Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

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For the Catholic religious institute in Michigan and Pennsylvania, see Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) (founded as the Daughters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary[1]) are a Catholic teaching religious institute for women.

The institute was originally founded in Spain in 1848 by Father Joachim Masmitjá as a means of rebuilding society through the education of young women.[2] A separate entity was founded in Los Angeles, California, US in 1871, and formally established in 1924.


In 1869, Father Masmitja's friend the Bishop of Monterey, California was visiting Spain.[3] At that time, the bishop, Thaddeus Amat y Brusi, asked for some of the sisters to come to California. Two years later, with Father Masmitja's approval, Mother Raimunda led nine others to the new California mission. The Sisters established two houses, one in Gilroy and the other in San Juan. Very soon, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart were teaching in several schools in different parts of California. The Sisters inaugurated a third house in San Luis Obispo (1876), a fourth house in San Bernardino (1880), and finally the last house during the life of Founder, Fr. Joaquin Masmitja was established in Los Angeles (1886).[4]

Work in California[edit]

Once established in California, the sisters set to work administering existing and building new schools as well as administering orphanages. Mother Raimunda served as the provincial of the California sisters until her death in 1900. By 1906, the sisters were able to build their own motherhouse.[5] Also in the early twentieth century, the sisters began looking to separate from the Spanish parent institute.[6]

After several decades of ongoing negotiations and the help of Bishop John Cantwell of Los Angeles, the separation was completed in 1924 and Mother Genevieve was elected the first mother-general.

Vatican II & California[edit]

During the late 1960s, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council and its call for renewal of religious life, the IHM Sisters took part in s process of renewal led by the psychologist Dr. Carl Rogers, founder of the Center for the Study of the Person an affiliate of the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute. Carl Rogers, and his associates, Bruce Meador and Bill Coulson conducted encounter groups.In such encounter groups, under the direction of a facilitator, participants were encouraged to share their real feelings as they interacted with the other group participants.

The first encounter group was held in the summer of 1966 at the Immaculate Heart Novitiate in Montecito, California. With its apparent success, the experiment was begun en masse in 1967, with all the sisters and the schools they ran in the Los Angeles Archdiocese participating.The encounter groups facilitated such changes in the IHMs community. The community was among the first group of women religious to heed the directive of Vatican II to modernize their rules and customs and become more relevant to the contemporary world. The community had begun a transition from a hierarchical structure to a more democratic form of governance and the encounter groups allowed the sisters to express their fears and concerns about the processes.

A major bone of contention between the Cardinal and the sisters was his insistance that the community continue to provide him with teaching staff each year. This required that the newest and youngest members of the community begin teaching without the benefit of a college education. There preparation consisted of a single summer of workshops and courses. At the end of the summer nuns were assigned to various schools within the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Class sizes were large, often between 40 or 60 elementary or middle school student in a classroom without a teaching assistant. In one School, Our Lady of Fatima, in Artesia, California the eighth grade students had been taught by a first year teacher without training for all eight years that they were in school. When the community voted to refuse to send any more sisters to teach without proper educational preparation Cardinal McIntyre sought to remove them from the schools. He sought and received the assistance of the Papal Delegate who sided with the Cardinal.

Archbishop James Cardinal McIntyre of Los Angeles, insisted that if the IHM Sisters were to continue teaching in the schools of the archdiocese, they would have to maintain a number of rules he believed were essential to female community life. The sisters, in turn, objected to the Archbishop dictating their attire, bedtimes, and hours of prayer.[7][8] The Vatican congregation of Women Religious that oversaw religious life refused to intervene for the IHM Sisters.

Immaculate Heart Community[edit]

Then-superior Anita Caspary remained firm in implementing the reforms and refusing the Cardinals demands for unqualified teachers, and on 1 February 1970 roughly ninety percent of the IHM Sisters followed Caspary and were subsequently dispensed from their vows and fired from the schools in the archdiocese.[9] by Anita Caspary, IHM. Liturgical Press; illustrated edition edition (February 1, 2003).[8][10] They went on to form a non-canonical group that admits both men and women known as the Immaculate Heart Community.[11]

An ensuing property settlement left remaining IHM sisters with certain properties, while those dispensed obtained control of Immaculate Heart College and Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles. All IHM sisters were fired from their teaching positions in the LA archdiocese's vast parochial school system, forefront of the exodus of religious that was soon to affect the nation's entire Roman Catholic school system.

After failed attempts to resolve differences with those remaining in the congregation and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, some formed a group that relocated to the Diocese of Wichita in Kansas.[10] These IHM sisters remain active, as does the small congregation in California.

Work in Arizona[edit]

In 1911, five sisters from Spain and two from California were sent to start a school in Mazatlán, Mexico.[12] Six years later, in 1917, the sisters were forced to leave due to the Mexican Revolution. During a stop in their journey back to California, Bishop Henry Granjon of Tucson, Arizona invited the sisters to stay and they accepted. From there, they began building schools and accepting postulants.

Due to growth over time, in 1946 the sisters in Arizona became the Province of Saint Joseph. In 1947 the Novitiate moved to Sabino Canyon Road, at the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains outside Tucson. In 1987 Bishop Manuel Moreno asked the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to have Latin Mass celebrated in their chapel at Sabino Canyon, which continued until 2005

These IHM sisters remain active in both Arizona and Florida.[13]


The headquarters of the Immaculate Heart Community are located 5515 Franklin Avenue near Western Avenue, in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles.

Immaculate Heart Blythe Street serves the San Fernando Valley, located in Panorama City, Los Angeles.

The Immaculate Heart Community has run a Center for Spiritual Renewal on 26 acres in Montecito, California since 1943.[14] It was also the hub of activity for the Novitiate for many years.[15]


The Convent of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was located in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles, sharing the former Earle C. Anthony estate with the Cardinal Timothy Manning House of Prayer for Priests. Designed by Bernard Maybeck in 1927, the mansion was remodeled and enlarged in the mid-1990s. Both facilities were closed by the Archdiocese in 2011. Disputes of ownership between the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles gained media attention when Katy Perry attempted to purchase the estate in 2015, with plans to restore it to a private mansion.[16] [17][18][19][20]

Educational institutions[edit]


Notable sisters[edit]

  • Sister Corita Kent — renowned artist and reform activist.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Immaculate Heart Community - IHM History - 1848". Retrieved May 25, 2010. 
  2. ^ "History - Sisters of the IHM of Wichita". Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Immaculate Heart Community - IHM History - 1871". Retrieved May 25, 2010. 
  4. ^ Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary: Timeline
  5. ^ "Immaculate Heart Community - IHM History - 1906". Retrieved May 25, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Immaculate Heart Community - IHM History - 1924". Retrieved May 25, 2010. 
  7. ^ Vitello, Paul (October 18, 2011). "Anita Caspary, 95, Nun Who Led Breakaway From Church, Dies". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ a b "Religion: The Immaculate Heart Rebels". Time. February 16, 1970. pp. 1–2. Retrieved September 25, 2010. 
  9. ^ Witness to Integrity:The Crisis of the Immaculate Heart Community of California
  10. ^ a b "Tribute: Mother M. Joanne Brummel, IHM, Sister M. Eileen MacDonald, IHM, and Sister M. Giovanni Oliveri, IHM" (DOC). Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Wichita. Retrieved May 25, 2010. 
  11. ^ Immaculate Heart Community
  12. ^ "Timeline - Sisters of the IHM (Arizona)". Retrieved September 25, 2010. 
  13. ^ Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Arizona, Florida)
  14. ^ Immaculate Heart Center for Spiritual Renewal website (Montecito, California).
  15. ^ Immaculate Heart History
  16. ^ Washington Post: "These nuns want Katy Perry to keep her hands off their old convent" (Convent of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary); 29 June 2015.
  17. ^ Michael Locke @ Flickr: Earle C. Anthony House—Convent of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, architect Bernard Maybeck (1927), info + image #1.
  18. ^ Michael Locke @ Flickr: Convent image #2
  19. ^ Michael Locke @ Flickr: Convent image #3
  20. ^ LA Curbed: "Katy Perry and Elderly Nuns Fighting For Control Of Spectacular Los Feliz Convent" (Convent of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary); 29 June 2015.
  21. ^ Immaculate Heart High School website

External links[edit]