Sister Agnes Patrice Waldron
Today is August 6, 1988. I am Sister Eileen Rice at Regina Dominican Convent in Wilmette Illinois. I am here with Sister Agnes Patrice Waldron.
Sister Eileen: Sister Agnes Patrice, when were you born?
Sister Agnes: I was born December 5, 1912.
Sister Eileen: Tell me a little bit about your family, your parents.
Sister Agnes: My parents were both born in Ireland. My mother in County Sible, my father in County Miolt. However, they did not meet each other until later in America and they were married in 1906. They were the proud parents of ten children and of this date, all ten children are still living. The oldest is 82 and the youngest is about 69.
Sister Eileen: Tell me a little bit about your education.
Sister Agnes: I was educated in the elementary school at St. Boneventure's in Chicago and when I was in fourth grade, we had a writing composition on what we intended to be when we grew up. I wrote that I thought I wanted to be a white Sister, but I did not know if there was such a thing. The Sister returned the paper to me and said, "Yes there is such a thing and I hope you fulfill your desire someday."
Sister Eileen: What Sister was it? What kind of nun?
Sister Agnes: She was a Sister of Saint Joseph from LaGrange Illinois. Then when I was in sixth grade, we moved up to Queen of Angels parish and before we moved, my mother and dad had asked the real-estate man to find them a home with five bedrooms, two baths and near the Catholic church. He found a home with five bedrooms, two baths, and a block away from the Catholic Church. So, they were sold on the home, moved in it on Saturday and on Sunday they went to Mass and couldn't understand a word of the Mass because it was in Polish. They went into the sacristy to see the parisher and he said to them, "You don't want to belong to this parish. It is completely Polish. The school classes are in Polish, all our services are in Polish. It is a strictly Polish parish." So my mother said to him, "Where is the closest school where they talk English?" He said, "Well, the next Parish is St. Methias, but that's a German parish." She said, "Well, I have to get a school where they teach English." So it turned to be Queen of Angels parish which was a mile and a half away from our home.
The pastor at Transfiguration tried to encourage my parents to move out of the Parish, that they would be very dissatisfied because they would not be accepted by the Polish people and my mother said, "I will not move out. They will accept me as I am." So, we had a little hard time starting out. They kept calling my mother "the woman with a lot of kids." Before long she had won those Polish people over and if there was sickness in their home they were calling my mother, if there was death in their home they were calling on my mother, so she became kind of a Matriarch of the Polish parish. Everybody became attached to her. She told the pastor that she would go to Queen of Angels church, but she wanted to be registered in Transfigaration because she knew that she had a large family and if anything happened, she wanted to be able to call on the priest at Transfigaration. So for 39 years, my mother and dad supported two parishes, Queen of Angels and Transfigaration.
Sister Eileen: Where did you go to high school?
Sister Agnes: I went to Alvernia High School where they had the Milwaukee.
Sister Eileen: Franciscans. I come from the Dominicans.
Sister Agnes: Milwaukee Franciscans. Of course when I decided I wanted to go to the convent, I knew I wanted to go to the Dominicans. So, I never said anything to the Sisters at Alvernia but when I was thinking about entering, it seems that when we went to Sodality meetings, the Sisters would always ask my sister Mary if she ever thought of being a nun and she'd say, "Oh no. I want to get married." I would be sitting right next to her or standing next to her and they would never ask me. So, when I was making up my mind I talked to my mother only and I said, "Mother, there is one thing that bothers me. I know I want to be a Sister but Sister's never recognized it in me so I'm wondering if I'm mistaken on this." My mother's answer was, "Just because the Sisters have a habit on them, they know the will of God for you. Don't let that bother you."
So I went ahead and started to make plans. I went to Adrian and the first or second day I'm looking at the bulletin board ground over ground and holes that they have everywhere and they had a list of girls to pray for then for the possibility of being in the future Dominicans. There I found Mary Waldron on the list, so you can imagine my consternation. But, I kept saying to myself, "They don't know the will of God for me." That was my one salvation because my mother having instilled that image to me then, my desire was coming from God, it wasn't coming from anybody else. So, I went along with it and it was very accurate.
Sister Eileen: Now tell me about your time at Barry. When were you there?
Sister Agnes: I was there from 1948 through 1952.
Sister Eileen: Who were some of the Sisters there during your time?
Sister Agnes: Sister Marie Grace was the Prioress, Sister Rose Mary was the SuB Prioress, Sister Dorothy was the Dean, Sister Trinita, Sister Dorothy also taught Dramatics, Sister Agnes Cecile was there. Sister Marie Magom, Sister Thomas Mary, Sister Michael James, Sister Mary Xavior, I think she has a different name now.
Sister Eileen: That's a pretty good dialogue, what did you teach?
Sister Agnes: I taught the business subjects, Shorthand, Typing, Accounting, Office Practice and Business Law. I was also the Treasurer at the same time.
Sister Eileen: Tell me a little bit about the students. What kind of students did you have? Do you remember any of them?
Sister Agnes: I don't think I can remember their names. There was a girl from Miami Beach, her last name was Clark. I can't think what her first name was. She was a fairly good student. Isabelle Williams was there at my time. Meg Domingum was there. Sister Denise was there, a musician now.
Sister Eileen: Tell me a little bit more about campus activities. What about the relationship between the Sisters and the students?
Sister Agnes: I thought it was very, very good. We had several activities going on for them all the time. The relationship between the students and the Sisters seemed to be very, very good. I remember one day we were at an afternoon tea and the girls were in formals and Isabelle Williams had a friend with her and he said to her, "I really like your gowns."
They had a swim meet which is a big event there. They had, I don't remember what they call it now, some kind of a contribution on December 8th and it was held on the Chapel stairs. It was a very impressive ceremony. They had several lectures, some planned by the students, some planned by the faculty which were very good and I tried to attend all of them.
At the time there was a parish being established. St. Rose Parish in Miami Shores and they didn't have a church. They were trying to get established so they used our auditorium for their church maybe for about a year. I'm not sure of the length of time. I think that you asked me about that anytime that an activity we would have in the auditorium, especially dances. Girls would be in formals. They had a wonderful time and the dance usually lasted until one o'clock. The boys were ushered out at one. The girls would go up and take off their formals and come down in their jeans and help get the auditorium ready for Mass which would be at nine o'clock the next morning.
Sister Eileen: That was in Stella Matutina.
Sister Agnes: At Stella Matutina. I was just very much impressed how girls would just jump right in and be of assistance to the Sisters. It was not that you had to do it all by yourself. That impressed me greatly because, of course they realized we were doing something for them, but at the same time they were so good natured and so happy doing it, it was like it was a joy, after all the dancing.
Sister Eileen: What other things do you remember about Barry?
Sister Agnes: I remember they were adding on a library and we had to move the books out of the library. We had the whole student body form a line. I think Sister Marie Grace was at the head of organizing it. It was so well organized, everything was moved out of that library probably within a period of an hour and a half to two hours and brought to the next place. That again impressed me because there was no grumbling, no complaining, very cheerful doing it, and they just seemed to enjoy it.
Sister Eileen: Would you comment on Sister Dorothy?
Sister Agnes: Sister Dorothy was a gem. That's about all I can say for her. She just seemed to be very organized, very considerate of the students. I happened to be in the office of Sister Marie Grace. She was the Prioress, I was the Treasurer and my desk was located so that I could hear her conversation with girls, not that I wanted to, it was kind of a distraction when you were doing figures. I could be very much impressed even when a girl did something contrary to the right thing to be done. She was so considerate and so thoughtful. But at the same time she was very kind and really put the girls at ease. That didn't happen very often, but it did as in every school you know that there are sometimes problems come up and she just seemed to handle them very well.
Another person that was in that office that I didn't mention her name before was Sister Mary Ann Rooser. She was the registrar and she was also, I think, the Supervisor of the Florida schools because she seemed to be on the road Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, then she'd be back in school and her classes she would have on Thursday and Friday and take care of the registrar's work. An interesting thing happened with her. She used to take the people around the building and at the end of her tour, she would have a fresh pineapple that was grown on our trees and the people would be very grateful for getting that pineapple. I remember this one priest said to her, "Sister, where do you expect to go when you're living in such a place as this? This is luxury and you're living here." She, in a very determined voice, said, "Father, I work here to get up there." The two priests enjoyed it very, very much. They got a big kick out of that.
In those days we didn't have air-conditioning in our bedrooms. Well, I don't think we had air-conditioning anyplace on our campus. So, the windows were always open and one day there was a colored man doing the lawn just outside my window and an older man came along. He knew him and he said, "Hi Jake. How's things going." He said, "Fine" and he said something else to him. He said, "Are you working hard?" He says, "Not hard, but I am steady." So, that gave me a chuckle. There are many incidents that have happened.
I forgot to tell you that Sister Mary Ann would get up early in the morning and go around and collect the pineapples that had fallen from the trees and bring them over to her office and have them just outside there. She had them ready for visitors and I used to say, "Oh my gosh, why do you do that?" And she said, "Well, if I don't do it, our help will do it. It's so meaningful letting people go away with a friendly feeling when they have a fresh pineapple in their hands."
Sister Eileen: Where were these pineapple trees?
Sister Agnes: Around on the campus.
Sister Eileen: You don't remember where?
Sister Agnes: No, I don't remember where. We also had orange trees and grapefruit trees. That was a big thing on Founder's Day which was November 15th. We would always serve the guests, we had a big affair on November 15th which was Founder's Day each year. It was a big thing that they were serving, fresh pineapples and fresh oranges from our own trees. They used to make a big issue out of that.
Sister Eileen: What about Father Cyril Burke? Was he there then?
Sister Agnes: Oh, he was a gem. Father Cyril Burke was really a gem. He didn't believe that he should hear our confessions, but he would hear the confessions for the girls on Thursday night. We had a regular confessor from Coral Gables, but he frequently, frequently, very frequently would never show up. So, we had problems getting to confession. Sister would ask Father if he would hear our confessions. He would say,"Well, I'm not your confessor, I can't hear your confessions, but I'm in there every Thursday night hearing the girls confessions and if you come in, I can't turn you out." So, that's how we used to get to confession.
One time Sister Mary Jane and I were assigned to visit the schools in Florida. We had a movie film that Sister Trinita had set up. So we took that around to the schools and we were going to be gone the whole week. Sister Mary Jane loved her potatoes. So, she went to Father Burke and asked, oh, we were going on this trip during lent, and so she went to Father Burke and asked if we could be dispensed during the week while we went on the trip. Father said, "No, you can't be dispensed." He wanted to know the reason and she said, "Well, Father, we'll land at one school at lunch time and we'll get lunch probably and then we'll get to the next school and they will probably have their dinner at noon and we'll get a light supper. I have to have my potatoes." He says, "In that case, you go to a restaurant and get your dinner. You're entitled to one full meal a day, nothing else." I think she went back to him three times but he never could he give in. He said "No, and no way, you must keep the fast." Well, You won't believe it, but we went and positively we did not get a full meal at all, we were just missing the places. So, when she came back did she bite into Father Burke. But, he enjoyed it, he didn't think anything of it.
Sister Eileen: Did Father Burke take care of the Punch bowl at the dances? Somebody has told me that.
Sister Agnes: I don't know if Father did that. Maybe he did, you know at the dances when we were on the outskirts until you get in to the center. That was my one complaint, but I'd stand around talking to people and I would get a drink, not that I'd drink hard liquor, but I liked punch. When you talk for a while you get thirsty, we'd talk and talk and talk and nobody had thought to bring a glass to you and for some reason or another, I didn't feel afraid to go over and get a glass for myself. I think in those days I was quite nodding my head a little bit weary. If that happened now I wouldn't think anything of it.
Sister Eileen: Is there anything else you want to say about Barry that you recall?
Sister Agnes: Well, I'd like say my first days at Barry. We went down to Barry, there were seven of us on a night train. We left at 11:30 at night. We were going to travel all the next day and into the second day. I guess in those days it took about two and a half days to get to Florida. Well, they said the first time to get up in the morning to get dressed and call the Porter and get coffee from him. We were crowded. We had one room and a half I guess. And four were in the one room and three in the other. So I happened to be the one with four.
When we did get to Jacksonville, they didn't want to take the food. We had not enough food to take care of us the whole trip, but they didn't want to bring the food along with them so they gave it to the Porter because we were going to attend Mass in Jacksonville. We got off the train and went to Mass and I thought I was going to die. I got into church and I thought, "I can't stand this, I can't stand this it's so terrible." So we got out, we got back to the train station and got on the train for Miami and then I remember Sister Dorothy saying, "It's considerably cold here, isn't it?" I said, "Cool, I'm ready to die." She said, "Well, you'll get used to that."
We didn't land in Miami until 4:30. There was no food on the second train, nothing to drink on the second train outside of water in the wash room. When we got to Barry, Sister Marie Grace was in my crowd. At first she gave me a warm welcome. Then she had to take me around to see the building. I said, "Please, give me some food. I'm not ready to go around to see the building." So, then they hurried up dinner and we had a little to eat. The next morning, she sends me off to Key West with Father Freewell, a Dominican from Province College and his mother and sister. I didn't know him from a hole in the wall and Sister Cleophas who was going to be cooking. I met her on the train and probably said five words to her before we went on this trip.
So, Sister Cleophas was sitting in the front seat and Father's sister and mother and myself in the back seat. I didn't know if the man was really a priest or if he was a fake because of the nonsense that he carried on all the way to Key West. He'd say, "Does anybody want a drink or ice cream or something?" I'd say, "Yes, I do." He'd say, well watch for the next one and I'd be watching and watching and I'd see it and he'd step on the gas and go faster and faster. I said, "Father, there's one." He says, "You told me too late, you have to tell me earlier." Well, he went on with this nonsense all the way to Key West and all the way back. So, I was really glad to get home that night.
The next morning, Friday after breakfast, Mister Palacio was going to take me on a tour of the building and I was in Stella Matutina and just the first hallway, we were just going down the hallway and the telephone rings. Mr. Palacio answers it and they said to her, "Is Sister Agnes Patrice over there?" And she says, "Yes, I'm just taking her on the tour of the building." He says, "Oh no, tell her to get right over here. We need her to get over here to work." So, I went over to work, that was my second day there and I did not see the Campus until the Christmas vacation. That is the gospel truth. I could not believe it. The reason for that was, Sister Grace Alexis, preceeded me and she had been sick probably most of the year and so things were going on but not how they were supposed to be. So, between August and December, I just went to the office, went to Chapel for prayers, for meals, to bed, but I also had duty. I never had a chance to go and see the campus, but that was all right. I must say I thouroughly enjoyed my five years there. It was very interesting. The first hurricane was another incident.
Sister Eileen: What happened? What year?
Sister Agnes: Well, we had at least one every year I was there, but this was I think my first year there and they said there was going to be a hurricane. It had to be, it wasn't during the summer because the girls were there. It was the Fall of my first year and they said we were going to be tied up in the dormitory. We had plenty of food for our wing. Went into the kitchenette and took care of the girls during the hurricane, so I thought, that year I was sleeping in Maris Stella and I got the crew gathered in the dormitory kitchenette.
I thought I was going to be able to work. So, I climbed over all my letters trying to get caught up and I brought them over and I remember seeing Sister Mary Ann and she said to me, "What do you have those for?" I said, "I have to work around here. I can't sit around here for three days with nothing to do." She says, "Oh, well you're going to get a surprise." So, of course, when the hurricane came we had no lights. We couldn't do anything but sit around and talk to the girls and say prayers and keep watching to see that the palm trees were still up. There were palm trees around the entrance and the people in Maris Stella and Rosa Mystica were supposed to watch the palm trees. So, I was running out looking out the window and I'd see the palm trees going like this, but they got pretty low. That was my first experience with a hurricane.
After that I brought nothing with me. Nothing. The kids would have dice and we'd play dice and play cards when it was light enough to do it. Fortunately many hurricanes we had come during the night which was wonderful because the kids used to get panicky when we had a hurricane. But, there was nothing to do about it, we just had to stay inside.
Sister Eileen: Is there anything else? Any other anecdotes that you remember?
Sister Agnes: Oh, one other thing. This is a hurricane story, too. This must have been about on the second or third or fourth year that I was there. Monsignor Barry was going to have a movie at the show in Miami Beach. It was supposed to be at ten o'clock in the morning. We were all planning to go to that, but then the night before around 7 or 8 o'clock word came on the radio that there was a hurricane heading toward Miami. Everybody was beside themselves because they wanted to go to the show. So, Sister Marie Grace said, “Well, if you get everything all boarded up before everything's all set, I don't care whether you go to the show or not." So, we went to the show. When we got there and Monsignor Barry was there at the door welcoming us and he said, "Huh, hurricanes don't disturb you people, do they?" He was the one who had invited us and he would have been disappointed if we didn't show up, but it was very interesting. I always enjoyed Monsignor Barry also. We had good gardeners that took care of the grounds very, very well. When he'd come over and see it in such perfect order, he would make some comment about it because there would be papers over St. Patrick's and he'd be saying "Why don't the Sisters go over to St. Patrick's and take care of my property the way this is taken care of?" He was really kind of a funny man.
Another interesting thing about Barry, I told you that St. Rose's pastor had written to Mother Gerald for eight sisters and he didn't give Mother a number of students that would be in school. So, she wrote to Sister Marie Grace and said to get over to St. Rose and find out how many students they were expecting for them next year. In those days we didn't travel alone, so when Marie Grace had been given an order like that, she'd say, "Come on with me we're going over to St. Rose." So, we'd go over to St. Rose and she tried to get a figure out of the pastor and he would say, "Tremendous, tremendous." He would use the term tremendous, he would never give her a figure. So, we stayed there, we talked for a half hour, but never could she get a figure out of him. So, she went back to Mother to tell her. Then she got a telephone call from Mother to tell her progress and she asked why she couldn't get a figure. Until the place was dedicated, nobody ever knew how many students were going to be there, so Mother ended up and sent the eight Sisters and they had to live at Barry during that time because their convent wasn't ready. At the dedication of the church, we were there for the dedication and they had a dinner after the dedication, and some priest got up and said he wondered how the Monsignor was able to get eight Sisters, one for each grade when they had tried and they couldn't get it from Mother Gerald Barry and he says, "Well, the secret is this. Mother kept sending the Sisters from Barry over to get a number and I kept from refraining from giving them a number because I knew as soon as I gave them a number it would cut down on nuns." So, that's how we got sent.
Sister Eileen: Anything else that you can think of? What was your other duty besides teaching and being Treasurer.
Sister Agnes: Well, we had a cycle of duties. One time we were on inspector duty. Another time we'd be on study duty which would be in the evening. We would be in a dormitory wing and that study was from seven to ten Sunday through Thursday Night.
Then, if you weren't on study duty, you would be on late duty on Friday and Saturday night and that would be from 6:30 until 12 o'clock. We took turns cycling around. The first year I was in Maris Stella. Then the second or third year I was in Stella Matutina. The fourth year I was in Rosa Mystica. Sister Mary Jane was my partner for late duty. After dinner Friday nights, she'd say, "Now lets go over at a quarter after eleven to get a good lunch because the girls will start signing in at a quarter to twelve." She'd say, "Well we're going to have this that and lettuce." We'd have quite a good lunch.
After you had sat there from 6:30 to 11:15, all I wanted was to go to bed, so I'd say to her, "Jane, I think I'm just going to have a dish of cereal." And she used to get so mad because she had a ham sandwich with cheese and all this stuff. But, I couldn't eat that at that hour of night. All I wanted was bed. So, that was one experience there.
Another thing that I got a kick out of on study duty, the girls were not allowed to receive calls during the study and the telephone was very close to me at that time. But, a girl would answer it who was just across the hall in her dorm studying, and there was some boy wanting to talk to a girl. She'd say she couldn't talk because it was study time. He'd keep insisting and insisting that she'd talk. So, she'd come out and say, "Sister, I can't get rid of this boy. He wants to talk to so and so and she can't talk during study." I'd so no and so I'd go to the phone and he'd say to me, "Who are you? Are you a girl?" I'd say, "Well, I guess I can be classified as a girl, but I'm a little older." He said, "Oh, you must be a Sister." I said, "Yes I am." He said, "Well, thank you Sister, goodbye." We had many incidents like that with kids on the phone. I think that's about all I can think of.
Sister Eileen: Thank you very much Sister.