The Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (I.C.M.) are continuing their missionary presence from Kittay Senior Apartments in the Bronx as they celebrate 100 years of missionary presence in the United States and New York City.
Eleven of the 600 sisters worldwide are in the United States, with eight residing at Kittay Senior Apartments where a Mass was offered to recognize their presence for 100 years in the United States and New York City Oct. 10.
“It was so exciting in three of our first four novitiates from 1946 are still with us and were a part of the celebration,” Sister Tellie Lape, I.C.M., told CNY. “They were our first American sisters. People were there of other faiths celebrating with us, and we came together to share this day.”
More than 100 people celebrated with the sisters on a day that included a luncheon and dinner, as well as a video and discussion about the sisters.
“People shared with us how the sisters have made a difference since we arrived,” said Sister Tellie, a native of the Philippines who lived in Texas and Rome before coming to New York in 2016.
“It was a very strong talk with people who live with us in the apartments.”
The Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary are continuing their mission by assisting fellow Kittay residents.
“(The sisters) are very happy,” Sister Tellie said. “The spirit of (their foundress) Mother Marie Louise de Meester continues. It’s not something to do, but to be who we are. We were called to be these missionaries.
“We are missionaries wherever we are. There is unity and community. We really care for each other. We are support for one another and even for people outside our community.”
The Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary were known originally as the Missionary Canonesses of St. Augustine when they were founded in India by Mother Marie Louise de Meester, a native of Belgium, in 1897. They came to the United States in 1919, and the sisters would eventually have communities in New York, California, Pennsylvania and Texas.
A home was purchased for them on West 47th Street in the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan. The sisters, who had limited or no knowledge of the English language, did home visits, home nursing care for the sick, especially the poor, and provided religious instruction for children attending public schools.
The Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary had many missions around the archdiocese. The Sisters once operated the Queen’s Daughters Day Nursery in Yonkers, now Queen’s Daughters Day Care Center Inc.
They took over the staffing in 1948 of the St. Fatima House for juvenile, dependent girls in Manhattan that was affiliated with archdiocesan Catholic Charities. In 1952, the sisters purchased the adjacent building to the St. Fatima House for their residence and later purchased St. Fatima House as a residence for working young women needing a safe place to reside in Manhattan.
The sisters sold these two buildings in 2016 and moved into Kittay Senior Apartments to reside with members of other religious congregations and lay people.
“Today, on behalf of the New Jewish Home, I congratulate and celebrate the ICM Sisters as they celebrate this wonderful milestone,” said Eli Skocylas, director of the Kittay House. “We celebrate your mission and hard work in the communities that you serve and making a difference in the world.”
David Greene contributed to this report.