Sisters of Charity Timeline
The story of the Sisters of Charity in North America began over 200 years ago in Emmitsburg, MD, with a small band of women under the leadership of Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton. Our story in New York goes back almost that far. It is a story of thousands of lives serving God’s poor, a story of tough love and high standards, a story of caring and compassion. It is a story of needs met, difficulties faced, challenges overcome, societies changed—mostly, with little or no resources. It is a story of the marvelous mission of Charity—and with you, our partners in ministry, the story continues.
1809 Elizabeth Seton begins the Sisters of Charity—the first religious community of women founded in the United States—in Emmitsburg, MD. She adapts their Rule from that of the Daughters of Charity in France, founded by Saints Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac.
1810 Elizabeth Seton opens St. Joseph Academy and a free school in Emmitsburg. The free school is a prototype for the later Catholic parochial school system.
1814 Sisters open their first orphan asylum in Philadelphia, PA.
1817 Mother Seton sends 3 Sisters to her native New York to begin the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum in St. Patrick’s parish, Prince and Mott Streets.
1821 Elizabeth Seton dies at 46 in Emmitsburg, MD.
1822 Sisters take charge of girls’ department of St. Patrick’s School, Mott St., the first of hundreds of parochial schools in New York staffed by the Sisters.
1846 33 Sisters, about half of those on mission in New York, establish an independent community under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of New York. They elect Sr. Elizabeth Boyle as their leader. The rest of the Sisters choose to return to their Emmitsburg roots. The Sisters remaining in New York have the care of 3 orphanages, 3 academies and 3 parish schools.
1847 Sisters borrow money to buy property at McGown’s Pass, near present-day 107 St. and Fifth Avenue, and begin building a motherhouse, novitiate and girls’ academy—the first Mount Saint Vincent.
1849 The new community opens its first 2 missions, as huge numbers of Irish immigrants come to America in the wake of the potato famine. Four Sisters with lay medical colleagues begin St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan, to care for victims of the cholera epidemic.
1856 City of New York takes over land at McGown’s Pass for proposed Central Park. Mount Saint Vincent relocates to Font Hill, Forrest estate in Riverdale (1857–1859).
1862 Sisters nurse Civil War wounded in St. Joseph’s Military Hospital, former site of MSV in Central Park. The hospital closes in 1865.
1869 Sister Mary Irene Fitzgibbon opens the New York Foundling in a rented house on East Twelfth Street. The post-Civil War increase in cases of infanticide and infant abandonment prompts some prominent laymen to ask the Archbishop of New York for the help of the Sisters of Charity in response to this need.
1879 Sisters open St. Vincent’s Retreat (later Hospital), Harrison, to care for the mentally ill.
1884 Sisters begin St. Agatha Home, Nanuet, for dependent and neglected children, which will later affiliate with New York Foundling.
1888 St. Joseph’s Hospital, Yonkers, is incorporated under the direction of Sisters of Charity.
1889 The Sisters open a mission in Nassau, Bahamas with a free school.
1903 St. Vincent’s Hospital, Staten Island, opens to serve the health needs of Richmond.
1905 Sisters begin Cathedral High School for Girls; 20 years later, it becomes an archdiocesan school.
1958 Convent of Mary the Queen in Yonkers opens as a residence for senior Sisters.
1961 Elizabeth Seton College, the first Catholic two-year college in the state, opens in Yonkers.
1962 Pope John XXIII convenes the Second Vatican Council. The Sisters of Charity begin an intensive renewal of their spirituality, mission, and every other facet of their lives.
1969–71 Three Sisters work with Catholic Relief Services in Vietnam in health and social services.
1970s Responding to the Church’s call, several Sisters of Charity volunteer to serve in Peru and Chile at a time of great social and political turmoil.
1971 Three Sisters of Charity begin the Congrega-tion’s first Central American mission in Guatemala to serve the indigenous Mayan people. Sisters begin to serve Native Americans in Arizona and in Appalachian missions in North Carolina, and (1972) Kentucky.
1975 Elizabeth Seton is canonized, the first native-born American saint. Sisters begin the Associate Relationship program for those who wish to share the mission and spirit of Charity from within their own life styles.
1982 Sr. Jane Iannucelli, SC, Rev. Ned Murphy, SJ, and Tim Boon co-found POTS (Part of the Solution), a soup kitchen in the Fordham section of the Bronx.
1986 Sr. Dorothy Gallant, SC, with Mercy Sister Theresa Skehan initiates the Life Experience and Faith Sharing Association (LEFSA) for men and women in homeless shelters in New York City.—Affordable housing for seniors open on Staten Island; Joseph House is subsidiary of SC Healthcare System, SI.
1989 Sr. Florence Speth, SC, opens Fox House in East Harlem to provide temporary housing, educa-tion and social services for homeless women and their children.
1993 Sisters open Seton House in East Harlem, providing permanent housing for formerly homeless persons and families, the first housing venture launched in collaboration with city and state organizations.
1995 In their Vision 2000 Direction Statement, Sisters commit to respond to three signs of the times: needs of women, the earth, and persons living in poverty.
1998 Sisters Jean Bocian, SC, and Terese McElroy, SC, establish Casa de Esperanza, a multiservice center for immigrants, in Yonkers.—Sisters of Charity Housing Development Corporation is formed to oversee and coordinate hundreds of SC-sponsored housing efforts on Staten Island and in Manhattan.
1999 Under the leadership of Sr. Mary Ann Garisto, SC, Sisters Hill Farm is established in Stanfordville, NY, offering healthy, organically grown food to its shareholders and to organizations serving persons living in poverty.
2000 Several SC-sponsored hospitals merge with Catholic Medical Centers, Brooklyn, to form St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers of New York.
2001 Sister Barbara Ford is assassinated in Guatemala.
2005 Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center, begun as an affiliate of the New York Foundling to provide services to medically fragile children, becomes an independent healthcare organization, including the John A. Coleman School and the Children’s Rehabilitation Center.
2007 Sisters of Charity Assembly affirms creation of Office of Sponsorship Services. — White Plains campus of the John A. Coleman School opens.
2008 Sisters open a Novitiate house in Guatemala.—The Mott Haven Academy Charter School opens.
2010 St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Manhattan, closes. St. Vincent’s Hospital, Westchester, merges with St. Joseph’s Medical Center, Yonkers. —Sisters of Charity assume sponsorship of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center, White Plains.