Sisters of Providence given permission to swim!

June 29, 1953: This is a very special day in the history of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind. This was the day that the sisters were given permission to swim!

Sisters John Mary Rifner and Martha Ann Rifner (yes, they are sisters, too!) were two of the sisters who were excited about this new opportunity.

According to a web article, “Sister John Mary certainly remembered that June day in 1953 when word was received that swimming was permitted.

“‘Mother Marie Helene [Franey, general superior from 1948 to 1953] came in and told the postulants and novices that they would be permitted to swim,’ said Sister John Mary.

“Soon the sisters received their new seersucker suits that looked like a short dress. Panties and bras were necessary undergarments to wear with the suit.

“‘As soon as you got into the water it clung to you,’ said Sister Martha Ann.

“‘And when you jumped in the water, the skirt would come up over you and you didn’t know whether you were drowning or alive,’ laughed Sister John Mary. ”

The photograph above shows the swimming pool that was located in the old gymnasium on the motherhouse grounds. The pool was once shared with the students at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

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