Artifact of the Month:

The Handmade & the Rare

Ava Mari Doogue, CSJ Archivist

Left to right: a hand-made book of poetry; a textbook written by a music teacher; and a play published by an anonymous Sister of St. Joseph.

For the month of April, Boston CSJ Archives highlighted works authored by Sisters of St. Joseph and rare books*. Dates of publication vary and some books are self-published, but these books highlight the diversity and creativity of CSJs. To highlight the creativity and knowledge of CSJ authors, a few books are on display for April.



Sr. Mary de Chantel wrote Heaven is Tomorrow and Other Poems (1968, a hand-bound piece dedicated to Mother Mary Catalina.) These original poems express feelings that would otherwise have been lost to time had they not been painstakingly written out using the technology of the day: typewriters. Leafing through the poems, we glean how nature, day-to-day interactions, and small moments create lasting impressions.


Sister Mary Constance Rahl, a talented musician, wrote Practical Course of Study in Music for Catholic Schools: Teachers Manuel (1936). Inside are examples of musical notes, the best ways to engage students with music, and the difference of teaching elementary and high school students. This book received imprimatur**, at the benevolence of Cardinal O’Connell.


The White Flower of Passion (1940) is a “dramatic presentation of a sublime love story” (pg. 6). At the time of its publication, the author remained anonymous and chose to sign the play as a ‘Sister of Saint Joseph’. Refusing to author the work was intentional. In scripture, Joseph never spoke a word, and was known for his humility and strength. By signing as a Sister of Saint Joseph, they followed in Joseph’s footsteps, creating influential work without need for credit or fame. The inside cover has ‘Sister St. Michael Mahan’ inscribed, however, it is not known how whoever inscribed the note knew Sister St. Michael had written the play. We can trust it was she but it is unknown how it discovered.

The books the archive has preserved inform us of the Sister’s culture — by leafing through them, we see what was true to them years ago, and how those truths have evolved to the present day. Highlighting the difference in genre and purpose it is evident the range of humility, passion, and value the sisters had for language arts. 

*Rare books: defined by the scarcity, how famous or unknown the author is, and sometimes, the age of the book.