2018 Sisters of IHM Spirit Award


Doherty picture PAINT reduced Peter Cognetti Updated Photo
  Dr. John H. Doherty, Jr.   Dr. Peter A. Cognetti
  2018 Spirit of IHM    2018 Spirit of IHM 
  Award Recipient   Award Recipient


Physicians Honored with 2018 Sisters of IHM Spirit Award

The deep connection between the founding of the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) and the island of Haiti was the focus of the 2018 IHM Sisters Celebration. The gala recognized the humanitarian work in Haiti of two local physicians - Peter A. Cognetti and John H. Doherty, Jr. Doctors Cognetti and Doherty received the Sisters of IHM Spirit Award during the event on Saturday, August 4, at Marywood University. 

Sisters of IHM Spirit Awards are given to deserving honorees, who by their lives and ministries exemplify the value of self-emptying service taught and embodied by the IHM Sisters. Dr. Doherty attended St. Clare School, Scranton, and Dr. Cognetti’s children attended Our Lady of Peace School, Clarks Green. 

Dr. Cognetti, a graduate of the University of Scranton earned a medical degree from Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He went on to complete his residency in family practice at Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown. Dr. Cognetti is board certified through the American Board of Family Medicine and maintains a private practice with Dr. Patrick Conaboy in Scranton.

Dr. Cognetti first traveled to Haiti in January 2010; just days after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the island nation. Since then he has volunteered his services every year for a week at a time, providing needed medical care to the Haitian people. Dr. Cognetti, along with a local group of friends and colleagues, also provides fundraising support and medical and organizational advice to the Haitian community.

Dr. Doherty also received a medical degree at Thomas Jefferson Medical College after earning a bachelor’s degree from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. He completed residencies in general and orthopaedic surgery at Saint Vincent’s Hospital and the Hospital for Special Surgery, both in New York City. Certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, Dr. Doherty is the orthopaedic site director at Geisinger Community Medical Center and is in practice with Professional Orthopaedic Associates in Scranton.

Dr. Doherty was involved in the recovery effort after the 2010 earthquake. Once a year for the past 15 years, he has traveled to Haiti with a surgical team that includes two other orthopaedic surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses. They provide medical care at St. Damien's Hospital for children and St. Luc's Hospital for adults in Tabarre, near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. 

Doctors Cognetti and Doherty are being honored for their medical work with the poor and underserved in Haiti through the Saint Luke Foundation for Haiti. Like the IHM Sisters, their call to ministry and their courage to respond in the midst of uncertain circumstances is inspiring. 

The link between the IHM Sisters and Haiti began over 35-years before the Congregation was established. The co-foundress of the congregation, Mother Theresa Maxis Duchemin was born in Baltimore to a Haitian refugee in late 1809/early 1810. At a young age, Theresa was influenced by Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, Maria Balas, Rosina Bougue, and Father James Joubert; together they formed the religious congregation of The Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore. The Oblates are the oldest congregation of religious sisters of African descent in America. Mother Theresa Maxis is the first American born woman of African descent to become a woman religious.

In 1845, Mother Theresa Maxis was invited by Father Louis Florent Gillet, a Redemptorist missionary priest, to establish the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Monroe, Michigan. From this same foundation, three separate religious congregations were formed. The Immaculata Congregation began when the IHM Sisters came to Northeastern Pennsylvania to accept the mission of St. Joseph’s Academy in 1858. Scranton was established as the third IHM Congregation in 1871 when the large diocese of Philadelphia was split into two dioceses, Scranton and Philadelphia.

In honor of the IHM sesquicentennial year of celebration in 1995, the three IHM communities (Immaculata, Monroe and Scranton) and the Oblate Sisters of Providence wished to reconnect the journey of the four congregations. They began a partnership to establish the Haiti Outreach Program and currently work together to bring hope and help to the people of Haiti.

The OSP IHM Haiti Outreach Committee is comprised of 12 members--three from each of the four congregations. The Outreach Committee works toward achieving the following goals: 

  • To continue the partnership with the Little Sisters of Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, a native Haitian community that serves the very poorest of the Haitian people
  • To educate about the needs of the people of Haiti
  • To communicate opportunities for advocacy for the people of Haiti
  • To encourage participation in projects for the people of Haiti     

Many compassionate and zealous lay and religious professionals like Doctors Cognetti and Doherty and their colleagues now collaborate to tend to the pressing medical needs of the Haitian people.           

The same kind of collaboration and attentiveness to evident needs prompted the formation of the Sisters of IHM Foundation. Hosted by the IHM Foundation, the proceeds from the annual Sisters Celebration provide much needed financial support for the retired members of the congregation. Lives impacted by the IHM spirit inspire others to honor and give back to the Sisters, now elderly and in need. Established in 2013, the Sisters of IHM Foundation officers include John Murray, president; Nada Gilmartin, vice-president; Attorney Michael McGrath, secretary; and Tim McMullen, treasurer.