As you can read from the cover of this issue’s edition of the Mother Angeline Society Bulletin, the new Mother Angeline Heritage Center was dedicated on May 16th. It was an exciting and genuinely moving day, with numerous sisters, supporters of the sisters’ ministries, various clergy, and members of the McCrory family all present to celebrate the completion of this impressive facility. The heritage center is intended primarily to tell Mother Angeline’s story; a story of how a young girl from Ireland responded to a divine invitation to start a congregation dedicated to the care of the elderly and infirm; a story of how the grace that initially inspired Mother Angeline continues to live on in the congregation, the sisters, and facilities that the sisters staff and sponsor. I imagine the task of trying to capture the life and vision of Mother Angeline must have been daunting for those responsible for designing the heritage center. Mother accomplished so much in her life; what to choose to include in the exhibits and what to leave out? How to communicate how this young Irish immigrant was able to discern the “signs of the times” and establish a new kind of place that looked after the working and middle class aged in a comfortable and home-like environment? And probably most importantly, how to show that all through Mother’s life, it was her unswerving trust in God and His Providence that made possible what she is credited with.
In walking through the Heritage center, there are numerous displays which recount Mother’s story in photographs and documents, with explanatory notes. There is a large stained glass window which shows the expansiveness of Mother’s accomplishments, with images of several of the nursing homes she founded, as Mother is surrounded by her six initial companions. A particularly poignant part of the Heritage Center is the recreation of Mother Angeline’s room and office at Avila (the sisters’ Motherhouse). As we gaze upon a simple bed, a simple desk, and a few religious images, we are reminded that Mother Angeline lived her life of sanctity in the most ordinary of circumstances.
The high point of the Heritage center is found by walking outside. As one steps out the door, one finds a life-sized statue of Mother Angeline sitting on pew, facing a monstrance. The sisters chose this pose for Mother rather than a traditional statue pose ((i.e. standing) because the sisters who knew her personally collectively remember Mother spending many hours, sitting in chapel, looking adoringly at the tabernacle. The day of the dedication, sister after sister, said, “Oh yes! I remember Mother always in chapel ” and then said that this statue perfectly captured Mother’s spirit. This statue is also a powerful sign and reminder that Mother found her strength, her consolation, her peace in the Eucharist. Never did she believe that the success of the congregation she founded depended only upon her skills and abilities. Rather she entrusted everything to God, and continually called upon the assistance of the saints, mostly especially Mary, Mother of Carmel.
When the Heritage Center is open to receiving visitors, I recommend spending some time here as both an educational and spiritual experience. I am confident that the spirit of Mother Angeline we all felt on the day of center’s dedication, you also will feel.