Saturday, May 4, 2019

Sepia Saturday: Sisters

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

With apologies to my fellow Homo-Sepians, I am preparing for a big trip and will be gone for several weeks, so my participation in Sepia Saturday will be minimal at best. I just hope I remember to link my post!

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt has me thinking about my 1st cousin twice removed, Sadie Byrnes. She was the only daughter of my great-grandmother’s sister Elizabeth Sheehan and her husband Patrick Byrnes.
Julia Walsh and Sadie Byrnes
My grandmother Julie Walsh (left)
and Sadie Byrnes (right)
In 1928, at the age of 21, Sadie entered the convent of St. Dominic in Blauvelt, New York. Her religious name was Sister Vincent Carmel. I often wonder what Sadie’s life was like as a child. What was it about her upbringing that fostered the passion for service and set her toward her chosen path?
The Convent St. Dominic in Blauvelt
photo from Twitter

Sadie may have been drawn to the Dominican Order because of its presence where she lived in Manhattan. In fact, it is likely the school she attended was operated by Dominican sisters. The Dominican Order of Preachers was originally a cloistered group living a life of contemplation and prayer. Eventually the sisters felt called to serve the poor. They are known for their work in hospitals, schools, and orphanages.

The convent at Blauvelt, which is about 25 miles from Manhattan, has a history of providing teachers in various parts of New York City, not just Manhattan, but also the Bronx and Yonkers. They even sent teachers to Florida, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Illinois. Some taught the blind. Other Dominicans worked in hospitals, particularly with cancer patients. Still others served as house mothers in orphanages.

Sadie herself taught math and English in the parochial schools in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Yonkers. She served as principal and mother superior as well. Sadie was the principal at St. Catherine’s in Blauvelt when she made a visit to Virginia in 1969. She was in the company of at least two other Dominican sisters, but she made time to visit her cousins.
Sadie Byrnes 1969
Sr. Vincent Carmel
At the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia
Two Dominican sisters and my grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker
Sadie must have taken this bad photo.

And look - St. Dominic at Blauvelt has a Twitter page. I wonder what Sadie would think of that.

As Hamlet said, “Get thee to a nunnery” and if not there, then to Sepia Saturday.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. How neat is that, you have a relative so connected to this week's prompt picture! Nuns on Twitter does bring a smile, but why not? :) Hope you have a wonderful trip!

  2. Wonderful that you have these photos :)

  3. Bravo to Sadie. Seems she made a significant impact. It's not an easy life, IMHO.

    Bon voyage!

  4. Well, you probably win the prize for best match. To echo Susan, I'm sure she made an impact on many lives.

  5. I find it really interesting to learn about the life choices people make at an early age. Committing to a life of religious service is quite a bit different from say a career in military service or medicine for example. With Catholic priests and nuns it's a decision to belong to a select community that requires a young person to have a very mature temperament.

  6. I may not be contributing to SS these days...but really enjoy reading what you are posting. Your cousin as a Catholic Sister sounds like she had a very good life helping others.

  7. What a great post - perfect for the prompt. Have a great trip!

  8. And I am wondering what Sadie would think about the nun run?

    From the twitter page: Online registration for the 2019 Nun Run/Walk 5K is closing soon. Make sure to sign up before it closes. We hope to see you on Saturday, May 18th!