On this day in 1817, Bishop John Connolly wrote to Mother Seton, asking for Sisters to staff a Catholic orphan asylum in her native city, New York.
On August 1, 1817, Mother Seton wrote to Rev. Simon Gabriel Bruté, S.S.
… the poor Lipp tells me Sister Rose [White] is much better-I write her earnestly about New York – the desire of my heart and Soul for her going to New York has been long pressing for so much must depend as says the good gentlemen who write about it on who is sent to my “native city'” they say, not knowing that I am a citizen of the world-the Bishop [John Connolly] also writes about it asking 3 Sisters for such an orphan asylum as in Philadelphia to begin on a small plan-excellent – the little mustard seed — oh if my Rose can go I shall be proud, she will keep so well the dignity of rules and pure intentions …
(Elizabeth Bayley Seton: Collected Writings, ed. Regina Bechtle, S.C. and Judith Metz, S.C. Volume 2, p.494)
A portion of Mother Seton’s original letter from August 1, 1817 is reproduced below. A reproduction of this letter is currently on display in Mother Seton’s White House, located on the Emmitsburg Campus.
The first Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s arrived in New York in August 1817. Mother Rose White’s journal records:
In August, 1817 the Sisters were called to New York. Three were sent to begin an asylum, the house purchased by the Managers who formed a society for the relief of orphans-, was an old frame house in Prince Street, the front door was two steps below the street. The beginning very poor, yet the people very kind. We began with one orphan & had many difficulties to meet with; the greatest was that we were obliged to admit boys & girls, the same poverty existing, & the same promises made by the Asylum Managers that as soon, as means could be secured there should be a separation. This, we regret, is not yet effected, though they have a splendid Asylum accommodating two hundred orphans.
(Journal of Mother Rose White, used with permission of Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives)
The Sisters of Charity and the Daughters of Charity have shared a legacy of service in New York that stretches nearly 200 years.