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Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, Ohio

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On 27 October, 1829, at the request of Bishop Fenwick of Cincinnati, several sisters from Mother Seton's community at Emmitsburg, Maryland, opened an orphanage, parochial school, and academy on Sycamore Street opposite the old cathedral, then occupying the present site of St. Xavier's Church and college. When Bishop Purcell built the new cathedral on Eighth and Plum Sts., the sisters moved to Third and Plum Sts., and later the academy was transferred to George St., near John. When Father Etienne, superior of the Daughters of Charity of France, in December, 1850, effected the affiliation of the sisterhood at Emmitsburg with the Daughters of Charity of France, Sister Margaret George was superior in Cincinnati. She had entered the community at Emmitsburg early in 1812, and had filled the office of treasurer and secretary of the community, teaching in the academy during most of Mother Seton's life. She wrote the early records of the American Daughters of Charity, heard all the discussions regarding rules and constitutions, and left to her community in Cincinnati letters from the first bishops and clergy of the United States, Mother Seton's original Journal written in 1803 and some of her letters, and valuable writings of her own. She upheld Mother Seton's rules, constitutions, traditions, and costume, confirmed by Archbishop Carroll 17 Jan., 1812, objecting with Archbishop Carroll and Mother Seton to the French rule in its fulness, in that it limited the exercise of charity to females in the orphanages and did not permit the teaching of boys in the schools. The sisters in New York had separated from Emmitsburg in December, 1846, because they were to be withdrawn from the boys' orphanage. When it was finally decided that the community at Emmitsburg was to affiliate with the French Daughters of Charity, the sisters in Cincinnati laid before Archbishop Purcell their desire to preserve the original rule of Mother Seton's foundation. He confirmed the sisters in their desire and notified the superior of the French Daughters of Charity that he would take under his protection the followers of Mother Seton. Archbishop Purcell became ecclesiastical superior and was succeeded by Archbishop Elder and Archbishop Moeller.

The novitiate in Cincinnati was opened in 1852. During that year twenty postulants were received. The first Catholic hospital was opened by the sisters in November, 1852. In February, 1853, the sisters took charge of the Mary and Martha Society, a charitable organization established for the benefit of the poor of the city. On 15 August, 1853, the sisters purchased their first property on the corner of Sixth and Parks Sts., and opened there in September a boarding and select day-school. The following July they bought a stone house on Mt. Harrison near Mt. St. Mary Seminary of the West, and called it Mt. St. Vincent. The community was incorporated under the laws of Ohio in 1854 as "The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, Ohio". Mother Margaret George, Sister Sophia Gillmeyer, Mother Josephine Harvey, Sister Anthony O'Connell, Mother Regina Mattingly, Sister Antonio McCaffrey, and Sister Gonzalva Dougherty were the incorporators. In 1856 Mt. St. Vincent Academy was transferred to the "Cedars", the former home of Judge Alderson. It remained the mother-house until 29 September, 1869, and the boarding-school until July, 1906. It is now a day academy and a residence for the sisters teaching adjacent parochial schools. In 1857 Bishop Bayley of New Jersey sent five postulants to Mt. St. Vincent, Cedar Grove, Cincinnati, to be trained by Mother Margaret George. At the conclusion of their novitiate, Mother Margaret and Sister Anthony were to have gone with them to Newark, New Jersey, to remain until the little community would be well established, but affairs proving too urgent, Mother Margaret interceded with the New York community, and Sisters Xavier and Catherine were appointed superiors over the little band. In July, 1859, Mother Margaret George having held the office of mother for the two terms allowed by the constitution, was succeeded by Mother Josephine Harvey. During the Civil War many of the sisters served in the hospitals. Between 1852 and 1865 the sisters had taken charge of ten parochial schools. Archbishop Lamy of New Mexico, and Bishop Machebeuf of Colorado, both pioneer priests of Ohio, in 1865 petitioned Archbishop Purcell for a colony of Sisters of Charity to open a hospital and orphanage in the West. Accordingly four sisters left Cincinnati 21 August, 1865, arriving at Santa Fé, 13 September, 1865. The archbishop gave them his own residence which had been used also as a seminary. There were twenty-five orphans to be cared for and some sick to be nursed. On 15 August, 1866, Joseph C. Butler and Lewis Worthington presented Sister Anthony O'Connell with the Good Samaritan Hospital, a building erected by the Government for a Marine Hospital at a cost of $300,000. Deeply impressed by the charity done in "Old St. John's" during the war, these non-Catholic gentlemen bought the Government hospital for $90,000 and placed the deeds in the hands of Sister Anthony, Butler suggesting the name "Good Samaritan". Early in 1870 Bishop Domenec of Pittsburg, desiring a diocesan branch of Mother Seton's community, sent four postulants to be trained in the Cincinnati novitiate. On their return they were accompanied by five of the Cincinnati sisters who were to remain with them for a limited time, and to be withdrawn one by one. Finally all were recalled but Mother Aloysia Lowe and Sister Ann Regina Ennis, the former being superior and latter mistress of novices. Mother Aloysia governed the community firmly but tenderly, and before her death (1889) had the satisfaction of seeing the sisters in their new mother-house at Seton Hill, Greensburg, Pa., the academy having been blessed, and the chapel dedicated, 3 May, 1889. Mother Aloysia's term of office had expired 19 July, 1889, and she was succeeded by Sister Ann Regina (d. 16 May, 1894). The community at Greensburg, Pa., at present number more than three hundred. Their St. Joseph Academy at the mother-house is flourishing; they teach about thirty parochial schools in the Dioceses of Altoona and Pittsburg and conduct the Pittsburg Hospital and Roselia Foundling Asylum in Pittsburg.

From 1865 to 1880 the Sisters in Cincinnati opened thirty-three branch houses, one of these being the St. Joseph Foundling and Maternity Hospital, a gift to Sister Anthony from Joseph Butler. In 1869 a site for a mother-house, five miles from Cedar Grove, was purchased. The first Mass was offered in the novitiate chapel, 24 October, 1869, by Rev. Thos. S. Byrne, the chaplain, the present Bishop of Nashville, Tennessee. In 1882 the building of the new mother-house began under his direction. Before its completion Mother Regina Mattingly died (4 June, 1883). Mother Josephine Harvey again assumed the office. In 1885 the new St. Joseph was burned to the ground. The present mother-house was begun at once under the superintendence of Rev. T. S. Byrne. Mt. St. Mary Seminary, closed since the financial troubles, was now used for the sisters' novitiate. In July, 1886, the sisters took possession of the west wing of the mother-house, and the following year the seminary reopened. Mother Josephine Harvey resigned the office of mother in 1888, and was succeeded by Mother Mary Paul Hayes, who filled Mother Josephine's unexpired term and was re-elected in July, 1890, dying the following April. Mother Mary Blanche Davis was appointed to the office of mother, and held it until July, 1899. During her incumbency the Seton Hospital, the Glockner Sanitarium at Colorado Springs, St. Joseph Sanitarium, Mt. Clemens, Mich., and Santa Maria Institute for Italians were begun; additions were made to the mother-house. During the administration of Mother Sebastian Shea were built: the St. Joseph Sanitarium, Pueblo; the San Rafael Hospital, Trinidad; the St. Vincent Hospital, Santa Fé, New Mexico; the St. Vincent Academy, Albuquerque; and the Good Samaritan Annex in Clifton. Mother Mary Blanche resumed the duties of office in 1905, and was re-elected in 1908. During these terms a very large addition was built to the Glockner Sanitarium and to the St. Mary Sanitarium, Pueblo; the Hospital Antonio in Kenton, Ohio; a large boarding school for boys at Fayetteville, Ohio; the new Seton Hospital was bought; the new Good Samaritan Hospital was begun. Many parochial schools were opened, among them a school for coloured children in Memphis, Tennessee.

The community numbers: about 800 members; 74 branch houses; 5 academies; 2 orphan asylums; 1 foundling asylum; 1 Italian institute; 11 hospitals or sanitariums; 1 Old Ladies' Home; 53 parochial schools throughout Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Colorado, and New Mexico.

About this page

APA citation. Agnes, M. (1912). Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, Ohio. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Agnes, Sister Mary (McCann). "Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, Ohio." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Lucia Tobin.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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