In the 1970’s many Religious Orders had responded prudently to the Vatican Council and embraced renewal without great damage. Others had been left in turmoil. This was particularly the case among women’s Teaching Orders in the USA.
One such was St. Joseph’s in Renovo Pennsylvania, where the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters taught up until 1971. Knowing that they were pulling out that summer, the Parish Priest, Fr. Orlando spent the spring desperately trying to replace them. By chance, his Bishop’s father was Scottish and had been taught by the Franciscan Sisters in Greenock. It was he who suggested that Fr. Orlando write to Mother Gabriel, Superior General of our Congregation at that time.
Six sisters volunteered for the American Mission, of whom three – Sr. Gertrude, Sr. Gerard and Sr. Angela were chosen. On July 1st single flight tickets were bought for them (along with a return ticket for Mother Gabriel) and on July 8th the four flew to Kennedy Airport, driving up to Renovo on July 9th. It was a tiny town among the hills, no more than three blocks in length.
This was a new experience for our sisters, offering a unique challenge for three Glasgow sisters from the big city! We remained in Renovo for almost ten years until a dwindling school enrolment forced the school to close.
By this time a second group of our sisters had been living and working in Altoona, a larger town in Pennsylvania, for four years. Our presence in the US was to help make Catholic education a viable option for parents. This ministry has continued in various forms since 1971. However, parish schools have consolidated, and many have closed. Today we have one American sister teaching in a High School in Washington, D.C.
Committed to supporting the Delegation in the USA, sisters from Nigeria have been living and working in Kentucky since 2005. These sisters are involved in various ministries, including nursing, counselling, social work (including working with refugees and asylum seekers) as well as being fully involved in parish ministry.
Although the numbers in the USA have always been small, we have touched many lives wherever we have been and have tried to go where the need is greatest.