Category Archives: Sisters of Charity of New York

Sisters of Charity and Bishop John Hughes

Guest post by Sister Constance Brennan, Archivist, Sisters of Charity of New York

Leather book

Leather handwritten book – Instructions by Archbishop Hughes given to Mother Angela (Courtesy Sisters of Charity of New York)

“A Monumental Legacy: Archbishop John J. Hughes and the Building of St. Patrick’s Cathedral,” an exhibition to record the life and works of Archbishop John Hughes, will open at the Consulate General of Ireland on Thursday, March 7 and will run through July 31, 2014. Included in this exhibition will be the cover and five digitized pages of the original leather handwritten book, “Instructions by Archbishop Hughes given to Sister Angela.” This book contains instructions given to the Sisters of Charity of New York by Archbishop Hughes in 1860. Sister Angela Hughes, the sister of the archbishop, was the third Mother General of the Sisters of Charity of New York, (1855-1861).

Bishop John Hughes portrait

Bishop John Hughes (Courtesy Sisters of Charity of New York)

Mother Angela Hughes (Courtesy Sisters of Charity of New York)

Mother Angela Hughes (Courtesy Sisters of Charity of New York)

This exhibition also highlights the relationship between Saint Elizabeth Seton and the archbishop. In the fall of 1819 the young John Hughes sought work with the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s whose motherhouse in Emmitsburg was a short distance from Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary. Hughes had sought admission to the seminary and had been refused by Bishop Dubois. Elizabeth Seton got to know the young Hughes who opened his heart to her of his desire to enter Mount St. Mary’s and become a priest. She looked beyond his aggressive stance to his call and wrote to Bishop Dubois. Dubois, who could not refuse Elizabeth anything, gradually reversed his decision and John Hughes was admitted to the seminary. We know the rest of the story!

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Filed under Sisters of Charity Federation, Sisters of Charity of New York

The Changing Face of the New York Foundling

Sr. Mary Irene Fitzgibbon

Sister Mary Irene Fitzgibbon (Courtesy of Sisters of Charity of New York)

Sister Teresa Vincent McCrystal

Sister Teresa Vincent McCrystal (Courtesy of Sisters of Charity of New York)











Guest post from the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul of New York

In 1869, because of an overwhelming number of orphans and abandoned children, Sisters Mary Irene Fitzgibbon and Teresa Vincent McCrystal asked permission to open another orphanage. Sister Mary Jerome Ely granted this permission and gave them what money she had in her pocket – five dollars. Sisters Irene and Teresa sought a suitable building, and what became known as the New York Foundling Hospital was begun. Now, 145 years later, though in a radically different form from 1869, the New York Foundling programs still flourish.

Over the years the location of the NY Foundling has changed several times as has its main purpose. Originally begun to care for orphans and place children with foster or adoptive families, many other programs have grown from the original seeds. The Orphan Trains helped to place children in Catholic homes throughout the country until approximately 1920. Sisters accompanied the children to their new homes and checked on their progress and care. Many other children were adopted by more local families.

Over the years, as needs changed, new programs were begun. One such program for pregnant teens provided shelter, healthcare and parenting education for young unwed mothers. Some kept their babies, while many others gave them up for adoption. A live-in program for older children who had not been adopted was begun where the children would go out to local schools during the day, but return “home” for supervised study, recreation, and the learning of life and social skills. As time went on, and numbers grew, group homes were begun in the outer boroughs of NYC and Westchester.
In the 1970s it was noted that some children were not “adoptable” and the Health Related Facility was formed. Here, disabled children – both physically and mentally – lived with the very best of care and attention. When the need for their education became apparent, all of the necessary steps to begin a school for them were taken. These programs, now called the Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center and the John A. Coleman School, have separated from the NY Foundling and have become separate incorporated organizations – still sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of New York.
Another excellent program, begun by Dr. Vincent Fontana, is the Crisis Nursery. Here respite is provided for young children of distraught parents who fear they might abuse their child. The child can be placed here for a short period of time while the mother finds the means to “get herself together.” When it is deemed that the home environment is “safe,” the child will be returned to the mother. If it seems unsafe for the child to return home, other solutions for placement will be sought.

From a real need, the New York Foundling Hospital was “born.” Throughout the years there have been many turns in the road. New needs were recognized and new solutions were sought. Though the Foundling of today may look very different from that of 1869, the Sisters of Charity of New York continue to answer the call to help with any needs in their power.


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Filed under Sisters of Charity Federation, Sisters of Charity of New York

“Doubt” Encourages Knowledge

Guest post by Sister Constance Brennan, Archivist, Sisters of Charity of New York

By now it is a well known fact that the movie Doubt, which was based on the Tony Award drama, was dedicated to Sister Margaret McEntee who taught the author, John Patrick Shanley, in the First Grade at St. Anthony’s School in the Bronx. Sister Margaret, or Peggy, as she is called, exhibited to young Shanley the love and concern that has earmarked Sister of Charity educators since the days of their foundress, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.

Less publicized is the number of theater groups that have staged their own productions of this drama. The Archives of the Sisters of Charity of New York has been deluged with appeals for help with costuming, staging, and background knowledge which would help the actors and actresses to live their parts. Doubt has been produced in many states throughout the country, including Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Missouri, Connecticut, Maryland, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Oregon, West Virginia, and New Hampshire. Productions also occurred in Dublin, Ireland, and Vienna, Austria. The Archives even hosted a Theater Director from Canada who flew in especially for an appointment and in turn passed on the information she received to a neighboring company, and a costume director in far-away Croatia showed great interest in the Sisters of Charity Community Rosary.

The experiences of communicating with many people, who were dedicated to the authenticity of their productions, gave the archivists many opportunities to share their knowledge about the ministries and charism of their Congregation. Through this popular drama, many people have come to appreciate the contributions of the Sisters of Charity to life in New York in the 1960’s.


Filed under Sisters of Charity Federation, Sisters of Charity of New York