Miracle on 18th Street: Sisters, Servants celebrate 100th

Sister Lucero Garcia (left), mother superior of the local Sisters, Servants of Mary, and Sister Catherine Bussen, director of vocations, pose beside a poster of “The Light of Soldedad,” a film about their foundress, St. Maria Soledad Torres y Acosta. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JOE BOLLIG

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Somewhere near the Grotto of Our Lady, located in the backyard of the Sisters, Servants of Mary provincial house here, there is a little treasure buried since the early 1920s.

Don’t bother looking for it.

Even the Sisters don’t know exactly where it is. And they aren’t anxious to find it. They figure it’s supposed to stay there.

The “treasure” — perhaps only a corroded lump by now — is a Miraculous Medal buried by one of the early Sisters.

At one time, the site of the provincial house at 800 N. 18th was an open field. The Sisters needed to build a new home, and this was one of two sites they were looking at.

It was also their favored site. But it cost too much.

So one day, the mother superior gathered her Sisters and trooped them off to the site for a picnic.

As they discussed the remote likelihood of procuring the property, one Sister was inspired to bury her Miraculous Medal on the site — and encouraged all of them to pray earnestly that God grant them the property. And that’s exactly what they did.

Later, they and their benefactor Lee M. Sedgwick made another inquiry and discovered, mysteriously, that the price had dropped.

He bought the Sisters the property. The groundbreaking and blessing took place in 1924, and the Sisters moved into the newly completed building in 1925.

Sedgwick, a modest and pious convert to Catholicism, never took credit for his role. The only time he entered the new building was when they brought his body there in 1935, for his funeral in the chapel.

This year, the Sisters, Servants of Mary are celebrating the 100th anniversary of their order’s foundation on Nov. 14, 1917, in Kansas City, Kansas.

The observance of the centennial actually began with a Mass on Nov. 14, 2016, and continued with special Masses for the community on the 14th of every month. But a special series of celebrations will be held from Nov. 8 to 14.

The Sisters, Servants of Mary were founded in Madrid on Aug. 15, 1851. Father Michael Martinez Sanz shared his idea of Sisters who would care for the sick and poor in their homes. St. Maria Soledad Torres y Acosta was inspired by this priest to gather six other women and start the religious order.

Eventually, the order sent Sisters overseas to Cuba in 1871, Puerto Rico in 1887 and Mexico in 1896.

Sedgwick, a wealthy railroad executive from Kansas City, Missouri, was vacationing in Puerto Rico in 1916, when he learned of the Sisters. He was so impressed that he invited the Sisters to establish a presence in the Kansas City area.

At the time, there was a brutal anti-Catholic campaign by the government in Mexico. All the convents were closed. Some Sisters went to Spain, but U.S. soldiers in Mexico during an armed intervention in 1914 gave the Sisters safe passage — first to Galveston, Texas, and later to New Orleans.

Sister Orosia Cabezas and Sister Amelia Lopez — two refugee Sisters from Mexican convents — came north to the Kansas City area. Bishop John Ward of the Diocese of Leavenworth gave his blessing to their foundation in Kansas City, Kansas.

The Sisters moved their convent three times as their numbers grew, permanently settling on 18th Street. It became the provincial house for the Province of Mexico and the United States in 1928.

A few things have changed over the years. Now, the Sisters receive their nursing training at Kansas City Kansas Community College. Their certifications are: CNA (Clinical Nursing Assistant), LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse), and RN (Registered Nurse). Today, the 27 Sisters only offer care at night.

In addition to being the provincial house, the 18th St. convent also serves as a house of formation for newly professed Sisters.

Besides this November’s events, the Sisters hope to offer a public viewing of a film about their foundress, St. Maria Soledad Torres y Acosta. The film, “The Light of Soledad,” debuted in Spain last year and will eventually be on DVD. No date or location of a viewing in the Kansas City area has been determined as of yet, but the Sisters are hopeful.

Interested persons can see the trailer on the Sisters, Servants of Mary website.

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