Paths of Daring Deeds of Hope


The Crisis of Separation

At this point Theresa and her Redemptorist friends initiated a campaign to bring all the sisters to Pennsylvania. Bishop Lefevere, upon learning of this effort, permanently split the two branches of the Congregation, at the same time expelling certain sisters who would not agree to sever their ties with Mother Theresa.

The Dismissal of Sr. Mary Whipple and Sr. M. Rose

Sister Mary Whipple was particularly distressed by [the disruption of the Congregation at the dismissal of Mother Theresa from Monroe] ... When, in 1859, she appealed to the Bishop for permission to transfer to Pennsylvania, he proposed three questions for her to answer related to her attitude toward Mother Theresa and the future of the Congregation. When he found her answer unsatisfactory, he dismissed her from the Congregation. She traveled to Pennsylvania and was received there.

Sister M. Rose shared Sister Mary Whipple's anxiety about the Congregation's crisis, and like Sr. Mary, requested permission to transfer to Pennsylvania. She received the same set of questions ... Like Sr. Mary Whipple she was dismissed by Bishop Lefevere and received into the Pennsylvania community.

The following letters represent the sisters' response to Bishop Lefevere's questions and to their dismissal.

Sister Mary Whipple's answer to the questions

Sister Mary Rose's answer to the questions

The Sisters respond to their dismissal

Sister Mary Whipple to Bishop Lefevere


Rt. Rev. father in God [Bishop Lefevere]

I received a letter this morning from father Joos asking three questions in the name of your Lordship.

For years I have sighed and prayed to be in a religious community and not a society and it was only the hope that one day our society would come to that, that kept me here where I am, now God seems to have heard my prayers, and I cannot in conscience refuse to correspond to his voice and desire to go where things will be established on a solid basis which is not the case here, for me to find peace of soul and content here, is impossible, it is not living, it is a martyrdom, which I feel unable to bear any longer -- Still, I would not take any decided steps before having consulted, this, I have done and after having exposed the state of my soul without disguise to an enlightened and prudent director, who was sent by your Lordship. I am convinced that if I wish to sanctify myself and find peace and happiness, I must go elsewhere -- The Will of God for me I think is clear.

To the first question I say: that under present circumstances I cannot correspond to the views of your Lordship. I would do it willingly were it in my power _____ 2nd knowing that Mother Theresa (our foundress) has still authority over me I cannot recognize two Superiors. 3rd I cannot consent to break off correspondence with those who have formed me to the religious life, to whom after God I owe everything and under whose guidance I will always feel in assurances.

Now my Lord don't think that I write on the impulse of the movement. No. Ten years refectons [reflections] could not change a conviction I have had years. Emboldened by the kindness your Lordship has always shown me, I humbly and earnestly entreat you, Your Lordship, to give me permission to go and join my own community by transferring your rights over me to the Bishop of Philadelphia -- but if your Lordship should in his wisdom refuse to grant me my request I will try to do my duty till the 8th of December in which period I will be no longer bound by my vows which it is not my intention to renew here -- Begging a share in your prayers and your holy Benediction.

I am your obedient Servant in Christ
Sister Mary
Vienna May 31, 1859

Sister Mary Rose to Father Joos


June 6, 1859

Revd. Father,

I have written to you that it was almost impossible for me to answer the questions proposed by his Lordship, without further consultation. I have done so, but as the answer to my questions delays so much I think myself bound in conscience to let you know at least my dispositions with regard to the proposed questions. I have and still do consult both God and my conscience in this matter -- As to the first question which is to second his Lordship's efforts to retain the Institute in His Diocese -- I cannot say that I am willing to do so, for I am convinced of the contrary.

As to the second which is if we recognize Mother M. Joseph for Superioress.

According to our rules and constitutions I consider neither one nor the other as lawful Superior but should I wish to remain in the same religious order that I have embraced some years past I must follow our foundress Mother Theresa whom I consider to be at the heart of the Institution. Yet, consequently, considering her as bearing a right over me I cannot give up all correspondence with her.

You might be, Revd Father, under the impression that I have been somewhat influenced in these matters, believe it not for I have not in the least deviated from my first sentiments which were to obey and be submissive to those whom God has placed over me, until the expiration of my vows reserving to myself then the liberty of choosing whatever ... would be more advantages [sic] for the sanctification of my soul, but Holy Providence has thought it best to bring to a enlightened person on the subject (without my seeking it) therefore do I feel bound to abide by his decisions unto the last moment. Should I have been too bold in addressing this to you, Dear Father, cast a look then of charity upon what I have said, and forgive by granting your blessing, to the most unworthy of all the servants of Mary.

Your humble servant in Christ
Sister Mary Rose

Sisters Mary and Rose to Bishop Lefevere

Dear Rev. Father in Christ,

We have just received a letter from Rev. Fr. Joos, informing us of our discharge from the community.

We are very sorry to see, that we have been misunderstood by your Lordship. It was never our intentions to do anything contrary our holy vow of obedience, nothing was ever commanded us, should it have been, we would not have refused to obey, questions were proposed to us we had to answer according to our consciences.

Knowing now, that we no longer belong to your community, we think it more prudent for us to leave immediately.

We will take the cars tomorrow morning for St. Joseph, if holy providence permits it.

Your most humble servants,
Sisters Mary and Rose
Vienna, June 16th 1859