Seraphia Angela Walsh was born on Nov. 4, 1913 the first child of Anna Loretto Walsh, neé Cannon, and James Edward Walsh Jr., in Pontiac, Illinois. Her mother (my grandmother) was a devout Catholic – the middle name Loretto (with an “o”), is the name of an order of nuns. The family was fairly well-to-do, and later moved to Chicago, Ill. (Evanston, actually) where they lived when the stock market crash occurred in 1929.
Seraphia entered the Sisters of Charity, Blessed Virgin Mary order, in Mt. Carmel, Dubuque, Iowa on Sept. 8, 1930. She was 17. She had a reception at the convent before she graduated high school. She graduated from Immaculata High School in Chicago in 1930. It was was run by the SOC (also my mother’s Alma Mater.) According to convent records, my aunt had a:
Reception date of 3/19/30 (before she graduated)
First vow: 3/19/33
Final vow: 8/13/38
In 1933, records show she began teaching at Clarke College, a private Catholic institution for girls. She received her B.A. at Clarke, but records do not indicate her major. At some point in time, she earned a Master of Arts at University of Iowa (SUI). Update: I found a copy of her Ann_Walsh_Curriculum_Vitae!
Her education and accomplishments were summarized in her obituary:
In 1967 or 1968, we met my aunt in NYC. I believe she was making a connection at JFK to head to Europe and we met her for a brief visit. I vividly recall that when my mother saw her enter the concourse, my mother broke down in tears. It was the first time since being a little girl at the age of 5, that she saw her sister’s hair! “Oh my God, you are mom,” my mother exclaimed. My aunt was wearing a conservative blue suit, but exhibited a full head of curly, auburn hair. No more black and white – I too was amazed at the change! From the two photographs my mother had of my grandmother, I had to agree, my aunt (we called her “sister”) did favor my grandmother while my mother more closely resembled her father. My mother and her sister did not strongly resemble each other.
According to B.V.M. history, “A religious habit is not a part of the founding vision of the BVM community but is encouraged by church hierarchy whose thinking on the matter eventually prevails! Pope Pius XII (September 15, 1952) requests that women religious worldwide update their garb and BVMs oblige. A modified habit is introduced throughout the BVM congregation seven years later. Contemporary dress, a “return to the spirit of the founder,” follows in 1967.”
In 1978, my aunt visited Delaware for a family wedding. Below is the last picture we have of her. She flew out from San Francisco to attend. We didn’t see her again until she fell ill in 1980. My mother and I flew out to see her in Dubuque at the Marian Hall infirmary, over the Easter break in 1980. We knew she was terminal. We had a nice, short visit- as the emotional strain was very hard on my mother and her sister. Not long after we returned to Delaware, we learned she had passed away.
We later heard after the funeral that very few of her personal belongings remained behind in the residence she shared with two or three other sisters. Only a few pair of sensible shoes shared the closet with some neatly hung outfits. Her closet was not packed with “things.” A small, modest black and white television rested on a table. We realized that many of the gifts we had given her over the years, and nowhere to be found, were repurposed- given to others who needed them more, in keeping with her vows of modesty and simplicity. I think we always knew where our birthday and Christmas presents ended up!
She owned very little. But my aunt possessed a faith-based mission and an aesthetic and spiritual purpose that she both held onto privately and openly shared. She left this world richer than we could ever imagine, and she bequeathed to us a legacy of love and respect!