Here in the Archives, sometimes we find stories that are too sweet not to share. The records in Archives show how much the Maryknoll Sisters love their pets, and the ballad of Bill and Skeezix proves the rule. We’re introduced to these two cats in the Monrovia convent diary. The Sisters moved to Monrovia, CA in 1930 to run a tuberculosis sanatorium. Bill and Skeezix had already spent many years keeping the patients company before the Sisters came to town. And when the Sisters moved in, these two knew just how to make friends.

Hiyama-San, our combination Japanese cook and gardener, sustained a cat bite which called for medical aid when he attempted this morning to capture the disturber of our last night’s peace. Be it known that we are not among the deadly enemies of these much-maligned domestic creatures, but we do consider our own two Persian cats are sufficient objects for our charity, and so do not welcome outsiders. Our two, Bill and Skeezix by name, were bequeathed to us by the former owner of Monrovia Sanatorium, perhaps because one of them is a TB suspect; at least, it is said that he has a very bad cough.
May 23, 1931

Bill and Skeezix were well-loved by the Sisters, but within a few years, they both passed away from old age. The Monrovia community missed them very much, but especially Sister Mary Pieta Kirby. Sister was the special caretaker of the Monrovia pets, and she loved Bill and Skeezix very much. Friends in Monrovia knew how sad Sister Pieta was at Bill’s death in early November 1935, leaving the Sisters with no feline friends. These kind souls left notes and cards to console Sister. One of these was recorded in the convent diary…

A Farewell Ode Read by the Author at the Tomb of the Late, Lamented Billy [Nov. 5, 1935]

Farewell! A long farewell to you, O Billy-San!
Weighed down with years and merits, you at last have gone
To meet your good friend Skeezix and with him to share
Whate’er rewards grants God to such a faithful pair.
Here’s hoping that in some far place beyond the skies
Skeezix and you will find a feline Paradise
Whose gates admit no peevish hound or teasing man
But only such kind souls as good Pieta-San.

But as we can see, the Sisters didn’t have to wait very long for a new animal companion…

“The patients, ever on the look-out to do something for the Sisters, thought we would like a domestic animal to replace Billy so, with Brother Gregory as their chairman they voted to get us a dog. Today a Scotch Terrier arrived and was unanimously called Muggins.”

November 14, 1935

After Bill, Skeezix, and Muggins, it seems the Sisters were never without pets to keep them company. Besides cats and dogs, they had parakeets, ponies, fish, chickens, and more! The Monrovia diary shared the ballad of Bill and Skeezix, and stories of the Sisters’ other pets, with Sisters all over the world. Sharing stories like these kept the Sisters connected and gave levity to difficult mission work. No matter the pet, you can’t help but smile at stories like these!