Today, Immaculata University celebrates the founding of the congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM). Since their founding, the Sisters have dedicated their lives to teaching the next generation of students, and Immaculata University is honored to recognize their immense contributions.
Nov. 10, Founder’s Day, is a very special day for the Sisters of IHM! On this day the Sisters celebrate the life and legacy of Father Louis Florent Gillet, CSsR. As a young Redemptorist priest from Belgium, he traveled to Baltimore, then was assigned to do missionary work in a parish in Monroe, Michigan in 1843 and wanted to begin a school for his parish. He was unable to find a teaching community of Sisters anywhere so he said, “If I can’t find some sisters, I will make some!”
On a visit to Baltimore and his Redemptorist Community, Father Gillet said Mass for the Oblate Sisters of Providence. Two of these sisters, Theresa Maxis and Charlotte Schaaf, were eager to collaborate with Father Gillet, and they traveled to Monroe with the dream to begin the school. Father Gillet had been in contact previously with Therese Renauld in Gross Pointe, Michigan, who would join them.
On Nov. 10, 1845 that they met with Father Gillet after morning Mass and established a new religious community, which became the Sisters, Servant of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Father Gillet gave them a rule based on the Redemptorist rule and a simple habit. The two sisters professed vows as Mother Theresa Maxis, Sister Ann Schaaf, and Therese Renauld became a novice, taking the name Sister M. Celestine. Two months later, they opened a school for 44 girls in two log cabins there on the Raisin River in Michigan.
In 1858, the IHM Sisters, at the invitation of the Redemptorist Bishop, now St. John Neumann of Philadelphia, traveled east and established a mission in his diocese. The IHM community has grown since 1845. Seventy years later plans for Immaculata College were in the works, thanks to the genius of Mother Camilla and her successors. Today about 600 Sisters serve in over 40 missions (parishes, schools, programs, etc.) in Pennsylvania, and IHMs also minister in Florida, Georgia, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Virginia as well as in Peru, South America.
Father Gillet died in 1892 and is buried at the original IHM foundation in Monroe, Michigan. Mother Theresa also died in 1892 and is buried in the IHM cemetery by Camilla Hall.
It is a blessing for us to consider the lives of our ancestors in the faith. They have many lessons for us, such as dedication to the mission, and trust in Divine Providence. May the courage of Father Gillet and the creative hope of Mother Theresa Maxis inspire you as the Immaculata community continues to live the IU mission