Sunday, February 19, 2006

Mother Warde

Carly Fiorina was not the first female CEO in the United States.

The Reverend Mother Mary Francis Xavier Warde
The Reverend Mother Mary Francis Xavier Warde has her beat by a century and a half.

She was one of the first seven Sisters to take vows in the then-new Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy in 1828. After founding several convents in Ireland, she left for the United States, where she founded schools, conducted prison ministries, and started the first hospital in Pittsburgh. Quickly following were foundations in Chicago, the Alleghanies, and Providence.

In Providence, a mob of "Know-Nothings" threatened to kill Mother Warde and her sisters, where she commanded her defenders to not fire on the rioters except in self-defence. As one of the rioters said, "We made our plans without reckoning the odds we shall have to contend with in the strong controlling force the presence of that nun commands. The only honourable course for us is to retreat from this ill-conceived fray. I, for one, shall not lift a hand to harm these ladies."

Mother Warde started religious communities in Hartford, New Haven, Newport, Rochester, Buffalo, a night school for child factory laborers in Manchester, and communites in Philadelphia, Maine, New Jersey, and California. She also opened orphanages and missions to the Indians in Maine, paid for by the U.S. government.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia: "At the time of her golden jubilee in 1883 Mother Warde was the oldest Sister of Mercy living. Her salient characteristics were great purity of heart, earnestness of purpose, sincerity, and large-mindedness. She was exceedingly reserved, but sympathizing and compassionate towards others. Endowed with rare common-sense, she was an optimist in all things. In appearance she was of medium height, erect, and of commanding presence; her forehead was high, and her blue eyes deeply set."

The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas has 4,600 Sisters and owns one of the largest hospital systems in the United States. They own Saint John's Mercy Hospital in Saint Louis County, Missouri.

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