Catholic Encyclopedia – Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul (New York)

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(Motherhouse at Mount Saint Vincent-on Hudson, New York; not to be confused with the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul founded earlier).

In 1817 Sister Rose White, Cecilia O’Conway and Elizabeth Boyle were sent by Mother Seton to found a community of the Emmitsburg Sisters of Charity in New York. It was the second branch of the new American institute, the first being at Philadelphia (1814). They took charge of the orphanage, a small wooden building at Prince and Mott Streets. In the early thirties, a young ladies’ academy, Saint Mary’s, begun shortly afterwards, was located in Grand Street, and then transferred to East Broadway, where three generations of the young women of the old East Side of New York, now the heart of its Ghetto, were educated.

Meanwhile at the motherhouse at Emmitsburg negotiations were in progress for affiliation with the sisters of Charity in France. In consequence there had been for some time a tendency to abandon certain customs observed there, because these changes were required by the French superiors; for example, the sisters in charge of boys’ asylums were everywhere to be withdrawn. The measure threatened at that period the very existence of the New York orphanage. At this juncture, also, sisters could not be obtained from Emmitsburg to carry on the work of a projected and much-needed hospital in New York, the Saint Vincent’s of today. The correspondence that ensued between Archbishop Hughes and Father Deluol, the director of the sisterhood, in relation to these matters, resulted in a notification that all the sisters were to be recalled to Emmitsburg from New York in July of the same year. This and other circumstances proved to the archbishop the necessity to supply the needs of the diocese. In 1846, therefore, a proposition to that effect was made to the Emmitsburg sisters, and the matter was amicably arranged. Those who wished to continue in New York were dispensed from the vow of obedience to their former superior, and of the forty-five sisters than in the diocese, thirty-five remained (8 Dec., 1846).

Sister Elizabeth Boyle became in December, 1846, the first superior of the new community. The novitiate of the New York community was at once opened at Saint James’s Academy, 35 East Broadway. In the fourteen year it was removed to the new motherhouse on an state purchased at Mcgown’s Pass, situated within the limits of the present Central Park. Here, in 1847, the Academy of Mount Saint Vincent had its foundation, In 1849 the affiliation of the Emmitsburg Sisters with the community in France took place and in the same year a band of sisters was sent from Mount Saint Vincent to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The mission was most successful and in 1856, under Mother Xavier, a local community was formed of the sisters then labouring in the Diocese of Newark. Meanwhile in 1857 the “Old Mount” having been absorbed in Central Park, a new “Mount” rose on the east bank of the Hudson just below Yonkers, fourteen miles from the heart of the city. Here today are to be found the motherhouse of the community, the novitiate with a finely equipped training-school, and the Academy of Mount Saint Vincent.

The superiors succeeding Mother Elizabeth Boyle have been, Mother Jerome Ely, for over fifty years a prominent factor in New York’s Catholic educational and charitable work; Mother Angela Hughes, sister of archbishop Hughes; Mother Regina Lawless, Mother Ambrosia Sweeney, Mother Rosina Wightman, Mother Mary Rose Dolan, Mother Melita McClancy and Mother Jesepha Cullen. Some idea of the growth in numbers of this community and of the importance of its present activities may be learned from the following statistics for 1908. It counts about 1400 members who conduct missions in the Dioceses of Albany, Brooklyn and Harrisburg as well as in the Archdiocese of New York. These establishments comprise 20 academies; 73 parochial schools with about 50,000 pupils; 5 asylums with 1800 orphans; high schools approved by the State; several homes containing 600 children; 11 hospitals in which 12,000 patients were treated during the year; 1 home accommodating 270 aged poor; an industrial school and a protectory with 1620 girls; a foundling asylum with 3340 children and 554 needy and homeless mothers; 2 small day nurseries caring for 100 little ones, and a retreat for the insane with 150 patients.

The superior general is the Archbishop of New York, and the community is governed by a council consisting of the mother superior and her three assistants. all residing at the motherhouse. to which the seventy-four missions are subordinate. These sisters retain the black cap and religious dress adopted by Mother Seton when she founded the American Sisters of Charity. They follow the Rule of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul with some slight modifications. On 20 June, 1847, the Holy See extended to them all the privileges, Indulgences, and other spiritual graces already granted to the community of the Sisters of Charity at Emmitsburg.

MLA Citation

  • Mary Ambrose Dunphy. “Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul (New York)”. Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913. Saints.SQPN.com. 6 August 2013. Web. 20 August 2014. <>