God bless America!

The streets of Milwaukee around the time of the sisters’ arrival.

One-hundred nineteen years after our nation’s independence, the first Salvatorian Sisters arrived in Milwaukee, Wis. Three, Sisters Raphaela, Walburga and Agnes were missioned from Rome to provide in-home nursing care to Milwaukee residents. Sister Raphaela documented their experience with the festivities of America’s Independence Day in the Chronicles. Ninety years later, Sister Margaret Shekleton, SDS excerpted the account in her book Bending in Season: History of the North American Province of the Sisters of the Divine Savior – 1895 to 1985.

“Now we are on the soil of our new country. Many thoughts filled our minds as we faced a future unknown and uncertain. We knew only that social nursing was to be our activity, and Milwaukee the scene of our labor, and that for the time being we were to stay with the Franciscan Sisters until we could provide a convent ourselves. This trip by rail from New York to Milwaukee was uneventful. On Thursday, July 4, shortly before midnight we arrived.

“From New York, we sent a telegram to the Sisters with whom we were to stay asking them to meet us at the station. But as we alighted from the train we couldn’t see anyone there. What a disappointment! At first a very heavy feeling of being strange and in a strange land overwhelmed us. But remembering that we were apostolic workers, we took our suitcases and grips which contained all our possessions and walked toward the door wondering and asking ourselves where “Greenfield” could be. Just then a small, bearded man appeared. We hoped in our hearts he was sent by the Sisters. It was true. The late hour, it was now nearly one o’clock in the morning, together with the holiday celebration with its frightening display of fireworks did not permit the Sisters to be in the street.“ (Chronicles)

A Milwaukee electric street car, circa 1890s

The three Sisters arrived dazed and bewildered at the fireworks and the hilarity in the streets as Milwaukeeans celebrated Independence Day. Feeling out-of-place and foreign, the three pioneers and their trusted guide rode on the electric car to Greenfield Park, the city limits of Milwaukee’s south side. It was here with Mothers Alexia and Alfons at St. Joseph’s Convent that Archbishop Katzer had arranged accommodations for them until they could find a home of their own. (Bending in Season by Sister Margaret Shekleton, SDS, Copyright © 1985 Sisters of the Divine Savior)

by Kaitlin Seebruch, Communications Intern

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