Vincentian nuns joined Ky.-based Sisters of Charity
By Jimmy Dunn | Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette
There’s a new sign on Babcock Boulevard, just as the road in McCandless veers to the north at McKnight Road, and it could have some passers-by wondering what’s up.
After all, for more than 50 years, the stately red brick building there has been the motherhouse of the Vincentian Sisters of Charity.
The new sign, in green lettering on a field of white, proclaims St. Louise Convent. Erected earlier this year, it heralds a significant change for a religious order of women that has been part of the fabric of the area since it was mostly farmland. The sisters moved into the motherhouse in 1954.
After years of dialogue, discernment and discussion, 109 Vincentian Sisters of Charity transferred their vows to become Sisters of Charity of Nazareth on Nov. 15, 2008. At the time of the merger, there were 605 Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.
Sister Theresa Novak, former president of Vincentian Collaborative System here, explained, “As Vincentian Sisters our numbers were decreasing, and the sisters wanted to ensure that the charism and mission of St. Vincent and St. Louise that began here in Western Pennsylvania in 1902 would continue.
“We will maintain our name of Vincentian in the ministry. Our history of serving children, the elderly and the sick continues.”
The Vincentian Sisters of Charity came to America from France in 1902. A small group settled in Braddock. Before long, they put down roots in an undeveloped tract in Perrysville.
Vincentian Home was founded in 1924 and became the foundation of three additional long-term care facilities: Vincentian de Marillac, Vincentian Regency and Marian Manor, all facilities for the aging in and around Pittsburgh. The order also operates a child development center and rehabilitation service.
The Sisters of Charity’s reputation for taking care of the sick is known in other states and countries. Their Eastern Province covers ministries in India and Nepal, while ministries in Belize, Central America and Botswana, Africa, amplify the scope of their mission.
Their concern for education is evident locally with a continued association with Vincentian Academy Duquesne University college preparatory high school.
Founded by the nuns as a school for girls in 1932, Vincentian Academy became coed in 1971 and formed a partnership with Duquesne in 1995.
Their latest venture has been Vincentian Villa, an independent living community for those age 60 and older. It held a grand opening in January.
The Sisters of Charity trace their founding to the work of St. Louise de Marillac, who led the women followers of Father Vincent de Paul in caring for the prisoners and the poor of France.
The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth settled in Kentucky, under the leadership of Sister Catherine Spalding, who founded schools, a hospital and an orphanage. Today, Spalding University in Louisville, Ky., is named in her honor.
The winds of change began stirring for the sisters in 2002 when talks began with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. With similar missions and dwindling ranks, a need to merge was recognized.
On May 22, A Celebration of Unity in Mission and Ministry was held at the St. Louise Convent in McCandless. The sisters wanted to share the richness of the union and express gratitude to religious associates and other church members involved in the transition. Religious associates are lay people who make a commitment to the order.
A charter bus carried 40 sisters from Kentucky to join 400 well-wishers here.
Current president is Sister Mary Elizabeth Miller and vice president is Sister Susan Gatz
Sister Theresa Koffuran of India said she saw “a genuine sense of commitment in making the merger successful.”
Sister Rose Howard, a career educator from Louisville, said she regarded the merger as “a relationship blessed, that with time and toil will produce treasure.”