The congregation of Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart took form in Buffalo, New York. This first American congregation of Grey Nuns was founded in 1921 to address ministry and vocation needs in the United States and to carry on the charitable works of their Canadian predecessors.
Those predecessors, the Grey Nuns of the Cross, came to Buffalo in 1857, invited by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The Oblates were priests serving the newly established Holy Angels Parish. These Sisters established a parish school and shared in the Oblates’ ministry of service to the poor. Over time, the Grey Nuns of the Cross founded Holy Angels Parochial School, Holy Angels Academy and D’Youville College, all the while, caring for the poor. Once established, the new Congregation, the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, continued in their footsteps, serving the people of Buffalo through education and outreach to the poor.
In 1922, Cardinal Dougherty of Philadelphia invited the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart to establish their Motherhouse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The fledgling order accepted the invitation and sent a contingent of Sisters to the City of Brotherly Love. Other Sisters remained in Buffalo to continue ministry.
The Sisters who journeyed to the Philadelphia area established a Motherhouse in Melrose Park, where they founded an elementary school, Melrose Academy. The Grey Nuns also taught in Archdiocesan high schools Cardinal Dougherty, Little Flower, Bishop McDevitt and Bishop Shanahan. Their example of care, kindness and compassion to the young women in these schools attracted many vocations from the Philadelphia area.
Rooted in Buffalo and centered in Philadelphia, the Sisters began their mission history engaged primarily in ministries in education and health care. In New York, they were a formative educational and religious presence for Catholic school children at four Long Island schools: St. Joan of Arc, St. Leo, Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of Fatima.
In time, Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart were invited South to serve in Atlanta Georgia (Cathedral of Christ the King School) and North to serve in Kodiak, Alaska (St. Mary School), bringing the Gospel message and standards of academic excellence to school children.
Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart also focused on healing ministries. Sisters served as nurses, technicians, administrators and in some cases, as instructors at Claxton-Hepburn Hospital in Ogdensburg, New York, Champlain Valley Hospital in Plattsburgh, New York and E.W. Griffin Memorial Hospital in Kodiak, Alaska.
In keeping with the directives of the 1962-65 Vatican Council, the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart forged new paths of ministry in a return to the charism of their Foundress, St. Marguerite d’Youville which was “to respond with love and charity to the needs of the times.” In addition to education and health care, Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart began serving God’s people in diverse ministries such as social services, pastoral and campus ministry, counseling, alcohol and substance abuse treatment, Board and community service and outreach to the immigrant population, the poor and the homeless.
In this year of the 100th Anniversary of our founding, we want to thank all who invited us into your cities and towns, your schools and hospitals, your homes and your hearts. These invitations into your lives allowed us to grow in love and purpose as women religious and daughters of St. Marguerite d’Youville.
At this time of our lives and our mission journey, most of us are unable to serve in active ministry. From our retirement homes, we continue a ministry of prayer, and advocacy efforts for social justice. We are humbled and grateful to be able to continue ministry in this way. By continuing to serve, we experience the gracious love of God, and share that with others.