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Barry University Oral History: Phillips, Benedetto, Scanlon, Srs.

Sister Maura Phillips


Sister M. Arnold Benedetto



Sister Elaine Scanlon


                         Phillips Benedetto Scanlon

... Sister Elaine Scanlon, Sister Arnold Benedetto, and Sister Maura Phillips conducted by Sister Jeanne LeFebvre at St. Rosa Lima in Miami Shores, Florida on March 17, 1980.

Sister Jeanne: Would you tell us when you first came to Barry and some of the activities in which you were engaged in at the course of your time there?

Sister Elaine: I first came to Barry in 1948. I was there from '48 until '55. I left Barry in '55 and returned again in 1963, remained at Barry again until 1970. During the first stint at Barry, I was in the Sociology and Social welfare department where I was chairperson during those particular years. As a little aside, I also taught logic, secondary curriculum, European Civilization and math. Much of this meant burning midnight oil over and over again because I was not prepared for the later classes. I was also moderator of various classes during both sets of years. 

Sister Jeanne: Okay, Sister Arnold.

Sister Arnold: Well, I came to Barry first in 1952, coming down from Dominican High the same year that Sister Edmond came and Sister Eugine Marie and Rita Retta, Sister Thomas Gertrude. We all came down together that year, '52. I stayed until 1957 in that stant and then I went to Catholic University to study for three years and came back to Barry in 1960 and stayed until 1970. But, when I first came down in 1952, it was mainly to teach History. I think I was the only History teacher there at that time. Sister Marie had been there before, but even the whole department then, one person was the department. Though, I do remember teaching more than History, I even taught some French if you can believe it. I guess I had more credits in my transcript really at that time than some of the other people. I know I taught some upper classes in French and Sister Edmond was really very good about giving me time to go down to the big public library and get some help. I really enjoyed it all very much. I also taught a History of Philosophy course during that time which I guess I learned more than the students did.

Sister Jeanne: I hope you're going to tell us about Southern History.

Sister Arnold: Southern History, when I was first given that course, I didn't even know that a course like that existed. I never had a course in Southern History. But, it was on the books and it satisfied a certificational requirement. So, I taught it and just had a lot of fun doing it. I had to work hard at it. I don't really remember how many times I taught it, but I remember if sometime it wasn't taught and somebody wanted to take it, I remember that somebody said, "Even if Southern History is not on the schedule, just take anything from Sister Arnold and it will be Southern History." Which was not exactly true of course, it was not too complimentary.

     Well, let's see. I went on to Catholic U. and I came back in 1960.  I taught History again for two years. Those were, I especially remember the Church History. I loved the Church History course and we combined Liturgy with the Church History. We were just beginning to talk about (in the liturgy) using the vernacular, the possibilities of the vernacular in the Mass. I remember a class of students and I asked them if they would like to have Mass in English and not having it in Latin anymore. They just thought it would be terrible. I thought they were just too sophisticated for that. I really didn't know that the use of the vernacular was coming so soon, but anyway, those Liturgy classes were very good. In 1962 then, I became the Academic Dean. Of course it was a much smaller college then and we didn't have all the schools.

Sister Jeanne: But it was of the entire college.

Sister Arnold: Well, it was undergraduate, but it was Arts and Sciences and it included the Nursing and Education and Business. It wasn't divided into schools the way it is now. Then I was the Academic Dean from '62 until '70. I continued teaching and I held on to the Church History class while I was Dean for a few years anyway. Eventually, I dropped that and I didn't do any more classroom teaching. I must say I kind of regretted that. 

Sister Jeanne: Sister Maura, when did you come? 

Sister Maura: I came in 1951. At that time Sister Denise and Sister Rose Teresa was in the Music department. These were very fine musical experiences working with these two Sisters. It was an exceptionally fine experience working with Sister Denise and the traditional Oratorio which she composed, the Christmas Oratorio which was a traditional experience for many years, up until 1973. I think Sister Isabel Williams was the last one to do the Christmas Oratorio. We have a record on file of this last music oratorio. Also, I think besides working with Sister Denise who was a composer of the Oratorio which was really a most unusual experience being able to work with the one who wrote the oratorio. Following those years, the other very extraordinary experience was working with Sister Marie Carol in the drama department for the musicals. Each year we did a different musical or an excerpt from the opera which was a very fine musical experience for me in working with someone who was as talented as both Sister Denise and Sister Marie Carol. 

Sister Jeanne: You served as chairperson of the department?

Sister Maura: Yes, I worked it. I taught in the music department and was director of the chair of singers, and in the last years I was chairman of the music department at Barry. 

Sister Jeanne: Who were some of the Barry legends while you were there? 

Sister Elaine: I think one who stands out in my mind right now is Sister Michael James who was at that time the librarian. Believe me, never a book disappeared from that library that Sister Michael James didn't find it. Even if it meant going to the girls rooms during the time that the girls had been in class and she would always come back with the books that had been missing. 

     Also, Sister had a bird which she called Barry boy. She taught the bird to talk and to say many things. One day in preparation for Father Burke's feast day, she was trying to teach the bird to say "Happy Feast Day Father Burke." The day arrived and Sister Michael James in all her glory had Father Burke come over to hear the bird and when Father came into the room, the right time arrived and the bird came out with "Happy Feast Day Burke." Sister Michael James was very much embarrassed to have had that happen. 

     While we're talking of birds, we can move on to Sister Loyola.  Sister Loyola used to receive money from some relative from hers which she would never use for herself. She began buying bird seed and was throwing it out to the birds right outside the dormitory which she was residing. Many cardinals came and were fed with the morsels that Sister Loyola was able to throw out to them. 

Sister Jeanne: Sister Maura, you have something about Sister Michael James?

Sister Maura: I remember I loved Barry, but no one loved Barry as did Sister Michael James. I shall never forget the day she died. As I remember, she did not want to die alone and as she was on her way to her library, which she loved, she collapsed and died kissing the ground of Barry which she loved. She was found with her face down kissing the very ground that she loved. Surrounding her were the priests, the faculty, and the student body came in great numbers on the balconies, the upper balconies and the lower balconies as Sister Michael James lay there and of course, she died immediately. This was beautiful in that because she loved Barry and she did not want to die alone and she had all those with whom she loved with her on that day. It was a beautiful experience for all of us and a loving experience for someone who loved Barry as did Sister Michael James. 

Sister Arnold: I would like to say a little something about Father Monroe and Father O'Leary. I knew I was there when Father Monroe first arrived. We were very happy to have him. He was very fatherly, very priestly. He was a scholarly man. He took some of us Sisters sometimes for special classes even, I think with Sister Mary Jane Hart. She was especially close to Father Monroe, they were very good friends.  Father had classes in metaphysics. I think we were that ambitious at that time. Sometimes we went into one of the science labs to have class.  He was a good sport about so many things. I remember Mrs. Mitch, Sister Simon Peter's mother was one of the house mother's there for many years.  Father Monroe used to take Mrs. Mitch out. I think we went to the races.  One night they were coming in quite late and Mrs. Mitch lived over in The Villa, the upper level and she was telling Father to please be quite when they were coming home. She didn't want the students to hear her coming in so late. So, she got out of the car and she went up to the second floor and when she got up to the top floor, Father called out from the car, "Goodnight Aggie, my love." She never forgave Father Monroe for that. Father Monroe stayed on for many years, I'm not sure for how long. Then, he had emphysema in his late years. It was very sad to see him and the difficulty he had in breathing. I remember too that he was allowed to continue saying his Mass the old way. I don't know whether we were having Masses in English. I know he was still saying his Mass in Latin with his back to us even after we had turned the alter around and had the priest facing us. That was really in his very last years. Now Father O'Leary was really a very nice compliment to Father Monroe. The two of them got along very well. 

Sister Jeanne: Like father and son. 

Sister Arnold: They were very close. At least we should have had that impression that they got along so well together. Father Leary was an unusually fine speaker as I recall in a great politer. Somewhat of the old school, he could get a little bombastic at times, but I always liked to listen to him. I remember especially the talks he would give at the honors convocations. He could just say the most pertinent things and take care of all of the people who didn't get honors as well as those who did. 

Sister Jeanne: Sister Elaine, could you tell us about Sister Marie Grace? 

Sister Elaine: Well, one thing I think I would like to say about Sister Marie Grace and I have lived with her during five of her years as Superior at Barry. Sister Marie Grace was certainly the essence of hospitality. Sister was one who enjoyed a good time and enjoyed above all to really make a good time. I can remember many occasions coming home from class on a day when most everyone would be so exhausted from the heat plus classes, plus a few other things. In those days we were not teaching evening classes or even late afternoon classes. We'd walk into the dining room and there would be a note up on the bulletin board saying, "Please get in your bathing tog, we're leaving at such and such a time for the ocean, just be ready yourself." She was ever thoughtful an mindful of the needs of any of the Sisters and she certainly was one who could make a good time for everyone else. 

Sister Jeanne: And then who could tell us about Mr. Ogdan?

Sister Elaine: Mr. Ogdan is I think another one who could fit pretty much into the category of Sister Marie Grace as he was always trying to think of good things and pleasant things to do for the nuns particularly. He did not however eliminate the girls from any of his nice treats. On one occasion, the Holy Water Founts had plates put in them and each of them was loaded with fudge which he had just made.  His fudge was something that was well known to the students as well as the nuns and I think he just seemed to make it at the right time when everyone was down and really needed some kind of lift, particularly in the lying of sweets. 

     There was much more than that. There were times when he would lend an ear and a very willing one to many of the girls who perhaps missed their fathers very much and he tried to fill that particular post for some of the girls for which he was working. 

Sister Jeanne: I wonder how you would characterize the atmosphere of Barry in the fifties.

Sister Maura: Well, it was very friendly, just very friendly. Being a small college, everybody knew everybody else. There weren't all that many, I was saying how they go about the departments, one Sister to each department almost and it was mostly all just nuns besides Peggy Heussant. So, we really got to know everybody quite well and you felt quite welcome in the dormitories and in the girls rooms. It was just a very nice atmosphere. Their parents would come to the investiture as I recall. That was the first time when they would drop their darlings off on entrance day. They might come back for the investiture. It was just a nice family spirit.

Sister Jeanne: Sister Elaine, you had duty in Stella Mat?

Sister Elaine: I certainly did. I had duty in Stella Matutina for the first seven years I was there. If I had to say it in line of what would happen today I would say I wouldn't want to be taking duty. But, going back to those days, everything was so friendly and so open. I really enjoyed my duty in Stella Matutina. Usually it was with mainly Freshmen and some Sophomores, but Stella Matutina was known mainly at that time as the Freshmen dorm. You would sit down in the hall on the first floor usually in the lobby. I would sit down there with my typewriter and this is the time I would catch up on my mail home and a few more places and the girls would come along and writing would desist at that particular point, but it was at those hours that you really got to know the girls and many of their inner most feelings were shared with the nuns who felt very much at home with them and I think they felt very much at home with us. We would be on duty on school nights until ten o'clock and on weekends it was generally until one if some of the seniors or some of the older students had a one o'clock permission which in those days was a little bit rare. We would have to go around and check every single room and not only check the room, you had to go in the room and make sure that there were two girls in the room in bed if there were two girls in bed in every room. You didn't just check the room and knock and be sure you got an answer. 

     At that year I was also a moderator of a number of the classes, mainly with the Freshmen. That consisted with monthly meetings with the girls, class meetings where many, many things took place. This was where plans took place for tree planting, for investiture, plans for olympic day and the participation in water ballet and so on during the course of the year. Also, the moderator had the job of seeing that a class song was put together by that particular class. Each freshmen class had to present her own version of a song for the class and then during the course of the year, when the olympic day had come, each class would sing its own song and the new ones along with the sophomores, juniors, and seniors would all sing their own song each year. 

Sister Jeanne: In the meantime, back at the ranch...

Sister Arnold: Well, while Sister Elaine was talking about taking duty there was an hour or so before the study duty actually began, a lot of the girls would be in their rooms, but they didn't have to keep quiet yet. I remember some good times then when we used to live in the dormitories, we had parties, well at least we called them parties.  You'd stop by a girls room or they'd call you in and they'd say, "Sister, come on in. Do you want a coke or do you want some potato chips?"  You'd just sit down with them and you'd have a friendly time. I also remember practicing my recorder in a girls room down the hall from me because she had her radio going and the radio was loud that I could play my recorder in the corner of the room and nobody would hear me crack a note. It was Mary Cathryn Miller if you remember her. She lived down at the end of the hall.  We just really had much of good times. 

Sister Maura: During those times, too, we did not have air-conditioners which meant that the bedroom windows were open and everything was heard pretty much inside and outside. I recall one particular instance when two of the girls namely Katherine Jumper and Virginia Beattie were roommates and their room happened to be in the East wing with Sister Mary Paul's being in the South wing or it could have been just visa vera. But, the girls were talking about something and it was quite confidential and something that was meant only for their own ears.  Very shortly after that, Sister Mary Paul could relay almost word for word to the girls everything that was said that evening. They couldn't imagine where it came from. When Sister told them, they made up their minds after that they were going to close their windows because they were not going to have this relayed to them again. 

Sister Jeanne: And you were there for the movie?

Sister Maura: I was there for the movie that was done by the Fifthian studio. It was a very interesting movie because much of what was portrayed in the movie was very, very true. At ten o'clock at night, the light did go out and on this one occasion when they were making the movie, (and it certainly portray what did happen often) the light began to go out and it showed the outside of Stella Matutina because that was the largest of the dormitories and you could see the lights going out one by one by one and we were taken back into the dormitory watching Sister Mary Paul walk down the halls. Then we went out to the outside of the building again and one light remained on. We were then returning to the building when Sister Mary Paul was knocking at some girls door and then went outside again when the light went out immediately.  But, the girls for the most part were pretty good about turning the lights off by ten. They might have turned them on later, but they were out at ten. 

Sister Jeanne: Would you describe some of the Barry activities in the fifties?

Sister Maura: One thing I do recall was the freshmen tree planting or arbor day as it was called. It was never on the same date each year, it was just a day that would be selected for the convenience of the class and for the school itself. Each freshmen class would plant a tree each year and on the day chosen for the planting of the tree, each of the other classes would join in procession, the girls would all be in caps and gowns and they would march out to the front of campus. That would be presently where the Science building is right now. In that particular area the trees were planted and the older classmen would go around their tree while the freshmen would turn over the shovel of dirt and they always had a gold colored shovel there for their use.

     I recall a very interesting incident that happened. One of the classes had planted a tree and for some reason or other that tree just did not continue to exist. It had died. The girls were very embarrassed and felt bad that their tree was gone. So, one evening at approximately midnight, the girls dressed in their caps and gowns, had Father Burke accompany them and they went out and planted another tree so that they would be ready for the following day so that they could join the rest of the classes. This tree planting continued, I'm not too sure of the year it discontinued, but it continued until about the time that the present science building which then was the library was built. That was the end of the tree planting.

Sister Arnold: I could say something about the investiture ceremony.  This was of course a very formal occasion when each student was formally and officially invested in the academic cap and gown. The parents would be invited. It was usually on a Sunday afternoon. We would have a speaker, we'd give an academic address. Sometimes the students would introduce themselves and sometimes we'd have somebody else do the introducing, but for the most part they were grouped according to geographic locations. All the students from the same state would be in a group together or the same city or something like that. They were made to feel that this was really quite a prestigious thing to wear this cap and gown. The right honor and respect should be shown to it and I think Sister Elaine already mentioned how they used the cap and gown even for the tree planting. I remember particularly they wore their caps and gowns for many church activities, too. The first Sunday Mass they wore their caps and gowns. Certainly on Founder's day they wore them. On their class day for their Masses, and all kinds of times.  Some of them even wore them when they went around singing Christmas Carols. The Investiture Ceremony really was a serious thing and as we said it was an opportunity to meet their parents possibly and there was a little social afterwards.

Sister Jeanne: What about the Olympic days?

Sister Elaine: Well, along with the studies and some of the other things we had at Barry, there was a lot of competition among the students.  This took place on such occasions as our Olympic days, also our class days and during water ballet where there was as I mentioned before, very much competition. On the Olympic days, there would be such days as swimming, archery, tennis, and there were few other sports, but the girls would compete class by class to see who could win and come out with the top points. As I said, it certainly was a day of competition.  When we had our class days, in preparation for the class day, each class had to prepare a song. They could choose a melody already in existence and put some words that would be very pertinent to their particular class. And each class would try to out do the previous class with the song that they could come up with. Then on class days there was always a dinner in the dining room and it was always something very exquisite with the freshmen presenting their new song and then each of the classes coming up with their song. The seniors had another song. Right now I don't recall the name of it, but I just remember that this song went from class to class as far as the seniors were concerned. They would get up and stand on their chairs and sing that one particular song, but that song was donated from one senior class to the next. It just went down the years. 

Sister Arnold: Is that the one that went "Ha ha, hee hee, we're still on top you see."

Sister Elaine: Right. That one ended with, "Ha ha, hee hee, we're still on top you see." They would get up on top of the chairs and scream all over the place.

Sister Arnold: "If anyone knows a thing or two it's me." or something like that.

Sister Elaine: That song today is still in existence. Only I think the origin of it has been lost. 

Sister Jeanne: Do you remember when it started?

Sister Elaine: Well, I know it was going on when I first came to Barry. 

Sister Jeanne: That was in '52.

Sister Elaine: When I first came to Barry that was '48. It was going on then, so it has continued down the years. Then with water ballet, that was something where there was days and days and weeks and months of practice which was presented through the efforts of Mrs. Heussant who at that time took care of all of the Phys. Ed. at Barry. The girls did put on some very beautiful displays in our pool, small as it is at the present time, but they did much in the small pool. At one time I can recall a canoe being lowered into the pool and being pulled from one side of the pool to the other with Isabel Williams at the helm in the canoe. There were many beautiful, beautiful things that they have done. They used to go out to different hotels who would request their presence to put on performance for them because they had heard of Barry's water ballets and wanted them to show it off for many of their guests. 

Sister Jeanne: Well, thank you very much for coming together tonight.  We really do value your memories.

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