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Introduction

Arizona Anniversary Logo

September 1st, 1933.

Four Black Cap Sisters of Charity from western Pennsylvania step off of a steaming Southern Pacific railroad to their most foreign mission yet – the American Southwest.  A bustling new frontier in the 1920s became part of the nation’s most severe economic crisis – the Great Depression. A state in its infancy – only 21-years old.  Mass deportation of Mexican-American workers and their families. A growing, unschooled Catholic population eager to devote themselves to the faith.

Arizona in 1933 was, perhaps, no longer the “wild” West of lore, but regional and national upheaval created a place rife with conflict, as well as opportunity.

What led the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill to this new frontier? How did they cope with being a stranger in a strange land? As is characteristic of Mother Seton’s Sisters of Charity, they thrived.

The Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill would go on to staff 12 schools, conduct catechetical and social service programs for multiple parishes throughout Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Mexico, aid Indian groups throughout the American Southwest, and serve as a guiding force of Catholic dedication and service for the people of Arizona.

At their height in the 1960s, over 70 Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill were missioned to the West. Since 1933, over 330 Sisters, 30% of the community, have been missioned to the West.

This exhibit, Pioneer Women, intends to honor the legacy of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill and their missions in Tucson, Ajo, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Chandler, Arizona, in addition to Lakewood, California and Mexico, on this 85th anniversary year.

In her opening proclamation on the 60th anniversary (1993), Sr. Alice Ruane said, “Diversity characterizes the ministries of the Sisters of the West.”

Delve into the diverse personalities, histories, and experiences of our Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill in the American Southwest.