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Sister M. Charitas, I.H.M.

WHEN I TOLD ONE OF OUR SISTERS I WAS WRITING SOMETHING autobiographical and didn't know what to say, she reminded me: "You were born and you will die: you're sure of those two things in your life."

I was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1888, into a musical household, the first of seven children of James F. and Mary McNulty Loftus. Two other certainties I knew of very early: I wanted to write and I wanted to be a nun. My grandmother Loftus was a writer for the Irish World, and though she died when I was very small, I heard my father speak of her delight in writing and of her reading, without spectacles, till her death in her more than eightieth year. I heard him say that she was a well educated woman, a surprising fact considering the scarcity of opportunities for Catholic women in Ireland during her lifetime.

She, however, lived much of her time in Preston, England, where my grandfather Loftus had a market for dairy and farm products raised by the family in Ireland. My father was born in Preston. On comparing his baptismal record with the birth and baptismal dates of Francis Thompson, the poet, I found that they were identical as to time and town.

When my father was seven, his father being dead, my grandmother Loftus with her younger children joined her older boys who had previously come to this country. Her oldest son, Matthew, on becoming mayor of Scranton and interested in the development of the new city as well as in sympathy with the lot of former friends and neighbors in Ireland, invited them to come to his home and settle in the city where their circumstances could be improved.

My mother's family and others accepted the invitation. In the meanwhile, though his brothers were busy and satisfied with developing the new town, my father had preferred to go west. He lived for a while with his older brother near Shakopee, Minnesota, then roved further up and down the country till he eventually returned to Scranton to stay.

After he came back he met Mary McNulty, a dark-eyed brunette, whom he married in St. Peter's Cathedral. When I was born it was there that I was baptized, confirmed, and made my first Holy Communion. I attended school at St. Cecilia's across the avenue, opposite the cathedral. The school was a private academy for resident and day pupils conducted by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

When I graduated from St. Ceeilia's, I was advised by the Sisters to take a course at the State Teachers' College in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania; which I did. I had taken music during all my school years so I continued to take it at Normal where I received a music and a normal diploma when I finished the course.

I was urged to make a career of music. I belonged to a light-hearted family with music always in the air. My father and his brothers had fine voices. My father played the violin and cornet in Father Matthew's and other city bands. My brothers inherited musical ability. One of them, James W., became a priest of the Scranton diocese and as a member of the diocesan priests' choir was selected by Bishop O'Reilly for European voice training and future direction of the choir. He did not go, due to several circumstances. As he died in his forty-fourth year, his twentieth in the priesthood, he would not have used the course even if he had taken it.

I liked music and taught it, but it was not my chief preference, even though I had abundant musical stimulation of many kinds. For ten years at St. Cecilia's, my cousin, Sister Matthew, was one of my teachers. Another gifted cousin, Sister Paulus, was a music teacher in the Philadelphia community of our Congregation. Still another cousin, Father Edmund Langan, rector of St. John's parish in Pittston, and his brother John were also gifted with exceptional musical ability. Surrounded by a family of singers and musicians, I, poor lark with a small voice, would peek typewriter keys.

I taught arithmetic at Robert Fulton grade school (old Number 9) in Scranton and English at Technical high school for a couple of years, during which time I felt a strong urge to go to a liberal arts college and a stronger urge to enter the convent. I knew, too, that I should teach till I had enough money to satisfy both urges. The time element became a problem; so I did clerical work in the summertime in the Scranton branch office of Collier's, and I typed letters and statements in the office of the International Correspondence Schools.

Then Mother Cyril, superior-general of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, settled my future plans. I went to the College of New Rochelle where I received my A.B. after training to satisfy my heart's desire in writing with English as a major. The English teachers at New Rochelle were special and the saying was true: "Everyone at New Rochelle writes."

I had another desire filled when I received the habit and after two years in the novitiate was professed as a Sister, Servant of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The new person, Sister M. Charitas, was trained by a very dear novice-mistress, herself a music teacher, for the role of a teacher of music.

After profession, I was assigned to classroom teaching, first in high school subjects and finally in English at Marywood College. In all, I have lived on the Marywood campus for forty-five years. Except for travel through many cities in the United States and Canada for study and occasional trips, I have dwelt on a one-mile road all my life, during the first twenty years at one end of the road under the eye of my mother and the next forty-five years at the other end of the mile under the eyes of a religious mother-general. Even without a vow of stability, I would thus become a recluse, which I am naturally and by design.

I went to summer schools, to Catholic University, to Notre Dame, to Columbia and to New York University. Finally I acquired an M.A. and a Ph.D. at Fordham, meanwhile doing all the writing necessary for acedemic, social and moral obligations, as well as doing publicity work for the Marywood schools, directing their publications, and writing community histories. Of these last, four books have been published: Pastoral in Blue (1946), the story of Mother M. Casimir, superior-general and builder of Marywood College; Truth in the Morning (1948), the history of Mother Cyril's marvelous work for her community and her guidance of two other communities, the Sisters of SS. Cyril and Methodius and the Sisters of St. Casimir; Matins in a Leafy Wood (1950), the story of the beginnings of Marywood College and its foundress, Mother M. Germaine; and Consider the Violets (1953), the story of St. Ceeilia's and of Mother Mary, the first elected superior-general of our Scranton Congregation.

Short stories, poems and oceasional artieles which I wrote along the years were published in The Magnificat, The Little Flower Magazine, The Rosary, the Los Angeles Tidings, The Little Missionary, and in others. For many years such contributions were published frequently by Nic Gonner of Dubuque in his Catholie Daily Tribune.

And lastly, two devotional books. The association of Our Lady, the Mystical Rose, in her earthly appearances wilth the queen of flowers forms the unifying theme of Lovey is the Rose (1954). And Hot Embers (1948), aimed to honor especially Our Lady and her Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux, from St. Teresa of Avila, one of our community patrons. This book was inspired by and dedicated to a lifelong friend and spiritual mentor, Mother Franeis of the Five Wounds, formerly prioress of Carmel, Philadelphia, but now of Mobile, Alabama.

I have a jubilee engagement to keep with her in person and in the near future, unless before that time the last certainty of my life in this world comes to pass.

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