Mother Monica ~ Part I

Young Sister Monica
My paternal family tree is really what started me down the path of genealogy. I didn't think that I was going to find very much or anything really remarkable but I was wrong. My Irish Catholic roots run deep and along the way I have found a family that portrays a picture of values, kindness, strength, and industriousness that I am so proud to be a part of. If I've learned anything it is how quickly these stories can become lost with each passing generation if care is not taken to preserve them and pass them along.

One such story is that of my great aunt, Mary Flynn. How is it possible that this woman is part of my family history and I had not known of her? I do know about her now though, and in recognition of this being Woman's History Month, I would like to introduce my amazing Great Aunt Mary also known as Mother Monica to the rest of the family and the world.  Because I have gathered so many treasures about our Mary I have decided to write a 5 part series of posts, each outlining a particular period in her life. I will post a new part every day and I hope you enjoy her story. She was a very special ''Woman In History''.

Mary Flynn was born in Port Colborne, Ontario on the 23rd of February in the year 1851 to Thomas Flynn and Cecilia Reynolds Flynn. She was one of nine children born to these Irish immigrants who had left County Cavan, Ireland and eventually settled in Merritton, Ontario. Her sister Maggie was my great grandmother. Mary grew up in the small village of Merritton with her large family. At the time that Mary would have been in school, Catholic education was being provided by the Sisters of St. Joseph. It is likely that she received the high school portion of her education at St. Joseph's College School in Toronto, as seems to be the female tradition in my family. This could be what influenced Mary to enter the religious life.

Mother-House of Sisters of St. Joseph, Toronto
On December 8th, 1874 at the age of 23, Mary arrived on the doorstep of the Mother-house of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Toronto which was located at the corner of Bay and Wellesley St's. in the downtown area. She was taken in as a postulant and on May 6, 1875 she received her habit. Two years later on May 24, 1877 she made her profession of vows and became Sister Monica.

In 1881 the Rt. Rev. Jean-Francois Jamot, Vicar Apostolic of Northern Canada issued a plea to the Sisters of St. Joseph's of Toronto to send volunteers to work in a recently established Catholic school at Prince Arthur's Landing. In 1881 Prince Arthur's Landing was a remote little outpost on the northern shore of Lake Superior. It's inhabitants were mainly involved in silver mining, lumbering and railroad building. The Canadian Pacific Railway was just finishing it's western route to Winnipeg and construction on the eastern route was about to begin. At this time there were no rail or road connections into the town so traveling the Great Lakes by ship was the only option to get there. Prince Arthur's Landing eventually was renamed Port Arthur and is now part of the City of Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Sister Monica was one of the five Nuns that volunteered for this mission. A convent house had been built for them next to St. Andrew's church. Four of the Sisters were to work in the church school and Sister Monica was to be the housekeeper of the convent. So it was that on the 21st of August, 1881 the five sisters departed aboard the steamer, Frances Smith from Collingwood, Ontario and arrived at this remote wilderness on the 26th of August to begin their new duties...

Frances Smith Steamboat

Digital Image of the steamer ''Frances Smith'' courtesy of the Maritime History of the Great Lakes

Related Posts:
Mother Monica ~ Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV - Part V
Mother Monica ~ Bonus Postcard
Mother Monica ~ Tombstone Tuesday

© 2010 Kindred Footprints


  1. Fascinating story! How on earth did you learn so much about Sister Monica? I can't wait til Part 2

  2. Lorine, lucky for me to have so many priests and nuns in the family because these Catholic organizations keep phenomenal records. In this case the Sisters of St. Joseph's of Peterborough and St. Joseph's Care Group in Thunder Bay. I asked and they were both remarkably generous and helpful ;-)

  3. It is important to preserve these stories so that future generation can access it and not only read about it but learn from it. This is a great story

  4. Wonderful story. I'm the editor of Merritton Matters, a local newsletter, and I've taken the liberty of pulling a paragraph of information from your story for a feature on famous Merritton women. Maybe you would like to write an article about her for a future newsletter? If you provide me with an address, I can send you a copy of the newsletter when it comes out. Lorraine

  5. Greetings. On this Mother Monica's 164th birthday, I decided to Google her name and was delighted to find this page. I am her great grand nephew in Rochester NY. John P. Gleason. My grandmother, Mary Walsh Rountree was Mother Monica's Niece we have several ofthe pictures shown here and other mementos - letters etc. Our Family have has and have had many Monicas named after her including Monica Walsh Daley, Mothers niece and my grand aunt, her daughter, Monica Daley MacDonald, Monica Walsh Parle, her grand daughter, Monica Parle in London England and Monica Rountree Swanson in LeRoy NY. Wonderful to connect here!!! Thank you so much for your work. Would love to meet you. A number of us 15? live in the Buffalo and Rochester NY area.