Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill
Seton Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Sisters of Charity, the first community of religious women to be founded in the United States by an American-born woman, widow, mother of five, and a convert to Catholicism, came to Western Pennsylvania as early as 1835 when Sisters from the Motherhouse in Emmitsburg MD founded Saint Paul's Orphanage and a day school at Saint Paul's Parish in Pittsburgh. These Sisters, the spiritual daughters of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton remained in Pittsburgh until 1845 when they were recalled to Maryland for assignment to other missions.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton's Sisters of Charity were founded in 1809 and from their earliest origins followed the rule and lived in the spirit of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent DePaul and his co - worker, Saint Louise DeMarillac. Twenty years after the foundation in Maryland, a group of the Seton Sisters made an establishment in Cincinnati OH. When the Emmitsburg Motherhouse amalgamated with the international community of Daughters of Charity, the Cincinnati Sisters chose to remain independent, to preserve the unique American characteristics of Mother Seton's original foundation. The Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, Greensburg, stem directly from the Cincinnati Sisters of Charity, and claim their rightful place as the youngest branch of the religious community founded by Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.

The Sisters of Charity came back to the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1870 at the invitation of Bishop Michael Domenec, second Bishop of Pittsburgh. From Cincinnati they were called to staff a school at Saint John's Parish in Altoona. Under the direction of Mother Aloysia Lowe and her assistant, Sister Anne Regina Ennis, the Altoona convent became an independent foundation of the Sisters of Charity. In 1882 the Motherhouse was transferred to Seton Hill, in Greensburg.

The Seton Hill Sisters originally ministered as educators, but like Vincent DePaul, Louise DeMarillac and Elizabeth Ann Seton, believed that their motto "The Charity of Christ urges us" compelled them to seek to alleviate all human needs. Their original rule stated "The principal end for which God has called and assembled the Sisters of Charity, is to honor Jesus Christ our Lord, the source and model of all charity, by rendering Him every temporal and spiritual service in their power in the persons of the poor, either sick, invalid, prisoners, insane, or those who, through shame, would conceal their necessity." For over a century - and - a - quarter, the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill have sought various means to meet those needs.

Flood The remains of Saint John's Convent in Johnstown following the flood in 1889.

From their local convents, the Sisters would visit the sick and the homebound of the parishes where they served. In 1889, the Sisters at Saint John's Convent in Johnstown, who lost their own home in the Johnstown Flood, stayed in the stricken city to provide healthcare to other flood victims. This was the first recorded instance of healthcare ministry by the Sisters in hospitals, as eleven of their number served at the Prospect Hospital, and in the temporary hospital established by the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The community began to sponsor healthcare institutions in 1891 when the Roselia Foundling and Maternity Hospital opened in Pittsburgh. The next year, a school of practical nursing was opened at the Roselia. In 1897, the Sisters founded the Pittsburgh Hospital and in 1910 Providence Hospital in Beaver Falls. Both institutions also sponsored Schools of Nursing. The Sisters would also open Jeannette District Memorial Hospital in 1959, and would operate the McGuire Memorial Convalescent Home from 1953 until 1963.

Nurse Sr. Kieran Beyer with Toddler at the Roselia Foundling Hospital circa 1940.

The Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill have long been recognized as leaders in the healthcare profession. The Sisters were early advocates for humane care for unwed mothers and abandoned infants. In their hospitals they developed a rudimentary insurance plan that was a prototype for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Western Pennsylvania. The Sisters saw the benefit of professional associations wrote or contributed to textbooks in nursing and other health care fields, worked to implement an eight hour day for nurses, and helped establish the first collegiate school of nursing in Pittsburgh, at Duquesne University.

In all areas of their health care ministry, the Charity of Christ urged the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill to excel - - not for their own benefit or reputation, but in order to be of the greatest service to those most in need of their care.


For additional information on the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, please visit their homepage by clicking here.

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