Among the many letters that Agnes Tully Stevens saved over the years has been a number from local church-affiliated leaders who made a difference in her life. One such role model for Agnes in her younger years was a woman whom she called Sister Mary Patricia. Whatever the relationship was between them, or how it began, I don’t know for sure. I can only glean impressions from what has been left behind.
The fact that, once married and a mother, Agnes chose to name her only daughter after this woman is a significant statement of the older woman’s importance in her life.
We’ve been introduced to this namesake before, in the post about Agnes’ daughter (who eventually came to be known simply as “Pat”). There, in that post, we learned that Sister Mary Patricia was involved in the field of education. Perhaps it was during the earlier portion of her tenure in this occupation that she first came to know Agnes. The acquaintance grew into a lifelong relationship, witnessed by the invitation kept among Agnes’ papers to attend Sister Mary Patricia’s Golden Anniversary of her religious profession—a celebration occurring in 1950.
From that invitation, I learned that Sister Mary Patricia’s surname was Dawson. Yet, perhaps owing to the custom of some as they enter religious orders to change their given names, I have not been able to find any genealogical record of her family connections. I did find one article published by someone with that same name—and same field of endeavor—in a 1927 journal. Other than that, Sister Mary Patricia Dawson remains a mystery to me: a woman whose influence meant a great deal to someone in our family.
The undated letter below must have been written either upon hearing Agnes’ news of her approaching marriage, or following the birth of her firstborn son. It is difficult from the context of the letter—and the changes in language usage in the ensuing one hundred years—to determine which is the better guess. This could put the date of the letter some time before mid-June of 1912—in the case of the former celebration—or during May of 1913.
Whichever the case, undoubtedly, Agnes must have brought her “darling boy” by to meet the respected mentor as soon as possible.
My own dearest Agnes: —
Doubtless you have come to the conclusion and justly so, that I have forgotten you and your new found love but I assure you such has not been the case. I have only been unavoidably detained in adding my measure of joy to your cup which must be full to over flowing in the possession of your new treasure. You have been daily in my thoughts and many an aspiration has been breathed to the Sacred Heart. Closing Exercises and Final Exams are in vogue and you can readily imagine my leisure moments.
Bring your darling boy to see me as soon as you can. Have you heard that Elinor has a dear baby girl—
Yours same as always—
Sister Mary Patricia