Mother Caroline Friess, SSND

Mother Caroline’s Love for Mary

Mother Theresa's favorite Marian shrine was Our Lady of Altoetting, a Black Madonna revered for more than 500 years. Photographer: Hildegard Poletty
Mother Caroline loved Mary under the title of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Image used with the permission of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C.)

In a report to the Louis Mission Society, March 15, 1856, Mother Caroline Freiss, SSND states: “As already mentioned we have more than 4,000 children who are taught and cared for by the mission Sisters (the Order numbers 84 members) in 18 schools and four orphanages. These missions are placed principally under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and, therefore bear her lovely name.” The challenges of educating American children, including Protestant children, and the power of prayer are narrated. She desired that American children learn to honor Mary by saying the rosary, celebrating May devotions and singing the Litany of Loretto.

Several letters tell of Mother Caroline’s travels and Mary’s presence in her joys and sufferings. Her desire that the Sisters follow Mary was evident in Mother Caroline’s encouragement to embrace Mary’s poverty. In the solemn profession of her role as Commissary General the celebrations give evidence of Mother Caroline’s deep love for Mary.

Mother Caroline’s love for Mary, the Eucharist, and international unity seem to be represented in the grape arbor that was planted at Elm Grove in 1886, just six years before her death. Laying down one’s life, much as grapes are crushed to provide wine for others, represents the goal of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Let your heart be stirred by artistic images from Elm Grove.

This love for Mary and dedication to the Trinity and the Church are seen throughout the congregation. In successive generations this lived expression is exemplified in the education of women, youth and the poor, encouraging them to believe that God who is mighty can do great things in them as in Mary. For many years SSND students received a blessing at the end of the school day: “My dear students, I commend you to the Holy Spirit, through the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and I entrust you forever to her blessed hands.” (Holy Rule of 1865)

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