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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

To Mother Adeline Boilvin, American RSCJ

A "double yoke" considered to be a stroke of good fortune!

October 18, 1843 ~  Mother Duchesne writes to Adeline Boilvin, RSCJ, "If humility is always desirable, generous humility is still more so.  God has willed it, so bend your shoulders to the double yoke of Superior and Mistress of Novices."

Taken from the book:  "Through the Year with Philippine Duchesne" and below from

Builders of the United States Province: Adeline Boilvin, RSCJ
This month we continue the series on “Builders of the U.S. Province” with a sketch of the life of one of Mother Duchesne’s earliest and best-loved pioneer associates, Adeline Boilvin.

Philippine wrote from Florissant in 1820: “We now have twenty boarding pupils, most of them docile.” Among the most docile was Adeline Boilvin. She was born September 24, 1813, in St. Louis of a Creole family engaged in the fur trader; she had some Osage blood in her veins.

Her parents both died while she was at school, and Philippine then gave the little girl special attention. She wrote later: “Obedient and diligent, Adeline obtained all the school honors. She was most attractive in appearance, but her good judgment saved her from vanity, and she was never light-headed. She had a beautiful voice, was gifted for music and learned the piano. She studied Spanish and grasped all the subjects taught in our school. In short, she was ready for anything.”

After her school years, Adeline went home to her grandmother, Madame St Cyr, but returned to Florissant as a postulant at the age of fifteen. When she received the habit she took the name Gonzague, after St. Aloysius Gonzaga. Philippine, then in St. Louis, wrote to her: “You, more than anyone else, can contribute to the fervor of the novitiate.” While still a novice, Sister Gonzague was sent to St. Louis to be formed by Philippine herself. After her vows, Philippine followed the young nun in letters that reveal the affectionate side of Philippine’s nature, as well as her unsparing and inspiring spiritual direction. She guided Gonzague through her probation, the period of preparation for final vows, which she pronounced on September 30, 1838.

Before long Philippine was begging Mother Barat to allow her to retire as superior in favor of Sister Boilvin, for “though quite young she has natural talents for governing a house.” The request was not granted, but when Elisabeth Galitzin came to St. Louis as representative of the superior general, she named Sister Boilvin as one of the foundation stones of the Society’s works in the eastern United States. In the same year that Philippine set out for the mission to the Potawatomi, 1841, Adeline Boilvin went to New York. Here she spent two years teaching music and French in the day school on Houston Street. She came to know Aloysia Hardey, the superior, who wrote to Mother Barat: “I gladly consult Mother Boilvin, for the spirit of God is in her.”

Mother Hardey chose Adeline to be superior and mistress of novices at McSherrystown, Pennsylvania, where things were going badly. The remote school was without resources, and several nuns and children died of tuberculosis within the first year. The new superior brought the sunshine of her optimistic vigor to the overshadowed house. Mother Duchesne continued to write: “If humility is always desirable, generous humility is still more so now.” And later: “Ever since I learned of the successive blows that have tested your resignation to God’s will, I have been occupied with you in prayer.”

McSherrystown was closed in 1846 in favor of a foundation in Philadelphia. Mother Boilvin led the community to Logan Square; the establishment was transferred within the year to the property on the Delaware River that became Eden Hall. She placed her stamp on Eden hall: a warmly welcoming and joyous spirit. Bishop Kenrick came on July 4 to give the students their first congé (a holiday at school, traditional at the Sacred Heart). There were outings from the parish when “piety and pleasure combined to drive silence from our solitude,” wrote the convent annalist.

Pupils were few, however, and debts mounted. Mother Boilvin’s health broke under the strain. In the summer of 1848 Mother Hardey sent her to the bracing air of Canada and left her in the care of Mother Amélie Jouve, Philippine’s niece. It was too late: Adeline Boilvin died on her thirty-fifth birthday, September 24, 1848. The Annals tell of the burial on the Île Jésus of “a child of Florissant and daughter of Mother Duchesne in pioneer days, Julie Adeline Boilvin, one of America’s most distinguished Religious of the Sacred Heart.”

From St. Charles, Philippine wrote in tribute: “For me Mother Gonzague was a support and a consolation, for the Society a valuable and edifying member, for God a docile child and a faithful spouse of the Sacred Heart. It is sweet and consoling to think about her.”

                                                   Adapted from Margaret Williams, RSCJ, RSCJ Newsletter, May 1988

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