IHM Archives

Welcome to the Scranton Sisters of IHM Archives webpage. Here you will find historical facts and stories about the IHM Congregation, its members, and its ministries. 

Inquiries can be directed to:

Sister Elizabeth Pearson, IHM
IHM Congregation Archivist
Sister Bernadette Thomas, IHM
IHM Congregation Assistant Archivist

Journey with us as we explore the sacred treasurers of the IHM Archives, where every sister has a story:

The Heritage of IHM Educational Excellence 

Sister M. Sylvia Morgan, IHM

We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us... prophets of vision and pilgrims of the dream. Our foremothers, with a vision for the need of higher education in northeastern PA, provided for the advanced education of our sisters who would serve at Marywood College (later Marywood University) as well as for health needs of the area. Sister Melanie Rowan, an R.N., served in Scranton before, during, and after the 1918 Spanish influenza. Sisters went to study at secular universities (e.g. Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, Bucknell, Simmons College of Boston) when Catholic universities refused to admit women in the nineteen-teens. Congregational leaders were steadfast in educating the sisters and so Sister Immaculata Gillespie received a PhD in 1924 from Fordham University, becoming the first regional woman to earn a doctoral degree. Sister Eugenia Kealy was awarded a doctorate from Catholic University (Washington, DC) in 1930, and Sister Cuthbert Donovan from Fordham in 1937.

We highlight here Sister M. Sylvia Morgan, the college’s sixth president. Winifred Morgan was born in Wales in 1886, and immigrated to the United States with her family. She became a convert to Catholicism taking the name Gwendolyn and attended St. Cecilia’s Academy in Scranton. Gwendolyn entered the IHMs in 1907 and by 1915 had earned bachelor degrees in the arts and in the sciences from the College of New Rochelle. As Marywood College opened in this year, Sister Sylvia joined the faculty, teaching all science classes, later acting as chairperson of the Science Department. She obtained a master of science from Fordham, and in 1926 was awarded a Sci D (Doctorate of Science) from the University of California. Sister Anne Munley explains her scholarship in the Marywood Magazine (Winter ’17-’18): "She wrote workbooks in chemistry and biology and performed research on the toxicology of oranges. In 1934, Sister Sylvia received formal recognition from the scientific community when she was admitted as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science—quite a feat for anyone, but especially for a woman religious in the 1930s."

Sister Sylvia served as the sixth president of Marywood from 1943 to 1949, during which time she also served as second councilor in the IHM administration. In 1957 she was made a Fellow of the American Chemical Society.

We proclaim praise and gratitude to our foremothers and their insights, and for the talent and participation of these educational leaders in establishing the heritage of IHM excellence of education, particularly in northeastern Pennsylvania.

IHM Sisters in the Segregated South

As we continue to make ourselves aware of our corporate and personal history issues around racism, let us take a step back and reflect on our place in the history of the South, specifically New Bern, NC.

In 1926 Mother Casimir sent the first IHMs to St. Joseph's, New Bern, where a school had been established for "colored children" and was being conducted by lay people. Those sisters were referred to as “black sisters.” Living conditions for the St. Joseph’s sisters were rugged and mirrored those of their students. By the second year the sisters at St. Joseph's, New Bern, had expanded their work to include a catechetical school at St. Paul's Church, New Bern, which would become the white school taught by the “white sisters.” St. Paul’s and St. Joseph’s schools had a long and storied history of the value of education as the IHM sisters accompanied their students in their preparation for life, spiritually and academically. St. Joseph’s and St. Paul’s Schools existed separately until the 1960s when they merged and were integrated; the high school was renamed “William Gaston Regional Catholic High School." This high school was to reach an enrollment of one hundred and two students by the year of its closing in 1969. The sisters persisted with the advancement and growth of the school and parish. In 1991 a new facility opened as St. Paul Education Center with IHM administration and staff.

But education in the schools was not the only presence of the IHMs in the parish because in 1982, Sister Angela Mary Parker and others established Religious Community Services which included a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, food pantry, clothing closet, and prescription drug assistance program. The last sister to serve in New Bern was Sister Monique Dissen, who served from 1998 to 2020 as Pastoral Associate. Her work took her from
home visits to the sick to hospital and prison ministry. Her ministry included support of the parish and school communities. These sisters were prime examples of “joyful, loving, hospitable, self-emptying service.”

The importance of Catholic education came full circle with the proclamation from the Mayor of New Bern dated May 24, 2021 acknowledging “the revered and successful traditions of Catholic Schools in New Bern for 150 years.”

Reaching out to the poor and those in need has always been the hallmark of our IHM history, and this has never been more evident than in the work of the sisters in New Bern, North Carolina.

Monique DissenSister Monique Dissen

Lost and Found

Recently, many of us in the Scranton area were captivated by a story on a local news program, which concerned a diploma dated June 28, 1900 from our own Laurel Hill Academy. It seems that Robin Truex of Brandt, PA (near Susquehanna) discovered the 120 year-old diploma hidden behind a picture owned by her grandmother. Robin wanted to fix the picture and thereupon found the diploma awarded to a woman named Grace Brennan. So Robin and her husband, Tim, decided to see if they could find any of Grace’s  descendants who might wish to have the diploma. Imagine our surprise when we learned that the diploma belonged to the great-aunt of IHM Sister Jean Leonard! Robin and Tim offered the extremely well-preserved diploma to Sister Jean, and she willingly accepted it. Even more surprising is the fact that Robin’s great-grandmother, Ella Terrell, was the housekeeper for Jean’s grandmother, Mae Brennan Condon!

 LaurelHill Diploma 300dppi

Sister Jean offered the ‘gem’ to the IHM Archives for our collection. We now have a treasure from the first IHM school in Pennsylvania, opened in 1860, chartered in 1862 under the name of Laurel Hill Seminary because of religious bigotry. Again, we are reminded that our lives touch others even from one generation to another to another, telling our story of dedication to spreading God’s word. We are grateful to the Robin and Tim Truex and to Sister Jean for sharing this amazing find.

1900 GradClass LaurelHill 300dpi

Sarah Keys Evans, Pride in Our Own

Who was this brave, 22-year old black WAC? It was none other than a former student at our own Mother of Mercy School in Washington, North Carolina. Her story is captivating and filled with strength of character. On August 1, 1952, while wearing her Army uniform and riding a bus from New Jersey to North Carolina, she was arrested for not giving up her seat to a white U.S. service man. She was escorted off the bus in Roanoke Rapids, NC, by two policemen and placed in a jail that contained such a filthy mattress that she refused to lie down or sit down on it but remained standing overnight in her uniform and 2 ½ inch heels until she was released from jail the next day and fined $25. (All this occurred prior to the actions taken by Rosa Parks in Montgomery, AL in 1955.) Sarah, with the encouragement of her father, sued the bus company (Court Case Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company) and won her suit, an historic ruling that outlawed segregation in interstate bus travel. Sarah Keys’ actions served to lay the foundations for the future civil rights movement.

Sarah’s father was one of the first Catholics in the state of North Carolina and worked to spread Catholicism among African Americans, urging that a parish be established in Washington, NC. The IHM Archives Office received a request from Ms. Amy Nathan, author of the children’s book Take a Seat—Make a Stand (2006) about Sarah Keys Evans. Ms. Nathan is writing an adult version of the Keys’ biography and was seeking information on Mother of Mercy School and the students and sisters who taught there. Ms. Nathan says Sarah remembers her days at Mother of Mercy with fondness. Above is a picture of the monument to Sarah Keys Evans that was erected in 2020 in Roanoke Rapids, NC. On April 17, 2021, to honor Sarah on her 92nd birthday, the town of Washington honored Sarah with an official proclamation and the reading of the book Take a Seat - Make a Stand.

As we reflect on the Doctrine of Discovery and our own attitudes on racism, let us remember how our lives touch others’ even if we do not realize it.


Monument in honor of Sarah Keys Evans, Roanoke Rapids, NC, 2020

St. Michael’s School for Boys, Hoban Heights PA

At the age of seven or eight, Joe arrived at St. Michael’s School for Boys, Hoban Heights PA (his fourth home in seven years) and remained there until he graduated from high school. Many years later, writing as an octogenarian, his story is revealed in his letters to the Archives (quoted with his permission).

“How could I ever forget Sister M. Estelle who drilled the math fundamentals into my being? Sister M. Donelda with long suffering patience coping with 30 eighth graders in full puberty who taught us to be analytical thinkers and master the art of diagraming each sentence to include use of the subjunctive mode. When we moved over to Sister M. Finbarr for 9th grade we were prepared to manage the palette of a straight academic course of study for the next four years. Our ‘home room’ teacher for grades 11 and 12 Sister M. Emmanuel Carey reinforced the timbers of learning given by her predecessors and made us fit products to enter the workforce and adulthood. There were 14 nuns at that station. Three were in supporting roles. Sister M. Laura was in today’s terms the Executive Assistant to the Director with additional duties as Post Mistress for Hoban Heights. Dearest Sister M. Evelina was the youngest of the band and she oversaw meals for 300 three times each day. She understood boys and was unflappable.... After eight years under their tutelage I never once heard a Sister have a cross word about her colleagues. Some of the lessons conveyed to me by example and osmosis were patience, tact, consideration for others, teamwork and core religious values.... After I graduated and moved on into early manhood these ingrained values guided my lifestyle choices. Without doubt, the behavior of the nuns who personified the essence of their vows by word and deed replaced the role of the parents I never knew. Collectively they did a permanent job of instilling their values on me. These served me well in my roles as soldier, corporate executive and leader of a large volunteer group.”

From 1948 to 1970, St. Michael’s 400 acres of a working dairy farm boasted of 4000 chickens, 170 cattle, 250 hogs and 120 sheep. This as well as all educational components, spiritual guidance, a full working bakery and commercial kitchen were tended by 1 priest, 12 sisters and several lay peoples—meeting the ‘needs of orphaned boys.’ (St. Michael’s Newsletter Winter/Spring 2005).

With gratitude and pride we salute our IHMs who served at St. Michael’s from 1916 to 1975 as teachers, mothers, disciplinarians, confidantes, spiritual advisors. Lest we ever feel that our work is without value or that we may not have touched the lives of others, remember this story of Joe Francis. No work is too big or too small to influence the life of another.

Thanks also to Joe for sharing his life story with us!

HobanHts 300 boysyard

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Pope Francis has proclaimed 2021 the Year of Saint Joseph, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. Francis writes: “The pandemic has helped us see more clearly the importance of ‘ordinary’ people who, though far from the limelight, exercise patience and offer hope every day.” In this they resemble St. Joseph, “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence... who nonetheless played... an incomparable role in the history of salvation.” (Pope Francis, Patris Corde, 2020)

What is the IHM connection to St. Joseph? He is one of our patrons, but why did we choose him as such? In one place, Alphonsus prays: “I promise to honour you (Joseph) every day by some special act of devotion and by placing myself under thy daily protection.” In another, “We must be convinced that in consideration of his great merits, God will not refuse St. Joseph any grace he asks for those who honor him.” In examining the IHM Books of Customs from 1887 to 1943, reference is made to the custom that “prayers after dinner are followed by the Litany of Divine Providence with the memorare to St. Joseph for our temporal wants.” (p.17)

In addition to prayers, statues of St. Joseph may be found in many places. Mother Josepha Hurley, IHM superior general from 1931 to 1940, after creating appropriate space in the motherhouse for postulants and novices, took to beautifying the Marywood campus. To the shrines already in existence, in 1936, “she added the one to St. Joseph which was located on a knoll overlooking the grounds; this land has settled considerably but the shrine still stands and figures prominently” in relation to the University’s fine arts center built in 1985, the Shields Center of Visual Arts. (Keenan, 2005, p. 103)

A time capsule is a historic cache of goods or information, usually intended as a way to let future people know about the culture, life and people at the time the capsule was created.

On July 19, 1900, ground was broken for the new Scranton IHM Motherhouse. On November 3rd of the same year, the cornerstone was blessed and laid by Rt. Rev. Bishop Michael J. Hoban. Within the cornerstone, the contents of the ‘strong box’ included (among other things) several newspapers of 1900, statues, medals, coins, holy cards, rosary beads, and IHM congregation information. A copy of the contract for construction of the building
and other congregation documents were enclosed with all other items, except the newspapers, in a hand sewn white linen bag.

After the fire in 1971, when the time capsule (a copper box, 15" x 5" x 5" soldered closed) was removed from the cornerstone and opened, all items were intact, although the frame of a picture of Our Lady was charred.

Newspapers were found intact and crisp: Scranton Truth (3 copies); Diocesan Record; Scranton Free Press; Scranton Tribune; Scranton Republican; and Scranton Times.

Also unharmed was a list of all the IHM sisters at that time (207 sisters, 16 novices and two postulants), a Book of Customs, the Constitutions, and the papers of congregation incorporation from 1885.

Mother Crescentia Foster and her council provided us with a view of what IHM and Scranton life were like in 1900 as they planned, oversaw and laid the cornerstone of our home, the Motherhouse. The IHM congregation was 55 years of age at that time. Today we hold and preserve the spirit of these treasures and (‘giants of our congregation’), as we celebrate 176 years in 2021.

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A pictorial display of the Motherhouse can be viewed at: https://animoto.com/play/g6CJpHwFn80jzSnfbIo45Q

Remembering a Faithful Friend of IHMs

Jan Corbett’s relationship with the IHM Congregation goes back to 1978 when she was hired as an operating room nurse at Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Carbondale, PA. She worked alongside Sister Carleen Boehlert, IHM, nurse anesthetist who was also a spiritual mentor to Jan, her friend, Jeanne Karp, R.N. (now Sister Jeanne Karp, OSF) and others. Jan was a very dedicated nurse and was active on many hospital committees. She also responded to the needs of Saint Joseph’s by accepting many different positions during her 17 years of service. Jan attended mass and evening prayer for several years with the sisters in the hospital chapel.

At the same time that she was working, Jan earned a B.S. in Sociology from Marywood. She pursued further education and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Masters in Public Administration also from Marywood. After Jan left Saint Joseph’s, she became head of Perioperative Services at Moses Taylor Hospital for seven years. In her last role before retirement, she went back to one-on-one nursing as a home health care nurse and brightened the lives of her many patients.

Jan was an active participant in many IHM congregational prayer services, retreats, and committees. When the congregation first opened some Chapter sessions to the laity, Jan was a very eager participant.

Jan made friends with some IHM sisters by offering “Jan’s taxi,” a free service providing rides to sister friends and other IHMs whose families
lived anywhere along the way. It was usually not just a drop-off because relatives of the IHM sisters frequently invited Jan and friends for coffee and home-made goodies. Such visits led to close friendships with families of these sisters. This service went on for many years.

Jan loved her 10 years of volunteering in the IHM Archives, and she did many creative projects including the Mothers Profiles; the mapping of every place where the IHMs have served; and Founders Day displays with archived photos and a quiz for sisters to identify those in the photo. This delighted
all who participated. Jan also volunteered for six years serving in a variety of roles in Maternity and Family Services at Saint Joseph’s Center.

A frequent visitor to the Marian Convent and later Our Lady of Peace, Jan visited her many friends and lifted their spirits with her good sense of humor and her many thoughtful ways. She brought special presents for each one. Jan was a faithful friend of the IHMs while sharing her friendship, talent,
and treasure to further the mission and ministries of the IHM Congregation.

Jan passed on to her eternal reward on December 31, 2020. Good and faithful servant, rest in peace.

L-R: Jan Corbett, Sister Beth Pearson, and Sister Michel Keenan

St. Alphonsus Academy
Tillamook, Oregon

St. Alphonsus Commercial High School for Girls, New York, New York

Storytelling and celebrating Christmas are small parts of our IHM tradition! Our Archives reveal such heritage in letters and annals of years ago. Among the many accounts of Christmas celebrations are a letter of gratitude from Tillamook, OR, of 1897, and the annals from St. Alphonsus Convent, New York City, of 1917.

The five sisters missioned in Tillamook received a gift from Mother Mary Jackson, Superior General. A letter from Sister Mary Edward Toohey, superior in Tillamook, to Mother Mary in Scranton, thanks her for the Christmas gift and describes life on the west coast at St. Alphonsus Academy. The school, residence for children and the convent (see photo) in one building stood in the center of the prairie, the village being built around it. The principal industries in the 1800s were farming, lumbering, and cheese-and butter-making. In 2021 Tillamook is home to Tillamook Creamery, which makes cheese and ice cream. (Their products are sold in many stores including Giant, ShopRite, Stop and Shop, Wegmans and Weis).

On the opposite coast of our country, IHM sisters took up the ministry of the elementary school in lower Manhattan in 1913 at St Alphonsus Parish, under the Redemptorist auspices. Mother Crescentia Foster (who had been Superior General from 1899 to 1901) may have been the author of the “Annals of the Foundation and Progress of St. Alphonsus School under the direction of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” The entries for Christmas Eve 1917 at St. Alphonsus Convent provide a picture of the “chapel and altar beautifully decorated and the whole house decked in Christmas attire. Everybody, full of the Christmas spirit, attended Solemn High Mass at Midnight.” And on December 25: “The Sisters attended the 6:00 o’clock Mass at St. Alphonsus Church. The morning was spent in Church. In the afternoon, four of the sisters visited the Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament, Hunt’s Point. Four sisters also attended the Pontifical High Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Reverend Father Rector Toohey called to say his Christmas greetings. He very kindly sent a gift of candy and fruit.” A footnote: (St. Alphonsus Parish, school, and convent were closed in 1980, and later demolished, because the buildings were built on marshy land, and were sinking at the rate of about half an inch each year.)

The IHM spirit was alive ‘from east to west, north to south,’ but environs were extremely different. We thank our sisters for their stories, keeping us alive with courage and a hopeful spirit.

Serving for 132 Years

On November 20, 1888, eight women attended a meeting conducted by Mother M. Francis Henry, IHM, the Mother Superior of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Their purpose was to respond to a recent news article reporting that the state of poverty was so dire that some parents were abandoning their infant children in hopes that charitable people would provide for them. It is hard for us who live in this time to imagine poverty so great that abandoning a child was the only or best option for these despairing parents and vulnerable children.

At their initial meeting, the women organized “The Saint Joseph’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and Aged Persons” as a volunteer organization under the supervision of the IHM Sisters and with the blessing of the Bishop of Scranton, Bishop William O’Hara.

The Saint Joseph’s Society members immediately began providing care for children and eventually established The St. Joseph’s Foundling Home to provide for infants. By 1900, an ambitious goal was realized as the Saint Joseph’s Children’s and Maternity Hospital was opened at 2010 Adams Avenue, the same location for some of our services today.

In 1950, a new chapter in our history was launched as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania requested that Saint Joseph’s develop a long-term residential and therapeutic program for children born with disabilities.

Today, Saint Joseph’s Center provides an array of services for individuals with intellectual and/or physical disabilities and their families. These include community-based programs as well as residential options. In fidelity to its founding mission, Saint Joseph’s continues to offer resources for parents and vulnerable children.

Saint Joseph’s Center has been blessed throughout its 132 years to receive charitable support from this community and beyond. We are the beneficiaries of tremendous generosity and goodness. A staff of more than 500 staff are dedicated to our mission and bring compassion and love to the individuals entrusted to our care.

IHM Sisters participated in the Go Joe Ride Along on July 19 with stops along the way including the IHM cemetery on the campus of Marywood University. There, Sister Maryalice Jacquinot shared the story of Mother M. Francis Henry and the beginning of IHM ministry in 1888 at what is today, St. Joseph's Center.

Project Southern Missions

We are embarking on a project to preserve the heritage and lived experience of our IHM spirit in our southern missions during racial integration. We aim to bring forth the unique perspective of the IHM story which will be our gift of the living history of sisters. Our sisters have served in the southern missions since 1925, beginning in Upper Marlboro, MD, mission territory at the time.

One of our goals is to gather stories of real life experiences of our sisters during the years of racial integration: what their lives were like, if their lives enabled the integration process, what impact those experiences had on them. We are looking for stories that tell the lived experiences of our sisters in the south.

At a time when our congregation, as well as our nation, is focusing on racial equity, it is important to recall our nearly century of history in service to this particular group of our brothers and sisters of color.

A Work in Progress: Life in the Archives

These last few months have brought many changes to our lives, including our work places. This is especially relevant to us in the Archives. With the renovations to the men’s restroom on first floor of the IHM Center, the ceiling in the Archives’ “Cold Room” was affected. (The Cold Room is the temperature/humidity controlled location housing archival materials –artifacts, records, reports, documents. In case of fire, the room is equipped with an automatic fire suppression system) Work on the water pipes involved delving into the ceiling of this special room. Prior to the cutting of the pipes, our room needed much preparation for the ceiling work. Some archival materials had to be moved and stored elsewhere; filing cabinets, storage cabinets, and document cases had to be protected and so shelving was moved to provide more work space, and plastic sheeting was installed to cover cabinets and stacks that could not be move.

Our Maintenance Staff did the moving of materials, and the room was off limits to the Archives Staff as we continued to do our work on the history of the community. Finally, pipes were replaced, sheeting came down, shelves were repositioned, and boxes were returned. We appreciate your patience with our “inability to provide archival information that may have been requested during this time.” But most especially, we would like to thank: Mike Zayac, Steve Gatto, Tom Snyder, and Tony Mascaro, who did all the heavy lifting, and restoring of our “Cold Room!” Many prayers and thanks!



Beware of the Ballot-Box Stuffers
Extreme Precautions Necessary to Baffle Them 
They’re well drilled in the art

Is this a headline from a 2020 newspaper? No, it is from the Scranton paper, The Scranton Free Press, of October 28, 1900! The sub headline reads: “The Republican Primaries Proved That a Unique System of Ballot Box Stuffing Was Worked Successfully and it May be Attempted on Election Day.”

This newspaper appeared again in 1971 after the Motherhouse fire. When the Strong Box (time capsule) from the Cornerstone was opened on  November 10, 1971, Mother Beata and her team found this newspaper among other newspapers and items of IHM heritage which Mother Crescentia Foster and the sisters considered treasures of IHM. Are you asking: what else was in the time capsule? Was anything damaged? Of what was the strong box made? Here is a partial list of what our sisters chose to send to the future: coins (cash); a list of the 206 IHM sisters living in 1900; a statue of the Sacred Heart; a copy of the contract for construction of the Motherhouse.

Can you imagine what else was there? Send us your thoughts: we’ll see how your list matches the contents. Does history repeat itself? What do you think is in the cornerstone of the IHM Center building dedicated in 1962?

If we IHMs were to construct a new building in 2021, what items of our heritage would we put in a time capsule of today? Send us your suggestions.

Marywood Cemetery, Scranton PACemeteryMarywoodJune2020-sm

Miss Lizzie Baxter was born in Paterson, NJ, in 1852. Her father was Peter Baxter of Scotland and her mother was Eliza McNamee of Ireland. She entered the IHM congregation in 1873 in Susquehanna and was a member of the fourth “band.” Lizzie was known in religion as Sister M. Felicitas. She received the habit on April 13, 1874, was professed on April 4, 1876, and died on April 13, 1905.

A few bits of Lizzie’s life have emerged by way of an archival project honoring our deceased sisters with the creation of individual files and verification of their burial information. Even in death our IHM sisters are not forgotten by the community as we develop these records and find sacred treasures of baptismal and birth certificates, last wills and testaments, and community records of assignments from the earliest days of the congregation. We provide space in the archives for the stories of these heroic, gentle, loving members of our community. For many of our sisters, there are no formal obituaries but by searching some obscure documents, our history books, and from annotations on the website, Find a Grave, we in the Archives, along with our Communications Office secretary, are writing minibiographies for many of our deceased sisters. She then posts this information on our IHM website as well as on Find a Grave: https://www.findagrave.com/

Sister M. Felicitas Baxter is mentioned in endearing terms by Sister Immaculata Gillespie’s history, The Sisters of the IHM. She refers to her as an accomplished artist and art teacher at Mt. St. Mary and St. Cecilia. This memoir is also found on the website at the end Sister Felicitas’ obituary. The IHM Motherhouse was opened for occupancy in 1902. Sister Felicitas was the first sister to be buried in 1905 in Mt. St. Mary Cemetery on Marywood's campus. The cemetery on the campus of Marywood University was refurbished in 2002 and rededicated in 2003. It holds the graves of 67 sisters who died between 1905 and 1937. It is adorned with a marble marker which is identical to the one found at St. Catherine’s Cemetery in Moscow.

Sisters who died before 1905 are buried in several different cemeteries: in Pennsylvania at St. Joseph’s (Friendsville); St. John’s Susquehanna, St. Rose, Carbondale, St. John’s Pittston, Cathedral, Scranton; and Mt. Calvary in Portland OR.

When you are next on Marywood's campus, take a moment to stop, rest on a bench at the elegantly refurbished cemetery; spend some time of reflection and thanksgiving, asking God to “Nourish our growth within and without and harvest us for your glory.” (Psalm 9, Sister Michel Keenan).

Sister Mary Anthony Duchemin, OSP  by Jan Corbett

An Afro-Creole native of Saint Domingue, Marie Anne Maxis, who immigrated to Baltimore during the Haitian evolution with the Duchemin family, was educated "in the best traditions of the day." She adopted the name of her benefactors becoming known as Betsy Duchemin. Betsy had one daughter Marie Alma Duchemin who also received an extensive education and in 1829 Marie Alma became a charter member (Sister Theresa Maxis Duchemin) of the new congregation, The Oblate Sisters of Providence. A few months later, Betsy Duchemin entered this same congregation and pronounced her vows on July 2, 1832, with the name Sister Mary Anthony.

At this time Baltimore was engulfed with cholera. The cholera epidemic killed thousands of people in Europe and North America, and created mass panic across two continents; the population was reduced drastically by deaths. The epidemic was caused by contaminated drinking water; it was a gastrointestinal disease and people became so dehydrated that they died. At the beginning of the outbreak, Sister Mary Anthony, the only Oblate trained nurse, volunteered her “service to the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable Baltimore residents at the city’s almshouse”  (Williams).

Three other Oblate sisters worked there who were segregated from the white nursing Sisters of Charity. When Archbishop James Whitfield of Baltimore fell ill, a member of his staff requested that Sister Mary Anthony come to assist. Before she entered religious life, she worked for Baltimore’s wealthiest; therefore, the members of the bishop’s staff did not call the Sisters of Charity. Archbishop Whitfield was nursed back to health in two weeks. Sister Mary Anthony returned to the almshouse but was called back to duty when the bishop’s housekeeper became ill. Twenty-four hours after being recalled, Sister Mary Anthony became ill and succumbed to cholera.

The Oblate Sisters continued with their life saving work at the almshouse until the epidemic subsided. In later years “church leaders and all but one city official systematically erased from local memory the Oblates and their courageous service to Baltimore’s black and white communities during the crisis, instead only citing the Sisters of Charity” (Williams). This small part of the story exemplifies the anti-black racism and discrimination within the church at that time. Williams reflects: “The violence of white supremacy is never exclusively for black people, it always imperils us all. If this is not understood, history has already made clear that we will be here again or somewhere much worse.”

As a retired nurse, I will never forget Sister Mary Anthony Duchemin. I can’t imagine what it must have been like in 1832 to walk into an almshouse. Sister was fearless; her ministry was her life, and she would do anything to serve the poorest of the poor. There were no gowns, gloves, N95 masks or protective gear we now wear. That makes her another “Wonder Woman” of history, a “martyr to her charity.”

“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

Gillespie, Sr. Immaculata, IHM. Mother M. Theresa Maxis Duchemin. P.J. Kenedy & Sons, (1945) pp, 14-18.
Williams, Shannen Dee. “What a forgotten black nun can teach us about racism and Covid-19” America Magazine (Faith in Focus) April 23, 2020.
Read this story at: https://tinyurl.com/yaru2vxs

COVID-19 pandemic

One hundred and two years after the worldwide epidemic of the Spanish Influenza, we are currently experiencing a similar but very different illness around our globe. As in 1918, our sisters have risen to the occasion by assisting others. For example, in 1918 some sisters traveled on foot to Throop to help poor residents in the simplest of life’s tasks. They ministered to the sick and helped poor residents prepare meals and clean their homes. Other sisters remained in the child care center in downtown Scranton.

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has clearly touched our lives personally and communally. These are historic moments and reports of coping and attempts at reaching out to others to help are deserving of inclusion in your IHM Annals.

In addition to including them in your annals, we are encouraging you to send us reports or stories of your experiences. Please share them with the Archives now, for we want to create a separate accounting of IHM involvement of our lives during these COVID-19 days. Submit accounts of what you, your local IHM community, and your neighborhoods are doing to cope, as well as your service efforts to reach out to others.

Although the Archives Office itself is not functioning to full capacity, we are still operating and active with tasks such as responding to inquiries, providing seasonal displays at the IHM Center, and updating incomplete obituaries. We are grateful for your help in this project!

Our Link with the Maryknoll Missionaries - by Sisters Beth Pearson and Bernadette Thomas

It is hard to believe that Easter is almost upon us. It seems appropriate that recently the Archives Office received a photograph sent by a Maryknoll sister who is re-writing their history and wishes to include the work of the IHMs in her writing. She asked us to identify the three IHMs pictured with the
Maryknoll candidates in this early 1900s photo. Because of the quality of the picture, it was impossible to definitely identify the sisters, but research indicates that they may have been Sisters M. Sebastian Murphy, M. Martha Quinn, M. Stanislaus O’Neill, M. Gerard McFadden, or M. Domitilla Benson. How exciting it was to discover that two of those sisters are buried here in our cemetery on the Marywood campus. So the next time you have the opportunity to go for a walk or visit the campus and “see the greening of the trees” or “smell the roses,” we encourage you to visit the cemetery and locate the gravesites of Sister M. Stanislaus O’Neill and Sister M. Gerard McFadden. Notice, too, the large black marble IHM marker at the head of the cemetery; it is the same design as the one at St. Catherine Cemetery in Moscow. We thank God for the gift of these sisters who have shared in our history and that of the Maryknoll Missionary sisters.

MaryknollIHMMrsAdaLivingston_Group_1916 copy

Sister Oswalda–Wonder Woman by Jan Corbett  


Mortar and pestle gift “To
Sr. Oswalda by Lackawanna
County Pharmacy Association (LCPA) for her service to Pharmacy"

Sister Oswalda, named Anna Eleanor Flaherty, was a native of Larksville, PA, and a registered nurse before entering the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. After her final vows she attended Columbia University in New York City. Upon completion of the pharmacy course, she was assigned to St. Joseph’s Children’s and Maternity Hospital, Scranton, PA, in 1934.

Sister was described as an outspoken, energetic woman who was an economist and a lover of humanity. Her only concern was to care for those in need and at the same time save money for St. Joseph’s. In her 39 years as the pharmacist, she transformed her pharmacy into, for that period in history, a pharmaceutical dream. Sister Oswalda was a wizard at making use of raw materials—she even made vanilla extract for the kitchen and could quote exactly how much money she saved. Her ministry to the young women at the hospital included manufacturing cosmetics in her lab.

Sister Oswalda may have been the first person who knew about universal medical precautions used in healthcare today such as protecting the medical professional and the patient from contaminants such as bodily fluids, the wearing of gloves, and the washing of hands. She had a respect for germs and bacteria. She wore white gloves, washed her own dishes, and set her own place at the table. The lab was off limits and one had to knock before entering. She was a “woman of science” before her time.

Sister received many accolades and honors including those she received three times from the American Pharmaceutical Association for her display presentations. Sister Oswalda wrote an excellent, highly intelligent review of the reference book, Pharmaceutical Botany, appearing in the professional Bulletin of the American Society of Hospital Pharmacists which concluded with a spiritual reflection: “God, the Divine Author of Nature, must surely bestow His invisible seal of approbation upon this magnificent work Pharmaceutical Botany which reflects so much honor and glory on His creative handiwork.”

Cyril and Methodius by Jan Corbett

Cyril and Methodius were brothers born in Thessalonica in the early ninth century. For their work of evangelizing the Slavs, they are known as the  Apostles of the Slavs.” Cyril’s name was Constantine but he was given the name Cyril upon becoming a monk in Rome. Methodius was born Michael but was given the name Methodius upon becoming a monk in Mysian. Cyril studied philosophy and was a scholar. In 862 Prince Rastislav of Great


Moravia requested missionaries to evangelize his Slavic subjects. Cyril and Methodius were sent to be missionaries to the Slavs. Near death, Cyril, frail and weakened by his many duties, begged Methodius to continue their mission. Methodius returned to Great Moravia and became Archbishop and continued their mission as promised. Cyril died February 14, 869; sixteen years later Methodius died on April 6, 885. Cyril and Methodius brought Christianity to the Slovaks, Moravians, Czechs, Russians, Poles and Bulgarians; they were true evangelizers.

In the early 1900s Father Jankola, a young zealous priest of Hazleton, PA, was looking for help to preserve the culture and faith of the growing flow of Slovak immigrants. The Slovak influx was related to work in the coal mines of northeastern Pennsylvania. Fr. Jankola, hoping to begin a congregation of sisters, met a young woman named Mary Mihalik, who proposed: “Since I have no family, I am willing to join your congregation.” Two other young women, both also named Mary, joined this new venture. Father Jankola tried to connect them with the Benedictine Sisters in Chicago, but that attempt

Father Pavco, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Pittston, PA, suggested that the Sisters of the IHM might be able to help. Fr. Jankola met with Mother Cyril several times. Would Mother Cyril be able to help? Mother Cyril invited the young women to Mount St. Mary Seminary in November, 1903. They completed their studies and were exposed to the discipline and structure of religious life. On January 6, 1906, the three applicants, Mary Mihalik, Mary Barth, and Mary Pauly, were received as postulants along with candidates for the IHM sisters. The three sisters would be known as Sr. Mary of the Assumption, Sr. Mary Joseph, and Sr. Mary Emmanuel. This was the beginning of the Sisters of St. Cyril and Methodius.

In 2003 at a reunion of the IHM Sisters, Sisters of St. Casimir and the Sisters of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the SSCMs presented the IHMs with statues of the Slovak patrons, Cyril and Methodius. Their feast day is celebrated on February 14, (the date on which Cyril died.)

These are the stories that leave spiritual footprints for historical purposes. Somehow Cyril and Methodius and the three Marys live again and are remembered for their contribution to our Christian faith. Journey with us as we explore the sacred treasures of the IHM archives!

The First Lady of American Theatre

Someone mused that if it weren’t for the Magi we would not give gifts at Christmas! Where did the custom of giving gifts to a new baby originate? Was

Magi Hayes 1-sm

L-R: Teresa Moran, Jane Ellis, Msgr. Campbell, Pastor, Dolores Ryan, Rosalian Armbruster, Helen Hayes, Mary Ellen Coyne

it from the Magi’s act of honoring the Christ Child? Gift giving has many purposes/reasons/intentions: gratitude, celebration of a special occasion or an ordinary one or for no reason at all—just because. The IHMs have been gifted by many friends over the course of years. The set of statues of the three Magi, in white china trimmed with gold, was a gift to the sisters in Nyack, NY, from the well-known actress Helen Hayes, who delivered stellar performances on stage and television and in film for decades in the 20th century. This set of elegant delicate statues adorns the IHM Center foyer during this Epiphany season.

Stories about “The First Lady of American Theatre,” told by our IHM sisters who lived in Nyack abound with descriptions of Helen as gracious, charming, delightful, friendly, an easy conversationalist, a neighbor who participated in the activities of St. Ann’s Parish. When the parish was building a new convent, Helen made a sizeable donation for the chapel. (She was generous in many other ways, e.g., contributions/donations in establishing a rehabilitation hospital in Haverstraw, NY, and a Youth Theatre in New York.) Her simplicity was evident in her joining other parishioners taking the bus from Nyack to Yankee Stadium for Pope John XXIII’s visit in 1979. Helen had been asked to be a lector at the liturgy, but traveled with the parish attendees. On the grounds of her magnificent brick home overlooking the Hudson River was a swimming pool which the sisters were invited to use many times. Helen occasionally joined the sisters at St. Ann’s Convent for dinner. At least once, when Helen attempted to help with the dishes in the kitchen, the sisters urged her to go to the living room and entertain the pastor! She felt comfortable enough to sit and read the newspaper at the convent. Helen’s reputation as an famous actress was not a deterrent to being accepted as a “local Nyacker.” She was down to earth; she did not put on airs. She sent her children to local schools and cared about her neighbors. Helen Hayes had a connection to Marywood College also. Neighbors who lived close to Helen in Nyack had three girls all of whom went to Marywood College for their education; Helen came to visit them. In 1953 when the Marywood production was Finian’s Rainbow, Helen was a special guest of honor at one of the performances after which a reception was held for her in O’Reilly Hall.

Gift giving and gratitude are Christmas characteristics. We are grateful to Helen Hayes, The First Lady of American Theater, for her theatrical professionalism, her simplicity of character as a Nyacker and her generosity to others, especially to the IHM sisters.

A Shrine for Sister AquinDevon ShrineAquinOBrien

We all have a story, whether we choose to take the road less traveled or walk with our companions on the way to Emmaus. This is a story of Sister Aquin O’Brien, IHM and the way she made a difference in the small Connecticut town of Devon.

Ruth O'Brien, a young woman from Pittsburgh, entered the IHM Congregation in 1934; she took the name Sister Aquin. One of her assignments which began in 1939 was teaching religion classes at the newly established catechetical school in Devon, CT. The sisters at Devon became a great source of fun, faith and family in the town. They were well respected and loved. The catechetical center was the forerunner of the parochial school for St. Ann Parish. One story is told that Sister Aquin arranged for prayers for a child who was severely ill and on the verge of death. The child recovered and the parishioners consider this healing a miracle.

Before Sister Aquin’s death, one of the parishioners, Mr. Alfred Dubois, had started the construction of a shrine to Our Lady which he decided should honor Sister Aquin. “I was motivated solely by religious reasons and a feeling that perhaps some few individuals might find comfort in a visit to it…. Protestants and Catholics alike are frequent visitors to our little shrine,” said Mr. Dubois, the carpenter of the shrine. (Persons of all faiths visit unique Devon shrine, The Chronicle, Milford, CT, July 8, 1948).

Sister Aquin’s life was cut short by illness and she died in Devon in 1944 at the age of 38. (Sister Damian Marie Dlugos, IHM, personal interview, November 21, 2019). Sister Damian’s niece, whose grandparents had lived in the house where the shrine was located, described the statue of Mary as an “ indoor statue” and so her grandfather built the shrine on stilts enclosing the statue in glass. Flowers were present year round, artificial ones when natural ones were not available. The shrine no longer exists, nor does the home, but the memories of faith, a community of care and loving service continue.

The story of Sister Aquin is also our story since it is a part of IHM history. Since our beginning in 1845, our joyful, loving service has touched the hearts and souls of the people we serve, changing our world. It behooves us to preserve and pass on such stories to all.

An arduous journey from NY to MI to PA in mid-19th century by Sister Bernadette Thomas, IHM

Who is this woman, one of the earliest members of the Scranton IHM branch, born in New York City in the 1800s, entered IHM in Monroe in 1857, journeyed to Reading in 1859, and died in Carbondale in 1877? This woman of courage may have been greatly influenced by Fr. Egidius Smulders, CSsR, the second director of the congregation (as of 1847) who served with the Redemptorists in New York. This woman was Eleanor Flannigan, who, prior to entrance into IHM, was a teacher and principal in New York, and was known in religion as Sister Egidius.

After just two years in Monroe, she “journeyed” to Pennsylvania, where she ministered for 18 years. She is best remembered in Pittston, where she reached out to the young and old in the city. She was instrumental in founding the Pittston marching corps and in designing their uniforms. The parishioners remembered her death anniversary with a mass for more than thirty-five years. (Gillespie, Sr. Immaculata, IHM, The Sisters of the IHM, NY: Kenedy & Sons, 1921.) “Her influence was greatest and her memory has lived longest at St. John’s Pittston, the center of the mining district where she devoted her life to the welfare of the boys who worked in the mines. She was largely responsible for the temperance society that flourished among them for the wholesome activities that made their leisure hours safe.” (Kelly, Rosalita, IHM, No Greater Service, Detroit, MI, 1848, p. 152.)

Sister Egidius devoted her life to a spirit of peace and unity not only in her ministry activities. She was also greatly concerned about the separation of the three branches of IHM and strove to keep the sisters in the west in touch with the sisters in the east. It is well documented that she wrote to Mother Mary Joseph in Monroe, begging her to intercede with Bishop Lefevre to allow Mother Mary Joseph to write once a year, “even if it were only a few lines.” The original full newspaper obituary can be found in the IHM Archives holdings.

Obituary excerpted from the Pittston newspaper, March 7, 1877: Died at St. Rose’s Convent, Carbondale, March 6th, 1877, Sister Mary Egidius, formerly Miss Eleanor Flannigan, of New York. Sister Egidius made her novitiate at St. Mary’s Academy, Monroe, Michigan. The remainder of her life she spent in Pennsylvania; the last six years in the diocese of Scranton. During the four years which she passed at St. John’s Academy, Pittston, she became well known in our community, and deeply loved by many who were not of her own church communion. She was possessed of unusual strength and loveliness of character; of ripened judgment; of broad Christian sympathies which went out to all, of whatever profession, who knew and loved her Master. And her deep pity and charity for such as had gone astray from the paths of religion and virtue; the unresting earnestness and devotion with which she sought to win them have proved how profoundly she had learned the lessons in the school of Christ.

In the academy she was an indefatigable and successful teacher. There are few Catholic families in this town which do not number among her sincerest mourners. From her position, her influence was most widely exercised over the youth of her own sex. But at least four young men who are doing earnest work in the Order of Christian Brothers trace their conversion from worldliness to her as the instrument. And others, not a few, in active business life testify to the aid which her counsels, and the high standard of Christian character which she held before them, has been to them.

The memory of the just is blessed and when one, who is of such an unobtrusive manner has wrought such a good work is called from us, let us at least pause a moment to reverently thank God for the work and the memory.

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho


From 1903 to 1971, IHM presence in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, was buzzing with daring deeds of spirit and hope. Our mission in Coeur d’Alene (can you find it on the map of Idaho?) has given us vibrant, fond memories of life and ministry in the West. Among the stories found in the archives is one about the ‘ostensorium’ or monstrance which was a gift to the sisters from Father Thomas J. Purcell, the pastor of St. Thomas Parish, Coeur d’Alene. The original handwritten letter of gifting dated 1917 is preserved in the archives and outlines the conditions for this gift:  “That it must not be used elsewhere than in the sisters’ chapel at Coeur d’Alene; that the sisters of Coeur d’Alene Convent say a daily prayer for me; that in the event of the Sisters of IHM ever leaving Coeur d’Alene both the Ostensorium and Ciborium should be sent to the motherhouse in Scranton.”

Father Purcell concludes the letter, “I hope you will accept them as a token of my gratitude for many favors received from you, and the good sisters of the community, and as a humble recognition of the ground work of the sisters under your charge, for the good children of St. Thomas Parish of Coeur d’Alene.”

The monstrance was used for exposition in the convent chapel on feasts and holy days.

The monstrance stands 25 inches tall; its circular base is 9 inches in diameter; it is a very elaborately jeweled, filigreed, heavy item. At the quarter hours are small circular ceramic inserts with paintings of the four evangelists. Atop the vessel is a small cross. Jewels are scattered throughout the filigree work. Sister Marie Moore remembers that when Sister Mariel Dougher returned to Scranton in 1971, she brought the monstrance with her in her suitcase. Currently the ostensorium is housed in the Archives Office.

For a firsthand look at this late 19th century work of art, please come visit the Archives Office on the terrace floor of the IHM Center.

Father Gillet's Reconnection with the Sisters of IHMGillet-Cistercian-sm

During the persecution of religious orders in France in the 1860s, two friends in the Visitandine congregation in Moselle, France, went their separate ways in fear for their vocations.

One was accepted into the IHM congregation in Reading PA and was received as Sister Clotilde. Her entrance into the IHMs was foretold during confession with St. John Vianney who stated that she would cross the sea and be accepted into a congregation that wore a blue habit.

Sister Clotilde’s friend, Sister Marie Stephanie, after the expulsion of the sisters from their convent in France, entered the Cistercian order. Upon her arrival she was met by Sister Marie Celestine, the mistress of novices, also the sister of Pere Marie Celestin. Sister Clotilde and Sister Marie Stephanie corresponded for many years. Occasionally Pere Marie Celestine was mentioned as the chaplain at Reillanne where Sister Marie Stephanie resided. Suspicions were aroused that Pere Marie Celestin might be Father Gillet and in 1888 Sister Clotilde’s nephew, Father Cesaire, a Cistercian, stationed at the Cistercian motherhouse in Lerins, began an inquiry.

Sister Clotilde obtained a copy of the Michigan Catholic (the Detroit diocesan newspaper, issue of December 25, 1890, which contained an article about the 45th anniversary of the founding of the IHMs with a picture of Gillet and the first cabin). Sister Clotilde sent this issue to her nephew requesting him to forward it to Pere Marie Celestin. Celestin received the paper in 1891 with amazement and joy as he realized that the congregation he helped found was thriving. Pere Marie Celestin was consoled for the rest of his life knowing that the Sisters of IHM were thriving and spreading the Gospel. Pere Marie Celestin died a holy death on November 14, 1892.  His last letter written November 4 to Sister Clotilde is treasured among the IHM Archives of Immaculata.

Pere Marie Celestin Gillet, OCR made his solemn vows on September 8, 1859, 160 years ago.

For more information about Father Gillet:  Gift of Fire is a chronology of Gillet's life compiled by the IHM Archives staff in Monroe, Michigan

St. Mary Spirituality Center and Historic Site 

The Archives Office engages in many ordinary and some extraordinary activities. In recent months we have been involved with an exciting project that was enflamed with the IHM passion for our Mission. Our IHM roots in the life of Mother Theresa begin in Haiti and Baltimore. Today, in Baltimore, St. Mary Spirituality Center and Historic Site on Paca Street commemorates the site where many early Catholics worshiped. “The lower chapel or ‘Chapelle Basse’ was the birthplace for the first African-American Catholic faith community in 1796” (http://stmaryspacast.org/visitor-center/). Among those who worshipped at the chapel on Paca Street were Elizabeth Ann Seton, Mother Mary Lange (founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence) and our Mother Theresa Maxis Duchemin. The historic site displays portraits, statues and display cases for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and Mother Mary Lange; although a portrait and statue of Mother Theresa are present, there is no display case for her. The director of the site, Deacon Vito Piazza, expressed his desire to add a permanent display presenting the life of Mother Theresa.

During the first three and a half months of this year, the Scranton Archives Office has been coordinating the efforts of archivists from the other IHM congregations (Immaculata and Monroe). We communicated by email with the director in Baltimore and with each other. After meeting with our own colleagues, we participated in a Zoom conference to see what each IHM community might contribute to the display. We also consulted with the archivist of the Oblate Sisters of Providence for her input and suggestions.

Because this will be a permanent display, most of the articles we considered for the exhibit were photographed. Among the photos provided by Immaculata were a photo of Mother Theresa’s five decade rosary, her small replica of the Monroe foundational log cabin and samples of her needlework. Monroe sent several photographs of Fr. Gillet’s grave site, the drawing of the log cabin, and Mother Theresa’s manuscripts regarding the foundation of the congregation. A photo of the Oblate motherhouse on George Street in Baltimore where the first four Oblate Sisters made their vows was offered by the Oblate Sisters of Providence. Scranton archives provided a 15-decade rosary, a crucifix, and a ring, all of which were worn by IHMs up until the 1960s, and a page of Mother Theresa’s prayer book written in French with the translation of a prayer to St. Alphonsus. The items for the display were collected in Scranton and then mailed to Baltimore. The director is currently in the process of finalizing the arrangement for the show case.

We IHM and OSP archivists have not had such a joint undertaking in previous years. This endeavor has been an exciting, invigorating experience for all of us, archivists and assistants alike. We have created new relationships together, shared our creative ideas and gifts, and deepened our unity while recognizing our diversity. The new display case about Mother Theresa is another avenue for sharing our deep IHM story with each other and in the future with those who visit the historic site at Paca Street. Hopefully you may be among those visitors who will see this collection of treasures representing the foundations of IHM.

Main hall of the Visitors' Center at Paca Street

St. Joseph 

We honor St. Joseph in the month of March as one of the patrons of our IHM Congregation. The following is an excerpt from Sister Anitra Nemotko’s presentation about St. Joseph: “His Language was Silence.”

“St. Joseph... took Mary to be his wife, went to Bethlehem for the census, fled to Egypt with Mary and the child, and then returned to Nazareth when it was safe. He was chosen by God to be the trustworthy guardian and protector of the Christ child and Mary, his mother. Sacred Scripture says little about him, not recording one word spoken by Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth. It may well be said that he lived an unknown life and that his language was silence. And yet, without words, he illustrated the depth of his greatness by listening and implementing God’s plan for the Incarnation.

The earliest records of a formal devotional following for St. Joseph date back to the year 800. References to him as educator and guardian of the Lord begin to appear in the 9th century and continued to grow into the 14th century. St. Thomas Aquinas discussed the necessity of the presence of St. Joseph in the plan of the Incarnation, and later in time, St. Teresa of Avila chose St. Joseph as the patron of the reformed Order of Carmelites and named twelve convents in his honor.

Many cities, towns and locations are named in honor of St. Joseph. St. Joseph’s was the original site chosen by our foundress, Mother Theresa Maxis Duchemin, to begin the mission of the IHM sisters in Pennsylvania.”

How does St. Joseph fit into your life in 2019? Do you have a story to tell about the way he has influenced your prayer, dreams, travels, anxieties, selling of property? 

Celebrating the Sisters of Saints Cyril and Methodius                                 




Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Sisters of Saints Cyril and Methodius, L-R Sisters Mary Persico, IHM, Linda Marie Bolinski, SSCM and Immacula Wendt, SSC

Among the feasts we celebrate in February is that of Saints Cyril and Methodius, February 14.  These brothers, originally from what is now Greece, and having a facility with the Slovak language, Christianized the Slovak people.

The city of Scranton and surrounding areas have long been locations where immigrants have settled. In the late 1800s Slovak and Lithuanian families were among these groups. The IHMs served this population, especially the children, with schools in Scranton, Pittston, and Olyphant, as well as St. Patrick’s Orphanage in Scranton.

The Slovak and Lithuanian people were eager to provide for the establishment of a religious community for the Christian education of their children. Father Jankola, a pastor from Hazleton, with the support of the Slovak people and the Jednota (the Catholic Slovak Union of America) approached Mother Cyril to undertake the direction of three young women who had presented themselves for the new congregation. “It was a venture, indeed, to attempt to rear a spiritual edifice on so frail a foundation, but Mother Cyril, urged by the invisible influence of the Holy Spirit, acceded to Father Jankola’s request.” (Gillespie, 1921, p. 358.)

These three young women named Mary, then five more, were admitted to the boarding school of Mout St. Mary’s to pursue studies, and after three years Father Jankola entreated Mother Cyril to allow them to enter the novitiate. And so it happened on January 6, 1906. Subsequently, a special habit was designed for these candidates which they received on July 2, 1906. When these novices completed their novitiate, they were missioned at Sacred Heart, Wilkes-Barre where they taught school under the direction of Sister Mary Conception, IHM. Thus began a pattern of IHM direction of the ‘new’ sisters in their missions. In 1909 Bishop Hoban obtained the approbation for the establishment of a Slovak congregation, and on September 11 of that year, Bishop Hoban received the vows of the three Sisters Mary at Mt. St. Mary’s; and 11 Slovak postulants received the habit. This day is considered the birthday of the Sisters of Saints Cyril and Methodius.

As we remember Saints Cyril and Methodius (and Valentine) on February 14, let us celebrate God’s goodness in these men, our own IHM Sisters who helped form the Congregation of the Sisters of Saints Cyril and Methodius, and their sisters who continue the work begun 113 years ago.

Gillespie, I. (1921) The Sisters of the IHM. New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons

Statue of Mary—The Traveling Madonna

The sisters in Little Washington, North Carolina wanted a beautiful statue of Mary and so, according to Sister Eileen Egan, they saved their money StatueMaryTraveling-smuntil they had enough to purchase one. The lovely Madonna was hand-carved in Germany. They enjoyed their treasure until the day that the convent officially closed. This was 1973.

Sisters Edith Marie and Eileen went to Goldsboro and New Bern, respectively, and those missions were established with appropriate chapel furnishings. Wanting the statue of Mary to be in a convent in North Carolina they brought her to Rocky Mount, a parish which had just built a new home for the sisters. Mary hung in the Chapel at our Lady of Perpetual Help until the closing of the convent in the early 1990's. Sisters Joan Coyne and Eleanor Mary Marconi wanted the statue to stay with the sisters so before they moved on to their new missions, they gave the statue of Mary to Sister Carol Loughney to bring to her new home in Raeford, North Carolina.

When Carol moved to Butner, North Carolina, Mary accompanied Carol and was hung in the parish house. The statue of Mary was the first thing that was hung in the house for St. Bernadette parish, and then moved five years later to a newly built home until 2013.

As Sister Carol was preparing to leave Butner in 2013, at the same time, Sister Betty Bullen was moving into a parish house in Raeford. The parish house was broken into at one time and so we felt that Mary needed to be with Betty. Betty had the statue and brought it with her when she left there in 2015. Betty moved to St. Anthony, North Beach, Maryland where the statue of Mary graced the Chapel until Sisters Ann Parker and Carol Loughney left there in in 2018.

At that time Mary had her last move to the IHM Center. Eileen Clinton drove this lovely statue of Mary and the Infant Jesus to the IHM Center in Scranton, a move that many of us have had or will have some day. This statue of Mary has given grace and peace to each sister as she was moved from mission to mission in our most beloved South and is now located in the formation house, Annunciation Community on the Marywood campus.

Christmas Message from Mother Beata 

The following letter is found among the collection of Christmas messages to the Congregation from our Superior Generals (From IHM Christmas Remembering: A gift of Letters, 2004). No such letters appeared prior to 1930. The thoughts of this 1973 letter still resonate today. 

Christmas 1973

My Dear Sisters,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.” This song which the angels sang at the birth of Christ, was one of peace.

The world is in turmoil, nations torn by wars, greed and hatred are rampant among mankind. Our lives as religious share in these sufferings and we, too, are searching for peace.

There will be peace in the world only when individuals make peace with their God and with their neighbor. Only in living our lives with Christ and for Christ can reconciliation be brought about, peace and serenity be restored, and the light of Christ again shine forth.

My prayer for you especially this Christmas time is that the Divine Child, through the loving Mother, may deepen your love for Him and fill our souls with peace and joy.

With sincere best wishes for a blessed Christmas and a New Year filled with hope, joy and peace, in the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I am,

Devotedly yours,                                                                                                            
Mother M. Beata Wertz, IHM
Superior General


The Founding of the Sisters of IHM

In the month of November we IHMs commemorate the founding of our Congregation in 1845.

We remember our foundress, Mother Theresa Maxis Duchemin and our founder, Father Louis Gillet, a Redemptorist priest from Belgium. Their initial connection came in Baltimore where Theresa was a sister of the Oblates of Providence.  Father Gillet’s visits to the Oblates were satisfying to both because of ease of communication through their common language of French. As Father Gillet began a new venture in the Midwest U.S., he needed teachers for the school he wished to establish and sent for Theresa Maxis Duchemin to come to Monroe. With Theresa and two other women, one from Baltimore the other from Michigan, the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was founded.

We also remember that Theresa Maxis Duchemin was raised learning two languages, English and French, in the household of the Haitian refugee family, the Duchemins (as her mother Betsy Maxis had been). “Because Theresa was raised by her mother and not acknowledged by her father’s family, she was raised as a Catholic, not as a Protestant; as a predominantly French-speaker, not as a predominantly English-speaker; and as a member of the community of color, not as a member of white society.” (Gannon, M. Pilgrim, 2018, p. 11-12.)

Theresa’s mulatto heritage and French-speaking upbringing had a profound influence on her future life. Sister Margaret Gannon has raised interesting questions in her discussions about the history of our community. For example: Do you consider Theresa to be a French speaking woman of color or a woman of color who happens to be French speaking?

For many other interesting points about our IHM beginnings, you might like to view the video presentations: www.ustream.TV/channel/ihm-tv

In this harvest season of Thanksgiving, may we reflect on Mother Theresa’s virtues of humility and gratitude as expressed in her own words: “Remetst’en a Dieu pour toutes Choses; ne veux que ce que Dieu vent; cue toujours present a la pensee ton propre neant.” (I live in gratitude to you, my God, and pray that all creatures want only what you want. Let the thought of my own nothingness be always present.) From Mother Theresa’s Prayer Book as translated by Sister Margaret Loftus.

Spanish Influenza of 1918

One hundred years ago, the Spanish Influenza of 1918 was a worldwide epidemic infecting an estimated 500 million people globally, about one-third of the planet's population—and killed an estimated 20 million to 50 million victims, including some 675,000 Americans. Scranton and the surrounding areas were not spared the illness or death. Religious sisters, including IHMs, broke their regular patterns of life to care for the sick in hospitals and homes.

On October 5, 1918, health authorities in Harrisburg placed a “ban on schools, churches, places of amusement” and thus Mt. St. Mary’s was put on strict quarantine status. Initiated by requests from Bishop Hoban, Mother Germaine sent our Sisters (nurses and a practical nurse at first) to neglected poor especially in Throop. “The Sisters went from house to house administering to the sick and caring for poor families.” In the first week of October, Sisters Elizabeth Lynch, Cosmos McNamara, Consolata Ball, Melanie Rowan (nurses) and Augusta Fleming (a practical nurse) were the first ‘medical missioners.’ Soon more help was needed and at the request of Mother Germaine, other sisters from convents in North and South Scranton and from St. Paul’s volunteered to go to Throop. In addition, The Shelter (St. Joseph’s Shelter) in downtown Scranton, staffed by IHMs, was opened to neglected children of mothers who had become too ill to care for their families at home. Between October 13 and November 1,163 children were admitted to the shelter and finally returned home.

The IHM sisters joined forces at Mary Keller Hospital (run by the Franciscan Sisters from Buffalo) in South Side to bolster the professional staff. The Sisters of Mercy had just taken over the Dr. Reed Burns Hospital which became an emergency hospital during the epidemic.

In White’s Ferry (Hoban Heights) at St. Michael’s Industrial School, all the boys also contracted the flu and IHM sisters from Marywood and St. John’s in Pittston were sent because our sisters there were also stricken.

None of our IHM sisters who cared for the sick during the epidemic in the Scranton area died. In Hollidaysburg, Sister M. Naomi McAndrew (an elementary school teacher) contracted the illness and died on December 11, 1918, just shy of three years of profession.

We thank God for the courage of our sisters characterized by their generous, self-emptying service.              

ONeillMother Germaine 

Mother Germaine O’Neill (sixth major superior of Scranton IHMs, 1913-1919) was an accomplished poet. Odes and Fancies, a book of poetry remembering Our Lady and other topics, was published in 1928. The feast of the Assumption is a fitting opportunity to share Mother Germaine’s’ beautiful poetry in honor of Mary.

Earth Day

Senator Gaylord Nelson, of Wisconsin, was disturbed that an issue as important as the environment was not addressed in politics or the media. Therefore, he created Earth Day, which was attended by an estimated 20 million people who celebrated festivities nationwide on April 22, 1970. That first Earth Day event and its huge participation increased awareness of the importance of preserving the environment. It raised public consciousness and led to legislation such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. In 1990, 20 years after the first Earth Day, 200 million people, in a total of 141 countries, joined in acknowledging the importance of protecting our environment. Earth Day events, activities and advocacy continue yearly. (America’s Library – Library of Congress.)

IHM sisters, associates and friends recently celebrated Earth Day 2018 at the IHM Center by blessing the new Land Reclamation Project. A special feature of the program was a concert given by Earth Mama (Joyce Rouse). Marywood had her own “Mother Earth,” in the person of Sister Maria Laurence Maher, long time chairperson of the Marywood University biological sciences department. “Everyone who knew her, experienced her great love of You (God) through her love of Your creation—every plant, tree and bird was a source of knowledge and interest to her - and she was dedicated to spreading this knowledge and love to her students” (from a reflection at her death).

“Marywood became an arboretum by its own declaration in 1975, known as The Sister Maria Laurence Maher Arboretum, in honor of one of Marywood's most avid environmental supporters” who had identified and labeled the campus trees with the assistance of college students in the Roger Bacon Society. Marywood was officially named an Arboretum in 1997 by the American Public Gardens Association


Theresa Renault

Theresa Renault, from Grosse Point, Michigan, entered the IHMs as one of the first three sisters in 1845 and was given the name Celestine. Among the first 12 sisters who established the mission in Susquehanna in 1858 was Celestine. Although growth of the congregation occurred in Pennsylvania in the next decade, a split between the east and west became inevitable. Fast forward to 1868 when Celestine and Theresa Maxis attempted to return to Monroe; only Celestine was accepted by the bishop of Detroit. However, another sister already had the name of Celestine and she (Theresa Renault) was given the name Xavier. She kept this name until 1896. Sisters who entered Monroe after 1860 generally knew nothing of the east/west separation, nor did they know who (Celestine) Xavier really was.

In July 1886 two Scranton IHMs visited Monroe; it was only then that more than half the community learned the story of the Susquehanna mission, and Celestine heard what had been accomplished by those sisters during the 17 years since she had returned to Monroe.

As we remember our congregational foundation, we remember Mother Theresa’s words (Celestine Xavier must have prayed them also): Jesus, Son of Mary, increase my faith, strengthen my hope, and fill my heart with Your love.

Laurel Hill Academy, Susquehanna, PA

The mission at Susquehanna Depot was opened on the Feast of St. Teresa of Avila on October 15, 1860.  Father O'Reilly wanted to establish a catholic school in Susquehanna, and the building obtained was originally a hotel.  The school was opened as a resident and day academy and was a success from the beginning.  Mother M. Theresa Maxis Duchemin, IHM, co-founder of the IHM Congregation, was its first superior.  Six additional IHM Sisters also served there.  Father O'Reilly named the school St. Alphonsus Academy, but when they applied for a Charter, due to religious bigotry which existed at the time, the application for the school was made in the name of Laurel Hill Academy.  The school thrived and was recognized as an extraordinary high school with an affiliation to The Catholic University of America.

Laurel Hill was also a prolific environment for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.  Sister M. Rosina Byrne, IHM, an alumna, published a collection of poems, Idyls of Lakeside.  Laurel Hill Academy closed in 1976, after 116 years of dedication to the education of our youth.

A miniature replica model of Laurel Hill Academy was completed for its diamond jubilee in 1935. Leo Benson and Benedict Kane were mainly responsible for the construction of the model, using the original building as the basis for shape and dimensions. The IHM Sisters at Laurel Hill provided the nun dolls that graced the setting.

Recently, Sister Babette Opferman, IHM, volunteered to restore the model, which had been in storage for years at the IHM Center. Much gratitude and appreciation goes out to Sister Babette, who spent countless hours on the restorative project. The model is currently on display on the Terrace Floor of the IHM Center in the heritage section of the break room.

Laurel Hill Replica

Sister Espiritu Dempsey

The Sister Espiritu Dempsey, IHM, Ph.D. Endowed Scholarship at Marywood University has been established by Sister M. Michel Keenan, IHM, Muriel Scherr Cagney ‘69, Pam Schwitter ‘69, and faculty and friends of Sister Espiritu Dempsey, IHM.

The citation for the scholarship reads, “If any may be said to embody the IHM spirit of joyful, loving service, is must surely have been Sister Espiritu. She entered the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1941, and embarked upon a ministry of teaching—a ministry she fulfilled for more than a quarter century thereafter, serving at all levels from elementary to secondary to college—bringing always into her classrooms, her keen mind, radiant smile, and caring heart... endearing herself to student at schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. She had earned her bachelor’s degree from Marywood, a master’s degree from Assumption College, and a doctorate from Georgetown University. Her facility with language led her to further graduate study at Laval University in Quebec and at the University of Toulouse in France. For six years, she shared that expertise in language as a member of Marywood’s faculty before accepting the demanding post of Academic Dean; then Vice President for Academic Affairs at her alma mater.”

The citation continues, “Eventually her ministry led her to undertake a new challenge as Academic Dean for Heritage College. The institution had been founded to provide higher learning for non-traditional ethnic students, particularly those of Native American and Hispanic descent—a mission dear to the heart of Sister Espiritu. She would serve for six years there, guiding Heritage College to successful accreditation. Sister Espiritu passed away in 2006. Now this scholarship endowed with the help of many of her friends, former students, and faculty colleagues, will help enable undergraduate students to experience the excellence of a Marywood education, centered in Sister Espiritu’s example of “joyful, loving service.”

IHM Logo DescriptionIHM dpi 96

The IHM Logo is positioned on a banner which is a symbol of strength. The letters in the logo are in a "bookhand" script rather than a typeface. This Chancery hand is both classic and current. It was used in the copying of manuscripts in the sixteenth century and was considered the most elegant hand of the period. It is widely studied and used today by calligraphers. It has come to be regarded as a modern "classic" for imitation by those who wish to develop a strongly personalized writing style.

The small flame incorporated in the logo is intended to express our dedication as religious to a life of prayer-filled action. The symbol is situated so that it touches all four sides of the banner.

The colors of the logo are teal and silver. The choice of these colors was to create a "warmth" using a hint of green in the blue as a sign of hope and new growth.

The overall appearance of the IHM graphic identity is one of elegant simplicity, warmth, vibrancy, and prayer-filled action.  The original graphic was designed by Sister Joan Mooney. The Lavelle-Miller-Murray Group revised it in 1993 to what it is today.

Old St. Joseph’s, First IHM Foundation in Pennsylvania, to Close

At a closing liturgy at 3:00 p.m. on July 18, 2010, St. Joseph’s Church will close its doors forever.

The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary were invited to St. Joseph’s in the Choconut Valley of Susquehanna County in 1858 by Reverend J.V. O’Reilly. Father O’Reilly was a native of Drumhalry County, Ireland, ordained in Philadelphia in 1837, and ministered to Catholics in
Susquehanna, Sullivan, Bradford and Lycoming counties. In the midst of his travels, Father O’Reilly’s master plan was to encourage Irish immigrants to the area to settle down to farming, leaving behind the migratory labor of the mines and railroads. He convinced land owners in Susquehanna County
to sell land to Irish workers at reasonable prices. One land owner donated the land for the building of a Catholic Church at Friendsville.

Along with being a community organizer, church builder, reformer and educator, Father O’Reilly was also a great temperance advocate. He understood the distress that alcoholism had brought into the lives of immigrant workingmen.

In 1852 Father O’Reilly established Saint Joseph’s College for young men. Four years later he founded an academy for young girls. Both college and academy attracted many students to its three-hundred-acre campus that commanded a fine view of the beautiful valley. Saint Joseph’s was not far from Friendsville, and Friendsville, even then, was the first town on the Milford and Owego turnpike, the great thoroughfare from New York and Philadelphia to Buffalo and Niagara Falls. The government had established a post office at St. Joseph’s and the stagecoach from Binghamton brought the mail daily.

The college was conducted by the Fathers of the Holy Cross from Notre Dame, and the academy by the Sisters of the Holy Cross from St. Mary’s, Indiana. In 1858 the Holy Cross Fathers and Sisters were withdrawn from the college and academy. Fathers John and Hugh Monaghan, brothers, took over the college and the academy was given over to the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from Monroe, Michigan. This was the first
Pennsylvania foundation for the IHM Sisters. Mother Theresa Maxis Duchemin, co-founder of the congregation, and Sister Aloysisus set out for St. Joseph’s on August 18 from Monroe. Three other sisters arrived twelve days later to begin preparation for the opening of school. The sisters gladly interrupted their preparations, however, for a three-day retreat conducted for them at St. Joseph’s by Bishop (now Saint) John Neumann.

The school grew rapidly and vocations to the IHM Congregation were numerous. Many postulants were received at St. Joseph’s with the first profession taking place there on July 24, 1859 in the convent chapel. The convent was a three-story structure, with wide verandas on each story that gave a splendid view of the surrounding country. Father O’Reilly planned and also erected a brick church. It was so large and magnificent that it was called “the Cathedral.” It had stained glass windows, marble altars, and a fine pipe organ. There is no photograph of any of the buildings at Saint Joseph’s, but the traditions are that the college and academy were built on the same large scale as the church. The college had a handsomely furnished chapel and
a valuable library. Both college and academy were fully equipped for the work that was carried on within their walls.

The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary served at St. Joseph’s from 1858 to 1864 when Saint Joseph’s College was burned and Saint Joseph’s Academy closed.

At St. Joseph’s Church are the graves of two of the first IHM Sisters: Sister Vincent Flynn, born July 2, 1829, died April 20, 1862 and Sister Lucy Hickey, born October 15, 1837, died September 17, 1863.

Although the IHM Sisters served only six years at St. Joseph’s, it remains the first home and mission from which the Pennsylvania IHMs grew. 

References: Gannon, IHM, Sister Margaret. Mother Theresa Maxis Duchemin, IHM: Let Your Heart Be Bold, 1978, pp. 15-23.
Gillespie, IHM, Sister Immaculata. The Sisters of the IHM. New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1921, pp. 48-85

Anniversary of the 200th Birthday of Mother Theresa Maxis  by Sister Anitra Nemotko, IHM Maxis

The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary commemorate the 200th birthday of our foundress Theresa Maxis born in Baltimore, MD on April 8, 1810. The story of Mother Theresa’s life and heritage of courage, fearlessness and service to the poor is familiar to many. The dedicated legacy continues today in the members of the three branches of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters.

Vatican II Council encouraged re-identification and renewal of the charism of each congregation. Today, the IHM spirit continues in the tradition of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, the founder of the Redemptorists, on whose rule the congregation IHM Constitutions is rooted. From the beginning the IHM Sisters have reached out to farmers, miners, immigrants, orphans, the sick and homeless, women and children. This mission continues to address the global concerns of today. Theresa was educated in French culture which prepared her well for her future ministry. At the age of 19 she entered the Oblates of Providence in Baltimore, MD and later served as the superior general. The Oblates were the first congregation of women religious of color in the world and Theresa was the first US-born woman of color to become a religious sister.

In 1845 she traveled to Monroe, Michigan and with Father Louis Gillet founded the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The congregation was established to preserve Catholicism among French Canadian immigrants. In 1858 Mother Theresa accepted an invitation from Bishop John Neumann and Msgr. J.V. O’Reilly to come to Susquehanna, initiating the first IHM mission in Pennsylvania. Another mission was established in Reading, PA in 1859. In 1867 Mother Theresa Maxis left Susquehanna County for Ottawa, Canada which began her exile with the Grey Nuns. She wore their habit but always considered herself to be a member of the IHM Congregation. Mother Theresa Maxis returned to IHM Congregation in West Chester, Pennsylvania in 1885. Her exile ended and she was reunited with the IHM community. In 1992 she returned to the God whom she so faithfully served.

Mother Theresa was undeniably ahead of her time, a model of humility, simplicity and charity to the people of God. Her message to Sister Genevieve in 1883 to the Scranton IHMs is often repeated today: “Tell all my beloved Sisters, those who know me and those I never saw that I gather up all that my heart can contain of happy desires, wishes and hopes for them. I scatter them in one single wish. May the Lord and Our Immaculate Mother be always with you and everyone.”       

Historical Marker Dedication

Mother Theresa Maxis Duchemin and the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary have been recognized by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) at the original site of Laurel Hill Academy in Susquehanna, PA. Plans are under way for the historical marker unveiling and dedication on Wednesday, May 6, 2009, at 2:00 p.m. at Turnpike Street and Broad Avenue in Susquehanna Depot.  The unveiling and dedication of this historical marker is a public event and all are invited to attend.       

The PHMC educators and historical experts agree that the successful educational works of Theresa and the IHM Sisters at this site are important and
should be commemorated by an official Pennsylvania Roadside Historical Marker. This recognition is due in large part to Fr. Robert Simon, former pastor of St. John’s and longtime friend of the IHM Sisters, who initiated the idea and Sr. Margaret Gannon, IHM who provided the historical documentation. In part, Sr. Margaret Gannon wrote, “Two of the congregations Theresa founded have served many thousands of Pennsylvanians from Susquehanna to Philadelphia and from Stroudsburg to Pittsburgh. They have operated hundreds of elementary and secondary schools, two universities, a hospital and several childcare centers. Theresa’s immigrant heritage has inspired IHMs’ particular ministry to immigrant Americans, including the foundation of three ethnically-oriented religious congregations. Similarly, Theresa’s devotion to poor working families led to her ministry in the mining and railroad towns of Northeastern Pennsylvania; that ministry continues in IHM service to working persons in all the cities of Eastern Pennsylvania.”

The PHMC is the official history agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and seeks to preserve the Commonwealth’s memory and enrich
people’s lives by helping them to understand Pennsylvania’s past, appreciate the present and embrace the future. 
Maxis Historical Marker       

Remembering Theresa’s Pioneer Spirit

In celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Theresa Maxis Duchemin, it is fitting to recall the words of Sister Margaret Gannon in Paths of Daring, Deeds of Hope:

Born April 8, 1810 in Baltimore, Theresa was the daughter of a Haitian refugee, Betsy Duchemin, and Arthur Howard, a British military officer. Betsy’s grandfather, whose name, Maxis, Theresa used, was an African slave in Haiti. Theresa’s parents were not married; indeed, Theresa believed that her father never knew of her existence.

Theresa was raised in the African-American community by her mother’s guardians, the Duchemin family, who provided education for her as they had for her mother.

Mother Theresa’s accomplishments are a testament to her perseverance, her love of God and fidelity to her vocation. She was one of the founding members of the Oblates of Providence and served as both Superior General and Assistant to the Superior General.

With Fr. Louis Florent Gillet, a Belgian Redemptorist working in the Detroit Diocese, she established the IHM Congregation in Monroe, Michigan in 1845.

In 1858, Theresa traveled to the town of St. Joseph in the Choconut Valley, Susquehanna County, to establish the first Pennsylvania mission.

In subsequent years, Theresa endured sufferings and separation. She fought to establish a second Pennsylvania mission, and when she was refused permission, persisted to the point of her being deposed from office by Bishop Peter Paul Lefevere, who split the Michigan and Pennsylvania branches of the IHM Congregation.      

Theresa’s apologies and pleas for reconciliation went unanswered for many years - both in Detroit by Bishop Lefevere and in Scranton by Bishop William O’Hara. She obtained hospitality with the Grey Nuns of Ottawa, and lived with them for 17 years, having virtually no contact with the IHM sisters for 12 of those years.      

In 1881, Sister Genevieve of the Scranton IHMs sent Theresa feast day greetings, which initiated a five-year correspondence between them. Finally, in 1885, the new bishop of Philadelphia, Patrick J. Ryan, permitted her return.   

She lived her last seven years peacefully in West Chester. The one painful deprivation she experienced was Bishop O’Hara’s refusal to allow her to visit in Scranton or to receive regular communication from the sisters there. She died after a brief illness on January 14, 1892.