Caring for the Community’s Legacy
For nearly two centuries Sisters of the Precious Blood have ministered and lived in community, each Sister weaving her own contribution into the fabric of time. Their touchstones — ranging from routine reports to founder Maria Anna Brunner’s prayer book — enlighten and educate. Together they tell the congregation’s story.
That story begins with an elderly widow in a Swiss castle in 1834, but the details are pieced together in the records of the congregational Archives, located in a newly-created space at Salem Heights in Dayton. The records include annals, photos, news clippings, programs and other documents. There are individual files on more than 1,800 living and deceased Precious Blood Sisters. Some of the records date to the community’s founding.
Among the unique items in the collections is a crucifix from Loewenberg Castle in Switzerland where Mother Brunner lived when she founded the community. There is original paperwork from the sale of land that Father Francis De Sales Brunner bought for the congregation when it expanded to America, and blueprints of old buildings. Old annals chronicle decades of formation, professions, ministry assignments and deaths. There also are records of the institutions where Sisters have ministered.
Documents and records come from the council and congregational events. The Archives also depends upon individual Sisters to contribute items to make the collections as complete as possible.
“I believe that the archives of the Sisters of the Precious Blood are records of God’s family in the church,” said Sister Noreen Jutte, congregational archivist since 1996. “We are a special family in the church and we have records to support our life and ministry.”
The archives are housed in a bright, airy space that provides office and work areas. The records themselves are stored in a climate-controlled environment with air temperature in the 60s and humidity in the 40s. The documents are filed in acid-free folders and acid-free boxes to help preserve them, Sister Noreen said. The records could survive for centuries under the proper conditions.
The new area, which centralizes the records in one location, was created as part of the Salem Heights repurposing project. Previously, the records and artifacts were spread out among five different rooms at Salem Heights. In addition to the climate-controlled storage room and ultra violet ray protection, the Archives provides a convenient area for research. A computer database enables Sister Noreen to quickly locate specific records. The new space opened last November.
Sister Noreen succeeded the late Sister Mary Linus Bax, who became the congregation’s first archivist in 1975. Prior to the creation of the Archives, records were maintained by the congregation’s council secretary.
The Archives staff also includes part-time secretary Mary Beth Jutte and volunteer Melissa Schoenhofer.
“I’ve always been enthused about working in the Archives, because archives are not just records or paper or storage material. Archives are lives that were lived,” she said. “They are stories and summaries of God’s blessings.”
- Story by Dave Eck; photos by Michelle Bodine