by Colleen Taylor Sen
The order, Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM), was founded in 1831 by five women in Dublin, Ireland, led by Mary Frances Clarke. They originally immigrated to Philadelphia, moving in 1843 to Dubuque, Iowa, which remains their headquarters to this day. Committed to education, especially of girls, they founded and staffed elementary and high schools and developed a cross-country educational network. They began teaching in Chicago in 1867, and in 1931, opened Mundelein College, the world’s first skyscraper college for women. The 1958, fire at Our Lady of Angels Schools resulted in the death of three BVM teachers. Engaged with the issues of the times, social justice, equality, inclusiveness, peace and ecology, today the nearly 600 members serve in diverse ministries in more than 20 states and three foreign countries, continuing the adventurous lives of their founders.