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 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.
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.