Sisters of Charity, BVM Celebrates 190 Years From Dublin to Dubuque, Around the World

Sisters of Charity, BVM Celebrates 190 Years - From Dublin to Dubuque, Around the World

Dubuque, Iowa: The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) in Dubuque, Iowa, announces the congregation’s 190th Anniversary on Nov. 1, 2023. This milestone celebrates the mission of the BVM Sisters: to commit to a vowed life of faithfulness to the Lord; faithfulness to one another in community; faithfulness to God’s people, especially the poor.

The story of the BVM Sisters begins with Foundress Mary Frances Clarke and her companions boarding a ship in Dublin, Ireland, in 1833. These were modern women, shaped by the intellectual and political influences of their day even as they bent their lives to shape the world about them. Leaving their families and homeland, they were driven by a vision of a better life for immigrant children through education. As they celebrate 190 years, the Sisters of Charity, BVM are grateful for all the opportunities from Dublin to Dubuque that have taken BVMs around the world.

Choosing education as the initial ministry was a prophetic decision. BVMs were teachers who opened schools that led to a network of Catholic elementary and secondary schools across the country, including two colleges. Throughout history, the majority of BVMs taught in elementary and secondary schools. BVM Sisters staffed more than 300 schools across the United States and in three foreign countries, providing students a quality education, opportunities for development, and Catholic values.

In the 1960s, ministries grew to include healthcare, social services, community advocacy, and parish administration. In accordance with their values, the congregation has taken on corporate stances on nonviolence and immigration reform, and against human trafficking and the death penalty. Their commitment includes joining with others to work for justice and to care for Earth.

As BVMs have retired from active ministry, partnership grants and scholarships for women have been established to ensure the BVM legacy will continue through organizations that hold similar values. Endowed scholarships have also been established in every U.S. diocese in which BVMs have ministered.

BVMs continue to honor the core values of freedom, education, charity, and justice. BVM President LaDonna Manternach shares, “BVM shoes have left footprints around the world for ministry, study, and travel experiences . . . Today, ‘in the spirit of charity,’ virtual BVM footprints are being established via Zoom meetings, grant funding, scholarships, and gifts to organizations that send aid across the world . . . thank God for all the gifts we have received: from Dublin to Dubuque, and around the world.”

Since the beginning, nearly 5,000 women have followed in the footsteps of Mary Frances Clarke. Like many religious congregations today, the BVMs face new challenges. Currently there are more than 200 sisters with an average age of 85 years young.

In honor of the 190th Anniversary, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary invite you to join with them in a live, virtual Mass held Nov. 1, 2023, at 10:30-11:30 (CDT) at the following link: A recording of the Mass will be available following at the same link.