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Archives ‘A century of love’ filled with local connections

August 25, 2021

Submitted by Joseph Tebo
GNSH Associate

Birthdays are meant to be celebrated. On August 24, 2021, the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, Associates, families and friends will celebrate their 100th anniversary -- “A Century of Love, A Century of Service.”

St. Marguerite d’Youville founded the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, the Grey Nuns, in 1731. From this first foundation, five other congregations of Grey Nuns were established: the Sisters of Charity of St. Hyacinthe, Sisters of Charity of Quebec, Sisters of Charity of Ottawa (Grey Nuns of the Cross), the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart and Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. Each congregation carried on St. Marguerite’s legacy of trust in Divine Providence and loving service to those made poor.

Several Canadian Grey Nun congregations have missions in the United States and throughout the world, and their Sisters are primarily French speaking, though many are bilingual. The Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart and the Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception were both founded as English-speaking communities, and only the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart are based in the United States.

By the late 1800s, the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa had established missions of education, health care and social services in Canada and also in the North Country, in Buffalo and in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Many American women sought to enter the congregation, but language and customs proved to be barriers. Attempts to resolve these difference were not successful, and eventually, some sisters made the painful decision to separate from the Ottawa community and found a new American congregation of Grey Nuns.

One hundred years ago, 155 Grey Nuns of the Cross – some U.S. citizens and some Canadians – became Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart (GNSH) at D’Youville College in Buffalo.

After the separation from Ottawa, the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart decided to establish their motherhouse in Philadelphia at the invitation of Cardinal Dougherty. The second motherhouse was established at Melrose Park, Pennsylvania in 1922. Finally, their third motherhouse was established at Yardley, Pennsylvania in 1966.

Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart continued the ministries which were originally the responsibility of the Ottawa Grey Nuns in Buffalo, Ogdensburg, Plattsburgh, and in Lowell, Massachusetts, with the exception of those that were French-American.

Almost immediately after the separation from Ottawa, the new community accepted a new mission, St. Joan of Arc School, in Jackson Heights, New York. In the 100 years of GNSH history, sisters undertook many other ministries in education, health care, pastoral ministry and social work in several eastern states, in Alaska and in Peru.

Immaculate Conception Parish in Lowell, Massachusetts has provided the congregation with many sisters, including three wonderful major superiors/presidents: Sister Mary Charlotte Barton, Sister Jean Liston and Sister Julia Lanigan.

The Diocese of Ogdensburg has provided the Grey Nuns with numerous members. Many are alumnae from St. Mary’s Academy (SMA) in Ogdensburg.

Sister John Mary Allard, Sister Anne Boyer, Sister Mary Imelda Brown, Sister Agatha Doe, Sister Teresa Marie Elie, Sister Ann Josita Emond, Sister St. Irene Flanagan, Sister Mary Lee Farrell, Sister Mary Bernard Fitzgerald, Sister Kathleen Hannan, Sister St. Edgar Irwin, Sister Bernadette Marie Lalonde, Sister Eunice Lalonde, Sister John Helen Main, Sister Helen Martin, Sister Mary Dorothy Moroney, Sister Irene Marie Murphy, Sister Eileen Murray, Sister Rose O’Donoghue, Sister Mary Evelyn Oliver, Sister Mary Rita Oliver, Sister Mary Gertrude Overton, Sister Kathleen Sholette, Sister Mary Assumpta Spellman, Sister Donna Jean Tavernier, Sister Mary Margaret Taylor, Sister Rose Ann Taylor and Sister Francis Elizabeth Wilford all graduated from St. Mary’s Academy. The school closed in 1969.

The following Sisters are from other places in the Diocese of Ogdensburg: Sister Mary Loretta Bechard, Cooperville; Sister Rita Frances Brady, Madrid native; Sister Mary Brennan, Mineville; Sister Mary of Lourdes, Sister Ann Michael Delaney, Sister Agnes of the Sacred Heart and Sister Mary Marcella, Canton; Sister Mary Teresa LaBrake, Lisbon (graduated from SMA); Sister Mary Elizabeth Lafleur, Fort Covington; Sister Mary Joanna Larock, Morristown; Sister Angelina LeClarie, Massena; Sister Mary Elizabeth Looby, Ogdensburg native; Sister Francis Xavier Lynch, Watertown; Sister Alice McCollister and Sister Joan Patricia McCormick, Chateaugay; Sister Joan McElwain, Moria; Sister Mary Charles McKillip, Saranac Lake; Sister Mary Priscilla, Sister Catherine Teresa McMillian and Sister Mary Loyola Murphy, Lowville; Sister Mary Agnes Quigley, Sister Mary Ursula Quigley and Sister Pierrette Remillard, Peru; and Sister St. Louis Roy, Sister Bernard of the Cross and Sister Margaret Turner of Pope Mills. These vocations came from Champlain Valley Hospital School of Nursing, Plattsburgh, A Barton Hepburn School of Nursing and D’Youville College, Buffalo.

Please pray for the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart as they celebrate their one hundredth year.


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