Since the earliest days of the Church, Christians have taken time to remember and pray for the dead, especially those who were killed because of their faith, the martyrs. This has led to many customs and traditions developing over time meant to aid us as individuals and communities in both praying for our beloved dead and passing on the stories of how they lived their faith.
One tradition that has emerged is the use of “lists” to keep track of those who have died so that we can remember them and pray for their souls. A way of understanding the word “canonize” is to think of it as meaning “to add to the official list.” Therefore, when we say that a holy person is “canonized as a saint,” we mean that they have been added to the Church’s official list of the woman and men who are in heaven as part of the communion of saints.
Since 1583, the Catholic Church has been compiling the comprehensive Roman Martyrology, a listing of most of the official saints from around the world. The foundress of the Religious of Jesus and Mary, Claudine Thévenet, was placed on this list of saints in 1993 by Pope John Paul II.
In many monasteries, a similar custom had already developed, the monks and nuns would keep lists of the members of their community who had died and they would use these lists to remember the names of their brothers and sisters during prayer. One of these lists of the dead is called a necrology.
Today, most religious congregations and dioceses keep necrologies of the professed members and clergy who have died since the community was founded, which current members refer to when they pray the Liturgy of the Hours each day.
Often, the necrologies list the name, birth date, and death date for each person. Many religious congregations, like the Religious of Jesus and Mary, prepare a more detailed form of necrology that they place in their archives when a member of the community dies. These longer necrologies resemble the obituaries that are published in newspapers.
Below is a column which appeared in the Los Angeles Times in 1982, it serves as a kind of obituary for Sr. Agnes (Josefina) Delgado, RJM. The memorial was written by Frank del Olmo, a Pulitzer Prize and Emmy winning reporter and editor. “Mother Agnes of the Cross” had been his teacher.from the USA-Haiti Provincial Archives
The necrologies kept in the congregation’s archives around the world are repositories of incredible information about the women who have served as Religious of Jesus and Mary. The archives contain many documents, some written by the sisters themselves. The official necrology of a sister often draws from the other documents in the archives, but it is also a place where stories and anecdotes about the deceased can be recorded. The necrology serves as a summary of each sister’s life as well as a testament to her faithful service.
Click below to read the full official necrology of Sr. Agnes (Josefina) Delgado that was prepared for the Provincial Archives.
The archive of the USA-Haiti Province preserves documents from our sisters’ lives as well as documents related to our various communities and ministries. If you are interested in learning more about our history we invite you to read Sr. Janice Farnham’s book Weaving Hope, which draws upon the records in the Provincial Archives.
Below is Sr. Agnes Delgado’s note that she prepared for the Eucharist celebrating the 50th anniversary of her profession as a RJM.From the USA-Haiti Provincial Archives
Just as we remember on our website sisters who have recently died, we are also posting necrologies and other documents from our Provincial Archives about sisters who have died further in the past. Click below to see the names of RJM sisters whose necrologies are posted on this website. If there are any sisters that you would like to know more about, please contact us and we will do what we can to share her necrology here on our website.
If you are interested in finding information about sisters from other religious congregations, we invite you to visit Archivists for Congregations of Women Religious
For a fascinating look at how the School Sisters of Notre Dame made a major contribution to a National Institutes of Health funded study of Alzheimer’s disease by sharing the contents of their archives and donating their brains visit the SSND website.