Have you ever stumbled upon letters written by your grandparents when they were dating? Has a friend ever shown you a forgotten picture of both of you as children? Have you ever looked through your parents' high school yearbooks? Finding pieces of your family history can be fascinating, fun and insightful.
The Vincentian community is a family of its own, and has its own trove of treasures in the DeAndreis-Rosati Memorial Archives (DRMA), here at its home in DePaul's Special Collections and Archives. Priests serving in missions to China, Taiwan and Kenya sent home letters, and photos, which were saved. They brought back memorabilia, including games, cards, and banners, all of which made it into the archives. The Motor Missions, a revival-style missionary effort, generated reports of rural life throughout Missouri; the Catholic Home Study Service recorded questions about the Catholic faith from lay people; diaries chronicled daily seminary life for novices, letters reported the goings-on of the Perryville community and their support of the strong parish communities they served - all of these were carefully saved by the Vincentians.
The archives were established in February 1939, when Rev. William Brennan, C.M., suggested that the seminarians at St. Mary's of the Barrens in Perryville, Missouri, preserve the history of the Western Province. The seminarians sought approval from then-head of the Province, Rev. Marshall F. Winne, C.M., who agreed, commenting that their aim should be to "perpetuate the memory of the lives and labors of the valiant and saintly Vincentian pioneers in the ecclesiastical history of our country, and then to foster a similar spirit amount our young Vincentians of today." In 2001, the Vincentians moved the archives to DePaul to ensure the long term preservation of their heritage and provide greater accessibility to researchers.
Today, the DeAndreis-Rosati Memorial Archives includes approximately 800 feet of archival material, rare books, and artifacts of, among other things, the records of the oldest higher learning institute west of the Mississippi. It is as alive as the Vincentians that they document, and is available in the Richardson Library, Special Collections and Archives.
Photograph from the Catholic Home Study Service Collection.