Neighbor to Neighbor welcomes Orphan Train Rider statue

July 5, 2022 by

A new bronze Orphan Train Rider statue was unveiled June 4 just outside Neighbor to Neighbor in downtown Concordia. It was one of two statues debuting in Concordia over the June 4 weekend as part of the National Orphan Train Complex’s 19th annual Celebration of Orphan Train Riders.

The weekend also coincided with the sister’s annual summer Assembly and Jubilee celebration, so a large number of sisters and CSJ Associates were on hand to witness the statue’s unveiling outside the popular ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

The Orphan Train Rider statues are a project of the National Orphan Train Complex, located at 300 Washington Street in Concordia. This statue was the 38th, and most recent statue, to be unveiled to date. The 11th and 12th Orphan Train Rider statues are located at the driveway entrance to the Nazareth Motherhouse and were dedicated on June 8, 2017. They honor Sister Eva Marie Vale and Sister Roberta Dreiling.

The new statue in front of Neighbor to Neighbor honors Cora Alice McVicker — also known as Eugenia Alice Cullivan Mulligan. The artwork was sponsored by John and Janice Strait in loving memory of Wilfred “Joe” and Gloria Hamel. Both John and Janice were in attendance for the unveiling, as was Patrick Mulligan, Cora/Eugenia’s son.
Sister Missy Ljungdahl, director of N2N, and Sisters Pat McLennon and Jean Befort, two of the original three founders of N2N, joined Mulligan in unveiling the statue of his mother.

Who was the orphan rider?

Cora McVicker was born in 1902 to Arthur and Emma McVicker. Just a few weeks after her birth, she was left in the care of the Sisters of Charity at the New York Foundling Hospital. She lived at the Foundling Hospital for two years, until 1904, when she was selected for placement in a western home.

Cora arrived in St. Mary’s, Kansas, and was placed with Catherine Cullivan of Belvue, Kansas. Her name was changed to Eugenia Alice Cullivan and she enjoyed a happy childhood with her adoptive mother and siblings.

Catherine died in 1915, and although most orphan train children would have been returned to New York, Eugenia remained with the Cullivan family, living with her adopted siblings.
Eugenia graduated from Immaculate Conception High School in 1917 and continued her education at the Nazareth Convent and School in Concordia. She graduated from the Nazareth Academy in 1921 with a teaching certificate.

Eugenia taught school in Wamego and Manhattan, Kansas. She dated Thomas Mulligan for two years and they were married in 1923. After the Mulligans wed, they moved to Topeka, where they raised their six children.

Thomas and Eugenia both passed away in 1989.

Sharing memories

As a crowd of sisters, family and other onlookers gathered in front of N2N that afternoon, they found the statue and informational sign concealed beneath a white shroud tied with golden cords.
National Orphan Train Complex curator, Kaily Carson, greeted the crowd and introduced John and Janice Strait as the donors, Patrick Mulligan, the son of Eugenia, along with several of his family members, and Sisters Missy, Pat and Jean on behalf of Neighbor to Neighbor. She encouraged all of them to speak to the crowd.

Sponsor Janice Strait explained how she and her husband decided to sponsor a statue in honor of her mother and father in front of one of the sisters’ ministries.
Janice said that her mother, Gloria, always had a deep admiration for the work of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.

“When she was little she lost her dad, so there were four girls and my grandma alone raising them,” Janice said. “My mom was a pretty special gal and she always told us kids that when she was growing up that the Sisters of St. Joseph would help out her and her sisters.”

“My mom would walk down to where the sisters lived on 5th Street and the sisters would send food home with her for the family to eat.”

Janice also said that in her mother’s later years she loved seeing all the Orphan Rider statues in Concordia.

“She also used to watch the orphan train come to town when she was young. So this meant quite a bit,” Janice said. “My husband and I decided this was the perfect place to thank the sisters in some small way for all they’ve done for my mother. “

The crowd also heard from Sister Missy on behalf of Neighbor to Neighbor.

“I think of our sisters who worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital, that is now Manna House. They were so attentive to the hearts of others and I am just so grateful for all of that the legacy that they’re leaving,” she said, referring to the sisters who assisted Janice Strait’s mother. “I want to thank Janice and John for this. And I want to thank the family for coming, this means the world.”

In addition to Eugenia’s son Patrick and his family being present, Carson read a letter from Eugenia’s daughter, Noreen, who was unable to attend.

“We were all touched by this honor for our mother who was a saintly, humble and caring person who loved and respected all God’s creations. Mother especially enjoyed children, animals, plants flowers and music,” she wrote.

Patrick also expressed his appreciation on behalf of his family at seeing his mother’s legacy continue with the statue.
“It’s quite an honor to be recognized for this. I am the son of my mother, who was on the orphan train. Thank you so much for this honor. It is a privilege,” he said to the crowd.

After the unveiling, the crowd was invited into Neighbor to Neighbor for refreshments.

The bronze Orphan Train Rider statues are created by the Randolph Rose Collection in Yonkers, New York. To find out more about the Orphan Train riders and statues, visit https://orphantraindepot.org/

 

 

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