What if I don’t feel called to religious life, but I would like to be associated with the IHM Congregation?

Many people choose to participate in the mission and life of the IHM Congregation without becoming sisters. While participation in our mission can take a number of forms, we offer a formal means of association with us.

IHM Associates – Many men and women are partners with us in prayer. IHM associates commit themselves to pray for the needs of the world and the works of the IHM Congregation and are invited to participate, when they can, in significant events, Eucharistic liturgies, conferences, retreats and prayer services with the IHM Sisters.

What should I do if I am considering becoming an IHM sister?

Your first step would be to contact the Director of Vocations of the IHM Congregation. She will provide you with information that will help you discern whether this is a community that might fit well with who you are and what you hope for in your life.

Read about the vocation discernment process and find out how to contact the Director of Vocations by going to Interested in Joining Us?.


Sr. Mindy Welding, IHM Have Questions?
Director of Vocations
Sr. Mindy Welding, IHM
IHM Center
2300 Adams Avenue
Scranton, PA 18509
Phone: 570-346-5414

How can I help further the work of the IHM sisters?

We invite you to help us continue our mission by participating with us in a number of ways.

First, you may want to consider becoming an IHM sister, an IHM volunteer or an IHM prayer associate. If you do not feel drawn to any of these options, you may want to serve as an advocate for the IHM Congregation and encourage others to consider joining us.

We also invite the participation of those who can share their resources with us. We face many financial challenges that strain our available funds: aging, fewer new members, escalating retirement and healthcare costs, increasing plant and operating expenses and decreasing revenues generated by sisters in active service.

Read more about how you can contribute your resources to helping us face these challenges, by going to Saying Thanks and Supporting IHM Ministries

What qualities do you look for when evaluating potential candidates for the IHM Congregation?

We IHM Sisters respect the research and recommendations of The National Religious Vocations Conference as well as our own experience of community life.  The following are essential qualities for successfully living contemporary IHM religious life:

evidence of  a strong, personal relationship with God

active membership in the Catholic church and full participation in its sacramental life

good health

adequate intellectual ability to do the ministry of the congregation well

healthy personal relationships, including good friends

skills to make a positive choice for all three vows

good self care

a passion for justice and a willingness to advocate for others


a sense of humor

genuine responsiveness to those in need

a capacity to respect and serve a diversity of people

evidence of  maturity, initiative and leadership

desire and ability to work collaboratively

capacity to share communal life joyfully and without undue stress

readiness to live simply

willingness to compromise personal desires for the common good

How long does it take to become an IHM sister?

Once a woman is accepted into the initial formation program of the IHM sisters, the process normally lasts between three and nine years.

A woman interested in membership first becomes a candidate. During this time she lives in community with other sisters while working and/or studying. This period enables the candidate to participate in the life of the community and it gives the congregation an opportunity to see how well she integrates into the life and to assess her potential as a future IHM Sister. A woman may be a candidate for one or two years.

When she is ready, the candidate moves on to the novitiate. This is a very intense period of discernment and learning. The novice spends time in prayer deepening her connection with the God whom she will choose as her primary, lifelong relationship. She studies and learns more about herself, as well as the spirit, daily life and core values of the IHM congregation. She tests her capacity to live vowed, community life in a healthy and joyful manner. At the end of the two year novitiate, the novice prepares for temporary profession of vows.

After consultation and formal recommendation, the woman vows poverty, chastity and obedience for a period of three years. This temporary profession marks her official entrance into the IHM congregation. After a period of three to five years of temporary profession, the woman professes her final vows and becomes a permanent member of the IHM Sisters. 

Read more about the formation process in Interested in Joining Us?.

Why become a sister if I can work for the church as a lay woman?

It is true that the works of sisters today can be done by people who have not chosen vowed religious life. We believe, however, that the value of religious life is not found in what we do but in the essence of the life itself.

Religious life steeps its members in the search for God and in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God becomes our primary relationship. All that we are and do is centered on our efforts to make visible God’s loving presence. It is a  lifestyle that attracts those who have a passion for life -- with all its mysteries and wonders. Religious life is not for everyone, but if the fit is right, we become our truest, best and most loving selves and the possibilities for a full and vibrant life in God and in ministry are endless.

Sister Joan Chittister, OSB, describes what it takes to live religious life today:  "To live a religious life takes all the life we have. To live a religious life takes the heart of a hermit, the soul of a mountain climber, the eyes of a lover, the hands of a healer and the mind of a rabbi. It requires total immersion in the life of Christ and complete concentration on the meaning of the Gospel.”  What a wonderful way to spend one’s life!

Why do sisters vow poverty, chastity and obedience?

The vows are meant to be a public witness to our Gospel values. They are not restrictions on our freedom, but rather freely chosen personal and communal values and attitudes toward life.

While our understanding of the vows continues to grow and develop as life changes,  at the present moment we interpret the vows in the following ways:


  • believing that God is all we need, we vow to live a simple lifestyle sharing what we have and acquiring only what we need to serve effectively, using our talents and energies to act for justice and tend to those in need




  • believing that God’s love is abiding and unconditional, we vow  to love faithfully and inclusively, to care deeply for and about others, and to nurture faith, beauty and hope in each person we serve






  • believing that God speaks to us in numerous ways, we vow to search for truth and to listen attentively and respond generously to the voice of the Spirit in all of life
Why are there fewer sisters today than in the past?

There is no clear answer to this question.  We do know that the huge groups of the nineteen fifties and sixties were somewhat of an anomaly in the long history of religious life.  More often, religious sisters were small groups of intensely prayerful and dedicated women who gathered to accomplish a particular mission. They vowed their lives to God and to each other and set about accomplishing their particular purpose.  It seems that religious life today among the IHM Sisters is returning to that model. We have great respect for our traditional institutions and try to support them. In addition, many sisters work to spread gospel values by serving those persons who are disregarded, disenfranchised and abandoned in our present American society. 

Our efforts have opened new paths for women within the church and have called many more people to do the work once done more exclusively by sisters, brothers and priests.  Our education and influence may have ironically decreased the size of our religious community but not its purpose or intensity.  Our rapidly growing group of lay associates gives testimony to the influence of our values and spirituality. Our IHM charism and mission are taking root among our lay brothers and sisters in our circles of grace. However, we believe that a perhaps smaller but still intensely focused core group of IHMs will continue to gather and preserve our original charism. Numbers are less important than quality of our lives.

How are the lives of sisters today different from the lives of sisters in the past?

For those who lived part of their lives prior to the Second Vatican Council, the lives of IHM Sisters may seem quite different today. Throughout history religious life has been shaped according to the needs of the culture it was serving. From the late 1800s to the 1960s, for example, our women were particularly attentive to education, childcare and healthcare.  At a time when no systems were in place for education, child care or healthcare, especially for the poor, our sisters were pioneers in seeing and creating ways to meet urgent needs. The lifestyle of our congregation was highly structured to enable the sisters to establish and efficiently maintain institutions. Today while still active in healthcare and educational ministries, sisters also respond to many other needs that cry out for attention and care. Today’s women most often enter our community at a more mature age and with considerable educational competencies and highly developed talents. They participate in the entire process of missioning from discernment of needs to the final acceptance of a particular ministry.

The essence of religious life has remained the same throughout history, but some of the externals have changed and these are often what are most noticeable to the public. Prior to Vatican II, for example, most sisters wore habits and served exclusively in one or two institutional ministries. Though they were more easily recognizable to the public, their lives were often set apart from those of the ordinary people.

After Vatican II, in the early 1960’s, the Church asked the sisters to examine their original calling and return to the true spirit of the founders. This we did for almost twenty years.  We worked and prayed and talked and explored emerging needs that were not present when the congregation was founded a hundred years before.  Then in the spirit of our founders and with all of the life and energy we had, we began to take new risks, to leave the safety of the convent walls and move out to live and work among the people often without distinguishing garb. We hoped to model by our lives, our values, our zeal and our advocacy, our deep commitment to Jesus Christ and his gospel values. Just as our founders did, we chose to stand close to the poor and the ordinary people and witness God’s presence and unconditional love for them. Sometimes our sharing in the lives of ordinary people and especially our advocacy on behalf of the poor and the voiceless have made us unpopular and exposed us to risks and criticism from those who did not want us to reclaim the pioneering and prophetic spirit of our founders. In many ways it is more challenging to live authentically as an IHM sister in today’s troubled and materialistic world.

Do IHM sisters all work in one type ministry or can they do different things?

IHM sisters work in a variety of ministries. In the past our sisters were primarily educators, but in these rapidly changing times we have been called to many new ministries. As you view our web page, you will see a diversity of ministry opportunities.

Our choice of ministry is based on the founding purpose of the IHM Congregation, a careful analysis of the religious and cultural climate, and prayerful discernment of the way a sister’s gifts might serve the pressing needs of a particular moment in time.

See the variety of works that we currently do by visiting Who We Are – Are There IHM Sisters in Your Area?

What makes the IHM Congregation different from other congregations of women religious?

The identity of a religious congregation develops from its founders, charism, history and mission throughout the years. Each community has its own style, pervasive spirit and approach to ministry.

The IHM Congregation was founded by Theresa Maxis Duchemin, a woman of Haitian descent born of unwed parents, who accepted the invitation of Louis Florent Gillet, a Redemptorist missionary from Belgium to leave the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first African American community in the United States, and help him preserve the faith of immigrant peoples by establishing a new community in frontier Michigan.  Together they began the IHM Congregation in Monroe, Michigan and this new community helped to shape the immigrant church of the mid-1800s. The primary concern of the early IHM sisters was the education and spiritual development of the people they served, particularly those newly arrived from other countries.

Three important influences have woven themselves together over time to create the unique spirit of the Scranton IHM Sisters: the spirituality of Alphonsus Liguori, the missionary zeal of Louis Gillet, and the egalitarian model of community life and discernment Theresa Maxis brought with her from her roots as an Oblate of  Providence. These influences have energized IHM life ever since especially in:

  • Our life of prayer and contemplation based on our firm belief in the unconditional love of God.
  • Our passionate commitment to bring the Good News of God’s love to the spiritually abandoned poor.
  • Our efforts to change structures of oppression and injustice that maintain poverty, ignorance, discrimination, racism, domination and exclusion
  • Our nurturing of the arts that bring beauty to the world and lead people closer to God.
  • Our profound reverence for life and for the earth that sustains life in all its fullness
  • Our respect for the diversity among our members and among the people we serve
  • Our warm supportive community, our hospitality and our joyful and fun-loving spirit

As IHM sisters we see ourselves as women who value gospel-based community, grounded in prayer and extended in service. We cherish the potential for good that happens when a dynamic, creative group chooses to pool its talents, ideas, dreams and resources for the common good. We truly believe that our contemplative witness to God’s presence among the people makes a significant difference in our world. 

You may gain a better understanding of what characterizes the IHM Congregation by reading about our core values and charism in Who We Are and Our History.

Who are IHM sisters and what do they do?

The Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a group of Catholic women who have vowed to follow Jesus as a community of disciples. We  choose to be clear witnesses of God’s presence in the world. Often known simply as the IHM Sisters, we serve where we are called and live and work lovingly among all peoples.  At this moment in time, you will find our women throughout the United States and in two dioceses in Latin America. 

Many of our sisters are educators, administrators, health care providers, communications and technology experts, social workers, justice advocates, and pastoral and spiritual care ministers but we are extremely flexible and creative in responding to new and unmet needs. You might find IHM Sisters anywhere, doing anything necessary to relieve pain, ease burdens and remove barriers that obscure the face of God in our world.  Our senior and retired Sisters are a powerhouse of prayer who support and sustain our women serving in active ministries.

How can I contact a sister whom I know?

Many of our sisters can now be reached online. Check for the name of the sister whom you wish to reach in our E-Mail Directory.

If the name of the person is not there, send a message online to IHMWeb@SistersofIHM.org with your name, address and relation to the person whom you wish to contact and we can forward the information to that sister.

Please remember too that there are three separate IHM Congregations. If you are searching for a sister and discover that she is not an IHM sister in the Scranton congregation, you may want to look for her among the other two communities – Monroe (www.ihmsisters.org) or Immaculata (www.ihmimmaculata.org).

If you have any other questions about the IHM Congregation or about religious life, please contact us at IHMWeb@SistersofIHM.org.

Perhaps you have a story to tell about a Scranton IHM Sister? Visit our Remembering an IHM Sister page and share your story.