175 years ago five Good Sisters landed on the shores of New York. The Sisters had sailed from France to found Good Shepherd in Louisville, at the bequest of Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget.
The five Sisters ranged in ages from 23-27 and spoke five languages among them. They landed at the southern tip of Manhattan in 1842. They arrived miserable after spending 30 harrowing days at sea aboard the immigrant ship Utica.
St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier, the Order’s foundress, sent the Sisters to America for a single purpose. She wanted them to serve women and girls who could not live at home because of abuse or emotional difficulties.
After being processed in New York, the Sisters made their way by stagecoach to Louisville, Kentucky. Here they founded the first U.S. mission of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd. The order became better known as Sisters of the Good Shepherd.
The Sisters would return to New York City in 1857 to work with female prisoners and their families. That first ministry in Manhattan would eventually grow into Good Shepherd Services (GSS). GSS today offers 80 programs in the New York tri-state area and serves over 30,000 children and families.
Celebrating 175 years of service in North America
The New York/Toronto Province hosted a celebration on May 12 to commemorate the arrival of Good Shepherd to North America 175 years ago. Four Sisters from the Province of Mid-North America attended the fete. Madeleine Munday, Nora Pat O’Flannigan, Mary Carol McClenon and Maria Sowerby attended. Mission Partners Jeanette McDermott, Monte Abbott and Larry Couch also attended the affair.
The anniversary celebration began with breakfast. It unfolded gently and joyfully into reunions and Good Shepherd stories. The event continued with lunch, presentations, music, ritual, and evening Mass.
The Mid-North America Province also commemorated 175 years of Good Shepherd presence in North America. At its Spring Area Meetings in April, Sisters held ceremonies called “Rise and Go Forth.” The meetings featured readings that stated, in part:
“We begin the celebration of 175 years of rising and going forth, led by the gift and vow of zeal. We celebrate what we are by being present to the memory of what we have been. Let us take a moment’s pause and hold in our hearts and minds the bishops who saw the need, the Sisters who were sent, the benefactors, lay partners, and the thousands of girls and women all encompassed by the sacred fire of zeal. And we give thanks.”
Maryhurst celebrated the Good Shepherd anniversary at its annual Journey of Hope luncheon in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Mission of Sisters of the Good Shepherd
You can read an interview in Global Sisters Report with Sr. Maureen McGowan, Province Leader for New York/Toronto. In the article, Sr. Maureen talks about Good Shepherd’s 175-year history in North America and our international congregation. She speaks about our presence at the United Nations and commitment to empowering vulnerable women and girls.
Sr. Maureen talks about Good Shepherd’s focus on combatting human trafficking. She addresses Mission Partners and Good Shepherd Volunteers. And she speaks about the Good Shepherd charism and many ministries that Good Shepherd sponsors.
The article ends with Sr. Maureen stating, “The need for our ministry will always be there. I don’t know what it will look like in the end, but we are doing our part to keep weaving the tapestry so that our network stays alive and healthy.
“We invest a lot in our Mission Partners. So whether or not there are Sisters here, our Mission Partners have a foundation that will help them fan those flames, keeping the mission alive. It all leaves me with tremendous gratitude and hope,” Sr. Maureen said.