History of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill


The first motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, located at St. John Parish in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

In 1869, Bishop Michael Domenec of Pittsburgh appealed to the Cincinnati community of Sisters of Charity for sisters to serve the needs of the growing Catholic population in his diocese. Sister Aloysia Lowe, three other Sisters of Charity, and two novices, left Cincinnati and arrived in Altoona, Pennsylvania, on August 20, 1870.

Sister Aloysia Lowe was named Mother Superior and Sister Anne Regina Ennis Assistant and Mistress of Novices. In quick succession, schools were opened in Blairsville, Johnstown, and the Pittsburgh neighborhoods of East Liberty, Sharpsburg, Lawrenceville, and South Side.

An astute businesswoman, Mother Aloysia recognized the need for a larger motherhouse for her growing Congregation and purchased the Jennings Farm in Greensburg in 1882. Within the next year, Saint Joseph Academy was opened. A charter of incorporation was granted to the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill in 1885, and the sisters broke ground for a motherhouse the following year. It was completed in 1889.



Sisters Mary Noreen Lacey, Martin de Porres Knock, Thomas Aquinas (Mary Agnes), and Marie Timothy (Alice) Ruane traveled to South Korea in 1960 on the freighter, The California Bear.

By spring of 1889, the sisters were staffing 20 parochial schools in addition to establishing Saint Mary School for Boys and Saint Joseph Academy for Girls. Roselia Foundling and Maternity Asylum was established in 1891. The Charity Hospital of Pittsburgh (later renamed Pittsburgh Hospital) was founded in 1897. The Pittsburgh Hospital School of Nursing opened in 1905 and the first class of five Sisters of Charity and five young women graduated in 1908. DePaul Institute for the Deaf (now DePaul School for Hearing and Speech) opened in 1908 at the invitation of Bishop Canevin. Providence Hospital opened in 1909, its School of Nursing in 1912.

Seton Junior College began in 1914. In 1918, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania granted a charter establishing Seton Hill College (now Seton Hill University), a four-year liberal arts college for women.

In 1933, sisters were sent to staff Saints Peter and Paul School in Tucson, Arizona. It was the beginning of a vast ministry in that state which continues today. In 1942, the Sisters of Charity initiated social service and catechetical instruction in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Over the years, the sisters continued their teaching ministry, opening and staffing more elementary and high schools. In 1941, they established Elizabeth Seton High School for girls in Pittsburgh.



Sisters Sara Louise Reilly, Mary Francis Irvin, and Ann Louise Sacco are shown during the first presentation of rings in 1977. The rings were presented to all sisters who professed final vows.

The Sisters of Charity became a Pontifical Congregation in 1948 and made perpetual vows for the first time the following year. The Constitutions of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill were given definitive approval in 1957. In 1959 the sisters took over the administration of Jeannette District Memorial Hospital (now Mercy Jeannette Hospital).

In 1960, four sisters were sent to Mokpo, South Korea, at the invitation of Bishop Harold Henry, SSC. The Province there now numbers 197. The sisters serve in 11 of 14 dioceses in South Korea, ministering in education, social work, retreat work, and with the physically disabled.

In 1976 the Congregation adopted an identifying emblem, a silver cross encircled by the inscription: Sisters of Charity * Seton Hill * The Charity of Christ Urges Us, and a ring which is worn by professed sisters. The administrative offices and motherhouse of the Congregation moved from the original campus to facilities one mile away, on land adjacent to that of Seton Hill University.

Ministry continues to expand in new directions as sisters move into parish ministry and social service, prison ministry, and a multitude of individual ministries. Nine hundred twenty two sisters having gone before, there are now 348 serving in schools, hospitals, parishes, social service agencies, and other apostolates in the United States, South Korea, and Ecuador.