Yes – I made someone cry, but it’s not what you think…
For two months in 2014, I restored historical photographs of nuns who served as school principals, teachers, and housekeepers in the small community of Nazareth, Texas for a forthcoming history publication of the Holy Family Church in Nazareth.
From 1915 – 1990 these nuns traveled over 550 miles from Fort Smith, Arkansas from St. Scholastica Monastery. Often what greeted them were barren farmlands, blowing dirt and flat plains a far cry from the lush green rolling land of Fort Smith. Parts of the Texas Panhandle are remote and isolated and some of the nuns wanted to turn around and go back to Arkansas but stayed to fulfill their assigned commitment. A majority of the nuns soon came to love Nazareth, its children, and its people.
After I successfully restored all 90 photographs, I suggested to Father Ken Keller, Nazareth’s present priest that we present the photos to St. Scholastica as our gift to them. He wholeheartedly agreed.
I traveled 591 miles to present this gift in person. On July 30, 2014, I carried a small 5 x 7 brown box holding the metallic black and white photos into St. Scholastica. Sister Cecilia, the archivist did not know what to expect when I bought the box out of my bag and started undoing the woven cream-colored ribbon bow.
As I took off the lid and laid back the yellow tissue paper covering the photos the first photo revealed was an untouched photograph exhibiting original tears and scratches. The next photo Cecilia saw was the retouched and restored photo without the tears and scratches. She started audibly gasping over the photo. When I began pulling more of the restored photographs out of the box tears began streaming out of her eyes and down her cheeks. I was seriously left speechless. I could unquestionably see in her eyes this unexpected gift meant more to her than words could express. Eventually, words of thanks in many forms came from her heart to my ears.
I never realized when Father Ken and I decided to give St. Scholastica the restored photos that such a small gesture, in my opinion, would bring unanticipated tears of joy and gratefulness to someone. As a historian, I saw these as important artifacts of historical importance needing proper restoration. Never was my intention to make Cecilia cry, but I’m glad I did… The look of love and thankfulness in Cecilia’s eyes is now ever ingrained in my heart.
Photograph – © Christena Stephens Photography