This month, the Servants of Mary, Ministers to the Sick, celebrated 100 years in America. Their arrival in New Orleans in 1914 was not planned. The Mexican Revolution, persecution of Catholics, the arrival of the US Navy and a soldier asking for water, are all part of the circumstances that brought these beautiful sisters to our shores.
In 1914, anti-religious forces in Mexico were conducting a violent campaign against Catholics, where the Servants of Mary had 22 convents. American military personnel were dispatched by President Woodrow Wilson (for reasons too complex to go into here) and occupied Vera Cruz. One day, an American soldier presented himself at the Servants of Mary convent in Vera Cruz, asking for drinkable water. This was the beginning of a beautiful relationship between the sisters and the soldiers. Seeing how tenderly the sisters cared for those with tuberculosis and other contagious diseases, they asked the sisters to come back with them to the United States, because there were no sisters there who cared for the sick in their own homes.
Mother Provincial recognized the hand of God in this request and readily agreed. Six sisters left their homeland on August 20, 1914, debarking in Texas and arriving in New Orleans one month later. The same bishop who originally welcomed the sisters to their arrival point in Texas, would be nursed by the sisters as the Archbishop of New Orleans on his deathbed. If you want to know the good communities, see where the priests go in their twilight years!
Currently, the Servants of Mary have six convents in the United States: in New Orleans (1914), Kansas City (1917), the Bronx (1931), Los Angeles (1928), Oxnard, CA (1961), and Newbury Park, CA (1964).
In New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan was the guest of honor at a luncheon commemorating the anniversary. In New Orleans, St. Anthony of Padua Church was filled to capacity for a Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by Archbishop Gregory Aymond. The Archbishop likened the sisters to the Good Samaritan who was the only one to care for the sick stranger when others passed by.
One gentleman in attendance, who cared for his dying son in 1986, said, “You’re at a state in your life where you get to the point where you almost can’t go any more. The first thing you know, they come in and take over, and they actually encourage you more than the patient. These are God’s chosen people. They are wonderful people.”
“The Servants of Mary without choice of person or place must be ready and willing to fly at once on the wings of obedience and love of God, to offer the service of charity without limits, gratuitous, and with no hope of a reward other than that promised by Heaven.” – St. María Soledad, Foundress