On Dec. 1, 2012, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth will mark the 200th anniversary since its founding on the rural church property at St. Thomas Church farm.
But the Sisters aren’t waiting until then to start celebrating. In what will be a year-long series of events leading up to the 200th anniversary, the SCN family will kick off its bicentennial celebration 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Crimmins Hall on the Nazareth campus.
Started in Nelson County on the St. Thomas Catholic Church farm, the SCN’s roots remain in the area but have spread to include congregations in Nepal, Belize, Botswana, India and just recently Pittsburgh.
Saturday’s celebration will bring together the SCN family from throughout the world. About 250 are expected in Crimmins Hall and another 100 people in St. Vincent Church on the Nazareth campus. Also joining the celebration via Internet connection will be Sisters and associates from Botswana, Africa, Belize in Central America, Mokama, India and Pittsburgh. Though rooted in Nelson County, the SCN has extended its reach to these areas.
The congregation began almost 200 years ago after Bishop David sent out a call to young women in the area to come and serve the children by way of education. Three women answered his initial call. Catherine Spalding was among those. Of those three, she was elected the leader and at age 19 became Mother Catherine Spalding. In the first six years, 21 women joined the congregation and by 1822 the SCN family moved from St. Thomas to what is now known as Nazareth.
The history of the SCN congregation will be told by not only those at Nazareth but by those taking part through the Internet connections. Different parts of the history will be told from India, where the SCNs started in 1947, Belize, where a congregation began in 1975, Botswana and Pittsburgh.
The celebration has been in the planning stages for more than a year, according to Sister Susan Gray, director of Nazareth Retreat center and chair of the bicentennial committee. Gray, for one, is excited to see it all come together for the opening prayer Saturday.
“I think Mother Catherine would be proud,” she said. “It is so powerful to bring everybody together.”
During the ceremony, the Sisters will pray, take a look back at the history of the congregation and spend some time looking at what’s in the future for SCN.
Though nothing is decided yet as to the next step for the congregation, the Sisters have a history of looking at the issues in a particular area and conforming their mission to meet those needs.
Those next steps will be a primary topic of conversation at the Western Province assembly in March and then the SCN general assembly, which brings together the Western and Eastern Provinces, in 2013.
“We’re standing on the cusp of our third century of ministries,” said Diane Curtis, Director of Communications for SCN.
While determining the next step is important, Saturday’s celebration will look to celebrate the SCN’s last 200 years.
To help unite the participants with the SCN family, given to those at the celebration will be small pieces of tree bark or leaves from the sites of the SCN congregations. On those pieces will be listed five names of individuals — either Sisters or associates — who have been part of the SCN family since it started in 1812. The bicentennial committee had to make more than 1,500 labels to accommodate the 4,800 names this encompassed.
With limited space, the Sisters knew they wouldn’t be able to accommodate everyone at the campus for Saturday’s celebration. With that in mind, the public will be invited to a Mass next December in the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville to celebrate the 200th anniversary.
Other celebrations are planned throughout the year including the unveiling of a new painting of Mother Catherine Spalding March 18 at Nazareth and an alumni gathering in September.