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The Sisters of Charity of New York is a congregation of religious women in the Catholic Church whose primary missions are education and nursing and who are dedicated in particular to the service of the poor.

History

Saint Elizabeth Seton founded the Sisters of Charity in Emmitsburg, Maryland in 1809, modeling her foundation on the Daughters of Charity founded in France by Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Louise de Marillac in the 17th century. The Sisters followed the Vincentian practice of taking temporary religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, renewing these annually (in contrast to most orders of religious women, who at some point take permanent or "perpetual" vows), began to spread their work to other areas throughout the 19th century, always seeking the poor and particularly the young to serve. This practice lasted until 1938, when the congregation adopted the more standard practice of professing lifetime vows.

In 1817 three of the Sisters were sent to New York City (which was Seton's hometown) to establish an orphanage. The Sisters quickly took on the job of establishing Catholic orphanages in a city overrun with abandoned, orphaned or under-parented children. Mother Seton had established one of the first Catholic elementary schools in Emmitsburg. With this background, the Sisters also began founding or staffing existing parish schools, particularly in poor and immigrant neighborhoods, and set up hospitals.

In 1846, the Sisters in New York incorporated as a separate entity from the Sisters of Charity still based in Maryland. This was due to Archbishop John Hughes' desire to have a greater measure of authority over their institutions (his own sister, Mary Angela Hughes, was by then superior of the Sisters in New York). They became the Sisters of Charity of New York. This was not unusual, in that several other local groups of the Sisters founded by Seton established themselves as independent entities once their congregation reached maturity in various cities.

The Sisters in New York established The New York Foundling, an orphanage for abandoned children but also a place for unmarried mothers to receive care themselves and offer their children for adoption (New York immigrant communities were plagued by prostitution rings that preyed on young women, and out-of-wedlock pregnancies were a severe problem in these communities). New York Foundling continues its work today, and is noted for its work with babies and young children infected with HIV, and with severely handicapped children.

They also established St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan, which became the centerpiece of an extensive healthcare system under the Sisters' care that includes St. Vincent's Hospital in Westchester (a psychiatric hospital), as well as two hospital now closed: St. Vincent's Hospital, Staten Island, and Bayley Seton Hospital on Staten Island, in addition to a network of nursing homes and other institutions.

In 1920, the Sisters were in charge of the following institutions in the New York area: Holy Family Hospital (155 Dean St. at Hoyt Ave., Brooklyn), New York Catholic Protectory (Westchester), The New York Foundling Hospital (175 E. 68th Street, Manhattan), the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum (Kingsbridge, the Bronx), St. Agatha Home for Children (Nanuet), St. Ann Maternity Hospital (130 E. 69th Street, Manhattan), St. Eleanora Home for Convalescents (Tuckahoe), St. Ignatius Day Nursery (240 E. 84th Street, Manhattan), St. Joseph Home for the Aged (209 W. 15th Street, Manhattan), St. Laurence Hospital (163rd Street at Edgecombe Avenue, Manhattan), St. Mary General Hospital (St. Mark's Place, Brooklyn), St. Vincent Hospital (Seventh Avenue, between 11th & 12th Sts., Manhattan), St. Vincent Hospital (Staten Island), St. Vincent's Retreat (Harrison, Westchester) and Seton Hospital (Spuyten Duyvil, Manhattan). As of 2008, all of these institutions have closed, except The New York Foundling Hospital and St. Vincent's Medical Center, both located in Manhattan.

The Sisters were also the key congregation in the establishment of New York's parochial school system: they did not staff every parish school, but they did staff more schools than any other single order of women. In addition to parish schools (which, in New York, typically carry children through grade 8), the sisters ran a number of high schools themselves or provided staff for high schools run by others, and they established the College of Mount Saint Vincent, which also serves as their motherhouse. St Joseph by-the-Sea High School on Staten Island was also founded by them. Beginning as a summer retreat for orphans from the Foundling Hospital and as a place for the sisters to obtain degrees under the auspices of Mount St. Vincent, it was turned into an all-girls Catholic high school in 1963. Now co-ed, it is still staffed by a number of Sisters of Charity.

Today, the Sisters of Charity of New York is a constituent community of the Federation of Sisters of Charity in the Vincentian-Setonian Tradition, an umbrella group that brings together the various congregations that trace their roots back to Saint Elizabeth Seton, and ultimately to Saint Vincent de Paul.

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