Sisters of Charity work in many different fields

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Education no longer is the primary focus of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill, as it was when they founded Seton Hill College in Greensburg and taught at many of the parochial schools in the region, said Jane Strittmatter, director of public relations for the Sisters.

They have expanded their ministry into social services and pastoral work on behalf of poor and disadvantaged people, so now the nuns can be found in prisons and hospitals.

The Seton Hill chapter has 192 sisters in nine states, Israel and South Korea, she said.

They are still involved in Catholic education in the region, however.

“We have a Sister who is interim principal at Greensburg Central Catholic, and we have three who are principals in the Pittsburgh Diocese,” Ms. Strittmatter said. Nine Sisters teach in the Pittsburgh Diocese, and several sisters still teach at Seton Hill University and are on staff there.

“Health care has also been a big part of our tradition,” she said. “Our Sisters founded The Pittsburgh Hospital, which closed in 1966. And we still have sisters who are nurses in the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s free health clinic. The clinical director there is one of our Sisters.

“In Westmoreland County, our Sisters founded the Jeannette District Memorial Hospital, which closed in 2011,” she said. A Sister in West Virginia does prison ministry.

"We have a Sister in Pittsburgh who works at the DePaul Institute for the hearing impaired, which our Sisters founded,” she said.

“Three of our Sisters also volunteer at the United Way of Westmoreland County, where they help with the Faith-in-Action home program for seniors, with literacy, vision screening and with the Books for Babies program,” she said.

“Our Sisters aspire to meet the needs of a changing world — whether that is in social working, pastoral needs and as hospital chaplains,” she said.

The active nuns in the Seton Hill chapter live in several houses in Greensburg and Pittsburgh, she said. About 80 retired or infirm Sisters live at Caritas Christi, adjacent to the Seton Hill campus. It is a three-story building, which also houses the administrative offices for the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill.

Here is a timeline of some of the important contributions the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill have made to Western Pennsylvania:

• 1869 — Pittsburgh's bishop asks the Sisters of Charity in Cincinnati to open a Pennsylvania branch. It was established in Altoona.

• 1882 — The Seton Hill branch was established at the site of Seton Hill University in Greensburg when the Jennings farm was purchased. By the turn of the century, its Sisters were teaching in 20 parochial schools in the Pittsburgh region.

• 1892 — Roselia Foundling home for unmarried women and their children was opened in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood. It closed in 1971.

• 1897 — The Charity Hospital of Pittsburgh, later renamed Pittsburgh Hospital, was founded along Frankstown Road. It closed in 1966.

• 1905 — The Pittsburgh Hospital School of Nursing opened.

• 1906 — St. Joseph’s Academy, a high school for women, opened in Greensburg.

• 1908 — DePaul School for Hearing and Speech was established in Pittsburgh. Today it is in Shadyside.

• 1914 — Seton Hill Junior College for women opened.

• 1941 — Elizabeth Seton High School for girls opened in Pittsburgh.

• 1959 — Jeannette District Memorial Hospital opened. The hospital closed in 2011.

Correction (Published March 21, 2014): An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that a Sister was director of nursing at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. Also, the Sisters are one of many congregations of women religious in the Pittsburgh area. The Sisters were incorrectly described in the earlier story. The story also contained an incorrect name for St. Joseph's Academy, which opened in 1906 in Greensburg.


Debra Duncan, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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