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AOC Bicentennial: first religious community

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“Confident that great good may be done in this city by the establishment of a female orphan asylum under your zealous and charitable care, I have written to the Rev. Mr. L. Deluol of Baltimore, your Superior, to beg him 3 or 4 of your pious Sisters who are well calculated to conduct such an establishment in this place.” – Bishop Edward Fenwick to Venerable and Dear Mother, May 9, 1829.

With a new diocese under his charge, Bishop Edward Fenwick, O.P., turned to religious communities for assistance. The first religious community to answer his call were the Sisters of Charity. Four sisters traveled from Emmitsburg, MD, to Cincinnati on Oct. 27, 1829.

The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati were established in the 1850s, and they have tirelessly served the local Church since that time. Their ministries are based on the needs of the people. Here are a few highlights from their 192-year history in the archdiocese.


The sisters first established an orphanage and school next to the cathedral. The number of school children and orphans grew over the following decades, and, in 1855, the orphanage merged with St. Joseph’s Boys’ Orphan Asylum and became St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Northside.


The sisters’ motherhouse and boarding academy opened in 1853 in Price Hill. As the city of Cincinnati expanded, the sisters were pressured to sell the land. In 1869, they purchased property in Delhi, which became their new motherhouse. The first school at that location was St. Aloysius Boarding Academy for boys, which moved to Fayetteville in 1906. The sisters then opened Mount St. Joseph Academy for girls. When Archbishop McNicholas, OP, established the archdiocesan high school system in the 1920s, Mount St. Vincent closed and became Seton High School. The sisters began to minister outside of Cincinnati in 1858 at St. Mary’s Academy and St. Joseph’s Parish School in Dayton.


In 1852, Archbishop Purcell asked the sisters open a hospital in Cincinnati, eventually named St. John’s Hospital. Joseph Butler was so impressed by the sisters’ generosity, that he purchased a former marine hospital and donated it to them. He requested they rename it Hospital of the Good Samaritan, and it still operates in Clifton. The Sisters of Charity opened another Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton in 1931.


When Archbishop Moeller opened St. Rita School for the Deaf in 1915, he asked the Sisters of Charity to teach the children. Today, St. Rita has adapted to the needs of the students, serving the deaf and those with speech disorders as well as students with Down Syndrome and developmental disabilities.


Founded in 1920 as the College of Mount St. Joseph- on-the-Ohio, this school provided a higher education for sisters and graduates. The school became a University in 2014.

This article appeared in the April 2021 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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