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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating story well told, April 22, 2012
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This review is from: Seed and Growth (Paperback)
Seed & Growth is a story told by Sr. Mary Thomas Lillis, O.P. It is what it is. The story is told well. It contains many interesting elements I was unaware off. What it is not is a history. One has to read the Foreword closely to discover when the time covered ends. There is little or no historical analysis of the fascinating material covered in this work. There are some elements of the story that don't need much examination but other material cries out for some analysis.

Why the separation from the mother community in Brooklyn when other communities spanned the nation? Was it the personalities involved, or was it the controlling nature of the Brooklyn prelates? What accounted for the quick growth of vocations in Mexico in the midst of confusion and persecution? Why were several schools taken in the 20's given up so quickly? The brief stay at Immaculate Heart of Mary in San Antonio, Texas is favorably recounted in five interesting pages but the reason for departing from there and Our Lady of Sorrows seems trivial. The heat was uncomfortable for everyone, especially habited sisters, but others, including the German Benedictines and Sisters of Divine Providence managed. Did the community ever consider a Texas candidate house such as the one established in Germany? Did they consider making the habits for the Texas sisters from a lighter material? Was there some unreported prejudice in leaving these very poor, Mexican foundations?

Perhaps the most important aspect that requires examination is chapter 12 "Crisis in Community." Was the crisis solely the work of one sister? What tensions were present from the start since some of the first vocations were Irish? Was this considered a blessing or a problem? What was the reason behind opening the house in Altenberg? Was it simply to serve as a base for recruiting vocations? Was it an effort to preserve the German character of the congregation even after there was less need to have German speaking sisters in the schools? Was there ever an effort to recruit vocations in Ireland as many communities did in those years? Were the German vocations encouraged to become teachers or were most limited to being domestic workers such as in their mother congregation in Brooklyn.

It is amazing how the cultural conflict that is hinted at seems to only occur during a brief period and was seemingly quickly resolved by one sister begging for forgiveness. Was there conflict with the Mexican vocations? Were the Irish and Mexican sisters required to adopt German customs and study the German language? This could have been a fascinating chapter that would assist this congregation and others in the recruitment of non-Anglo candidates now.

The author sometimes mentions ministries in passing before she mentions their founding, Appendix A could use some editing, it would have been beneficial to provide a list of the members who served on the general council and their years of service, and a brief Epilogue highlighting the major changes and the reasons for leaving ministries all would have enhanced this work. These criticisms don't diminish the value of this work. All in all it is a good story well told. The author provides an easy to read account of these marvelous sisters and a helpful glossary of religious terminology. I recommend it.
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