From our Archives 
As Thanksgiving approaches
we consider how family means something different for everyone

Meet Mary and Maggie: Two Sisters Raised by Nuns

by Katie McNally, Boston CSJ Archivist

Maggie Collins, Age 10

Thanksgiving, approaching soon, centers us on the importance of family. Family means something different for everyone—and a year of holidays restricted by the pandemic has taught us that “family” can be a flexible term. When we are away from our families, especially during the holidays, we may find ourselves gathered around a table with strangers or friends — and they become family to us. Community is a powerful bond.

Sr. Anna David Collins and Sr. St. Flavia Collins were both biological sisters who grew up to become Sisters of Saint Joseph in Boston and talented musicians. Born Mary Magdalen and Margaret, respectively, these two sisters lost their mother while still toddlers. In 1897, their young father brought them to Mount Saint Joseph Academy at Fresh Pond in Cambridge and humbly asked the sisters if they would care for his girls while he worked long hours. At ages 3 and 2, Mary and Maggie became the youngest boarders at MSJA.

According to a reflection written by one sister, a special relationship formed between little Maggie and Sr. Mary Flavia Crotty (1867-1932). When Maggie outgrew her makeshift playpen in the Mother Superior’s office, Sr. Mary Flavia, who ran the Art Studio, was given the responsibility of babysitting her. Wrote one s

ABOVE: a 1913 portrait of Maggie Collins, who later became Sister St. Flavia pictured at left. 


“This was the point where Sister M. Flavia took over and became a second mother to the toddler… showering the child with a wealth of love and wise, 

kindly guidance.”

When little Maggie grew older and graduated from MSJA, she returned to her father and relatives for a period of six months. Discerning a religious vocation, she entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston, and “had happily chosen to be known in religious life as Sister M. Saint Flavia, out of love and deference to Sister M. Flavia.”

When others step in the place of family at a time of need, they

 can become like family to us.

“Our Little Family Circle”
Left with the Collins sisters’ files are letters written to them by their father. Papa, as he signed, shared how much he adored “our little family circle”, and advised his daughters to always strive to bring goodness to any new communities they were welcomed into.

How can we bring goodness to our own circles this Thanksgiving?

AT LEFT: Presumably a graduation photo of Maggie with her father, 1913. ABOVE: Letter from Papa to Maggie on her Reception Day, 1914.