Communities of Sisters Critical to Early Boston

Sr. Ann Alexis of the The Sisters of Charity of Emmitsburg, Maryland

By Sister Marian Batho, CSJ
Secretary for Regional Services and Delegate for Religious
During the 1800s, Bishop Jean Louis Lefebvre de Cheverus, and his successor, Bishop Benedict Joseph Fenwick, were astute enough to know they needed help to build the foundation for Boston’s diocesan institutions. Much of that help came from the orders of religious sisters who settled in Boston.
The first community of sisters arrived in 1819. The Ursulines of the Roman Union lived and taught in a convent and school Bishop Cheverus had built next to the Cathedral. In 1826, the new bishop, Benedict Joseph Fenwick, moved the sisters to property he purchased in Charlestown. In his honor, the sisters named the site Mount Benedict.
In 1832, three sisters from The Sisters of Charity of Emmitsburg, Maryland, arrived in Boston at the request of Bishop Fenwick. The bishop’s objective was to care for the city’s immigrant children, specifically to see that they had some moral grounding. Led by Sister Ann Alexis, the sisters started St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum, which operated until 1949.
In an early example of stewardship in the diocese, the Female Charitable Society was formed to raise funds for the sisters and their work.