Friday, February 24, 2012

Sister C.L.

LOOKING AHEAD TO C.S.J. APPRECIATION DAY next month, I helped a student find photographs of our CSJs from earlier decades. The pictures are in one of two folders, arranged by my predecessors: "Sisters in Traditional Habits" and "Sisters in Modified Habits." This one caught my eye because it has both.

The subject matter is also interesting -- two lights of the Mount. In the modified habit is Sister Cecilia Louise Moore, CSJ '53, and Sister Ignatia Cordis, CSJ, in the classic Sisters of St. Joseph model.

I figure the photo was taken around 1976 when Sister C.L., as she was known, was still president of the Mount. Sister Ignatia, who passed away in 1986 at the age of nearly 100, was a founding member of the Mount faculty in 1925 and the first chair of the art department. In spite of the modernization that was going on around her, and her reputation as an artist of the avant garde, Sister Ignatia was never photographed in anything but the traditional habit.

Sister C.L., a PhD in chemistry, is still remembered as a wonderful president and strikingly beautiful woman. She made local history as the first woman chancellor of the L.A. Archdiocese. In her photos, she is seldom smiling, but her we get the hint of a grin.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sunsest glow

HERE'S A POSTCARD that turned up in the Public Relations folders earlier this week. It's taken at dusk from a hilltop north of Chalon and looks south across Culver City, Santa Monica and the bay to the distant lights of Palos Verdes.

The College is all alone on its hill -- no Getty Center, no homes clinging to the slopes on the west side of Boehme Canyon. The Humanities Building is there but not Drudis-Biada, which dates this sometime between 1965 and 1973.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sisters in school

THE STORY IS OFTEN TOLD how in June 1925 Archbishop Cantwell asked Mother Margaret Mary Brady to start a college, and the Mount's doors opened for business just a few months later.

His concern was good Catholic higher education for all the young ladies graduating from St. Mary's Academy. Mentioned less often was the number of nuns who needed schooling. The Sisters of St. Joseph were a large and growing order, and they had plenty of company in the sisterhood ranks, so almost immediately the new Mount St. Mary's College started classes on Saturdays and during the summer for Sisters of all orders in L.A.

The photo at the top shows an early Mount summer session held at St. Mary's Academy (the College moved to Chalon in 1930). Most of the nuns would be heading into the archdiocese's parish schools so teacher training was the main curriculum.

The smaller photo is the summer of 1947 or '48 at Chalon with more students and more different kinds of habits -- some years there were as many as 30 orders represented. State education requirements mandated that religious teachers have a bachelor's degree, so even Sisters with years of classroom experience found themselves on the other side of a desk. It was not uncommon for a high school teacher to spend six or seven years earning a B.A. part-time.

These sister-oriented programs also laid the foundation for the Mount's own development and growth. In the mid-1950s, Countess Estelle Doheny loaned No. 2 Chester Place to the Mount for weekend and evening classes for teachers. No. 2 became Medaille Hall, and the CSJs' established presence on the property led a few years later to the opening of the Downtown Campus, now known as Doheny.

My thanks go to Sister Mary Therese Sweeney, CSJ, of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange for the excuse to dip into the Summer School photos. She's writing a book on the history of her community, and in helping her the last couple years I've learned a lot about the "parallel universe" of Mount graduates who were Sisters.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Remembering Sr. Joseph Adele

LIKE ONE OF CHALON'S GRACEFUL ARCHES, Sister Joseph Adele Edwards, CSJ, was part of the Mount's architecture, a Carondelet sister since 1952, professor, administrator, mentor and friend to generations of the College community. She passed away on December 25, literally at the conclusion of the Mass for Christmas Day, during the recessional, "Joy to the World."

Jared Morgan of the Brentwood Patch online community newsletter produced a neat memorial feature on Sister, available at He gets some terrific reminiscences from Mount colleagues Daniel Aucutt, Bernie Robert and Rosalyn Kempf, and I was delighted to see among them that dynamo, Sister Regina Clare Salazar, CSJ, whose own history at the College is long and impressive.

Several of the historic photos in the video came from the Archives.