Non-profit

The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Website:

www.bvmsisters.org/

Location:

Dubuque, IA

Tax ID:

52-1235775

Formation:

1946

Type:

Left-of-center religious order

President:

Teri Hadro

ESG Activism

Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Sisters of Charity BVM) is a religious order of Catholic nuns that advocates for left-of-center social policy in both the public and private sector. Originally founded in the United States to provide education, the order has expanded in recent years to pursue political activism and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) advocacy in the private sector. Members of the order have advocated for left-of-center policies on healthcare, environmentalism, LGBT issues, illegal immigration, and capital punishment. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

History

Early Years

Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary was founded in 1833 by Mary Frances Clarke in Philadelphia. Clarke moved to Philadelphia from her convent in Ireland in 1833 to start an education apostolate along with other Catholic nuns from the Irish order. The nuns worked at teachers at St. Michael’s Church to start a parochial school, and they were officially given the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary title by the bishop in Philadelphia on November 1, 1833. [7]

In 1843, the order moved to  Dubuque, Iowa, where it is currently headquartered. Alongside the headquarters where many of the sisters still reside today, the Sisters of Charity built the St. Mary Academy boarding school. The original school established in Dubuque became Mount St. Joseph, now named Clarke University, in 1881. In 1885, church leadership made education the permanent, official operation of the order. By 1908, the order included 1,000 nuns and had educated 25,000 students. [8]

Advocacy Shift

In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary shifted its structure and purpose. The Tenth General Chapter allowed for changes in the order’s practices which allowed sisters to apply for outside jobs, and in 1972, the order created an associate program that continues to the present day. Through the associate program, lay supporters of the order and people of various religions attend political rallies and advocate for left-of-center policy in association with the Sisters of Charity BVM . [9] [10]

In 1974, the Sisters of Charity BVM joined six Catholic congregations in founding the left-wing 8th Day Center for Justice, an independent nonprofit organization which works as an “alternative voice to oppressive systems.” [11] [12] The Center supports left-of-center policy on social issues and has partnered with major left-of-center and left-wing organizations including 350.org, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the Gay Liberation Network (GLN), Jobs with Justice (JWP), and Jewish Voice for Peace. [13]

Senior-Living Center

In February 2021, contractors completed the first phase of a $90 million construction project to add senior living facilities to the Sisters of Charity’s Dubuque’s campus. The facilities were planned to house aging nuns. [14] As of May 2021, the Sisters of Charity operates in twenty-three states in the United States, Colombia, Guatemala, Ghana, and Ecuador, and it includes over 5,000 nuns. [15]

Advocacy Initiatives

In the early 2000s, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary became outwardly politically active. The order has since supported left-of-center policy implementation on issues including immigration, fiscal policy, and environmentalism. [16]

Immigration

Since 2014 and increasingly in recent years, the Sisters of Charity BVM has supported left-of-center immigration policy. On July 24, 2014, the order signed onto a letter to then-President Barack Obama and Congress asking for various changes to immigration policies, including leniency for unaccompanied immigrant children. [17]

During the Trump administration, the order focused on left-of-center immigration advocacy. Early in 2017, the Sisters of Charity BVM denounced then-President Donald Trump’s executive order 13769, which barred immigration to the United States for 90 days from countries which did not meet the adjudication standards of U.S. immigration law. [18] Later that year, the order signed a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asking for the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program to be expanded to illegal immigrants from Haiti. [19]

In 2019, the order’s immigration advocacy work increased substantially. In June 2019, the order signed a letter in support of ending the separation of illegal immigrant families. That same month, the order also signed a statement in support of H.R. 1011, which sought to prohibit the enforcement of immigration laws in some public locations, including courthouses. [20] [21] [22] [23] In July 2019, members of the Sisters of Charity BVM were arrested while protesting the Trump administration’s immigration policies in the Russell Senate Office Building. [24]

In August 2019, the Sisters of Charity BVM signed a letter written by Church World Service (CWS) asking the Trump administration to admit 95,000 refugees into the United States in fiscal year 2020. The order had signed a similar letter on February 13, 2019. [25] [26] Later that month, the order signed a letter asking that a rule which proposed that any illegal immigrant crossing the U.S.-Mexico border must apply for asylum in Mexico before applying for asylum in the United States be withdrawn. [27]

In February 2021, the Sisters of Charity BVM signed a letter to President Joe Biden and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas requesting that 18 countries receive TPS designation. Later that month, the order signed an additional letter to Secretary Mayorkas claiming that black migrants were targeted for deportation at the U.S.-Mexico border. [28] In March of the same year, the order signed onto a letter organized by the left-of-center advocacy organizations Families Belong Together and MomsRising to end contracting with private prisons for illegal immigrant detention. [29]

Budget Issues

Members of the Sisters of Charity BVM joined the “Nuns on the Bus” advocacy trip across nine states in opposition to the 2012 federal budget proposed by then-U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI). The tour aimed to criticize cuts in entitlement programs proposed by the budget and respond to the Vatican’s rebuke of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious for going against the Catholic faith in promoting a left-of-center agenda that refused to condemn abortion or same-sex marriage. [30]

The order has continued to support left-of-center fiscal policy in recent years. In 2017, the Sisters of Charity BVM signed a letter written by the left-of-center Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) opposing legislation that sought to prevent Medicaid expansion and limit Medicaid block grant funding. [31] Two years later, the order signed a letter to Congress written by Coalition on Human Needs to request an increase in federal spending on entitlement programs and signed a letter supporting the expansion of the earned income tax credit (EITC). [32] [33]

In February 2021, the Sisters of Charity BVM signed onto a letter supporting the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion proposal by the Biden administration to promote economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic through an influx of government funding. [34]

ESG Activism

In recent years, the Sisters of Charity BVM has become increasingly involved in the ESG movement. In 2018, the order announced that it would divest its assets from the conventional energy industry, instead investing in environmentalist energy projects. [35] In October 2019,, the order was commended as a runner up for an award from environmentalist advocacy group Interfaith Power and Light. [36]

On April 8, 2019, the order signed a letter written by the ICCR denouncing several banks for financing private prison organizations. The order signed a similar on July 30, 2019. [37] At the same time, the order was promoting left-of-center criminal justice policies in the public sphere, including opposing the death penalty. [38] In April 2019, the order was credited with pressuring Yum Brands Inc. to form policies based on ESG advocacy, along with the ICCR. [39]

In November 2019, the order wrote a letter to the chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) condemning proposed rules that would limit the ability of companies to enforce ESG policies. [40]

Criticism by the Vatican

The Sisters of Charity BVM has faced investigation by Vatican authorities for allegedly dissenting publicly from Church teachings in pursuit of its left-of-center social-justice agenda. In April 2016, the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life sent a letter to the order clarify what the Vatican characterized as “dissent form the Church’s moral teaching” present in the order’s activism. Vatican officials also described the order’s views to have “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” Sisters of Charity BVM president Teri Hadro denied the Vatican’s claims. [41] [42]

During her outgoing address as president of a similar organization, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), then-Sisters of Charity BVM president Mary Ann Zollman made a statement in support of LGBT issues that denounced local bishops for opposing same-sex relationships. Vatican officials launched a doctrinal investigation into  the Sisters of Charity BVM and related organizations, evaluating the statement as evidence. [43]

References

  1. “Our History.” Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 2020. Accessed January 15, 2020. https://www.bvmsisters.org/about-us/history/ ^
  2. Social Justice.” Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 2020. Accessed January 16, 2020, https://www.bvmsisters.org/social-justice/ ^
  3. “Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Dubuque, Iowa.” Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN), May 17, 2017. https://catholicsmobilizing.org/church-speaks/sisters-charity-blessed-virgin-mary-dubuque-iowa. ^
  4. “Sisters of Charity.” Catholic Answers. Catholic Answers, February 22, 2019. https://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/Sisters-of-Charity#V._SISTERS_OF_CHARITY_OF_THE_BLESSED_VIRGIN_MARY. ^
  5. Gramick, Jeannine. “LGBT People: ‘Sisters Are on Our Side!’.” Global Sisters Report, January 2, 2018. https://www.globalsistersreport.org/column/equality/lgbt-people-sisters-are-our-side-51096. ^
  6. [1] Sadowski, Dennis. “19 More Catholic Institutions Divest from Fossil Fuel Industry.” America Magazine, September 12, 2018. https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2018/09/12/19-more-catholic-institutions-divest-fossil-fuel-industry. ^
  7. “The Catholic Church in the United States of America.” https://books.google.com/books?id=x70YAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA5&dq=Antoinette+Fage&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjG4NvEzuLjAhVF2FkKHTu9DSw4ChDoAQg4MAM#v=onepage&q=Antoinette%20Fage&f=false ^
  8. “The Catholic Church in the United States of America.” https://books.google.com/books?id=x70YAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA5&dq=Antoinette+Fage&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjG4NvEzuLjAhVF2FkKHTu9DSw4ChDoAQg4MAM#v=onepage&q=Antoinette%20Fage&f=false ^
  9. “BVM Associate News.” Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 2019. https://www.bvmsisters.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Associate-Newsletter-Fall-2019.pdf. ^
  10. Araujo-Hawkins, Dawn. “As 8th Day Center for Justice enters final year, sisters shepherd center’s conclusion.” National Catholic Reporter. September 28, 2017. Accessed January 21, 2020. https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/ministry-equality/8th-day-center-justice-enters-final-year-sisters-shepherd-centers-conclusion ^
  11. Araujo-Hawkins, Dawn. “As 8th Day Center for Justice enters final year, sisters shepherd center’s conclusion.” National Catholic Reporter. September 28, 2017. Accessed January 21, 2020. https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/ministry-equality/8th-day-center-justice-enters-final-year-sisters-shepherd-centers-conclusion ^
  12. “About Us.” 8th Day Center for Justice. Accessed May 26, 2021. https://8thdaycenter.org/about-us-2/index.html. ^
  13. “Partners and Coalitions.” 8th Day Center for Justice. Accessed May 26, 2021. https://8thdaycenter.org/partners-and-coalitions/index.html. ^
  14. Montgomery, Jeff. “With Completion of 1st Phase of $90 Million Project, Mount Carmel Moves Closer to next Chapter.” TelegraphHerald.com. Telegraph Herald, February 25, 2021. https://www.telegraphherald.com/news/tri-state/article_aea9d81c-90fd-57f9-a505-0d28c855dcd1.html. ^
  15. “History Overview.” Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, March 6, 2018. https://www.bvmsisters.org/about-us/history/. ^
  16. Goodstein, Laurie. “Nuns, Rebuked by Rome, Plan Roadtrip to Spotlight Social Issues.” The New York Times. June 5, 2012. Accessed January 20, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/us/us-nuns-bus-tour-to-spotlight-social-issues.html ^
  17. Feere, Jon. “2008 Trafficking Law Largely Inapplicable to Current Border Crisis.” Center for Immigration Studies. July 16, 2014. Accessed January 16, 2020. https://cis.org/2008-Trafficking-Law-Largely-Inapplicable-Current-Border-Crisis ^
  18. Mapes, Lynda V. “Seattle-area worshippers mourn, denounce Trump’s immigration ban.” The Seattle Times. January 29, 2017. Accessed January 20, 2020. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/worshippers-mourn-denounce-trumps-immigration-ban/ ^
  19. “RE: Request to Extend Temporary Protected Status for Haiti.” The Interfaith Immigration Coalition. Accessed May 26, 2021. http://www.interfaithimmigration.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Haiti-TPS-Extension_Interfaith-Ltr-to-Sec-Kelly_1-May-2017.pdf. ^
  20. “Congregational Endorsements.” Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, April 12, 2021. https://www.bvmsisters.org/social-justice/congregational-endorsements/. ^
  21. Soskin, Ben. “Rep. Roybal-Allard Introduces Bills to Help Separated Immigrant Families and Children.” Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, June 25, 2019. https://roybal-allard.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=401602. ^
  22. “Congregational Endorsements.” Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, April 12, 2021. https://www.bvmsisters.org/social-justice/congregational-endorsements/. ^
  23. Espaillat, Adriano. “H.R.1011 – 116th Congress (2019-2020): Protecting Sensitive Locations Act.” Congress.gov, March 25, 2019. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1011. ^
  24. Lang, Marissa J. “Dozens Arrested in D.C. in Catholic-Led Protest over Trump Immigration Policies.” WacoTrib.com. Waco Tribune-Herald, July 21, 2019. https://wacotrib.com/dozens-arrested-in-d-c-in-catholic-led-protest-over-trump-immigration-policies/article_3a2e711c-196b-5973-90f0-1f6d05d57c48.html. ^
  25. “Refugee Advocates Call on Congress to Restore the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.” CWS. Church World Service, February 13, 2019. https://greateras1.org/refugee-advocates-call-on-congress-to-restore-the-u-s-refugee-admissions-program/. ^
  26. “Congregational Endorsements.” Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, April 12, 2021. https://www.bvmsisters.org/social-justice/congregational-endorsements/. ^
  27. “Asylum Eligibility and Procedural Modifications.” Federal Register. Government of the United States, July 16, 2019. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/07/16/2019-15246/asylum-eligibility-and-procedural-modifications. ^
  28. “Congregational Endorsements.” Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, April 12, 2021. https://www.bvmsisters.org/social-justice/congregational-endorsements/. ^
  29. “Congregational Endorsements.” Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, April 12, 2021. https://www.bvmsisters.org/social-justice/congregational-endorsements/. ^
  30. Goodstein, Laurie. “Nuns, Rebuked by Rome, Plan Roadtrip to Spotlight Social Issues.” The New York Times. June 5, 2012. Accessed January 20, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/us/us-nuns-bus-tour-to-spotlight-social-issues.html ^
  31. “Dear Senator.” Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. Accessed May 26, 2021. https://www.iccr.org/sites/default/files/resources_attachments/2017_6-19_medicaid_sign-on_letterfinal.pdf. ^
  32. “Dear Representative/Senator.” Coalition on Human Needs. Accessed May 26, 2021. https://www.chn.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/National-Cap-Lifting-Letter-Final.pdf. ^
  33. “Dear Member of Congress.” Alliance to End Hunger. Accessed May 26, 2021. https://alliancetoendhunger.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Dear-Colleague-108-Natl-Groups-for-cosponsoring-HR3157-WFTRA-9_20_19.pdf. ^
  34. “Congregational Endorsements.” Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, April 12, 2021. https://www.bvmsisters.org/social-justice/congregational-endorsements/. ^
  35. Sadowski, Dennis. “19 more Catholic institutions divest from the fossil fuel industry.” Crux. September 11, 2018. Accessed January 20, 2020. https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2018/09/19-more-catholic-institutions-divest-from-fossil-fuel-industry/ ^
  36. “Sisters of Charity Win Energy Saver Award.” Iowa Interfaith Power & Light. October 29, 2018, Accessed January 20, 2020. https://iowaipl.org/2018/10/29/sisters-of-charity-win-energy-saver-award/ ^
  37. “Dear Mr. Dimon.” Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, April 8, 2019. https://www.iccr.org/sites/default/files/page_attachments/jpmc_followup_letter_to_iccr_private_prison_engagement-_final.pdf. ^
  38. “Iowa clergy speak out against death penalty.” Des Moines Register. January 31, 2018. Accessed January 21, 2020. https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2018/01/31/iowa-faith-leaders-speak-out-against-calls-enact-death-penalty/1079028001/ ^
  39. Greer, Carolyn Tribble. “Yum Brands commits to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” Louisville Business First. April 18, 2019. Accessed January 21, 2020. https://www.bizjournals.com/louisville/news/2019/04/18/yum-brands-commits-to-reducing-greenhouse-gas.html ^
  40. “S7-23-19 Procedural Requirements and Resubmission Thresholds under Exchange Act Rule 14a-8 and S7-22-19 Amendments to Exemptions from the Proxy Rules for Proxy Voting Advice .” Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, November 21, 2019. https://www.sec.gov/comments/s7-22-19/s72219-6495314-199624.pdf. ^
  41. Araujo-Hawkins, Dawn. “Sisters of Mercy Also Being Asked to Come to Rome for Conversation.” Global Sisters Report. National Catholic Reporter, July 5, 2016. https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/trends/sisters-mercy-also-being-asked-come-rome-conversation-40771. ^
  42. Lester, Kerry. “Suburban Catholics Join in Debate after Vatican Rebuke of Nuns.” Daily Herald. Daily Herald, May 29, 2012. https://www.dailyherald.com/article/20120529/news/705299969/. ^
  43. Gramick, Jeannine. “LGBT people: ‘Sisters are on our side!’” The National Catholic Reporter. January 2, 2018. Accessed January 20, 2020. https://www.globalsistersreport.org/column/equality/lgbt-people-sisters-are-our-side-51096 ^
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The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary


Dubuque, IA