From Western Pennsylvania to West Hunan, China: The Sisters of Saint Joseph, Baden, Pennsylvania in Yuanzhou.
You are looking at one of the few enhanced color photographs in the Passionist China Collection. But even more interesting is that the young Chinese girls in the photo appear to be dressed as Native American Indians. Feathers adorn their headbands and they wear print dresses. The children are from Yuanzhou 沅州 (in 1935 renamed Zhijiang 芷江).
In 1926, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Baden, PA. assigned the first four Sisters to join the Passionist mission in West Hunan. Others followed in 1927, the 1930s and 1940s. In all sixteen Sisters served in China.
Revered among the Baden-based Sisters is Teresa Joseph Lung (not shown in photo), a Chinese woman who became a Sister in 1946 and decided to remain in China after the Communists gained control in 1949. To the surprise of everyone, after the social and political Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), she made contact with the Sisters in PA in 1980 and renewed her vows again in 1983. She died as a Sister of Saint Joseph, Baden on July 25, 1994 in Nanjing, 南京 China.
In this photo, from left to right, with their years of service in China noted, is Sister Christina Werth, (1926; 1927-1942), Mother Genevieve Ryan, (1927-1934), Sister St. Anne Callahan, (1926-1933; 1936), and Sister Magdalena Ivan, (1930-1944). I suspect that these Sisters of Baden, PA dressed these children in these costumes to be in a school play. This would have been a big event. Perhaps to celebrate a United States holiday like Thanksgiving? Or maybe perform an event or play as part of a religious ceremony to coincide with Easter. The clues might be found in the missionaries’ letters. Certainly, the attire of these Chinese girls is different than the simple uniforms that were in vogue during the 1930s. Indeed this was a special day and event.
Not pictured in this photo, but important to remember as well, is Sister Clarissa Stattmiller. This Sister of Saint Joseph Baden arrived in West Hunan in 1926. Due to the 1927 military conflict in West Hunan she and her fellow Sisters had to evacuate with the Passionists to Chongqing, 重慶 which was then part of Sichuan 四川 province. Sadly she died on July 21, 1927 from disease contracted during the journey. She was buried in the graveyard of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary in Chongqing. When I lived in Chongqing from 2007-2008 I tried to find the graveyard but was unsuccessful. She left a diary of her short time in China.
Women’s History Month 2013 allows us time to remember these Sisters who went from Western Pennsylvania to West Hunan and to reflect on their interaction with the local Chinese people.
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To support this project, Fr. Rob and Passionists must undertake fundraising for $15,000 per year to cover part of his living expenses.
If you like this photo please consider supporting this effort by making a gift of $25 or $50-the cost of a meal at a Chinese restaurant. But please know that no gift is too small. Make your make out your check toPassionist History Ministries. Mail it to:
Fr. Rob Carbonneau, C.P.
1075 Ellis Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
Fr. Rob Carbonneau, C.P.
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