SCOTTSDALE — In her final days, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton urged her followers to “be children of the Church.”
The foundress of The Sisters of Charity’s words have been lived out for 85 years in Arizona by a contingent of nuns from the Greensburg, Pennsylvania-based Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill. On Sept. 7, the group, joined by hundreds of supporters from throughout the United States, gathered in the gym at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Scottsdale, to mark the sisters’ anniversary in the Grand Canyon State, sharing smiles, hugs and well wishes.
“This celebration is in recognition of Elizabeth Seton challenging us to be children of the Church, and you have joined us in celebrating these 85 years of ministry to the people of the Church of the Southwest,” Sr. Mary Norbert Long, SC, a member of the order’s U.S. provincial council, told the estimated audience of more than 500. Sr. Mary Norbert spent 47 years in Arizona, including 28 years as principal at St. Mary-Basha School in Chandler.
Founded in 1870 for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill were invited to Arizona in 1933 by a priest in the Diocese of Tucson, where they took over operation of a school and ministered at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in that city. From there, they spread to many areas of Arizona, including Ajo and Chandler.
“In each place, we had a school and populated it well into the 1970s.
Our charism is charity — to meet Christ and bring Christ to every person we meet,” explained Sr. Barbara Einloth, SC, another member of the provincial council.
The sisters at the schools eventually gave way to the laity, which employed their model. Along the way, the sisters have ministered in the Diocese of Phoenix at nearly two dozen parishes, as well as at the School for the Deaf and Blind.
“Our sisters have ministered in the chancery office of the dioceses of Phoenix and Tucson, served in Catholic Charites, Mount Claret Retreat Center in Phoenix, St. Mary’s Hospital, University of Arizona Hospital, Phoenix Valley Hospitals, Phoenix Job Corp, Kino Institute, counseling serves in Globe, Casa Grande and Phoenix, Holy Cross Hospital in Nogales and the list goes on.
Where the need was, you could probably find a Sister of Charity ministering,” Sr. Mary Norbert said.
The sisters also work in health care, including visits to the sick at hospitals and nursing home residents.
Today, four sisters minister in the state, including Sr. Mary Elizabeth Lawrence, who runs the Ministry of Care Recognition at OLPH, one of many at Diocesan parishes.
“I work with the homebound and the sick to connect agencies to families to find a place that might be appropriate for their loved ones,” she explained, adding of the celebration, “It is exciting to see so many of our friends join us tonight.”
The other three sisters work at a hospital in the Diocese of Tucson.
“It’s a tremendous gift; the services the sisters gave in Tucson and here in Phoenix for all those years, teaching the children and forming them,” said Sr. Anthony Mary Diago, RSM, director of the Diocese of Phoenix’s Office of Consecrated Life. “It’s obvious they made a great difference in the lives of their students and the people they touched.”