Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

BVM's celebrate their rich tradition of 170 years as an American religious community. It is a heritage rich in faith, dedication, perseverance, innovation and expansion. A renewed interest in congregational history has yielded a rich harvest of insights, publications, and appreciation for the legacy of the nearly 5,000 women who have been Sisters of Charity, BVM. The community is committed to sharing these remarkable stories as widely as possible.


 2003 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of BVM foundress Mary Frances Clarke. A young Irish woman, she journeyed from Dublin to Philadelphia with four companions in 1833 to teach children of the immigrants. The congregation was founded that same year with the assistance of Rev. Terence Donaghoe. Ten years later, the young community of 19 Sisters migrated to Dubuque, Iowa at the invitation of Bishop Matthias Loras.

The pioneer BVMs soon discovered the immense need for education, particularly of girls. They established a boarding school on the prairie near Dubuque. It later became Clarke College. As the community grew, the Sisters staffed elementary and high schools along the Upper Mississippi Valley and farther West.


In 1867, the BVMs began educational ministry in Chicago. From there, the community expanded to the West Coast and other locations in the Midwest, South and East. After World War II, missions were established in Hawaii. Since the 1960s, BVMs have been in South America. The Second Vatican Council released additional energies for diversified ministries.