallows that I taught; he's a teacher in All Hallows. So it makes you feel good that they have
gotten something from their education and have gone on. Because that was not the greatest
neighborhood when we were there. But the kids took advantage of their education and they went on to
do well. So that's very good.
Now, what I'm doing is going to St. Peter. I'm also teaching English classes here in Sr. Jean (Bocian)
and Sr. Therese McElroy's Casa de Esperanza and I enjoy doing that. That's the other end of the
spectrum where you have adults. I'm so used to having little kids. Although they have their little babies
with them in the classroom, which is sometimes a challenge, but it's nice to be with the adults and they
really want to learn their English. So that's good. I wouldn't want to change anything that I've done.
Angelica Bullock 25:14
The students at Casa de Esperanza, where are they mostly coming from? What country?
Sr. Pat Quinn 25:22
Well, there were was, let me see today in class, I just started this year now today; several from Mexico.
There was a Muslim lady, and I couldn't get exactly the country, she said, but she was not Hispanic.
Someone was from Guatemala. So a lot of the central Hispanic countries there, Central America,
Angelica Bullock 25:56
And how much English do they have coming into the classroom?
Sr. Pat Quinn 26:01
They've been coming, they came last year every day, four days a week. I think Friday is the only the
day that they don't go. So they're pretty good. The ones that I have are what we call the second year.
So they have some English and then after the second year there's a class that's all conversation.
They're anxious, very anxious to learn. How does it feel still being a teacher? Still teaching? Well, I
guess that's what I was made to do. I was made to teach. I enjoy it. Although they bring their babies,
sometimes it gets a little noisy. You know, the baby's crying. They want naps and you're trying to teach.
But it's still good. And it's nice that they want that English. And it's a nice program for them. You know, I
get to meet other young mothers who have little babies like they do, and they can bring the babies with
them and that's very important. There is in that same building the Board of Education, Yonkers Board of
Education has English classes, but you can't bring your kids with you. Which means these young
mothers wouldn't be able to come unless they had someone who would mind the babies and the babies
are kind of young to leave them with other people. But this way, they bring them with them and they
have little things in the back of the room and they have a woman who takes care of them. They have
toys and stuff like that and yet they know their mother is there. And the mothers can learn, they can
meet other people. There's coffee after class, so they can have a cup of coffee before they start going
home. And they can make friends with other people, who are in the same boat as they are. They drop


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their children off, some of them were telling me they have kids in kindergarten and pre-K in another
school that they bring them to first, so it's not easy. Then they come to the English class. So it's not
easy for them; they want to learn. That makes it nice being with them. They're a nice group of women.
How does the mission of the Sisters of Charity relate to my work? Well, education has always been
mission of the Sisters of Charity. So I'm walking in the footsteps of Elizabeth (Mother Seton). And I
never wanted to teach older kids. The oldest grade I ever taught was fourth grade for one year. But I
wasn't happy with it, that didn't have anything to do with the kids. But I like the spontaneity of the little
ones. They're funny, they give you a good laugh every day. Not maybe when you're in the room, but
later when you think about it, so that was funny. So I would say, yes, that is the mission of the Sisters of
Charity to be in education. And you meet a lot of fine teachers and parents, aside from the kids, so all
those relationships are good.
When I entered President John F. Kennedy was the President. As a matter of fact, I was only a
postulant a couple of months. He was assassinated in November of 1963. We had no TV but they
brought a TV into the novitiate room so we could see all the news reports on that. It was also the time
Lyndon B. Johnson then of course, took over for him. They gave him the oath in Air Force One. And
they didn't have a Bible with them. So they used the St. Joseph's missal, which must have belonged to
President Kennedy, because who else would have a Catholic missal in the plane? That's what they
used. It was also the years of Martin Luther King, when he had the March on Washington, 250,000.
And he gave the 'I Have a Dream' speech. So I was here for that. It was the year that the cassette tape
recorder was introduced, larger than that one that you have, but that was like a big innovation to have a
cassette tape player. So that was part of the history.
Angelica Bullock 29:10
There was a lot going on.
Sr. Pat Quinn 31:13
There was a lot going on. And then after that we had the Vietnam War. Yeah, a lot going on.
Angelica Bullock 31:19
Did you feel all that stuff going on? Did you feel like you were keeping up with everything current? Or
did you feel like you were kind of behind because you were...
Sr. Pat Quinn 31:32
We were behind because we were in the novitiate. And the only time we would get to newspapers, was
when we took the garbage out and we lined the garbage can with newspapers, but you might not be
able to read recent news. Who knows when you got those papers may have been sitting there for
months, but at least you could read something while you were lining the garbage can. That was how we
got our news. Because we didn't have TV or radio. No. If visitors came, like my mother came for a visit
and she said something about, "The Beatles have arrived." I thought it was the bugs. The Beatles. I
didn't know what she was talking about. It was the strangest thing. The Beatles have arrived. I said,
"What is that?" And she said, "Oh, it's a singing group." We didn't know any of that. No, because you
were really closed off.


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However, we did have the World's Fair in let me see, '64. I was a first-year novice. We didn't expect that
they would let us go because the first year of novitiate was like cloistering. But we got to go. We went
on buses and we had a wonderful time. I remember being there with my mother, my father, my twin
brother. I can't remember if my other older brother was there, he may have been. But I know my twin
was there. And we had a great time at the World's Fair, wonderful. Part of it was that we just didn't
expect, we figured everyone else would go, but we won't be able to go. So things were constantly
changing. They were new surprises all the time.
Angelica Bullock 33:31
Was it hard to keep up with all of the changes in the outside world, and then also any in your
community or were you just used to it? Did it not seem unusual?
Sr. Pat Quinn 33:44
Well, we didn't really keep up with the outside world. There was no way without TV, radio and
newspapers. You know, unless you heard, as they say, from visitors or something, you know, we were
cloistered in that way. Unless somebody mentioned that they heard this or they heard that. You know,
you didn't really know.
Angelica Bullock 34:12
How did you feel about that?
Sr. Pat Quinn 34:16
Looking back I think we just didn't expect that we would be hear what was happening. You knew there
were no TVs and no radios, you know. So you just, you know, lived each day. We had our studies to
do, we were going over to the college for courses. And that was a new thing also that we took classes
with the girls and the college. That was new. Of course, it was hard because we had to do that work,
but we were on a very different schedule than the girls. We had a regular regimen and at nighttime, we
had a study hour. Well, you know all the work you have to do in college. You had more free time when
you were in the juniory.
I remember going over to the Castle (Font Hill at Mount Saint Vincent), it was the library at the time.
And I was taking Shakespeare, a course in Shakespeare, and they had all the tapes over there. And
you could sit in the library and listen to the tape while you were reading it, which made more sense to
me than anything, and that was really nice. Then they couldn't use that library anymore. I think the
building itself, the structure, I guess, was not safe to have a lot of people in it. But in those days, that
was the library and it was nice. You know, but you had to keep up with your classwork. And then we
had other duties that we were doing, so you didn't have an awful lot of time when it was study time.
You have to really try to put your mind to it. I already mentioned that I have a twin brother, Mike. That
was always an Irish joke. There were always jokes about Pat and Mike. And that's what we are, Pat
and Mike. I don't see him often because he's in Albuquerque, New Mexico. And I enjoy, I love being a
Sister of Charity. I love seeing and meeting and being with a dedicated and fine group of women who
have an extraordinary history.


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Dublin Core


Quinn, Sister Patricia, SC, Interview


Quinn, Patricia, SC Interview, Oral History


Inspired by her cousin Sr. John Carmel Dunne, her sponsor in the Community, Sr. Patricia Quinn details her life as a Sister of Charity of New York from her early experiences as a postulant and novice. Sr. Patricia was an elementary school teacher for over 50 years and during her retirement, continues to tutor at St. Peter and Paul School and at Casa de Esperanza in Yonkers, N.Y. Sr. Patricia earned a Master's degree in Teaching and in Religious Education. Sr. Patricia's love of learning and teaching young children is evident in the stories she relates about her teachers and her students.


Quinn, Patricia, SC


Sisters of Charity of New York


Sisters of Charity of New York




Mindy Gordon (Editor)


Permission for reproduction or quotation must be obtained through written application to: Director of Archives, Sisters of Charity of New York, 6301 Riverdale Avenue, Bronx, New York, 10471. This permission is valid only insofar as the Archives of the Sisters of Charity of New York, as owner or custodian, has any rights in the matter and does not remove the responsibility of the author, editor, and publisher to guard against the infringement of any rights; including copyright, that may be held by others.


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Oral History


Quinn, Sister Patricia, Oral History


New York City

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Bullock, Angelica


Patricia Quinn, SC


Mount Saint Vincent, Bronx, New York



Quinn, Patricia, SC, “Quinn, Sister Patricia, SC, Interview,” Sisters of Charity Federation Archives, accessed July 14, 2024,


Patricia (Spielmann) Walsh

Sr Patricia Quinn kindness extended to our family when my Dad became disabled and we faced financial hardship.

My older brother, my younger sister Catherine ( Cathy) Spielmann and I attended St. Peter and Paul Elementary School. A span from 1951 to 1970.

Sister Patricia taught my sister and was a strong influence in her life.  My sister married, moved to Florida, had two adult children.  In 2019 my sister went home to the Lord after a 10 year battle with Metastatic Breast Cancer. She always remembered Sister Patricia's kindness and her life was enriched by having her as a teacher and a friend. 


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