The Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, is a Pontifical Religious Institute, whose members are committed to God and to the Church by the profession of the public vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
The charism of the sisters is Love, which continues to manifest itself today in the sisters’ joyful service of God and his people; creative Hope, which puts all its confidence in God’s loving Providence; and Fidelity, which inspires fervor in their vocation in Christ and in their mission in the Church.
The Immaculata branch of the Congregation comprises approximately 850 Sisters who currently staff Catholic schools and parishes in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Florida and in the South American country of Peru. The sisters also serve the Church in pastoral and other evangelization ministries in other states as well.
The origins of the Congregation can be traced back to a log cabin in Monroe, Michigan. It was there that Reverend Louis Florent Gillet, a Redemptorist missionary, having searched in vain for religious to teach his people, resolved to found a Sisterhood of his own.
On November 10, 1845, Father Gillet welcomed three women, Mary Theresa Maxis, who became Mother M. Theresa, Charlotte Ann Schaaf, (Sister M. Ann), and Therese Renauld, (Sister M. Celestine) to begin a community based on the spirit of St. Alphonsus Liguori. Father Gillet envisioned an educational apostolate conducted by religious women who would give witness to prayerfulness, humility, simplicity, forgetfulness of self, and a deep love and respect for each individual soul.
In 1858, in response to an invitation from St. John Neumann, then Bishop of Philadelphia, the Sisters agreed to staff St. Joseph School in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, which was formerly taught by the Holy Cross Sisters. In 1859, a second mission was undertaken in Reading, Pennsylvania. In a short time many applicants sought to join the Sisters and a Motherhouse was established in what is now St. Peter’s Parish in Reading. The third and final division of the Congregation came in August 1871, when The Most Reverend William O’Hara, Ordinary of the newly formed Diocese of Scranton (1868), asked a number of the Sisters already teaching within the diocesan limits to form a new Motherhouse located in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Because of the increased number of Sisters, the Motherhouse in Reading was transferred to West Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1872. There it remained until 1966, when the present Motherhouse, Villa Maria House of Studies, was built at Immaculata, Pennsylvania.
The Sisters work in the Congregation’s corporate apostolate of Catholic education as well as in catechetical, pastoral, hospital and prison ministries, parenting programs, counseling, literacy instruction, adult spirituality programs, care of the infirm, retreat work and campus ministry. In their lives and in their work, they strive to continue to offer Praise, Love, and Thanksgiving as they carry out the Gospel mandate of Jesus, the Redeemer, “Go and teach all nations.”