History of Our Community

Founded November 10, 1845 in Monroe, Michigan by Theresa Maxis Duchemin, IHM and Louis Florent Gillet, CSsR

The history of the IHM Congregation is in reality a story of fidelity — fidelity to God, to the mission of Jesus, to the Catholic Church, to service, to truth and to a vision that is both liberating and empowering.

The beginning

Black and white photos of a sister in habit and a priest with a collar.
Theresa Maxis and Louis Gillet

Theresa Maxis and Louis Florent Gillet were great-souled visionaries who struggled to turn dreams into possibilities. Their lives were a pilgrimage in which they were ever faithful to the inner voice of God’s Spirit. Their groundedness in the truth, persistence in the face of adversity, resourcefulness, boundless energy for mission, joyfulness, love for the abandoned and radical willingness to go where God was leading them are a living legacy to the IHM sisters today.

The spark, given by God, however slight it might be, causes a great crackling; it is the beginning of a great fire.

Teresa of Avila

The great fire that is the mission of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be prophetic witnesses to the presence of God in the world began as a spark in the heart of Louis Florent Gillet. That spark, the original inspiration of Father Gillet, was the spirit of St. Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Redemptorists, a congregation whose members devote their lives to the preaching of the Gospel to the poor.

close-up of statue of Alphonsus Liguori
Alphonsus Liguori

It was this Alphonsian spirit that led Father Gillet to seek to establish a religious community of women to bring the faith to the French Canadian immigrants on the shores of the River Raisin in Michigan. Among the three women who accepted his challenge was Theresa Maxis Duchemin, a co-founder and first canonical superior of the small but zealous community. The spark had been ignited. It was destined to become a great crackling.

In 1858, as the congregation grew in size and renown, Mother Theresa accepted Bishop John Neumann’s invitation to serve in the Diocese of Philadelphia, and in 1871, a new foundation was established in the newly formed Diocese of Scranton. Today, there remain the three distinct branches of Sisters of IHM whose fervor and spirit have ever kindled the spark of Father Gillet and Mother Theresa.

Through today

In a continually shifting society, the IHM sisters of Scranton have always sought to meet the needs of God’s people. From the early years our sisters have reached out to farmers, miners, immigrants, orphans, the sick and homeless, women and children; we now add to that the global concerns of today. Carrying the fire of God deep in our hearts, we continue to carry the Good News of God’s unconditional love to all with the same zeal as our founders.

Sisters and friends holding a Sisters of IHM banner
Sisters and friends rally for immigrant justice