LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth are celebrating 200 years of helping others.
The order was founded in Bardstown while the War of 1812 raged on and James Madison served as president. A lot has changed over the years, but the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth are still serving the poor and helpless.
A recent Mass at Louisville's Cathedral of the Assumption focused on the order's work both in the U.S. and overseas.
"These were pioneer women who have had impact on health care and education in this state and all over the world," the Rev. William Medley, Roman Catholic bishop of Owensboro, told The Courier-Journal (http://cjky.it/11OM1wQ). "What they have done can't be summed up in just a few words."
Sister Frances Krumpelman, a nun for 65 years who serves as the order's historian, said the order was formed after Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget formed a Roman Catholic diocese in Bardstown, the first one west of the Allegheny Mountains.
"He planned to start a community of nuns who would teach the young people, especially the girls," she said.
However, the mission has expanded over two centuries to also include health care and social justice.
"They have been leaders in setting the tone for charity and compassion," said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, who was on hand to issue a proclamation celebrating the bicentennial. "These are women who stand up for social justice and are fearless.
"I think it inspires people," he said. "It inspires me."
Louisville institutions founded by the Sisters of Charity include Presentation Academy, Spalding University, the old St. Joseph Infirmary, Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital and Our Lady of Peace Hospital. Institutions in Bardstown that the order created include Bethlehem High School and Flaget Memorial Hospital.
They were involved in starting several other organizations, including the St. John Center, Family Scholar House and the House of Ruth.
"I think the one thing we are known for is that we look for what is needed and we respond to it," said Sister Mary Elizabeth Miller, the group's president.
For instance, the sisters opened a hospital in India in 1947 to treat people with leprosy. Since then, medical services have been expanded to Nepal, Botswana and Belize.
Sister Teresa Kotturan, vice president of the order and a native of India, said the order tries to teach people in that country how to help themselves.
"We try to empower people to get involved," she said. "We try to educate the people to stand for election and make a real change in people's lives."
Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com