VILLA MARIA, Pa. — This summer, the Sisters of the Humility of Mary will celebrate 150 years in the U.S., remembering and honoring the sacrifice and bravery of the early sisters who left France to come to the America to continue their mission of bringing abundant life to those around them.
In 1864, the entire community of 11 sisters, along with four orphans, immigrated to America, leaving behind their homeland, families and foundress, Mother Madelaine, who had died three months before their voyage.
The sisters began their ministry of education in America by teaching young children of the French settlers in Louisville, Ohio and establishing the motherhouse in Pennsylvania — now known as Villa Maria Community Center.
This small group of women succeeded in establishing a viable, productive farm. Operating on more than 700 acres, the farmland of Villa Maria Community Center remains an integral part of the heritage of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary.
Under the leadership of Mother Anna Tabourat, the American foundress, the sisters turned swampland into productive soil, clay into bricks for buildings, lumber into a school for orphaned children and thread into lace. During the building of the railroad in nearby Lowellville, the sisters cared for sick and injured railroad workers.
To do so, the sisters set aside two rooms for a small clinic. The first Humility of Mary health care facility was the small clinic on the Villa property.
A few months after the sisters arrived in America, a smallpox epidemic broke out in New Bedford, Pa., and, in 1872, another epidemic hit Lowellville, Ohio. Both times, the sisters went into the homes of the farmers and took care of those stricken with the illness.
In addition to the orphans they brought from France, the sisters began to care for children in the area after one or both parents died. Besides caring for children, the sisters educated them. They established an elementary school, which eventually became Villa Maria High School, a college preparatory school that continued until 1989.
In honor of the 150th anniversary, four regional services are planned as follows:
• June 25 at 7 p.m., prayer service, St. Louis Church, 300 North Chapel St., Louisville, Ohio; reception with refreshments to follow.
• July 20 at 2 p.m., Liturgy, Villa Maria Community Center, 225 Villa Marie Road, Villa Maria, Pa.; reception with refreshments to follow.
• Sept. 12 at 7 p.m., prayer service, Magnificat High School Auditorium, 20770 Hilliard Blvd., Rocky River, Ohio; includes a reflection by Leadership Conference of Women Religious President Sr. Carol Zinn, SSJ; reception with refreshments to follow
• Sept. 13 at 9:45 a.m. to noon, special presentation by LCWR President Sr. Carol Zinn, SSJ, Villa Maria Community Center, 225 Villa Marie Road, Villa Maria, Pa.; lunch to follow.
All services are free and open to the public. RSVP by calling 724-964-8920, ext. 3274 or emailing celebration date and number attending to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deadline is two weeks prior to each celebration.