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The Online Reference Guide to African American History

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  4. Mathilda "Matilda" Alster

It has never been proven that a connection existed between Mother Mathilda and this group of nuns, but the similarities in time and location are compelling evidence of some contact.

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In , Mathilda formed the first community of African-American nuns in Georgia. The group was associated with the Third Order of St. At that time Mathilda began to be called Mother Mathilda, a title generally given to the senior nun in an order. Her group operated the orphanage for several years.

Mathilda by Astarel - Mathilda

Mother Mathilda had many obstacles to face at the orphanage. Not only was she constantly short of money and staff, but in , several attempts were made to burn the orphanage.

Some teenage girls living at the home reportedly started the fires. In the late s the orphanage moved to East Broad Street. The orphanage shared this site with St.

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Both the church and the orphanage exclusively served the African-American population in Savannah. At this time Mother Mathilda was growing older and decided that she needed more help to operate the orphanage. One sister died and another left Savannah to join an all-black community in the North. Shortly after the arrival of the Franciscan nuns, Mother Mathilda moved out of the orphanage.

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She continued to work at the orphanage, however,and took in sewing. She gave the money she earned from her sewing to those in need. Mother Mathilda died on December 20, She was engaged in devotions in her private chapel at the time of her death.

Located next to her were her burial clothes, her will, and instructions for her funeral. Protestants and Catholics, blacks and whites attended her funeral mass. The Savannah Morning News reported that there were no available seats in the entire church for the service.

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Originally located near the Sacred Heart church, the orphanage started taking girls in and was moved in the late s to East Broad Street, the site of the newly erected St. Benedict's Parish. Though it has been speculated that Mother Mathilda donated her estate to atone for her late husband's financial gain from slavery, the very institution that she was born into and later escaped from, it has not been proven that was her motivation.

However, with her pure heart and willingness to sacrifice for others, it would not be surprising if this was true.

Mathilda "Matilda" Alster

Mother Mathilda founded the Third Order of St. Francis in , Georgia's first group of black nuns. Mother Beasley devoted herself to bettering the lives of others in spite of great difficulties and her sacrifices improved conditions for the African-American population in Savannah. Her obituary in the Savannah Morning News December 21, said, "Protestants speak in the highest terms of her life and character, and among the negroes the feeling prevails that they have lost their best and truest friend and benefactor.

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