Currently viewing the tag: "Daughters of Charity"

written by James Rada, Jr.

7: The best is yet to come

Caleb Sachs walked out of St. Joseph’s Church and stopped at the Gettysburg Road. He leaned against a stone pillar and took a deep breath.

He had been so sure he had gotten through to Margaret Rosensteel. He had laid all his cards on the table for her. He had thought she would take a chance to let their relationship develop and see how things went. Now, unfilled expectations would weigh on his mind, particularly if he saw her around town.

He walked back to his family’s store on Main Street in Emmitsburg. His father stood behind the counter, while his mother was in the kitchen making dinner.

“Hello, son,” his father said.

Caleb said nothing as he walked behind the counter to get to the staircase that led to the rooms where they lived on the second floor of the building.


Caleb stopped and looked at his father.

“Is something the matter?” Daniel Sachs asked.

Caleb shrugged. “I guess it depends on who you ask.”

That was true. Things were a disaster for him, but everyone else—Margaret’s brothers, his mother, and who knows how many others—would be happy.

He walked upstairs to his room and paced from one side to the other. He stopped and looked out the window. A few people walked along Main Street and the evening stage went past.

Caleb sat down at his desk and wrote out a letter. It was short. He had little to say, at least little that his parents would understand.

Samuel Rosensteel fumed while he waited for Margaret to return. His daughter had run off after he and her mother told Margaret that they would be sending her to join the Daughters of Charity sooner than she had expected.

Why was she upset about that? She had known for years that she would become a sister. She had had time to get used to the idea. It was a noble calling. She would do well in the world, teaching, healing, bringing God to the people.

It was that boy. Caleb Sachs. He had confused Margaret. He was the reason she needed to go away sooner, before the two of them did something they shouldn’t.

He saddled his horse and rode into town. His son, Jack, saw him and joined him.

“Where are you going, Father?”

“I mean to get your sister and bring her home,” Samuel said.

“She went to see that boy, didn’t she?”

“I think so.”

Jack shook his head. “Some people just don’t learn the lessons they’re taught.”

They rode into town and tied their horses up in front of the Sachs Mercantile. Samuel stormed inside, and the man behind the counter jumped up.

“Where’s my daughter?” Samuel demanded.

“I’m sure I don’t know,” Daniel Sachs said.

“She’s here. She came to see your son.”

“My son just came home a short time ago, and he came alone.”

“I want to see him.”

Daniel hesitated, but then walked to the back doorway and called up the stairs, “Caleb, can you come down here, please?”

No one answered.


Still no answer.

Daniel turned to the Rosensteels. “Wait here. I’ll get him.”

Daniel walked upstairs, but he found Caleb’s room empty. He saw an envelope sitting on the pillow on his son’s bed addressed to him.

He opened the letter.


I have left for Gettysburg. I can’t stay in Emmitsburg any longer. Too many people have shown me how they really feel about me. All Margaret and I want is to be happy and get to know each other. No one would let us, including Mother. So I am going someplace where I can try to be happy.

I will write when I have settled in.

Your son, Caleb.

Daniel walked downstairs, holding the letter.

“Where’s your son?” Samuel asked.

“He’s gone.”

“With Margaret?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think so. He’s left for Gettysburg.”

The outside door opened and Margaret walked in.

“Margaret, where have you been?” Samuel asked.

“I was at the church.”

Samuel Rosensteel sighed. “Thank Heavens for that. Now you need to get home.”

Margaret shook her head. “No, I came to see Caleb. We need to talk.”

“I was just telling your father he’s not here,” Daniel said.

“Do you know where he is?”

“He left a letter that said he’s left for Gettysburg.”

Margaret’s eyes widened. She looked from Daniel to her father. “Father, I need to take your horse.”

“Fine, take it and go home.” He waved her off.

Margaret ran back outside. She mounted her father’s horse and galloped off to the north.

How much of a lead did Caleb have? Was he on foot, horse, or wagon? She should have asked. Would he take the Gettysburg Road or go through Fairfield, where he could find a place to stay for the night?

She made a quick estimate of how long he might have been riding and headed for the Gettysburg Road.

She didn’t see him at first because she was looking for someone on horseback. She saw him walking toward the Flat Run Bridge, carrying a suitcase.

She was about to call out to him, but she got an idea when she saw the Flat Run Bridge.

She took a side street and galloped around Caleb. She splashed across Flat Run and then urged the horse up the hill.

When she reached the top of the hill, she dismounted and took a deep breath and tried to calm herself. Then she began humming to herself and dancing around. She spun in gentle circles and bounced up and down.

“What are you doing?”

She stopped moving and looked toward the road. Caleb had set his suitcase on the ground and was staring at her.

“I agree,” she said.


“I agree. Let’s make a lot of memories. That’s what you said in the church.”

“Your family won’t like it.”

“I know, but it’s not their decision to make. God didn’t spare my life just to have my parents lay out what I should do with that life. It’s my decision to make.”         

She held out her hands toward him. He picked up his suitcase and walked up the hill.

“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” he asked.

“No, not at all, but I want to have good memories if I become a sister. I don’t want to have regrets. And if I don’t become a sister, then I need to have a good reason why I’m not.”

She took his hands and started dancing again, pulling him into the moves. He laughed and joined in the dance freely.

Then he pulled her close and kissed her. She grabbed his head and held him close.

“We’re going to make some good memories,” he said.

She leaned her forehead against his. “One way or another, I think the next year will be the best one of my life.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Seton Center. What began as a day care center to meet the needs of local preschool children and their families has grown into a community landmark, a place of “Hope in the Valley” for our neighbors who aren’t simply looking for a handout, but are seeking a way to improve their lives.

To celebrate this legacy, Seton Center is hosting a “Welcome Home to Seton Center” party on May 4, 2019 from 1:00-4:00 p.m. on the grounds of the new building at 226 E. Lincoln Avenue in Emmitsburg. It’s an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and see what a difference fifty years can make! This is a free event, with games and activities for children and adults, raffles, door prizes, and light refreshments.

It all started in 1969, when a small band of mothers advocated for a safe place to send their preschool-aged children, where they would be nurtured and given the opportunity to learn about God and caring for one another in the community. The Daughters of Charity answered the call. Over the years, the center grew to accommodate a thrift store and outreach office. While the “Blue School” ceased operations in 2013, having finished its faithful service, the programs established to meet the changing needs of Northern Frederick County community continue.

Come back and see that while some things may have changed—most notably, Seton Center’s new location—the most important thing hasn’t: the mission to work with its neighbors to build a hopeful future in the spirit of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and Saint Vincent de Paul. Get information on the various programs offered by Seton Center, such as free Build Your Resources seminars, which give important tips like buying a car without getting ripped off, starting a savings plan, and caring for your mental health.

During the reunion party, the Seton Family Store will be open until 3:00 p.m. Browse the current selection of quality items and see how the support of the Family Store helps the outreach programs operate. Seton Center relies on the generosity of donors and funds from the store to continue helping our neighbors in need.

Seton Center has sustained for the past fifty years because of volunteers, clients, donors, and staff. It’s because of the determination of mothers like Cheryl Bushman, Nancy Cool, Elise May, and Marlene Springer that Seton Center got its start, and it’s the dedication of people like the Daughters of Charity who keep it going.

Please join in celebrating the past fifty years, and come be part of the next fifty.

Seton Center’s new location at 226 E. Lincoln Avenue in Emmitsburg.

The strong bond between Mount St. Mary’s and the Daughters of Charity has endured for over two centuries, ever since the foundress of the order, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, resided at The Mount and taught local children in the adjoining Grotto. It’s only natural that the relationship should extend to Mother Seton School (MSS), a sponsored work of the Daughters and direct descendant of the first Catholic elementary school founded in the United States in 1810 by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. The thriving partnership between America’s second oldest Catholic university and the oldest Catholic elementary school was recently highlighted through the donation of ten laptops, which had been converted to Chromebooks, to Mother Seton School’s technology program.

Working with Professor Athar Rafiq, students majoring in computer science, cybersecurity, and math completed a service learning project to retrofit electronically and physically clean and test the laptop computers, which had been replaced after being in use at the Mount for three years. The Mount students who devoted the most effort to this initiative are Chandler Bankos, Vu Do, Eric Fierro, Christian Hill, Danny Stanley, J’Dan Vaughn, and Sergio Villafane.

“We are grateful to Dr. Rafiq and his students for providing us these tools,” said Sister Brenda Monahan, D.C., principal of Mother Seton School. “They help move us toward our goal of providing 1:1 computing devices to our students for use in small group instruction and STEM experiences.”

Not only do Mount students receive valuable technical and, more importantly, service-oriented learning experience, but MSS students and teachers benefit in their teaching and learning initiatives from these laptops, which the Mount students converted to Chromebooks. The sustainability initiative also avoids the cost of piling these laptops in landfills, which complements the Green School status of MSS.

Seton Center, Inc.’s Outreach Office and Seton Family Store are scheduled to open their new facility at 226 East Lincoln Avenue in Emmitsburg on Monday, June 11, 2018. Founded in 1969, Seton Center was established in the former Mother Seton School by the Daughters of Charity at the request of the three mothers in the Emmitsburg area. These hard-working women faced a need for quality daycare, which could enable them to work and support their families while their children received safe, adequate care and developmental enrichment. In 1970, the licensed Seton Day Care was opened, followed by the addition of social and nationally-recognized educational services. The Thrift Store also opened in 1970, which is now called Seton Family Store.

The original building at 16840 South Seton Avenue in Emmitsburg was constructed in 1956. It has long outlasted its predicted life span of ten years. Seton Center is excited to begin using its new facility, an environmentally- and user-friendly space from which it will continue to serve Northern Frederick County.

The Daughters of Charity and Seton Center are grateful for all the firms and trades who worked to complete construction of the new building in record time: Morgan-Keller Construction, CJL Engineering, Frederick, Seibert & Associates, Inc., MSB Architects of Hagerstown and their interior designer, Raquel Orsini. The project produced a new 13,000-square-foot building that will house the Outreach Office, Seton Family Store, and a large meeting room for presentations of all kinds. All those visiting Seton Center will enter through the main front entrance. Once inside the building, Outreach Office visitors will enter a door on the left. The interior entrance to the Seton Family Store will be straight ahead.

Today, Seton Center’s Outreach Office continues to offer hope to under-resourced neighbors by offering a wide range of services and programs, from short-term assistance with financial needs to life-changing programs for long-term success. Emergency material assistance, referrals, Build Your Resource workshops, and the Getting Ahead and DePaul Dental programs all offer temporary relief and substantial opportunities for systemic change. The Outreach Office hours will remain the same: Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., closing for lunch daily from noon-1:00 p.m.

Seton Family Store will also continue to offer a reputable place to donate pre-loved items that are then sold at low-cost to the community. Because the Daughters of Charity provide for the operational costs of Seton Center, 100 percent of Family Store sale proceeds directly fund the Outreach Office programs and services. In the new location, the Family Store will no longer be separated into multiple rooms, but will offer one bright, open and updated space to shop for bargains. The schedule for retail sales will remain the same as well, Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Donations are no longer accepted at the South Seton Avenue location. Beginning June 12, the community is welcomed to bring donations of good, clean clothing, household goods, and collectibles to the 226 Lincoln Avenue site, Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. When coming to donate items, donors will enter the new driveway, bear right, then follow the signs along the driveway around to the left, to the back of the building. Donors will stop under a covered drop-off area and ring the doorbell for a staff person or volunteer to greet them and accept their items.

For more information or to support their mission, visit Seton Center’s website at, follow them on Facebook at Seton Family Store and Seton Center Outreach Office, send an e-mail to, or call 301-447-6102.

The Daughters of Charity went to China in the early 20th century to care for the sick and needy and to spread the word of God.

China experienced wars and unrest during the first half of the 20th century, with the rise of Communism; the Nationalist Party; and Chiang Kai-shek, China’s leader for nearly half a century.

The Daughters of Charity opened a hospital in Kan Chow in 1923 and one in Taiwo in 1928. From that point on, they did their best to care for all those they could. Their operation was funded by contributions from other Daughters of Charity houses. The sisters did not interfere in politics and were allowed to operate their hospitals. That changed in 1930.

The Central Plains War broke out in China between the Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government, which had come to power in 1928, and several regional military commanders who challenged the government’s legitimacy. The war eventually involved a million Chinese soldiers, of which three hundred thousand were casualties. This does not even consider the number of civilian casualties.

Father Leon Cahill in Ganzhou warned the sisters of a coming attack by bandits on March 15, 1930. They made an escape plan, prayed they wouldn’t need it, and continued their work. Then, on March 20, word came that the bandits were nearing. The hospital staff dropped what they were doing, which included leaving their lunch, which had been prepared already, uneaten.

“Donning the garb of Chinese coolies and guided by a faithful servant, they were escorted to the distant home of a Christian,” the Gettysburg Times reported. Their habits were hidden in rice bins. The group was made up of six sisters, three Catholic priests, two servants, and a French bishop.

They were only able to stay at the house for a short time, though, because too many people knew where the sisters had gone. Under cover of darkness, they were taken to the house of a pagan, who allowed them to stay in a hidden room.

The Communists, who by then must have been frustrated by the Catholic group’s escape, offered a $200 reward for each sister or priest brought to them. Out of a fear that they might be betrayed, the friends of the sisters led the group to a third location, where they were able to rest for a few days.

Then began a long journey across China to try and reach safety, while still helping those the sisters had been sent to serve.

While this group was on the run, five French Daughters of Charity were captured in October and held prisoner until Christmas, before they were freed.

As the American sisters moved about the countryside, they were joined by two additional sisters, and they were sometimes able to wear their habits. When they did, they had to travel in sedan chairs with the curtains closed. “Eventually, they finally returned to their hospitals, despite the warnings, and against the wishes of friends, in the garb of their order,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

They intended to resume their work, but the hospitals were in ruins. “Everything in the two hospitals had been destroyed, except two pictures hanging on the wall of a small office in the hospital at Kan Chow,” according to the newspaper.

At this point, it was decided to bring the sisters back to the United States. The eight sisters left on December 26, 1930. The Daughters of Charity were Sister Vincent Louise DeLude, Sister Anselma Jarboe, Sister Helena Lucas, Sister Emily Kolb, Sister Eugenia Beggs, Sister Pauline Strable, Sister Catherine O’Neill, and Sister Clara Groell. They had spent nine months as fugitives because they had wanted to help the sick and poor.

The sisters in Emmitsburg spent days preparing a welcome for Sisters Helena and Clara, who were the only ones who returned to the motherhouse in Emmitsburg. The others returned to other Daughters of Charity houses.

Sister Anselma and Sister Clara returned to serve in China from 1936 to 1951. Sister Emily and Sister Vincent returned to China from 1936 to 1952. Sister Catherine returned to China from 1932 to 1952.

A pistol battalion of the Northwest Army during the Central Plains War in China.

A Topping Out Ceremony was held for Morgan-Keller’s Seton Center Project on Tuesday, December 5, 2017. The ceremony was held to celebrate the placement of the last steel beam atop the new building structure, located at 226 East Lincoln Avenue in Emmitsburg. Morgan-Keller Construction is a general contracting and construction management firm, with offices in Frederick and Columbia.

Designed by MSB Architects of Hagerstown, this building project involves the construction of a new 13,000-square-foot building to house the Outreach Office, Seton Family Store, and a large meeting room for workshops and presentations. MSB Architects, located in Hagerstown, was established in 2004, with a mission to design buildings that enhance both the built and the natural environment.

Sponsored by the Daughters of Charity, Province of St. Louise, staffed by Sisters, local lay employees, and a myriad of volunteers, Seton Center’s Outreach Office and Family Store provide services to all members of the community, within the framework of the core values of the Daughters of Charity: humility, simplicity, and charity. Partnering with more than 575 families each year, they are looking forward to serving Northern Frederick County in this welcoming, more accessible space.

For more information about the programs and services Seton Center provides, please visit

James Rada, Jr.

Nearly a decade ago, Brother Pascale O’Brien of Divine Mercy should have been dead four times over.

“I had the Last Rites given to me four times, and my younger brother was told to have me prepare a living will,” O’Brien said.

He had blood clots in his system that the doctors thought would kill him. O’Brien’s health remained precarious. When he finally recovered, his doctor told him that his survival had been nothing less than miraculous.

“I started thinking what I could do to repay the Lord for saving my life,” O’Brien said.

He decided to take the vows of a hermit.

While you might imagine a hermit as a bearded old man living in seclusion in the woods, cut off from society, Catholic hermits are men, and sometimes women, who have dedicated their lives to the Lord. O’Brien, who turned seventy this year, is retired from the dietary department with Daughters of Charity. He had no children, and he has never been married.

He applied to be a hermit through the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The process not only included interviews, but also a psychological evaluation. The evaluation took years, but he finally took his final vows in the Immaculate Conception Chapel at Mount St. Mary’s University on October 1, 2017. O’Brien said that the Mass was a “bigger event” than he thought it would be.

“My life is now dedicated to the Lord,” O’Brien said. “My life is about how God can use me as a vessel in the lives of other people.”

His days are now spent performing spiritual exercises, studying the Bible, and praying for the church and families who are in need.

Although some hermits live on their own in hermitages, O’Brien lives on his own and conducts his exercises in the privacy of his apartment. He wears a brother’s collar, habit, and ring to show that he is celibate.

“I am no better than anyone else, but I am striving to become better and more holy,” O’Brien said.

As he works toward this goal, his life is quiet unless he is listening to spiritual music or watching a church sermon. He does not interact much with the world unless it is needed. His time and attention are instead focused on growing closer to his God.

“I feel blessed,” O’Brien said. “I feel fulfilled, and I feel like I have a purpose in life.”


Brother Pascale O’Brien is shown on the day he took his final vows to become a hermit on October 1, 2017.


Seton Center, Inc. Thanksgiving Helping Hands Program assures that more may have the dignity of celebrating and truly giving thanks. On Friday, November 18, 2016, Seton Center’s Outreach Office staff distributed over $3,000 in food store gift cards to seventy-six local, under-resourced families and individuals, thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Daughters of Charity and neighbors, who donated funds and gift cards.

Squadron 121, Emmitsburg American Legion’s Adjutant Jim Houck and Treasurer Mike Hartdagen, presented their generous Thanksgiving donation of $750 (which fed twelve families) to Administrator Sister Martha Beaudoin and Administrative Assistant Tina Lamont, who coordinates the Helping Hands program. The Legion also pledged an additional gift of $750 for Christmas support of the Helping Hands program, which provided food gift cards and gifts for children.

To learn more about being a Seton Center Helping Hands program sponsor, call 301-447-6102.


Pictured are Adjutant Jim Houck and Treasurer Mike Hartdagen of Squadron 121 of the Emmitsburg American Legion; Seton Center Administrator Sister Martha Beaudoin; and Administrative Assistant Tina Lamont.

Nicholas DiGregory

Luminarias Photo-1Bells have long been a cherished part of the firefighting tradition. Long before the invention of the radio or even the telephone, bell systems were used to signal firefighters throughout the day. The bell of the firehouse was rung to signify the beginning of a new shift, or to call members of a particular fire department to their station. When a fire occurred, the bells of the fire alarm telegraph system would be rung a specific number of times to indicate the precise location of the fire. These telegraph system bells were also used to call for backup if a particular fire department needed support in putting out a fire.

While the tolling of bells has been a part of firefighters’ lives for hundreds of years, there is one specific ring that no firefighter has ever wanted to hear. Three sets of five tolls, each set apart from the others by a short pause, has been the universal signal that a firefighter has fallen in the line of duty.

The somber fifteen tolls of the bell sounded in Emmitsburg once again during the 34th National Firefighters Foundation Memorial Weekend. During the weekend of October 3-4, 2015, hundreds of family members, friends, and fellow firefighters came to Emmitsburg to honor eighty-seven heroes who had died in the line of duty—eighty-four of whom had lost their lives in 2014.

The weekend was comprised of two major events: a candlelight service on October 3, and the official National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service on October 4. Both events were set to take place at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Park on the grounds of the National Emergency Training Center in Emmitsburg; however, inclement weather forced both events to be moved indoors.

The candlelight service on October 3 was held inside the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. The evening service, which was closed to the public, provided a comforting and serene atmosphere for families and friends to mourn their loved ones. Throughout the service, musical pieces were performed, tributes were read, and prayers were offered in honor of the fallen firefighters. All the while, the names and faces of the eighty-seven fallen heroes were displayed on a projector for all to see.

The centerpieces of the candlelight service were eighty-seven luminarias that were placed along the altar rails. Prior to the event, families and friends created and decorated a small luminaria for each of the eighty-seven fallen firefighters. Many of the luminarias were decorated with stickers and drawings, and each featured a portrait of a fallen firefighter. These luminarias remained lit throughout the candlelight service, casting a warm light upon all who were gathered.

An eighty-eighth luminaria stood above the others in front of the altar, to honor the sacrifices of all fallen firefighters. Tamie Rehak Vjotesak of Virginia, whose husband died in the line of duty in 2002, lit the honorary luminaria midway through the event.

“It is a traditional Hispanic custom to display luminarias on the eve of an important event,” said Rehak Vjotesak. “On the eve of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service, we display these lighted tributes in honor of the eighty-seven heroes that we honor and remember.”

The light of the honorary luminaria was then ceremoniously passed to all gathered at the event. Gail Fowler of New York, whose husband died in the line of duty in 1997, carried the light in the form of a small electric candle. She touched the light of her candle to others, who turned on their electric candles and passed on the light in a similar manner.

The candlelight service concluded with the performance of a new song, written this year and performed by singer/songwriter David Carroll. Entitled “The Fallen and the Brave,” the song drew on Carroll’s experience as a volunteer firefighter.

Several times throughout the service, members of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) thanked the Daughters of Charity and the Rev. Frank Sacks for providing a location to hold the candlelight service.

“On behalf of the foundation, I would like to thank the Daughters of Charity and recognize Father Frank,” said Chief Dennis Compton, chairman of the board for the NFFF. “They offered their assistance immediately and in a genuine display of compassion . . . we could not ask for a better neighbor.”

For the memorial service on October 4, all proceedings were moved from the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to Mount St. Mary’s Knott Arena in the PNC Sports Complex. The service, which began at 10:00 a.m., was open to the public.

The memorial service began with a tolling of bells and a procession of flags led by the honor guard and the pipes and drums. The American flag and the NFFF flag were processed in first, followed by the flags of the fire departments that lost firefighters. At the end of the procession, active duty firefighters carried a folded flag for each of the eighty-seven fallen firefighters.

Following the flag procession, the national anthem, and the pledge of allegiance, all of those gathered were greeted by Mayor Don Briggs of Emmitsburg and Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner. Both officials thanked the families present for the sacrifices of their loved ones, lauding the heroes for their bravery in the face of danger.

Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland then addressed the crowd, offering his condolences to the grieving and highly praising the fallen for their courage and willingness to sacrifice themselves.

“Here in Emmitsburg we inscribe the names of loved ones and heroes—it is a place we can come to remember those who have fallen in the service of their communities, of their neighbors, and of our country,” said Hoyer. “It is a place where all of us can find solace and fill those empty spaces in our hearts through the power of love and remembrance.”

Following Congressman Hoyer’s remarks, live broadcast feed of Memorial Park was projected, showing the placement of the presidential wreath at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial.

Immediately following, Chief Ernest Mitchell of the United States Fire Administration and FEMA administrator W. Craig Fugate also addressed the crowd. Both men strongly praised all firefighters for their service to the country.

“If you really look into the heart of a firefighter, the question is not about them—it’s about who they serve,” said Fugate. “They never think about if they’ll go home. They always think about who they’re helping, who they’re serving, oftentimes at great sacrifice.”

As Fugate concluded his remarks, he introduced President Obama. In speaking to the audience about the firefighting profession, the president drew on Christian scripture and lauded firefighters for being their brother’s keeper.

“Every single day, across our country, men and women leave their homes and their families so that they might save the lives of people they’ve never met,” Obama said. “They are good stewards, serving their neighborhoods, their communities, our nation, with courage and fortitude and strength. We can never repay them fully for their sacrifices.”

Obama also offered his condolences and those of all Americans to the families and friends of the fallen firefighters.

“Words alone cannot ease the pain of your loss,” Obama said to the grieving who were gathered. “But perhaps it helps a little bit to know that the American people stand with you in honoring your loved ones. We admire them, we cherish the work that they do, and we hold you in our hearts today and always.”

After Obama concluded his speech to a standing ovation, he officially unveiled the 2014 memorial plaque, to be mounted on the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial. Obama then personally met with each of the families of the fallen firefighters. After each family met with the president, they were presented with a folded flag, a personalized fire badge, and a single red rose. Each of the flags had been previously flown over the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial and the Capitol dome.

Once all of the families had met with the president, the bells were tolled the traditional fifteen times to signal a final farewell to the fallen heroes. The Rev. Thomas Mulcrone of the Chicago fire department offered a final prayer, commending the fallen heroes and their families to the care of God.

While the 2015 National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend has passed, the NFFF is still offering ways to honor the fallen heroes. Names and biographical information for all of the eighty-seven fallen firefighters can be found online at Donations to the Foundation in their honor can also be made at the same website.

Photos by Bill Green, Courtesy of NFFF

Obama Photo-1

President Obama unveiled the 2014 plaque to be placed on the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial, featuring the names of eighty-four firefighters who passed away in 2014, and three who passed away in earlier years.


James Rada, Jr.

Joan Boyle

June 4, 1913 – July 11, 2015

joan-boyle-2Emmitsburg lost its oldest citizen on July 11, 2015, when Joan Boyle passed away at St. Joseph’s Ministries in Emmitsburg. She was 102 years old.

Boyle was born June 4, 1913, in Adams County, Pennsylvania, but she spent much of her life trying to improve Emmitsburg.

She was elected in 1981 as an Emmitsburg town commissioner and served for a term. In an unpublished 2007 interview she gave to the author, she said that she decided to run for the same reason many people get involved in politics at the local level.

“I remember I would pick up the paper and read about what was going on, and I thought, ‘It’s such a mess,’” Boyle said.

Because she had taught a civics class during her twenty years of teaching in Washington County, she believed she had enough knowledge to run a town.

So she began campaigning door to door and was elected as the town’s parks and recreation commissioner in 1981.

She remembers as she lowered her hand after taking the oath of office, Mayor Eugene Myers, who had just sworn her in, told her, “I must tell you there’s no money in the budget for parks and recreation.”

At that point, Boyle knew she had her work cut out for her.

A member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, she also attended St. Euphemia’s School in the 1920s. The school opened in 1889 and was named after Mother Euphemia Blenkinsop, recently deceased superior of the Daughters of Charity. It operated until 1956, when the elementary school ceased and the building was used by St. Joseph’s High School.

Boyle remembered a big event for the school that she recounted in her 2007 interview. “The principal told us if we can do plays for 25 cents a person, we can start putting in indoor plumbing. At that point, I wasn’t sure what indoor plumbing was,” Boyle said.

She graduated St. Joseph’s College in Emmitsburg and went on to attend the University of Madrid in Spain; Trinity University in Dublin, Ireland; and the University of Galway in Ireland.

As an adult, Boyle taught school in the Hagerstown area and Chatham Hall School in Virginia.

Boyle also remembered the Emmitsburg town fountain when it ran. The town fountain was installed in 1884 in the middle of the square. Traffic flowed around it going through the center of town.

Boyle remembered the fountain from her childhood. “The fountain would spray out all over the place. It was lovely, but the cars had to go around it. As the years went by, the area around it became smaller and smaller as more trucks and cars came through town.” It was destroyed when a car hit it in 1927.

A Memorial Mass was held for Boyle on July 16 at St. Joseph’s. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Emmitsburg Public Library Children’s Programs, 300 S. Seton Avenue, Emmitsburg, MD 21727.