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
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
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
(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