Paths of Daring Deeds of Hope


Theresa's Struggle for Reconciliation

Theresa much regretted the severing of the Congregation and immediately undertook to repair the damage. When her apologies and pleas for reconciliation went unanswered by Bishop Lefevere for almost a decade, Theresa attempted an unusual alternative. In 1867 she obtained hospitality with the Grey Nuns of Ottawa apparently hoping to effect a reconciliation from this neutral position. She traveled to Detroit in 1868 to appeal for readmission to the Monroe Congregation but was refused by Bishop Lefevere. Thereupon she traveled to Scranton but was denied permission by the bishop, William O'Hara, to remain in the diocese also. In desperation she returned to her home city of Baltimore and from there she contacted Mother Elizabeth Bruyere in Ottawa, who kindly agreed that she return to the Grey Nuns.

Theresa undertook to repair the damageAlmost as soon as Mother Theresa was banished from Monroe, she initiated appeals to return. She was greatly disturbed at the splitting of the Congregation, an outcome she had never anticipated. She thought it extremely damaging to the chances of the Congregation's receiving papal approval. She wrote repeatedly to Father Joos and Bishop Lefevere over the years from 1859 to 1868, pleading for forgiveness and permission to return to Monroe. Father Joos responded kindly to Theresa; it appears that the Bishop did not answer her letters.


After nine years of serving in Pennsylvania, finding that her appeals continued to be ineffective, Theresa decided that she might be more successful if she withdrew from the Pennsylvania Congregation. Perhaps she judged that she might thereby better succeed in persuading Bishop Lefevere of her penitence and submission. Having arranged acceptance at the convent of the Grey nuns in Ottawa, she withdrew there in 1868. The following year she journeyed to Monroe to seek reconciliation; however, she was rebuffed by Bishop Lefevere. Her appeal to return to Scranton Diocese was similarly rejected by Bishop O'Hara. Eventually, she returned to Ottawa and remained there until 1885, when she was permitted to return to the Congregation in Philadelphia.

Some Comments Mother Theresa paid a terrible price for her actions of Spring 1859. Incurring Bishop Lefevere's ire was a fateful error, one for which she could not ever gain his forgiveness. Her heartfelt appeals and promises of future conformity failed to allay his apprehensions and suspicions.

When Theresa abandoned her direct appeals and began exploring the possibility of moving to Ottawa, she evidenced considerable anxiety about the wisdom of the move. Nonetheless, ever a person of action, she selected this alternative as a potentially effective recourse.

Theresa's timing in seeking readmission at Monroe was most unfortunate. If she had waited five months, Bishop Lefevere would not have posed a problem, for he died on March 4, 1869. The Bishop's acceptance of Sister Celestine back into the Monroe congregation was a particularly disabling decision for Theresa; she lost a faithful companion and collaborator in her plans.

Perhaps the saddest moment of Theresa's life was that of her exclusion from both IHM Congregations because of the Bishops. She was literally homeless at that time. Only the kindness of Mother Elizabeth Bruyere rescued her from destitution and profound humiliation. Plans are presently underway to introduce Mother Elizabeth's cause for beatification; her compassionate treatment of Mother Theresa is an indication of her extraordinary Christian spirit.

Letter from Mother Theresa to Bishop Lefevere


My Lord Bishop and Father in God [Lefevere]:

After seven years of penance and tears, I venture again to intercede for pardon and mercy, for the love of Him who never rejects "a contrite and humbled heart."

Believe, Father, I have not known one hour's happiness since I had the misfortune of displeasing you, and would have returned at the time to cast myself at your feet begging forgiveness, but, never was allowed to do so before.

Do then, receive me again among your children, if you do, Rt. Rev. Father, time, better than my words, will prove to you Lordship the purity of my motive. God alone knows, the interior martyrdom, I have endured since my errors. If I only can see your Lordship once before death!

Sr. Celestine also crave [sic] the same privilege, she too, is on exile here, and the poor soul is innocent.

I will go daily, until I hear from you Lordship, to the portals of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, asking them to vouchsafe to incline your heart to sentiments of mercy towards your unworthy, sorrowful and humble servant, and child in Christ.

M. Theresa
Servant of Mary
25th April 1866

Letter from Father Joos to Bishop Lefevere

Enclosure: 1866, Dec. 16th Sr. Joanna to Joos
19 Rev. Joos

Right Rev. & Dear Bishop,

Excuse me for troubling you again, but I think I am obliged in conscience to do it.

I received a letter from Mother Teresa craving hers and Sister Celestine's pardon from you. If you would deem it proper, I would not be afraid anymore now to receive them back with proper precaution.

Your devoted servant in J & M
Monroe, the 19th of Dec. 1866

Mother Theresa to Mother Elizabeth Bruyere

Susquehanna, December 9, 1866

My very dear and good Mother,

Your letter sent on the first of the month was received on Wednesday the fifth. After having read it, I feel fulfilled and greatly consoled. I can no longer doubt that Will of God. I will as much as possible act according to the decision of this worthy religious. I received the Bishop's answer which permitted the renovation of vows; at the same time as yours, this ceremony consequently took place yesterday in our chapel Sister Celestine and I did the same as the others. I renewed my vows with the intention that God would approve in our case, when we gave ourselves to God it was for always and now we wish to do nothing to the contrary in our plans, more so, we want to put ourselves in a situation where we can fulfill them more faithfully.

I do not know exactly when we will be leaving, perhaps with the help of God, it will be this month next year. I will from now 'til then arrange a few things, so that all will be in good order before departing. It will be necessary to make it known to the Bishop and the community. I unite my prayers to yours daily, I have great confidence in the Hail Mary said in common. We hope that Divine Providence will complete what has begun by facilitating our departure; indeed who would have thought that my writing for Sister Mary, only to add force to her request, would open a door for me also, while all the steps I have taken to return to Monroe have served for nothing.

I am exceedingly grateful for the offer that you make for furnishing the means of paying for our journey. I hope to have enough money for that. I would like to know the cost, Sister M. must remember. It was too generous a gift. I recognize my unworthiness and I fear that you consider me something that I am not. For whatever you think you will get your reward. We could not read your letter filled with tenderness and sympathy, without shedding tears. I feel younger by ten years since our correspondence. You will have time, dear friend, to write once more before I have the happiness of joining you, in order to learn to love the good God more and to become a saint. Until now I had no means of communicating to others the good news that they could hope to be admitted, but I shall try, and I shall leave the address which you have given me with one or another before leaving.

I remain, dear Mother, in the hearts of Jesus and Mary, Always yours,

Mary Therese
Servant C.I.M.

Mother Theresa to Mother Elizabeth Bruyere

Convent of St. Alphonsus
Adrian, [October] 11, 1868

Reverend and Very dear Mother,

I will wait no longer to give you our news, such as it is. Your Lordship was away, our destiny is not yet decided; we have been to Monroe as we planned, where we were received with kindness by Father Joos as well as by all the Sisters; our feelings of acceptance toward one another were mutual, all, even those who had never seen us, expressed as much happiness as all the others. It was Sister Alphonsine who opened the door, for Father had already announced our arrival; on meeting, we remained immovable for a few seconds, like stupefied, looking at one another before being able to embrace.

Father could not keep us without the consent of the Bishop, he advised us to go at once to Detroit to obtain permission of his Lordship -- we arrived there with new hope -- only to be obliged to return without success. Perhaps the Bishop will not be returning for a week. That is the reason we were sent here, as much to see Sister Francis as to avoid the stir which the news of our arrival would cause among the people if we were to spend Sunday in Monroe. You see, my good and very dear Mother, that we have yet a great need of your fervent prayers, also those of the Community, as long as we have not seen his Lordship, we will be uncertain, yet, we are hopeful.

The Superior [Father Joos] being well disposed in our favor has even given me a letter for the Bishop to tell him that he has no objection to receiving us back among your Sisters. On the other hand Father Hespelin frightened us not a little in speaking of the firmness of Bishop Lefevere, he said that we were going against his wishes, when once he had pronounced a resolution on anything whatsoever he rarely changed [his] mind. Meanwhile we rely on the hope of the hopeless.

It is now fifteen days since we left Ottawa and it seems more like a month, so much so that this state of uncertitude make the time seem long. There is no need to tell you that I am always with you in spirit and I imagine that I see you all. ...

We must remain here until we receive a telegram that Father Hennaert promised to send us when the Bishop arrived. In reading my letter you will have no problem believing that I am not yet settled -- I hope that the next one will be more hopeful, also, I will not try today to express the sentiments of gratitude I have in my heart for you, that I always will consider you to be my best friend, and also for your holy community.

Farewell then my good and very dear Mother. I am always yours in Jesus and Mary

Sister Mary Theresa

Mother Theresa to Mother Elizabeth Bruyere

Mother Theresa was taken by surprise at Bishop Lefevere's decision: he decided to permit Sr. Celestine to return to the Congregation in Monroe, but he denied permission to Mother Theresa. Having been thus rejected, Theresa traveled to Scranton, but the Bishop William O'Hara refused to allow her to remain. Theresa then returned to her native city, Baltimore, to seek some refuge. However, she found none, and turned again to the Grey Nuns. At this darkest hour of her life, homeless and penniless, she wrote this most poignant of all her letters.

St. Anthony's Orphan Asylum
Baltimore November 28, 1868

Reverend and very dear Mother,

After many hesitations, at last we must come to this. It is a confession and humiliation which I have well deserved for my inconsistency and for having counted on uncertainty. You have no doubt already learned that his Lordship of Detroit did not permit himself to yield in regard to me. Sister Celestine remained after having pleaded her cause, consequently I have to return alone, and since then all my efforts to be received again among my own in the Diocese of Philadelphia have been fruitless. There is not the least difficulty on the side of our Sisters; they are unanimous in desiring that I remain. My departure has caused them much sorrow. Mother Jerome was the first to go to Bishop O'Hara but he does not wish to permit it and sends her to the Bishop of Philadelphia. Father O'Reilly himself received me with kindness and took the trouble to go to intercede for me with the Bishop of Scranton, without much success because he did not wish to displease Bishop Wood. The Archbishop of Baltimore does not wish to get mixed up in it saying that he knows nothing of the affair.

Here I am then an outcast neither more nor less -- Up to the present while I was taking all these steps I have tried to keep myself hidden so that the affair would not cause any disturbance, but that cannot go on. I have as a last recourse obtained hospitality in this orphanage for a few days only and I do not know where to go.

You know dear and good Mother, that I would never have left you except to return to my own ... In asking you permission to go to Monroe, I did not even think of making the condition that you would take me back in case I did not succeed. Now I do not know how to make such a prayer; words fail me but I know that I am understood. God wills it since I have not been able to succeed in anything since I had the misfortune of leaving you. You can more easily imagine the shame and confusion that I experience than I would be able to tell you. It is enough that you understand. Answer me, I pray you, by telegraph -- that is rapid and I am in danger. Please pray for and have prayers said for her who recognizes herself unworthy of your kindnesses.

May Our Lady of the Sacred Heart obtain for you all the graces you desire.

Sister Mary Theresa

Address: St. Anthony's Orphan Asylum
Central Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland

It is two months today since I left you.