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 are a Catholic teaching religious institute for women. The institute was founded in Spain in 1848 by Father Joachim Masmitjá as a means of rebuilding society through the education of young women.[1] A separate community was founded in Los Angeles, California, US in 1871, and formally established[clarification needed] in 1924.


Fr. Joaquni Masmitja

Joaquin Masmitjá was born in Olot, Spain, on December 29, 1808, the fourth child of Francisco and Maria Gracia. He entered the minor seminary for the Diocese of Gerona and then went on to get degrees in canon and civil law. Masmitjá, who was greatly devoted to the Blessed Virgin under the titles of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sorrowful Mother, was ordained a priest on February 22, 1834.[1]

Assigned to his hometown parish, Fr. Masmitjá became increasingly concerned over the poor education of young girls. he sought to rebuild society through their education in prayer and Christian Doctrine. On July 1, 1848, Fr. Joaquin Masmitjá founded the Institute of the Daughters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.[1]

During the Spanish Civil War Sisters Carmen (age 41), Rosa (age 36) and Magdalena (age 34) Fradera, who were also blood sisters, were executed by the militia. They are among the 498 Martyrs of 20th Century Spain beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.

United States[edit]


In 1869, Father Masmitja's friend the Bishop of Monterey, California was visiting Spain. 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. Their lifestyle attracted young women to follow the charisma of Fr. Masmitja, and 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 lifetime of Fr. Masmitja was established in Los Angeles (1886).[2]

On January 11, 1886 the IHMs began teaching in the Cathedral School of Los Angeles, directly behind the Cathedral. For several years it served as an elementary school, but under the leadership of Sister Gabriel, IHM, four years of high school were added. The high school was an academy for girls only. The IHMs taught at the Cathedral School until June 1969.[3] The sisters also ran orphanages.

Immaculate Heart Convent and College - later high school

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 convent, the Motherhouse. Bishop Francis J. Conaty played an important role in the acquisition of the property and the building of this Motherhouse for the IHMs. In 1916 Immaculate Heart College was established in Los Angeles. Part of the original convent building was razed in 1975 due to fire and safety concerns.[3]

Mother Genevieve Parker was instrumental in securing the separation of the California IHMs from the Spanish Community. With the help of Bishop John Joseph Cantwell of Los Angeles, the separation was completed in 1924 and Mother Genevieve was elected the first mother-general.[3]


In 1911, five sisters from Spain and two from California were sent to start a school in Mazatlán, Mexico.[2] 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. The sisters evangelized not just in the schools but, after regular classes, in many missions in small mining towns around Tucson. 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.

The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Tucson also have a Korean Ministry which allows the Korean Catholic community to use space at St. Ann’s Convent, for Liturgy and faith formation.The IHM sisters remain active in both Arizona and Florida.[4] In 2010 the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from Miami, started a new mission in La Concordia, Diocese of Jinoteca, Nicaragua, Central America.

Immaculate Heart Community[edit]

By the 1960s, there were 600 professed Sisters in 68 elementary schools, 11 high schools, one college, and two hospitals. In the late 1960s a dispute arose between the institute and Archbishop James Francis McIntyre of Los Angeles. 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 according to the principles of the Human Potential Movement. [5] 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 IHM 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. The sisters substituted habits for civilian attire and some of them had sexual experiences with therapists or other nuns.[6]

While the institute attempted to incorporate recommendation of Vatican II, Cardinal McIntyre refused to let the sisters teach in archdiocese schools unless they wore habits and adhered to a variety of traditional rules.[7] The sisters, in turn, objected to the Archbishop dictating their attire, bedtimes, and hours of prayer.[8]

Then-superior Anita Caspary remained firm in implementing the reforms and on 1 February 1970 about 300 of the IHM Sisters followed Caspary and were subsequently dispensed from their vows and fired from the schools in the archdiocese.[8][9][10] They went on to form a non-canonical group that admits both men and women known as the Immaculate Heart Community.[11] The 68 sisters who decided to remain were allowed to keep the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary as their name. As of 2015 there are five sisters.

An ensuing property settlement left remaining the IHM sisters with certain properties, while those dispensed obtained control of Immaculate Heart College and Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles.

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 does run a Center for Spiritual Renewal and La Casa de Maria on 26 acres in Montecito, California since 1943.[12] It was also the hub of activity for the Novitiate for many years.[13] As of 2011 the Immaculate Heart Community numbered 160 members.[7]


After failed attempts to resolve differences among themselves regarding the living of their original charism and the essential elements of religious life, Mother Joanne, a former Treasurer of the Institute, Sister Eileen and Sister Giovanni were directed by the Holy See to find another diocese that would welcome them and their works. They some relocated to the Diocese of Wichita in Kansas.[10] The IHM Sisters of Wichita work primarily in the ministries of education, youth ministry, retreat work, and conduct classes in Catholic catechesis.


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, and the complex was used as a location for the TV series My Name Is Earl and 90210. 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.[14] April 13th, 2016 a judge ruled that the property belonged to the Los Angeles Archdiocese, and that the Sisters planned sale to successful restaurateur named Dana Hollister for $15.5 million was not authorized.[15][16][17][18][19]

Educational institutions[edit]


Notable sisters[edit]

  • Sister Corita Kent — renowned artist and reform activist.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "History - Sisters of the IHM of Wichita". Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary: Timeline
  3. ^ a b c "The Immaculate Heart History", Immaculate Heart Community Archived July 4, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Arizona, Florida)
  5. ^ The Century of the Self: There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads; He Must Be Destroyed, Adam Curtis, 2002.
  6. ^ "We overcame their traditions, we overcame their faith, Dr William Marra interviews Dr William Coulson. Vol. 3, No. 1, January-February 1994 issue of "The Latin Mass."
  7. ^ a b 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. ^ Caspary, Anita. Witness to Integrity:The Crisis of the Immaculate Heart Community of California, Liturgical Press, (2003)
  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. ^ Immaculate Heart Center for Spiritual Renewal (Montecito, California).
  13. ^ Immaculate Heart History Archived July 4, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Michael Locke @ Flickr: Earle C. Anthony House—Convent of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, architect Bernard Maybeck (1927), info + image #1.
  16. ^ Michael Locke @ Flickr: Convent image #2
  17. ^ Michael Locke @ Flickr: Convent image #3
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Bascher, Danielle (October 31, 2015). "Katy Perry, 5 Nuns And 1 Hipster Neighborhood". Billboard. 127 (32): 42–45. 
  20. ^ Immaculate Heart High School website

External links[edit]