The first impressions were all that could be desired. …As the sisters were turning their faces towards Nashville, the sun was disappearing behind the western hills and the crimson glow from the sky every moment revealed new beauties. …By the oil lit lamp in a back room they read, made plans, talked much about what good works might be done, but especially did they have recourse to Mary Help of the Weak through one of the Church’s favorite devotions, the Holy Rosary. Many a Hail Mary was sent up that night. (Mother Frances Walsh, Annals of St. Cecilia Congregation, 1860-1881)
For Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, devotion to the Blessed Mother has its roots in the very foundation of the Congregation in 1860. Foundress Mother Frances Walsh records in her Annals many invocations for assistance made to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Especially vivid memories mark that bleak night the four foundresses spent after having arrived in Nashville before the convent was ready. They had no Blessed Sacrament, no chapel, no furniture and no light except for one oil lamp. Lacking beds, the four sisters were unable to sleep that first night and had “recourse to Mary Help of the Weak, through the Church’s favorite devotion, the Holy Rosary. Many a Hail Mary was sent up that night” (Annals 8).
Mother Frances invoked Mary, Help of the Weak when she was made superior (Annals 38). A series of disasters followed the little community, one upon the other. The convent was nearly sold due to bankruptcy. Even when the Bishop came to the rescue and bought it, the sisters were still burdened with a huge debt after the Civil War. The Bishop decided to allow the sisters to return to Ohio with their debts unpaid, with plans to have another congregation take their work. Two of the original foundresses left for a new apostolate in Washington, D.C. All seemed to be lost: the convent to be sold, the sisters beginning to leave. The remaining sisters made a thirty day novena of the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary to honor and beseech St. Catherine and St. Dominic to join their prayers of intercession to those of the Blessed Mother. Through Our Lady’s intercession, the crisis was averted, and St. Cecilia Convent remained our home.
Devotion to Our Lady remains as much a part of our life today as it was during those early years. Daily prayers, Rosaries, and remembrances stir up in our hearts a desire to imitate the qualities of this Virgin and Mother. We continue to have recourse to her powerful intercession, begging that she will continue to intercede for us before her Son.
Mary, Help of the Weak, pray for us.