Library exhibit honors St. Louis Catholic Sisters for 200 years of service

The library exhibit that we announced in last month’s issue of Items of Interest is proving to be a blockbuster hit in St. Louis.

The museum-quality exhibit at Central Library in downtown St. Louis celebrates the immense impact Roman Catholic Sisters have had in the St. Louis area since their arrival 200 years ago. The library exhibit, titled Catholic Sisters: The Spirit of St. Louis, was timed to coincide with National Women’s Month and National Catholic Sisters Week.

library exhibit
Archbishop Robert Carlson and Sr. Glynis McManamon, RGS, discuss Good Shepherd Gallery, the sacred arts ministry in Ferguson.

Most of the Sisters came to the area in the mid-19th century, starting with Society of the Sacred Heart in 1818. Sisters of the Good Shepherd arrived in St. Louis in 1849.

Artifacts in glass display cases illustrate some of the Orders’ histories and modern contributions:

  • a smallpox bell used to warn of a contagious patient
  • a cloth embroidered for a casket
  • cornhusk shoes, made so Sisters’ leather pair would last longer
  • a 21st century mat, woven with plastic bags, for a homeless person

Library exhibit covers two centuries of Sisters in St. Louis

Large photographs show Sisters engaged in a broad array of activity: prayer, teaching, working in an early hospital pharmacy, boarding a plane for a mission in Japan, demonstrating against hazardous landfills, to name just a few. The exhibit shows how over two centuries Sisters have gone from caring for the poor and sick to addressing the rights of girls at the United Nations. It shows Sisters in full habits, modified habits, and no habits at all.

The library exhibit has been drawing large and steady crowds since it opened to the public on March 9. The exhibit is being extended through Saturday, April 28.

Sisters from the Catholic Orders that are represented in the exhibit have been serving as Sister Docents to interact with the public and answer questions they may have about religious life. The Communicators for St. Louis Sisters worked with the St. Louis Public Library to plan the exhibit. Fifteen orders of Sisters are represented in the library exhibit, including Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

Read more about the exhibit in the St. Louis Post Dispatch newspaper.

library exhibit
Sister Madeleine Munday, RGS, (wearing black) serves as a Sister Docent to answer questions about religious life. Post-It notes on the wall in the back allow visitors to leave notes to Sisters.
Jeanette McDermott

Jeanette McDermott

Jeanette is the Communications Coordinator for Sisters of the Good Shepherd Province of Mid-North America. She is a career photojournalist who has served in various capacities of print, broadcast, and corporate communications. Jeanette is devoted to creation and is particularly focused on saving pollinators and other wildlife species and their habitat. She is an ethical vegan and created the website