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Celebrating Our IHM 175th Anniversary

     The year 2020 marked the 175th anniversary of the founding of our IHM Congregation.  Throughout the year we had planned several events to mark this occasion, including rejoicing in person and virtually with our IHMs from Immaculata, PA and Monroe, MI and our Oblate Sisters of Providence of Baltimore to commemorate our shared charism and to envision some dreams for our future.  No doubt there was much disappointment when Covid-19 struck and delayed our celebration. Although postponed until July 2021 there will still be much celebrating and reminiscing, especially about the women and events that have shaped our rich history.  But the IHM story is not just about ourselves; it is interwoven with the faces and the voices of the immigrant, the poor, the uneducated, the oppressed, the marginalized.  It includes those who inspire us and join us as associates and co-ministers in addressing the needs of the world and the marginalized. Born in Baltimore to unwed parents of mixed racial lineage, Theresa Maxis Duchemin knew from early on the harsh effects of prejudice and learned also that doors otherwise closed to her and others could be opened through education. She was one of the four original members of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, and was the first U.S.-born African-American to become a religious sister and superior general of her congregation.  175logo

     Later, at the invitation of Father Louis Florent Gillet, a Redemptorist priest, Theresa left all behind and travelled to Monroe, Michigan to help educate French Canadian immigrants.  There, in 1845, she and Father Gillet founded the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  The journey of faith undertaken by Theresa and Father Gillet was born in a shared dream of opportunity and possibility for those most in need in society.  Ever faithful to the inner call of God’s Spirit, their courage, trust, passion, persistence, vision, and love for the most vulnerable became the lasting legacy for all IHMs who have followed in their footsteps.    
     Our IHM Congregation has experienced many changes since 1845.  Its story, like those of our founders, has been one of struggle, separation, and challenge, as well as extraordinary trust, strength, and daring.  This year we commemorate with profound gratitude the many blessings from God and so many others that have marked these 175 years.  But recounting past history and accomplishments is not about nostalgia for the past nor a desire  to rest on our laurels.  The image of the Sankofa bird, with its head looking back and feet moving forward, is a visual representation of our chosen theme for this celebration:  “Rooted in history, focused on the future, united in fire.”  Grounded in our rich history, we embrace our own yet to be revealed future with the same steadfast hope, passion, and trust in our loving God as demonstrated by our foremothers.  
     The same mission that drove Theresa and her successors drives us today.  Together with our associates and our sisters and brothers to and with whom we minister, we seek creative and compassionate ways to respond to the unmet needs of our own world.  The OSP IHM stories told on the following webpages illustrate how we have often found ourselves united in the face of adversity and difficult times. 
     The bold hearts and deep faith of both Mothers Mary Lange and Theresa Maxis Duchemin and their successors who met the ever-changing needs and challenges of years past have brought us to this year of our 175th IHM anniversary.  As we celebrate and give gratitude for God’s many blessings throughout our history, may their legacy of fidelity and courage empower us especially in this difficult time to continue the pursuit of that same dream, God’s dream, for our own world.

Sister Ellen Maroney, IHM
Sister Ellen serves as president of the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Scranton, PA.

N.B. 175th anniversary events will occur on Friday, July 9th and Saturday, July 10th.  On Sunday July 11th at 10 AM a liturgy celebrated by Joseph Cardinal Tobin, C.Ss.R. of the Diocese of Newark will be live streamed from Monroe.

2015 Celebration in Scranton, PA

Photos of OSP and IHM Sisters sharing the past, present, and visioning their future!

The Oblate Sisters of Providence and the three congregations of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary gathered in Scranton, July 12-15, 2015, to celebrate their common heritage and their shared future. Marking the 170th anniversary of IHM founding and the 186th anniversary of OSP founding, their time together included theological reflection, prayer, singing, dancing, and renewing friendships. Visit our media page for video clips of our gatherings.

OSP IHM is a union in sisterhood of the Oblate Sisters of Providence and the three congregations of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As Catholic sisters, we share a common consecration and dedication to God, and we also share a common history and charism. OSP IHM is our story of faithfulness, mission, struggle, racism, separation, reconciliation, and the bonds of sisterhood.

The OSP IHM image of hands joined together symbolizes our coming together after years of separation and renewing our shared charism and celebrating our uniqueness and diversity. The plant symbolizes the growth of our four communities from a heritage rooted in the Catholic faith and in our foremothers Mary Lange, OSP, and Theresa Maxis Duchemin, IHM. Trusting in the Providence of God, we the daughters of Mary and the daughters of Theresa reach out to others through education, pastoral care, prayer, and systemic change to bring healing and reconciliation, especially around the dynamics of racism and oppression.