A Boy Named Jack
Once upon a time there was a young boy named Jack who lived with his parents in Joliet, Ill. On a table in the sitting room of their home there was a small stack of books important to their family that his father would read to Jack once in a while. One of the books was a “Forget Me Not Album” that belonged to Jack’s paternal great-grandmother, Bridget Schmalz. In the late 1800’s, such albums were a sign of Victorian social civility. When guests would come “calling” to people’s homes, the hostess invited them to sign the “Forget Me Not Album.” Visitors would write simple poems or flowery expressions of appreciation, date their entries and sign their names. As Jack’s father read this special book to him, he also described the background of these people from “around town” who had signed the book; the town was Jacksonville, Ill.
Historian meets His History
Fast forward 30+ years and Jack Heneghan is working with the Dominican Sisters of Springfield at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Ill. Early in his employment, the principal, Sister M. Alberta Lawless, OP, appeared at his office door, handed him a book entitled Lest We Forget and said: “Since you are a historian I thought you might enjoy reading the history of our community.” In Lest We Forget, Jack read about how this group of Dominican Sisters, based in Springfield, had their beginnings in Jacksonville, Ill. It wasn’t long before he came across names like Sisters Josephine, Mary Agnes, Cecilia, and Rachel. Blessed with an excellent memory, the “historian” in Jack recalled those very same names from his great-grandmother’s “Forget Me Not Album.” This was proof that his ancestors knew the foundresses of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield and had visited his great grandparents’ home! Over the course of his years working at Marian, Jack proudly showed this special book to many of the Springfield Dominicans who ministered there.
The “Forget Me Not Album” is approximately 7” x 8” in size, burnt red in color with gold lettering and gold Victorian floral filigree on the front and back. Its worn condition testifies to its age and no doubt is evidence of the love and respect that its owners held for the people who signed it some 130+ years ago. The inside pages are of a variety of colors: blue, yellow, pink, white, and beige. The ink is faded now, due to its long life which makes some of the messages difficult to read.
Jack still works at Marian Catholic High School and in the fall of 2009, he decided to donate this very precious book to the archives at Sacred Heart Convent so that all Dominican Sisters of Springfield could read the entries of their foundresses. At the same time, Jack also donated two other artifacts that he had inherited from his parents: a gold “Veritas” pin that his grandmother, Leah Schmalz, received in June 1892 as the first and only graduate of the Academy of St. Rose of Lima that year. A striking photo of Leah wearing the pin on her graduation day accompanies the pin. The Dominicans of Springfield are most grateful for Jack’s thoughtfulness and generosity; what great gifts!
(editor's note: This story first appeared in the Fall 2001 issue of JUST Words.)
The Poets & Their Poetry
It was customary for guests to write brief poems in the forget-me-not books. Here are transcriptions of the poems written by our founders in Bridget Schmalz's book.
Sister Josephine Meagher
Roses deck thy pathway ever,
Clouds ne’er dim life’s glowing skies.
Fruition bless each fam’d endeavor
Banished far be fears and sighs.
Yet there floats a saintly whisper
From past ages grandly dawn,
Telling us joy flows from sadness,
Murmuring low, “No cross, no crown.”
Morning clouds make all the brighter
Panoply for evening’s sun,
Foeman’s heart feels all the lighter
For the battle fought now won.
Chastened, then, be joy by sadness
Boisterous glee by gentle woe
Sadness mellowed by sweet gladness;
Then thy heart true peace will know.
And when age’s solemn beauty
Creeps across youth’s fresher bloom,
Strong and fearless may you view the
Other life beyond the tomb!
Your sincere friend
Sister Josephine [Meagher]
St. Rose de Lima Convent
Jacksonville, Ill. August 1880
Sister Rachel Conway
To Mrs. Schmalz
May your path through life be rendered
Smooth as the glassy stream,
Which sparkles in the sunshine
Of every radiant gleam.
May gentleness and goodness
Be your guide through this dark way
May the star of hope shed o’er thee
It’s bright and cheering ray.
And when death comes to claim thee
And thy course of life is run
May you receive with merit
The crown so justly won.
Sister Rachel [Conway]
St. Rose Convent Aug 13/80
Sister Mary Agnes Maguire
To Mrs. Schmalz,
When the frowns of a cold world sadden thy heart,
For thy moments of gloom should friends seem to depart.
Lift up thy drooped spirit by the pinions of love,
Lay thy fears and thy sadness at Heaven’s throne above
‘Mid the flowers of friendship you meet a thorn
The fondest, and dearest, may cause thee to mourn
Oh turn thy gaze upward, know that on high,
Not a sigh, not a tear drop escapes his fond eye.
Earth’s pathway for thee, may be strewn with fair flowers,
in the mazes of pleasure, you may while away hours
Look up through your sunshine, look aloft in your grief,
Lean fondly on Heaven, ‘tis the rest of the weak.
Sister Mary Agnes [Maguire]
Convent St. Rose of Lima
Sister Mary Thomas Wight
To Mrs. Schmalz,
Oh Blest are they who humbly bow
Beneath afflictions rod.
And cast the burden of their care
Upon the breast of God
S.M.T. Aug 8th/80.
(The initials S.M.T. likely indicated Sister Mary Thomas Wight but could also be Sister M. Thomasina Simpson.)
Sister M. Cecilia Carey
To Mrs. Schmalz
The flowers that blossomed on the hills
Are softly gathered to decay
The birds that sang within the woods
Like golden hopes, have passed away!
Sister M. Cecilia [Carey]