Series 2: Papers of Founders: Bernardina Matthews & her two nieces
Scope and Contents
Mother Bernardina Matthews and her two nieces, Sisters Mary Eleanore of St. Francis Xavier and Mary Aloysia of the Blessed Trinity (Matthews), had been members of Hoogstraet Carmel when the plan to found a Carmel in America was finally executed. All three were from the Maryland Matthews family. Mother Bernardina's brother, Reverend Ignatius Matthews was the missionary serving in Maryland who signaled the timing of the undertaking by reporting that "peace is declared and religion is free;" her nephew (and the brother of Sisters Aloysia and Eleanore) was Reverend William Matthews who was the first native-American ordained by Bishop Carroll (1800) and one-time President of Georgetown University. Mother Bernardina had entered Hoogstraet in 1754, served as novice-mistress and became prioress in 1774, a position she maintained until her departure for America. In 1784, her two nieces who had travelled abroad in order to become Carmelites were also professed at Hoogstraet. The intention of all three was to establish a Carmel in America. When Mother Bernardina heard from her brother that the time was propitious, the three accelerated their efforts toward the new foundation. With the approval of Francis Cornelius DeNelis, Bishop of Antwerp, who conferred with John Carroll, then Prefect- Apostolic of the United States, plans were initiated. Already having served sixteen years as prioress at Hoogstraet, Mother Bernardina now became "Prioress of the English Teresians at Port Tobacco" (a designation she used when signing contracts in 1799). When Mother Bernardina died on June 12, 1800, she was followed by her sub-prioress, Sister Clare Joseph Dickinson, the only Sister of the original group from the English Carmel at Antwerp and the only non-American. Only a few documents pertaining to the Matthews have survived. Fortunately, some material objects (such as the choir mantle worn by Mother Bernardina) and some copies of documents preserved in Lanherne and Chichester Carmels have been preserved. The original profession book (see Personnel Collection) also appears to be in the hand of Mother Bernardina. Arranged chronologically, with Mother Bernardina's records first.
- Majority of material found in 1780-1830
From the Record Group: 3 linear feet