Tuesday, October 19, 2010

a bit of my past has passed me by...The words are hard to come by today...pause while I shed a tear

St. Vincent’s Home owns a rich, colorful history

Courtesy of St. Vincent’s Home

FALL RIVER, Mass. — It all began more than 125 years ago in 1884 when Bishop Thomas F. Hendricken of the Diocese of Providence, of which Fall River then was a part, bought the Forest Hill Gardens Amusement Park on North Main Street in Fall River and established a home for children whose parents were ill or who had lost one or both parents to death.  [Note from Norm: The picture to the left was my home from 1945 to 1954]
In September 1885, the Sisters of Mercy had closed the Bethlehem Home orphanage in Taunton and moved into The Windsor Hotel in the amusement park overlooking the Taunton River with the first group of children. The Sisters and the children lived there for nearly a decade while funds were raised to build a new home.
 The first priest at the North Main Street location was Father Timothy Sweeney, and soon after the purchase of the property, Bishop Matthew Harkins became Bishop of Providence. On Feb. 7, 1889, Bishop Harkins formed St. Vincent’s Home Corporation of Fall River. Under Bishop Harkins and Father Sweeney, St. Vincent’s Home was completed and dedicated on June 23, 1895. The home consisted of six dormitories, four on the top floor and two on the second floor. The chapel was also located on the second floor, and the first floor consisted of the gym, the dining area, shower, and game room.
In 1904, Fall River became a diocese separate from Providence. Bishop William Stang was its first ordinary, and St. Vincent’s served as an episcopal residence while the bishop lived in the facility during the initial days of his pastorship. In 1907, Bishop Daniel F. Feehan was appointed bishop, following Bishop Stang. It was during this time that Father Charles A. Donovan became director of the home.                                 
Many Fourth of July picnics and parties were held at St. Vincent’s Forest Hill Gardens site, and in addition to providing custodial care, the home also served as a school for the residents and the neighborhood children.                              
In 1922, Father Donovan bought a farm on Highland Avenue which would serve the needs of St. Vincent’s Home, providing chickens, milk, and vegetables for the children’s meals. It was during that time that Sister Kevin and Sister Regis began their service at St. Vincent’s. Joe “Duke” Dudek was raised from infancy by the Sisters who rocked him in a basket next to the stove as they cooked. Duke would eventually become chef himself, taking Sister Regis’ place.       
Under the direction of Bishop James E. Cassidy, responsibility for St. Vincent’s Home was assumed by Father William H. Harrington, who, like his predecessor, was also the pastor of St. Bernard’s Parish in Assonet. Father Harrington worked closely with Sister Angelita in educating many of the children who went on to college. Because of Father Harrington’s relationship to St. Bernard’s Parish, the Sisters and the children became closely associated with the parish. Confirmation ceremonies were held at St. Vincent’s Home for the children of St. Bernard’s Parish and the residents at St. Vincent’s Home. Like Sister Mary Bernadette who had come from Bethlehem Home when St. Vincent’s began and spent most years caring for her girls, in 1937 Sister Monice was professed and received a call to go to St. Vincent’s Home to help for two weeks. She never left. Sister Monice remained, caring for her boys for 55 years.                          
For Sister Monice, memories reflect the philosophy of St. Vincent’s. “We never wanted it to be an institution. It was a home — and family,” she said. Sister Monice remembered those days in the 1930s and ’40s when a stock luncheon and snack treat was bread, peanut butter, and milk, adding, “We used to go to the beach behind the home, and that’s what we would bring with us ... the bread was homemade ... the milk came from St. Vincent’s own farm ... the peanut butter was bought in 55 gallon cans.”
Sister Monice’s remembrances also included Christmas mornings at the old home on North Main Street, day trips to Lincoln Park and Rocky Point, traditional Fourth of July picnics, making children’s clothes, drying children’s tears, listening to children’s stories, and somehow, somewhere, making room in crowded dormitories.                                                                                        
Cardinal Humberto Medeiros, then a young priest, [Note from Norm: I was an altar boy for both, Father Medeiros and Father Boyd.] resided at St. Vincent’s Home around 1947-48. In 1949, Father John E. Boyd became director of St. Vincent’s. At that time Father Boyd was also pastor of St. Bernard’s Parish [Note from Norm: I liked St. Bernard's Church...the parishoners use to come into the vestry after Mass and give me money becuase I said the Latin loud enough for the entire church to hear me...they thought it was cute...I saw it as a money maker, I once got over two-dollars and was the richest kid at the home for the next two weeks!] and director of the Catholic Welfare Bureau. In addition, Father Boyd found time for many other duties including chaplain of the Port of Fall River and director of the St. Vincent de Paul health camp on Adamsville Road in Westport.                                                                     
Father Boyd was also the director of radio activities for the diocese, presenting a weekly news show, “A Catholic Priest Views the News.” The Sisters recall that on many evenings, Father Boyd could be found giving piggy-back rides up and down the long driveway of St. Vincent’s Home. Father Boyd also staged many fund-raising events including Sister Regis’ and Duke’s famous chicken pie suppers with the help of the Alumni and Friends Association. In 1951 Bishop James L. Connolly assumed the duties of the Fall River Diocese.
A famous incident occurred in 1956 when alumnus Henry “Red” Voucher made it to the finals on the popular game show, “Name that Tune.” Red was at St. Vincent’s with Father Donovan, and as he rose to the rank of Chief Petty Officer on the carrier USS Saratoga. He remembered those who had cared for him at St. Vincent’s Home. After winning with his partner for four straight weeks, the big day arrived. Father Boyd, the Sisters, and 75 boys and girls took a bus to New York City for the final show. While staying in a New York City Hotel, the Sisters and children were also guests of the USS Saratoga where the crew gave a huge party and dinner for all, followed by gifts to each child — dolls for girls and toy guns for boys. Red and his partner eventually won the grand prize and donated it to the St. Vincent’s Home Building Fund. He went on to become lieutenant governor of Alaska.
Bishop Connolly was joined in 1959 by Bishop James J. Gerrard, who was an auxiliary bishop for the diocese. With the arrival of Father Cronin in October 1962 as director of St. Vincent’s, and through the mid-1960s, the needs of the times began to change. Children with special needs became the focus of St. Vincent’s efforts. In 1963, Sister Rose de Lima was appointed Superior, and when Sister Rose was accepted at Boston College in the master’s program for social workers in 1969, Sister Lourdette Harrold assumed the responsibilities of administrator at St. Vincent’s until Sister Rose resumed the position three years later. After recognizing the need to get the children out of the city environment, Camp Vinhaven, located in Mashpee, was purchased in 1969.                                                                                 
As building codes and standards became more rigorous and renovation costs escalated, the decision was made to construct a new, more appropriate facility to meet the needs of the children who were now treated at St. Vincent’s. In December 1970, Bishop Daniel A. Cronin became bishop of Fall River. In 1971, with construction well underway, Sister Rose returned to assist with preparations for the move to the new facility on Highland Avenue.                                                                                   
The new St. Vincent’s was officially dedicated in October of 1972. The project, begun under Bishop Connolly, came to its completion with Bishop Cronin. The design of the new St. Vincent’s was in keeping with its changing role in the community. The overall capacity of the home had been reduced with the living areas decentralized into a series of separate cottages and adjacent buildings on the grounds including a chapel, school, gymnasium, and offices. The old cornerstone from St. Vincent’s on North Main Street was removed and now occupies a prominent place in the front entrance of the main building on Highland Avenue. The modern, state-of-the art facility was “a dream come true” for Father Cronin, the Sisters, and the dedicated lay staff who saw the new St. Vincent’s as essential to providing the necessary treatment for children with special needs.
In 1975, Father Armando Annunciato became director of St. Vincent’s. Father Annunciato’s leadership established a foundation for the directorship of Father Thomas L. Rita who came to St. Vincent’s in 1977. Father Rita continued to provide the necessary orientation that ensured stability for the operation of St. Vincent’s. Sister Rose continued in her role as administrator, heading up the team of childcare and special education professionals who so ably treated and educated the residents of the home.             
For the first time in the history of St. Vincent’s, a Sister of Mercy assumed the role of executive director when Bishop Cronin appointed Sister Rose de Lima to the position in July 1984. Sister Rose quickly re-affirmed her dedication to making St. Vincent’s a quality treatment center for children with special needs and learning disabilities. At the same time Father Joseph Costa was assigned as the chaplain and administrator. Together with Sister Rose and Chuck Rowe, the clinical director, they provided the leadership to make St. Vincent’s the second largest treatment facility in the Commonwealth. The needs of the children who were referred to St. Vincent’s were met by a program of specialized instruction, structured living environments, and counseling sessions. Dedicated staff and volunteers provided many valuable ancillary services that made St. Vincent’s such a special place. One such program was the Foster Grandparent Program. While the program was operational, the children became aware of what having a grandmother really meant.       
Father Joseph Costa assumed the position of executive director in 1989 and, under his leadership, St. Vincent’s grew in size and diversity of services provided. A second campus in Westport was established for adolescent boys and several community-based group homes were opened in Fall River and New Bedford.                                      
In 1997, Jack Weldon, M.S.W. was appointed the first lay person to be executive director of St. Vincent’s by then-Bishop Sean O’Malley. Bishop George W. Coleman became the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Fall River in 2003, and he also serves as the chairman of the St. Vincent’s Board of Directors. Under Weldon’s leadership, St. Vincent’s has continued to change and diversify in response to the ever-changing needs of children, youth and families as well as the more recent evolving systems of care priorities state-wide.
Mercy Sister Mary Monice
CUMBERLAND, R.I. — Sister Mary Monice, 97, a Sister of Mercy and a retired child care supervisor, died September 24, at Mount St. Rita Health Centre, Cumberland, R.I.
Born Evelyn Margaret Houston in Pawtucket, R.I., she was the daughter of the late Ambrose and Eva (Pariseau) Houston. She entered the Sisters of Mercy on Feb. 2, 1934 and professed her vows on Aug. 15, 1939.
Sister was assigned to St. Vincent’s Home in Fall River in 1938. There were 45 boys awaiting her care when she arrived at the home. She asked her mother how she should handle them and she was advised to treat them the way she would her own two brothers and to be sure to listen to them. Sister followed the advice and took care of children at St. Vincent’s for 55 years. In later years the children she supervised visited her frequently and remembered her particularly on holidays.
To respond to the many changes in regulations concerning childcare, Sister completed studies at St. Louis University Institute of Child Care, Simmons College, and the New England Association of Child Care in order to be certified. In 2005 she received the St. Vincent’s Mission Service Award for her significant contribution to the service of children. Sister retired in 1994.
In addition to her religious family, the Sisters of Mercy, she leaves many nieces and nephews. She was the sister of the late William Houston; Sister Edna Marie Houston, RSM; Sister Lillian Houston, RSM; Peter A Houston; and Marjorie Harker.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated September 28 in Mount St. Rita Chapel. Burial was in Resurrection Cemetery, Cumberland, R.I.

----- Original Message -----
From: Norman Hooben
Sent: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 3:16 PM
Subject: Sister Mary Monice, RSM
The words are hard to come by but today I received the sad news of the passing of Sister Mary Monice, RSM.
Sister Monice was by far the most influential woman in my life.  It is with deep emotion that I try to respond to this sad news but I am reminded of my last meeting with her some years ago...1984? 1985? it was shortly after the St. Vincent Reunion held at the Venus DeMilo Restaurant in Swansea, Massachusetts.  She told me then that it was my letter to her that inspired that reunion; the letter I wrote to her upon my retirement from the United States Air Force in 1982.  During our conversation Sister Monice mentioned that a copy of that letter was placed on file at the New St. Vincents Home... I mention this only because my words then and now reflect the roots that I have with St. Vincents and my growth in the years that followed... May I present these words again...pause while I shed a tear.
October 1982
Vandenberg AFB, CA
Dear Sister,
It has been many years since I last saw you and as I approach my forty-third birthday I cannot help but think that all of my life you have been dedicated to a cause…a cause that I was but a small part…a cause that gave me my values…a cause that can only be repaid in heaven.
  Reading your story, “They’re All Of My Children”, in the Fall River Herald News has brought back many a memory.  As I read I could not hold back the tears that swelled up inside me…tears of joy…tears of hope…tears of wanting; wanting to say I love you.
  All those years at St. Vincent’s Home and I never said, “I love you.”  Well I want you to know that I have never forgotten you or St.Vincent’s Home, and I could never be thankful enough for the love and dedication you and the other sisters have bestowed upon me.
  It was in September of 1945 when I first arrived at Saint Vincent’s and I departed in June of 1954.  I visited you only once since that time…1958 or 1959, I’m not sure.  It was sometime after you made a trip to Washington, D.C., in which I confirmed having seen you across the street.  I’ve always regretted that moment of not having made the extra effort to change my direction and at least have said, “Hello.”
  You know ever since that time, when ever I see a RSM in my travels I at least stop to say hello.  I think the last time was in St. Louis, Missouri; however it was the RSM who spoke first.  She said to me, “Do you think you know someone?”  I said, “I was staring across the bus station when I recognized that familiar habit (which is no more) and just had to approach you, perchance you may be from St. Vincent’s.”
  All those years have passed but I want you to know the memories of St. Vincent’s have been with me in times of crisis, loneliness, and love.          I remember when I first joined the U. S. Air Force and the discipline those “TI’s” tried to instill in me could not approach the cause and effect results that I received at St. Vincent’s.  Whenever the going got rough, I just pictured that “TI” in a nun’s habit, and everything was just OK.
  I remember when I studied in school about far away places that little did I know that someday I would visit such places.  It was in the fifth or sixth grade (Sister Mary Bridgetta) that I first learned of the boat people in Aberdeem Fishing Village in Hong Kong, China.  When in 1968 I was dining on a floating restaurant, observing the boat people as I was quietly saying my grace (I still do you know, before every meal), I recalled where I first learned of such extraordinary people.
  I remember the loneliness of Christmas when I was driving across the upper peninsula of Michigan in 1970.  Across all that vast emptiness of the winter snow, I felt a yearning that I once experienced at St. Vincent’s.  The yearning and waiting (in the snow) for a visit from my dad at Christmas time.  And all of the Christmases at St. Vincent’s…the Knight’s of Columbus Christmas parties, the AMVETS Christmas parties, and all the wonderful times we had then.  Back then, Christmas was Christmas.
  I remember when I received only one toy…a wooden duck on wheels that would quack, quack when pulled along.  And, when I cried because someone broke my duck.  When I look at my own children today, spoiled with all kinds of toys and not caring as I did for my duck, it makes me realize how important it is to shower your children with love and not toys.
  Whenever and wherever I travel throughout the world, people always talk about the various foods; especially the bread!  Well nobody, I mean nobody, could ever make bread like Sister Mary Regis.  I’ve had bread in Sicily, Germany, Thailand, and just about everywhere and always I remember, Sister Regis made the best…crisp hard crust with soft white center that would melt in your mouth.
  I read that you lost your book of names during the move from North Main Street.  I’m Not sure I can remember them all but a few that come to mind are: Emile (Emo), Paul, and Ronnie Duclos, Frankie Nicholson, Armand Huard, Billie Oznick, Kenneth and Jo-Jo Brocheau, Richard (Roxie) Walker and brothers Billie and Joseph, Peter, Dan, and Charles Leary, Richard and Norman Mello, Billie Dennis (I think he had a brother also.), and now my memory is slipping.  Where are they now?  I know Joe Walker drowned in an unfortunate accident and he is remembered in my prayers.  But the others are remembered to…
I suppose that I was the only one from my year group at St. Vincent’s to go to Vietnam during that unfortunate crisis, but I would like to know what happened to the rest of my classmates.  It would be nice to have some kind of reunion someday.
  Before I close this letter I want you to know the training and discipline that I received at St. Vincent’s has been with me all of my adult life…it will never leave me.  I, even still, say my prayers each night before I fall to sleep.  To some people that’s no big deal, but I still have to remind my children to do so.  In fact, just raising a family is a big job for my wife and me and I often wondered how you could manage with twenty or thirty children when I have my hands full with just three.
                             My most sincere love,
                                                Norman Hooben

 God Bless
Norman E. Hooben
Ozark, Alabama

Storm'n Norm'n
(The only picture I have from St. Vincents ~ circa 1949 or 1950)

Update May 17 2012... received this email today.

-----Original Message-----
From: Kathy (link removed)
Sent: Thursday, May 17, 2012 7:26 PM
To: Norman
Subject: Fw: St Vincent's Postcards
 I have about six or seven hundred post cards. I found 3 of Saint Vincent's home.
 One of them is pretty rare. The one that shows the smaller building, which was the Gymnasium.

 I like the postcard in the middle, showing the fence with the wash behind it.

 Later, mb
Edited by Norm:

Note from Norm...The above pictures pre-date the time I was at St Vincents'.  The picket fence was replaced with a wrought-iron fence that encompassed the meadow (the clothes line was also removed).  In the first picture there appears to be another building (on the far left) that has the characteristics of the shed that was in the boy's play ground (in the picture this shed is located in the girl's playground).  Apparently the shed was moved a location that can best be described as where the photographer is (or was) standing in the second picture.  The smaller building to the right of the main building later contained the laundry room but apparently the stairway and entrance was not even under construction when the picture was taken.  The drive way had already been paved with concrete prior to my arrival...and aside for a few cosmetics these pictures have brought back many a memory of my childhood.  Thanks Kathy


John in Waco said...


Thanks for the wonderful memories and sharing the blessings that God bestowed on you while you were at St. Vincent's Home receiving the care of those holy nuns. I'm sure that Sr. Mary Monice is looking down upon you from heaven and obtaining many graces from the Lord for you and your family.

Best wishes.


Storm'n Norm'n said...

Someone from
Prince Edward Island _

Clicked onto this post with the search words that included William Oznick...that someone has to be none other than Frankie N.

Hey, Frankie give me a shout!


Promotional Channels said...

Hi, my dad and his two brothers were also in St Vincents Orphanage during the 1940s. My dads name is Carlton Wishart. Did you know him?

He has shared many fond memories of his time there and of Sr Monice.

Diane Wishart

Storm'n Norm'n said...

I do recall someone by the name of Carlton, but the last name does not ring a bell...maybe it will come back to me after thinking about it for awhile.


Promotional Channels said...

My uncles names were James (Jimmy) and Bill... They were there as well... I'll as my dad tonight if he remembers you as well...

Promotional Channels said...

I just talked to my dad and he does remember you! He wants to know how you are?

Storm'n Norm'n said...

Sorry for the late reply...I was preparing to go on the radio earlier.

Meanwhile, I'm just fine but I'm still having a problem with that last name...it just doesn't seem to register in this old brain of mine...perhaps if you provide the dates he was at St Vincent's it will help.


Promotional Channels said...

I'm going to send him the link to your blog... I know that he can give you better details than I.

No worries about the old brain. It has been 60+ years!

Boe said...

My mother, Brenda, aunts, Joyce, Diane, Dawn, and uncle Jackie went to St. Vincents. Mom cried when she read your blog. Do you remember them?
Darlene Eck Their last name was Carpenter.

Storm'n Norm'n said...

Wow! I do remember the Carpenter girls. I suppose after all these years I can let out my well kept secret in that I thought all of the Carpenter girls were very pretty and I had a crush on the one (I think it was Dawn)that worked in the nun's refectory (aka, the nun's dining room)...and yes, she was a bit older than I.

I see that this comment came from Florida and although I'm currently in Cape Cod, Massachusetts we do have a home in Alabama where we spend part of the year. Our Alabama home is only 37 miles from the Florida state line.

Thanks for stopping by...

Promotional Channels said...

@Brenda - I just told my father, Carlton Wishart, about your post and he remembers your mother. He wanted me to ask if she is the same "Brenda Carpenter" that walked to Wiley School in the first grade. He walked with her every day and he was in the second grade. I guess there was not enough room in the classes so those two had to go to the public school down the street.

I just forwarded him these posts so maybe he'll use email someday!

Diane Wishart

Promotional Channels said...

@Brenda, I just told my father, Carlton Wishart, about your post and he remembers your mother, Brenda. He wants to know if she walked to Wiley School in the first grade. If so, he walked with her every day because apparently there was not enough room in St. Vincent's school for them so they had to go to the public school down the street.

He was very excited when I mentioned this to him. I have forwarded this posting to him and maybe someday he will use email. But feel free to contact me at dianewishart@comcast.net and I will get all messages to him. He's more of a phone guy :)

Diane Wishart

Unknown said...

Hi my name is Jean and I was at St Vincent's back in 1972 I was in cottage 8 there are several people I remember James Close, Crystal,there was a counselor there that took great care of me we became great friends I got adopted in 1976 and Mary Moore got married and i lost her info anyone no anything about her please post and let me know when O was at the home we had the only girls cottages there and I went to St Vincent's School and also Holy Name School.
Jcassina@Rocketmail.com if anyone remembers anything of those days please

Storm'n Norm'n said...

I know very little of St Vincents after the move from North Main Street...
The time frame that you reference (1972) I was living in San Antonio, Texas and well into my career in The United States Air Force.
Mary Moore is such a common name that I have little to go on to try and help you. There is a Mary Moore here http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/bio/1301/Mary%20Moore
with a picture...hope it helps.
Meanwhile I'll say a prayer or two that you find your long lost friend.
It took many years for me to catch up with my St Vincent friends...hope you don't have to wait that long. Try some of the social groups like Facebook and/or Twitter...
Good luck, Norm

Unknown said...

thank you and god bless you for your help

Unknown said...

Jean was your last name Joy back then?

Unknown said...

I also spent time at the home. from 1955-1958. really don't have a lot of good memories from that time or place. i did lean that nuns can be extremely mean. I do remember fr boyd he use to take a few of the little boys to the radio station on sun mornings when he did his radio program. on the way back he would stop and get us all an ice creme cone. that's about the only good memoryd i have of that place

Storm'n Norm'n said...

Tony James...Looks like we just missed each other...I left there in 1954. I also remember the trips to the radio station but we did not always get some ice cream. Your comment about the nuns can be extremely mean takes me by surprise...in all my years they were never 'mean' but they were disciplanrians. Where are you now? I alternate between Alabama and Cape Cod.

Mary said...

In the summer, I currently reside in Westport, MA. I pass by the camp almost everyday, and it has always fascinated me. Although it doesn't seem to be in use anymore, I would love to learn more about it and potentially visit it. If you have any information regarding the camp on Adamsville Road in Westport, MA I would be so grateful.
Thank you,