Ministry of Prayer, Presence and Service

Written on: December 28, 2015

The following was written by Fr. Joseph Morgan, Rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral and was printed in the Diocese of Ogdensburg, North Country Catholic on December 9.


Did you know that the Grey Nuns have been with us in Ogdensburg since before we were even a Diocese?  That is a long time!  How blessed our local Church has been because of them.

Beginning in the 1860’s, the Grey Nuns of Ottawa came to Ogdensburg to teach in our Catholic schools.  They and their spiritual sisters, under the watchful eye of St. Marguerite d’Youville from Heaven, have been present among us ever since.

In 1921, the independent American branch of the Grey Nuns of Ottawa was founded, known as the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart (GNSH).  They have a rich and varied history of ministry here.

The Sisters taught in our schools (here in Ogdensburg, at St. Mary’s School in Potsdam, and St. Mary’s School in Canton); cared for our sick (at Ogdensburg City Hospital 1886 -1961 and then at A. Barton Hepburn Hospital from 1902 until today, with representation on the Board of Directors; also at St. John’s Hospital, Ogdensburg 1898-1955 and at Champlain Valley Hospital in Plattsburgh from 1910-1963); provided a home for orphans (1886 – 1961); and cared for our elders at St. Joseph’s Home, beginning in 1961 and had representation on the St. Joseph’s Home Board.

In addition, the GNSH Community has assisted with diocesan administration and served in parishes as Pastoral Associates.  Wherever there has been a need, the charisms of St. Marguerite d’Youville’s spiritual daughters have found a way to meet it.

Yet, for all the good they have done for others in so many ways, their true gift to us has been their witness to Christ, and a call for all of us to live in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  These dedicated and faith-filled women have touched the lives of countless people here in the North Country, leading us to embrace the Gospel and care for others during our pilgrimage to the Father’s House.

They have shown us how to live the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, serving Christ who comes to us in each person.  How grateful we are, beyond words, for the many members of this religious congregation who have been with us throughout the years!

Over the years, so many of our own sisters and daughters have discerned the call of God to live a vocation as Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart.  Ogdensburg and other North Country family names like Taylor, Martin, LaBrake, Sholette, Tavernier, Lalonde, Looby, Murray, Brennan, Hannan, McElwain, Boyer, Main, Doe, Fitzgerald, Brady, O’Donoghue, Allard, Gleason, Healey, Farrell, O’Marah, Elie, Brown and many others joined with GNSH’s from other areas to serve our people with generous hearts.

How grateful we are, beyond words, for the many members of this religious congregation who have been with us throughout the years! I’m sure you have your “favorites”:  Sisters who have touched you or your family members with their friendship and devoted care.

Their convents, scattered throughout the Ogdensburg diocese over the years, have been a vivid reminder that God calls each of us to a particular vocation and that, together, we form a vibrant body of believers.  Their homes of prayer in our neighborhoods were themselves a sign that we are made for holiness, and that each family has a place in the very heart of God. We are all the richer when the many vocations abound! The Sisters have been such an integral part of our lives that it is a deep sadness for us to know that they will no longer be living here in the Diocese of Ogdensburg.

As the last three GNSH members among us (Sister Rita Frances Brady, Sister Mary Teresa LaBrake, and Sister Joan McElwain) leave us this Fall, it is a time to remember the many blessings that are ours because of their faithful service to the Church and that of so many of their Sisters, generation after generation.

In our gratitude and as a sign of our love for them, may we keep them always in our prayers.  May they, who have shared the Good News with us by their lives, be doubly blessed in return.  The ties that spiritually unite us can never be broken by distance, even all the way to Pennsylvania! Thank you, dear Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart.  God bless you, and please remember that you always have a home in the North Country!


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The Grey Nuns