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Sisters of the Holy Cross Create Big Dividends from Little Stamps

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Main stamps logo for blog post

If the postage stamp on your envelope could talk, it would have many stories to tell — from the moment it was selected by the U.S. Postal Service as one of 35 designs for the year (out of 30,000 submissions) to the instant its purpose was fulfilled by delivering an envelope’s content to the intended recipient.

But for 5 million people in the U.S. alone, a stamp’s value does not end there. For philatelists (aka, stamp collectors), the postmarked stamp comes into its true worth now. And with any luck, that stamp is saved and sent in to the Sisters of the Holy Cross.

A stamp’s journey

On the motherhouse campus, Stamp Ministry volunteer Claude Renshaw sorts through the week’s accumulation of donations. People from all over send in their postmarked stamps so the sisters can sell them to collectors and earn money that supports their ministries across the globe. One envelope contains an assortment of commemorative stamps from a donor in Maryland, including a colorful design that is the 2021 edition of the “Love” series begun in 1973. One can only guess at the content this stamp may have delivered — a payment for a bill, a letter to a loved one, an invitation to a wedding?

U.S. or non-U.S. off or on paper, especially commemorative stamps

U.S. or non-U.S. off or on paper, especially commemorative stamps



A retired accounting professor from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana, and a lifelong philatelist, Claude and other volunteers sort and trim the hundreds of stamps that arrive each week. Claude adds the Love stamp to several others already received in that series. He is in touch with a wide network of collectors and his expertise in the stamp market is a blessing to the sisters. In this instance, he knows of a collector in Iowa who is always on the lookout for the various Love issues.

In fact, collectors often like to focus their efforts on topical stamps such as the Love series. Since its first stamp in 1864, the U.S. Postal Service has issued an array of topics: birds, flowers, insects, famous people, inventions, holidays, Disney characters, sports, space, toys — they are numerous. Other collectors may specialize in stamps of a certain country or time period, or perhaps souvenir sheets, which are based on a significant event or a particular theme.

First-Day Covers

First-Day Covers

Album Collections

Album Collections

Stamps teach

Yet there is more to collecting than just trading, selling or displaying in albums. Stamps are learning tools.

A collector since the age of 8, Claude says, “By the time I was in college — in fact, it’s probably still true — about 50% of all I know about history and geography comes from what I learned while collecting stamps.”

Stamp collecting teaches patience and persistence. It sharpens organizational skills and memory. It gives an appreciation for art and design. And it has no rules. A collector can choose what to collect, how to arrange a collection, and whether to sell it at any given point in time. How a person does it is completely up to the individual. And since stamp collectors come from all kinds of backgrounds, the opportunities to share this interest and connect with diverse people are unlimited.

U.S./Foreign Mint Strips, Stamp Sheets and Plate Blocks

U.S./Foreign Mint Strips, Stamp Sheets and Plate Blocks

‘Love’ carries on

With the envelope of Love stamps at his side, Claude sends an email off to the collector in Iowa letting her know that he has a good supply of her favorite if she wants them. She does, and he packages the stamps in an envelope with, of course, a stamp or two of its own. Once the financial transaction takes place, the earnings move into the sisters’ Ministry With the Poor Fund.

Once a year, grants are made from Ministry With the Poor to Holy Cross sisters around the globe who provide health services, education, prison outreach, faith formation, trauma counseling, and so much more. The ministries are how the sisters witness God’s prophetic love for all creation. And when a Love stamp is a small part of the process, it only seems right.

How You Can Help

  • Always buy commemorative stamps when purchasing postage. Your stamps will have a life far beyond the initial mail service they provide.
  • Pay attention to what’s on your envelope and save it for the sisters if there is value. We can resell many stamps . Please trim ¼” around the stamps before sending to us.
  • Consider donating your rare and valuable pieces now or as part of your estate. Stamp collections or “first-day covers” are appreciated intact. (A first-day cover is a special envelope with the stamp attached and canceled on the first day of issue.)
  • If you are looking for stamps to help expand your collection, please let us know what you are looking for and we will do our best to help you find it.

If you have any questions about buying or donating stamps, please address them to:

Mail stamps to:
Sisters of the Holy Cross
Stamp Room
100 Augusta Hall–Saint Mary’s
Notre Dame, IN  46556-5000

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This story also appeared in inSpirit magazine. To receive the magazine or the Annual Giving Report, use the button below and fill out our online request form. You can also sign up to receive the online newsletter from the Congregation’s Development Office.