TREASURES FROM OUR TRADITION
Sometimes the heat of summer translates into unrest in a city’s streets. In the summer of 1834, popular sentiment against the presence of the Ursuline nuns near Boston reached a boiling point. An influx of Irish laborers had an impact on the work force in the city, and a deep-seated resentment against Catholics fueled the fire. The nuns supported themselves with a school, and most of the young women students were drawn from patrician Protestant families. Nevertheless, rumors fed by the saga of an unhappy junior sister and a later episode of a senior sister fleeing the place increased tensions. The city’s selectmen were given a tour by the disgruntled sister, who by then had returned, and found all things in good order. That didn’t please the mob, and the mother superior didn’t help matters when she said that the bishop had platoons of Irishmen at hand, twenty thousand strong, to do marauders harm. By August 11, the convent had been invaded, ransacked, and burned to the ground. The nuns fled to Maine and Canada.
The diocese attempted to recover losses, but the commonwealth offered only ten thousand dollars, which was rejected. Years later, a legislative bill for the state to rebuild the convent and school was roundly defeated. Yet the enterprise of Catholic education had great resilience, and in 1946, more than a hundred years after the riots, the Ursulines returned to Boston to re-establish an academy that endures to the present day.
—Rev. James Field, Copyright © J. S. Paluch Co.
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