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NAZARETH, Kentucky – Three Sisters of Charity, I.C. gathered here June 12-15 with other Sisters and Daughters of Charity from across the United States and Canada.  Hosted by Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (SCN), they participated in the 2024 annual gathering of leadership teams belonging to the Sisters of Charity Federation of North America.

There were 66 participants from 13 member congregations, including Sisters from South Korea and India now based in the U.S.  “Walking the Synodal Way” was the theme of the gathering patterned on the style of the worldwide church synod.

Representing SCIC were Sisters Pat Poole, Mary Ann Maxwell and Roma De Robertis from Saint John, N.B.  Canadian participants also included members of four other religious communities:  Notre-Dame-du-Sacré-Coeur Sisters (Moncton, N.B.); Sisters of St. Martha of PEI; Sisters of St. Martha of Antigonish, N.S. and Sisters of Charity of Halifax.

The gathering facilitator was Sister Elizabeth Davis, a Sister of Mercy from Newfoundland and Labrador.  She also offered a well-attended evening session on the October 2023 church synod gathering in Rome where she was a voting delegate.  She plans to continue in that role during the synod’s October 2024 session at the Vatican.

Throughout the gathering -- often via small group listening and conversation – participants reflected on the future of the Federation, its structures and mission.

Participants heard from Jimmy Walters, the Federation’s non-governmental organization representative at the United Nations in New York.  He praised the Federation’s longtime network of NGO liaisons who participate with him from member congregations.

Dr. Walters highlighted the Federation NGO’s three key areas of global focus:  homelessness, care for earth and women and girls.  Noting many UN groups and organizations in which he participates, he also emphasized the importance of the worldwide Vincentian Family to which the Federation belongs.

Federation members share common roots based in the spirituality of Saints Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac in 17th century France, as adapted by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in 19th century North America.  Their mission focuses on accompanying and advocating with those who are sick, excluded and living in poverty.

Historically this included education, health care and social service.  Today it also involves advocating for social justice as well as ecological sustainability in the face of climate change.

The gathering also heard from Federation executive director Sister Grace Hartzog, a Sister of Charity of Seton Hill (Pennsylvania).  She was joined by Sister Donna Dodge -- board president and president of the Sisters of Charity of New York -- to present the Federation’s ministry initiatives and commitments.

Featured virtually (online), Rob Judge offered an update about the national shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Maryland where he is executive director.  Banners from the shrine representing Federation member congregations graced the gathering in Nazareth.

Leadership team members from each congregation also met among themselves to determine how best to further Federation priorities.  The Federation board of directors met June 12 and will continue working together virtually with Sister Davis on priorities highlighted by the entire gathering.

On June 14, all participants enjoyed good weather for a choice of outings in the area.  Gratitude for the entire gathering and extensive advance preparations was expressed to Federation staff as well as the SCN, staff and volunteers for gracious hospitality and organization.

Participants were invited to donate to offset carbon emissions involved in travel to and from Kentucky.  Donations were encouraged toward solar panels for an SCN mission in India ensuring clean, reliable energy.

Photo courtesy of SCN Communications:  (L to R)  Sisters Roma De Robertis, Mary Ann Maxwell & Pat Poole

SCIC gratefully received a Citizen of the Year award June 3 during an evening ceremony at Saint John City Hall.  Mayor Donna Reardon presented the award which honours individuals or organizations whose contributions notably improve quality of life in the community. Left to right) Sisters Laura Hughes, Anita Holmes & Pat Poole; Mayor Reardon with Sisters Mary Ann Maxwell, Roma De Robertis & Mary Beth McCurdy (James Walsh – Rod Stears Photography)

Lilac Tree Planting on Mother Earth Day 

On April 22, 2024, the Sisters of Charity, I.C., Associates, Elizabeth Fry Society staff and friends celebrated Mother Earth Day by planting an Ivory Silk Lilac tree on the E. Fry property in the North End of Saint John, N.B. 

The ceremony, led by Sister Roma De Robertis and Judy Murphy, Executive Director, emphasized the significance of nature in providing beauty, peace, enjoyment, nurturing, a sense of belonging and empowerment. They highlighted the importance of creating communal spaces that facilitate connections and promote healing for women and gender-diverse individuals affected by victimization and criminalization. 

The event included Sister Margaret MacLean and Associate Mike Campbell reading Mary Oliver’s poem “When I Am Among the Trees” and blessings were spoken as Mark Dupuis of Greenway Landscaping planted the Lilac purchased from Brunswick Nurseries. The gathering concluded with a children’s Tree Song and thanks offered by Sister Laura Hughes. 

(Photo left to right: back rows) Sisters Mary Ann Maxwell, Margaret MacLean, Mary Beth McCurdy, Audette Richard, Muriel Buckley, Roma De Robertis, Gertrude Mulholland, Irene Buechler, Sandra Barrett; SCIC Associate Mike Campbell; Sister Laura Hughes (left to right: bottom front) Judy Murphy and Jennifer Howe (Elizabeth Fry Society); Associate Barb Fennell; Justice Coordinator Yolande Whalen.  (Photo by Melissa Moore)

Habitat for Humanity New Brunswick recently recognized Laura Hughes, SCIC for her 12 years of service as member and chair of The Family Selection Committee for the Saint John Region.

The Mission of Habitat is to bring communities together to help families build strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. It’s Vision:” A world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live.”

SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- During the 2024 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Sisters of Charity, I.C. welcomed Associates and ecumenical guests to prayer with conversation Jan. 23 in Carmel Chapel at Ruth Ross Residence. Together, they explored the Week’s worldwide Good Samaritan theme from Luke 10:27: “You shall love the Lord your God … and your neighbour as yourself.”

Guest presenters were a married Anglican clergy couple – and parents of two children -- who are community priests based at Stone Church in Saint John. The Revs. Jasmine and Terence Chandra responded to “interview questions” posed by Sister Roma De Robertis highlighting their vibrant outreach ministry among those living in poverty and seeking to overcome other challenges. The couple also invited and responded to questions from Sisters and Associates.

Sister Irene Buechler coordinated and introduced the Christian Unity liturgy. Rev. Tom Graham, a retired Lutheran pastor, proclaimed the gospel while Father Thomas Fowler -- who regularly presides at Mass in Carmel Chapel -- offered a blessing. Sister Mary Ann Maxwell provided music ministry.

Week of Prayer resources for Jan. 18-25 were prepared by a group of Christians in Burkina Faso in western Africa. They noted that Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan “not only challenges us to do good, but also
to widen our vision. We do not only learn what is good and holy from those like us, but often from those different from ourselves … The Good Samaritan is often the one we do not expect.”

For many years, Sisters in Saint John have celebrated Christian Unity Week annually with guests. In recent years, observing pandemic protocols, they invited messages from ecumenical friends and displayed their
pictures. This year they were thankful to once again welcome guests in person. The four clergy guests then joined Sisters for dinner at St. Vincent Residence.

Photo left to right: Srs. Roma De Robertis and Irene Buechler; Rev. Tom Graham; The Revs. Terence and Jasmine Chandra & Fr. Thomas Fowler. (Photo by Sharon Jacquard)


Sisters of Charity, I.C. and staff participated in Amnesty International’s 2023 Write for Rights campaign in early December in Saint John, N.B.  Annually, Dec. 10 is Human Rights Day and the 2023 observance marked the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Sisters, Associates and staff beyond the area were encouraged to sign Amnesty letters online.  The initiative was organized by Yolande Whalen (Justice Coordinator) with assistance from Sister Roma De Robertis and staff.  In photo:  Sister Rosemary Costley signs Amnesty letters at St. Vincent Residence calling for justice for persons in many countries who are treated unfairly, detained and even killed. (SCIC photo)


Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception (SCIC) participated in their Chapter Oct. 23-28 in Saint John, N.B. with the theme, “Gathering the Wisdom ~ Blessing the Future”.  Preparation included a 15-month process of communal discernment focusing on personal and congregational transformation.

Facilitators were Sr. Bonnie MacLellan, CSJ – a canon lawyer and General Superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Sault Ste. Marie – and Dr. Ted Dunn of Florida, a clinical psychologist who works with religious communities internationally.

During Chapter, SCIC elected a five-member leadership circle to begin Jan. 4, 2024 – feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.  Elected for the next four years are Sr. Roma  De Robertis, Congregational Leader with Srs. Alice Keegan, Patricia Poole, Laura Hughes and Mary Ann Maxwell.

The Sisters thanked outgoing leaders whose terms included an extra year during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Sr. Mary Beth McCurdy received special thanks for serving as congregational leader since 2010.

(Photo by Patty Marshall.  Left to right:  Srs. Laura Hughes, Mary Ann Maxwell, Roma De Robertis, Patricia Poole and Alice Keegan)


Sisters of Charity, I.C. celebrated the culmination of the Season of Creation Oct. 4 with an original prayer ritual in Carmel Chapel in Saint John, N.B.  The celebration highlighted the feast of St. Francis of Assisi on the final day of the ecumenical season.  It also focused on the opening of the church synod gathering in Rome and release of “Laudate Deum”, the new teaching on ecology by Pope Francis.

Facilitators were Sisters Irene Buechler and Roma De Robertis, SCIC with justice coordinator Yolande Whalen.  In her reflection, Sr. Irene highlighted wisdom of Pope Francis from his Sept. 1 message for the opening of the Season of Creation.  Worldwide, this year’s theme was, “Let Justice and Peace Flow” (Amos 5:24).

Throughout the season, Sisters at St. Vincent Residence in Saint John offered weekly prayer and created displays to raise awareness and invite response to strengthen ecological sustainability.  Yolande prepared informative columns with highlights for contemplation in the weekly newsletter sent to Sisters and Associates in various parts of Canada.

The Oct. 4 chapel display at Ruth Ross Residence showcased a vibrant tapestry of life.  Nestled among an array of flowers, boughs, fruit and vines were Sisters’ stuffed animals, birds and other creatures.  The display highlighted the Christian tradition of blessing live animals on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology who was known to befriend God’s creatures.


Sister Laura Hughes celebrated her 50th anniversary of religious life Sept. 8, 2023 at Ruth Ross and St. Vincent Residences in Saint John, N.B.  Originally from a farming family on Prince Edward Island, she entered the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception (SCIC) in 1973 on Sept. 8 – feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Sister Laura ministered in eastern and western Canada in human resources in both public health care facilities and hospitals operated by SCIC.  For six years, she was administrator of the former St. Vincent’s motherhouse in Saint John.  Today she offers education in health care ethics and is Coordinator of Community Service at SCIC city residences.

For her recent celebration, Sister Laura was joined by Sisters and guests during Mass in Carmel Chapel at Ruth Ross followed by a festive meal at St. Vincent.  Other SCIC also celebrated significant anniversaries of religious life, including four who entered 65 years ago:  Sisters Muriel Buckley, Rosemary Costley, Margaret Coyle and Margaret MacLean.  SCIC also honoured Sister Rose Mulholland who entered 60 years ago.

Sister Mary Beth McCurdy -- SCIC Congregational Leader -- said like Mary, Sister Laura has been guided by the Spirit to live into many “yeses” through the years.  Offering words of welcome before Mass, she highlighted Sister Laura’s “faith, trust and loving hope” rooted in the gospel.  She also noted her commitment to ensuring the community’s Charity charism is “made real in our world”.

Father Tom Fowler – presider and homilist – paid tribute to the faithfulness, outreach and prophetic stance of the Sisters who were celebrating, noting their combined service and witness of more than 370 years.  (Photo of Laura Hughes, SCIC by Pat Poole, SCIC)


Seven Sisters of Charity, I.C. with justice coordinator Yolande Whalen joined members of Indigenous communities, students, faculty and staff for an outdoor ceremony June 15, 2023 at the University of New Brunswick Saint John.

The Indigenous ceremony included a sacred fire, drumming and a round dance inviting everyone’s participation.  Remarks from Indigenous elders as well as university and city officials highlighted the desire for respectful and inclusive relationships.

Mi’kmaq Elder Jean Bartibogue offered prayer and wisdom as Knowledge Carrier-in-Residence from UNB Fredericton.  She prayed for a good new beginning for neighbouring land where the former Ward Chipman building was recently demolished.  In its place, a new Health and Social Innovation Centre is planned.  An Indigenous healing garden is also planned on the land behind Ganong Hall where the ceremony took place.

The event was emceed by Todd Ross, Indigenous advisor at UNB Saint John.  Guidance was offered by Wolastoqi Elder Imelda Perley.  Before outdoor closing prayer, participants appreciated viewing Indigenous art during a reception in Hazen Hall.

In photo, Yolande and Sisters are shown with Indigenous artwork.  Left to right:  Sisters Roma De Robertis, Irene Buechler, Muriel Buckley and Audette Richard; Yolande Whalen; Sisters Margaret MacLean, Mary Ann Maxwell and Sandra Barrett. (Photo by Marion Williams)