Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill celebrate SHU Centennial
In 1918, Seton Hill became a four-year college. This year, the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, founders of Seton Hill University, celebrate a 100-year legacy of love in the service of higher with Seton Hill University. Numerous Sisters of Charity were guests at the Centennial Kickoff Celebration held at the Seton Hill campus on Friday, January 26, 2018. Along with Seton Hill University President Mary Finger and the Most Reverend Edward Malesic, Bishop of Greensburg, Sister Catherine Meinert, Provincial Superior of the United States Province of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, was an honored guest and speaker who welcomed University staff, students, alumni, and friends to the celebration. Her remarks follow.
Thank you, President Finger and Bishop Malesic for your inspiring words. On behalf of all the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, I welcome you to this milestone celebration in the history of Seton Hill University.
On the Sisters of Charity archives blog, our archivist Casey Bowser wrote an article titled “A Dream Incapable of Realization, 100 Years Later.” 100 years ago, pioneer Sisters of Charity dreamed of providing higher education degrees to young women within a Catholic college. Could this dream be realized? Yes, it was realized and continues today and will continue into the future.
The story of this University is one of progress, ideas, and definitely the determination of the Sisters of Charity and all those who believed that women should have the opportunity to attain higher education degree a century ago.
It began in 1885 with a charter for an educational academy—St. Joseph Academy, Seton Hill. Then in 1914, the sisters began as a Junior College. However, young women wanted a full college degree bestowed on them from Seton Hill. Consequently, Sister Francesca Brownlee and Sister Clementine Oler went to Harrisburg to discuss obtaining a charter for a four-year college.
The sisters asked for the charter in 1917, but the state informed Seton Hill that they could not be granted a charter unless they had an endowment of $500,000 invested in buildings, equipment, and endowment. $500,000 was a great deal of money! The sisters did not have $500,000. So what else is new? (With this humorous aside, “So what else is new?” the audience broke into spontaneous laughter and applause.)
Through the generosity of many friends, the sisters were able to make upgrades to classrooms, labs, and equipment. The sisters did not have an endowment, but Harrisburg accepted these improvements to the classrooms and labs as the endowment. However, to assure an endowment, it became the practice of all the sisters serving the university to give back their salaries to the university.
Always, the sisters believed in the mission of Seton Hill. That determination and perseverance of the early pioneer sisters is still alive and well today through the Seton Hill Board of Trustees, the administration, faculty, and staff of the University. Mother Seton’s belief that we are to educate students for the world in which they are destined to live is still the hallmark of this great university.