Monday, September 17, 2012

A Young Girl Signs a Promise

When Agnes Tully Stevens was only four years of age, her older sister Mary Monica—or Mae, as she was often called—must have gone through some event which inspired her to think seriously about personal commitments and her future. I can see now, from research, that she had some cousins—and possibly an uncle or two—who chose a lifestyle having such an impact on their health as to possibly influence Mae’s opinion on the matter. But I can’t say for sure. 

Regardless of whatever happened leading up to November, 1892, fourteen year old Mae Tully chose to respond to an appeal from the Paulist Fathers who spoke at her church. Mae Tully took a pencil and signed a “Total Abstinence Promise” at Saint Anne’s Church in Chicago, promising to avoid all “intoxicating drinks” for “10 years from now.”

The card itself, most likely written by the Paulist Fathers, included what would now be dismissed as a stilted and old-fashioned approach: a list of reasons why such action should be taken. I can hardly image any substance abuse specialists adopting this hundred year old methodology today. And yet, considering all the grief and tragedy endured by the family of Mae Tully McGonagle’s own nephew, the card hardly misses the mark for accuracy.

Total * Abstinence * Promise
At the Mission given by the Paulist Fathers
In The
St. Anne’s Church, Chicago
November, 1892.

            For the love of God and for the good of my soul, I promise to abstain from intoxicating drinks.
                        Name ……………
I feel that by making this promise I can encourage others, who may need it, to do the same.

I have noticed that those who make and keep such promises are better Christians, have better health, longer life, and pleasanter homes than habitual drinkers.

I cannot afford to be constantly drinking. I have a family to support, and they need all I can earn.

I must do some penance for my sins; such self-denial is pleasing to God and meritorious for me.

I am afraid of giving scandal to my children or to others; should any one by my example become a drunkard, what could I answer in the day of Judgment?

Drunkenness is a great cause of sin, cruelty, and crime; I intend to avoid even the occasion of it.

Once I was a victim of the drink habit. I am resolved never again to submit to its slavery.

When the demon of discord caused by drink enters the house, the Angel of Peace departs; I prefer dwelling with the Angel of Peace than with the demon of discord.


  1. I wonder if she "stuck to her promise"?

  2. I actually like that they called it " the demon of discord " for alcoholism .No doubt , a lot of the slogans are antiquated in the Catholic ways of fighting for sobriety.

    These stories about these families & folks are so good , by the way . I spent all morning reading them.


    1. Magda, thanks so much for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed reading here. Every family has stories to tell. I know you want to preserve your family's stories in what you are writing, too.

  3. Jacquie , thanks for the welcome on my site too !

    1. You're welcome, Magda. I look forward to following your work there.

  4. A fascinating relic of the past. While the language is antiquated, the reasons are timeless.

    1. Yes, Wendy, they are timeless reasons. It's ironic how this concept was held fast by one generation in the family, but turned out to be so different in the inter-generational translation.

  5. Jacqi,
    I have been sitting here for several hours now reading threw your blogg. How interesting it is...On this entry I know that when I was in high school about 26 years ago I signed a paper at prom time saying I would not drink...In the schools around our area they have a thing that they do to encurage the kids not to drink and drive...lots of teens of today sign them...
    But I am sure back then it was not the same case...It is good to know that a young girl who has gone threw so much signed something like that. I wonder if she held that promice?

    1. It's interesting to see all the programs aimed at youth in our own times, encouraging them to heed such cautions. As an outgrowth of the tragedies that befell Mae's nephew (my father-in-law), my own husband often speaks quite passionately on this subject in high schools locally. I have no idea whether Mae, herself, kept that promise, but I have a feeling she kept true to its intent over her lifetime.

      Lisa, thanks so much for your comment, and for spending some time here, reading. Glad you have found it interesting!


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