Sesquicentennial Corner—September


Alongside the education of the children of St. Francis Orphanage in school subjects, the spiritual life of the children who came was not neglected.  Father Bihn had directed that the orphan children be received and educated “in the Roman Catholic faith and in no other religious denomination” — as would be the expectation.  Of the many non-Catholic children admitted, 217 were baptized as Catholics, 35 by Father Bihn.  Records show First Communions and even Solemn First Communions were part of life at the orphanage.  When the Bishop came from Cleveland, those who were of age received the Sacrament of Confirmation.

When the orphans went to Mass, it was to the same early Mass the Sisters attended.  Sometimes, the Sisters recalled, the children, especially the little ones, were very sleepy.  The orphans attended Sunday Vespers and Benediction, and the first Sunday of every month, one of the orphans remembered, was like a Retreat Day for the older orphans when they could write letters home if they wished.  Midnight Mass at Christmas, the procession to the grotto in May to honor the Blessed Mother, to the cemetery on November 2, All Soul’s Day, made special memories.  In all the processions, the orphan recalled, they processed two by two.  When the Sisters celebrated their Jubilees, at least on some occasions, orphans carrying flowers were there and the chapel would be full with both the young and the aged living at the “Home” joining the Sisters and guests for the celebration.

A number of the girls who came to the orphanage as children “joined the Sisterhood” as the records put it.  Twenty-five of the 40 orphans who originally entered the community when they became of age, professed vows.  At least one who left became a Sister in another community but kept in touch until her death.

The spiritual life of the children truly was” not neglected.”