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 plants the seeds of Catholic education in the U.S.

1814  Mother Seton sends Sisters on the community’s first mission outside Emmitsburg: to manage an orphanage in Philadelphia, PA.

1817  Mother Seton sends three 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  Thirty-three 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 three orphanages, three academies and three 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 two missions, as huge numbers of Irish immigrants come to North America in the wake of the potato famine. Four Sisters are sent to Halifax, Nova Scotia to care for orphans and immigrants; [in 1856, an independent community is formed there]. 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, Westchester County, the first hospital in New York State to care for the mentally ill.

1884  Sisters open 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.

1892  St. Vincent’s Hospital opens a nursing school. Over 5,700 students would graduate before the school closed in 1999.

1903  St. Vincent’s Hospital, Staten Island, opens to serve the health needs of Richmond.

1905  Sisters begin Cathedral High School for Girls; twenty years later, it becomes an archdiocesan school.

CMSV-First-Graduates-19131910  New York State grants a charter for the College of Mount Saint Vincent, which evolves from the Academy’s fifth-year program begun by the Sisters.

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.

1965  Led by Mother Loretto Bernard and her Council, Sisters participate in the Harlem March for Civil Rights.

1965  Elizabeth Seton Women’s Center (now a virtual program) opens to respond to needs of women of diverse ages, faiths, cultures and economic means.

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 Congregation’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.

LEFSA1986  Sr. Dorothy Gallant, SC, with Sister of Mercy Theresa Skehan initiates the Life Experience and Faith Sharing Association (LEFSA) for men and women in homeless shelters in New York City.

— SC ministry of affordable housing for seniors begins with opening of Joseph House, a subsidiary of SC Healthcare System, Staten Island.

1989  Sr. Florence Speth, SC, opens Fox House in East Harlem to provide temporary housing, education 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 the Vision 2000 Direction Statement, Sisters commit to respond to three signs of the times: needs of women, the earth, and persons living in poverty.

1996 Elizabeth Seton Women’s Center (now a virtual program) opens to respond to needs of women of diverse ages, faiths, cultures and economic means.

Casa-31998  Sisters Jean Bocian and Terese McElroy establish Casa de Esperanza, a multiservice center for immigrants, in Yonkers.

—  Sisters of Charity Housing Development Corporation is formed to oversee and coordinate expanding SC-sponsored housing efforts in Staten Island and Manhattan.

shfbanner1999  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  Barbara Ford, SC is assassinated in Guatemala.

Seton-Village2003  Seton Village, sponsored by the Sisters of Charity and offering affordable housing to senior citizens, opens in Nanuet, Rockland County, NY.

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 The Sisters of Charity Federation is incorporated; Sr. Mary Ann Daly, SC is named the first Executive Director.

  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 Formation house in Guatemala for women interested in joining the Sisters of Charity.

—  The Mott Haven Academy Charter School, with special services for children in the foster care system, opens in the South Bronx in partnership with the New York Foundling.

Peace-Center-32009  The Barbara Ford Center for Peacebuilding opens in Guatemala, offering programs of physical, spiritual, and emotional healing,leadership and empowerment for lay and religious leaders.

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.

2011  Seton Service and Leadership Program at College of Mount Saint Vincent is launched to prepare students as service leaders in the spirit of the Sisters of Charity.

2012  Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center moves from Manhattan to its new state-of-the-art building in Yonkers.

2017  SC’s mark 200 years of presence and service in New York, with liturgical celebrations, festive events, honors and awards. A new shrine to St. Elizabeth Seton, sculpted by Sr. Margaret Beaudette, SC, is dedicated at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Sr. Rosenda Magdalena Castañeda Gonzalez becomes the first Guatemalan woman to profess final vows as a SC of NY.

SCNY hosts sixty leaders of the Sisters of Charity Federation of North America for their annual meeting.

The worldwide Vincentian Family celebrates the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian charism.

2018  SC leadership calls for prayer and action in response to situations of concern: mass shootings such as one in a Parkland, FL high school; natural disasters in Guatemala; and increasing detention of undocumented migrants, including children forcibly separated from families.

2019  Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at Mount Saint Vincent is renovated.

2020  Eleven ministries sponsored by the Sisters of Charity provide education, health care, social services, and housing for more than one million people in New York and Guatemala: children, families, immigrants, those who are homeless and hungry, young people and seniors, those who are vulnerable and in need of advocates.

SCs and their ministries, large and small, in New York & Guatemala respond to the Covid-19 pandemic with creativity and courage, despite its devastating impact.

Deaths of Black men & women spark nationwide protests, growing awareness of the sins of racism and white supremacy and calls for systemic change.

2021 Vincent’s Village, a 93-unit affordable housing development primarily for seniors in Nanuet, Rockland County, NY, opened.

Members of the Sisters of Charity and the College of Mount Saint Vincent communities affirm their commitment to the seven-year Laudato Si’ Action Platform (LSAP). 

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