By Mary Quilici Aumack
The Catholic Community Foundation
CHARISM: A gift given for the good of others.
We often speak of charism when referring to the important work and legacy of the religious. The Sisters of the Holy Family are “gleaners,” pushing out the boundaries of the world to reach those most abandoned.
They established the Saint Elizabeth Day Home. It functioned as a nursery for babies, a kindergarten for those not yet of school age, and a sewing school for public school students.
In 1918, the Sisters opened Santa Maria Hall on San Carlos Avenue. There they began Sunday school. This was so successful that their reputation spread, and they were soon providing catechetical instruction in almost all the parishes of the Diocese. I actually remember this. Although Saint Justin school, which I attended, was run by the Dominican Sisters, the (then) CCD program was run by the Sisters of the Holy Family. I remember that my dad had a great friendship with Sister Peter. When he went to heaven, she surprised us by attending his Memorial Mass.
During World War I the sisters worked as nurses, serving soldiers and those affected by the rampant influenza epidemic.
A 1922 report indicated, “3,000 children registered in religious education classes being offered by the Sisters of the Holy Family. Locations included Saint Elizabeth’s Day Home; Santa Maria Hall; Church of the Five Wounds; Church of the Precious Blood; Holy Family Church; Saint Edward’s Hall. And on the outskirts, classes at the Willows; at Agnews; on Mt. Hamilton, and the parish churches of Los Gatos, Palo Alto, Mayfield, Portola and Milpitas.”
One of those was of course my parish, Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception. I don’t think anyone thinks of Los Gatos as “outskirts” anymore.
In 1964 a new Saint Elizabeth’s Day Home was opened in Willow Glen, and a convent was established shortly thereafter. The Sisters served there for more than 50 years. The convent was closed in 2003 and the day home was closed in 2015.
When the day home closed, that ended the physical presence of the Sisters in the Diocese of San Jose, but not the charism. The Sisters still seek to be gleaners by their advocacy and prayer. They also sought a way to have their presence continue through a monetary gift to ministry.
They chose to partner with the Catholic Community Foundation of Santa Clara County. Contributions were made to three endowments:
- Parish Outreach
- Pastoral Ministry
- Liturgical Music
Now, because of the generosity of these strong and influential women, and in recognition of their long and important presence in our valley, we have the honor of continuing their work.
When we make grants to innovative programs in faith formation, for choir retreats and boot camps, and to the many and effective efforts of parishes to feed and support their neighbors, the Sisters of the Holy Family, the gleaners, will be with us.
Sister Gladys Guenther wrote: “May our loving God direct your use of these funds, and may they be a blessing for all of you and your efforts.”
We say a huge and hearty “Thank You” to the Sisters, for over a century of important and effective work; for continuing impact on human trafficking and homelessness; and for their profound charism, which continues here in the Diocese of San Jose.
We are deeply grateful.