The MSC General Archive is housed in the Curia on the outskirts of Rome. It stores a wealth of primary sources on the life and work of Mother Cabrini and the early Sisters. In March, Cabrini historian, Dr Maria Williams, paid a visit to the archive as part of the research for her book on the secondary education provision established by Mother Cabrini, her successor Mother Antoinetta della Casa and the early Sisters between 1880 and 1930. The archive is private. Sister Maria Eliane Azevedo da Silva, General Superior, kindly gave permission for the visit.

In her days at the archive, Maria was assisted by archivist, Sister Giuditta Pala MSC. Sister Giuditta’a encyclopaedic knowledge of the sources and of MSC history proved invaluable. Maria studied many photographs of the early schools and orphanages. They included views of the buildings, external recreation areas, classrooms, and dining areas. Pupils were shown at work with Sisters assisting them. Subjects evident included geography, physics, chemistry, biology, embroidery, dressmaking, and cookery. There are many collections of ‘Memorie’. These include both ‘Memorie della casa’ or house annals as well as sisters memories. They give interesting details of important events, such as end of term celebrations, as well as numbers of pupils and teaching sisters. A most useful source was a bound set of year books covering 1926-1931, from the Istituto Madre Francesca Saverio Cabrini, Via Altrovandi, Rome. These have a wealth of details on the school, including examination entries and results, and students progressing to university. This was most unusual for girls in the 1920s!

Maria left with a wealth of material for her book. She is most grateful to Sister Elaine and Sister Giuditta. Her thanks also go to the Cushwa Centre at the University of Notre Dame for the Mother Theodore Guerin Research Grant which funded her travel to Rome. Cushwa Center announces research funding recipients for 2024 | News | Cushwa Center | University of Notre Dame

written by Maria Williams

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