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Sisters say goodbye to the “Gossip Tree” at Maple Mount

The “Gossip Tree,” a maple tree in the center of the Motherhouse campus that has provided a gathering place for Ursuline Sisters and hundreds of students for likely 100 years, is nearing its final days.

The Gossip Tree in front of the Guest House on May 23, 2018.

The tree, which has defied the ages and sometimes gravity, was a staple for students at the former Mount Saint Joseph Academy to sit and talk. Many of those students became Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, and the sisters on campus have never known a time when the Gossip Tree wasn’t there to greet them between the chapel and Guest House.

The ravages of time have finally caught up with the tree. Last year, a brace was built to support a fragile limb that runs parallel to the ground. Now much of the tree is dying, so before it falls, the community will have it taken down professionally. The date of removal is not yet set.

A brace was built in 2017 to support this branch that has defied gravity for years.

On May 23, 2018, the sisters gathered in the chapel for a “Letting Go” service. Sister Ruth Gehres read “The Legacy of the Gossip Tree,” written by Madelyn Denniston Keach, a 1960 graduate of the Academy. It includes the following line:

“I can hear girls chattering, laughing, sisters’ rosaries rattling, chapel bell ringing, silence beckoning, wisdom blooming, prayers ascending!”

Sister George Mary Hagan then read from the Gospel of John, 20:11-18, Mary Magdalene’s vision of the risen Jesus, who tells her, “Stop holding onto me.” The sisters were then asked to reflect on allowing God to use their disappointment and sadness.

“It is pointless for us to sit back and feel sorry for our loss,” the reflection said. “We must remember and reflect on our memories and joys this gorgeous maple tree has brought us over these many years.”

The sisters were encouraged to light a small candle, then place it floating into a bowl of water as a way of letting go. When all were finished, they sang “For Everything There Is A Time.”

Here are photos from the service.

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Senaida R. Hall (Jun 2, 2018)
Thank you for sharing the story of the "Gossip Tree." It's a lovely story. And now you must say good-bye to your wonderful tree. You'll do it with a smile on your faces and love in your hearts.I also enjoyed viewing all the pictures. I didn't find Sister CJ, but I'll call her and she'll tell me what picture to look at.
Sr. Betsy Moyer (May 30, 2018)
The tree has been a source of comfort, laughter, reflection, and support. It has nurtured many relationships throughout the years. It will always hold a special memory in my heart. It served us so well! Good-bye faithful friend!
Sr. Michele Morek (May 25, 2018)
I'm sad, but glad that the life and significance of this tree was honored. Maybe it will inspire us to protest the destruction of the tropical forests...
Stephanie Warren (May 25, 2018)
This tree has been nurtured over all these years by many Ursulines, Academy students, visitors and families and in turn we have been nurtured by it. It holds our stories and we give thanks for it!
Susan Scott (May 25, 2018)
I will miss the tree the next time I am at the Mt. I am so glad the sisters had a goodbye service for it. If there was time and a talent available, it would be nice to have a little piece of polished wood from the tree as a keepsake. It will be a good memory anyway.