CSJs Featured in St. Louis Exhibit

The Catholic Sisters: Spirit of St. Louis exhibit at the Central Library featured photos and artifacts from yesterday and today. It also included a display of a habit and current-day dress from the Daughters of Charity.

For 200 years and counting, Catholic sisters have had an enormous impact on the St. Louis community. A recent exhibit at the St. Louis Public Library was a testament to the sisters’ rich history and continued presence in the region.

“Catholic Sisters: The Spirit of St. Louis,” on display throughout March and April at the Central Library in downtown St. Louis, showcased photos and artifacts representative of sisters’ various ministries yesterday to today.

The exhibit was a collaborative effort between the library and the Communicators for St. Louis Sisters, a group of communications professionals that represent 15 St. Louis congregations, including the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.

“The story of Catholic sisters is woven into the fabric of the St. Louis community. This exhibit allowed visitors to step into that story,” says Jenny Beatrice, director of communications for the Sisters of St. Joseph.

That story began in 1818 when Bishop DuBourg invited the first sisters from the Society of the Sacred Heart to come teach the Native Americans in the area. Dozens of congregations of sisters followed to teach, open and run hospitals and orphanages and minister to immigrant groups, among other ministries, to serve the St. Louis community. Today, nearly 60 congregations of women religious are present in the area.

Visitors experienced captivating photos of the sisters’ contributions as leaders in education, healthcare, spiritual guidance and social services as well as their role as pioneers for social change. Artifacts of interest included a display of habits, a novice crown made of hair, corn husk shoes and a trunk used for sisters while traveling on missions. Many books were added to the library’s special collection as well.

“What a delight,” says Sister Rita Marie Schmitz of province leadership. “The artifacts brought back many wonderful memories … My heart is filled with awe and gratitude.”

The exhibit also offered an interactive space where people could leave messages for the sisters. Even more interactive was the presence of sister docents who volunteered their time to be hosts for the visitors. Many old connections were realized and new ones were formed. “It was a great opportunity for people to get to know who the sisters are today, whether they remember them from their school days or just met a sister for the first time,” Jenny says.

Overall, the exhibit provided the space for people to celebrate the sisters’ presence, recall memories, and to learn more about the impact women religious have had in meeting the needs of the people of St. Louis for 200 years—an impact that will continue to influence generations of St. Louisans into the future.

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