Sisters of St. Joseph of Buffalo Historical Timeline


  • The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet received a request from Bishop John Timon to send Sisters of St. Joseph to Western New York. Four Sisters arrived at St. Mary’s Parish in Canandaigua on December 8,1854, with Mother Agnes Spencer as their first Superior. The Sisters established a school and orphanage.


  • The Board of Trustees of St. Mary’s Benevolent Society at a meeting on November 2nd petitioned the Sisters of St. Joseph in the Diocese to teach the deaf.

St. Louis School, exact date unknown, late 19th century.

St. Mary’s School, Dunkirk NY(1893)


  • Sisters from Carondelet left for Buffalo. They established a school at Immaculate Conception Parish, living in three small cottages on land donated to the Buffalo Diocese by Philanthropist Louis LeCouteulx. The Sisters began teaching at nearby St. Louis School in 1858.


  • Four Sisters led by Mother Veronica Cheers arrived in November 1857 at St Joseph’s Orphanage in West Seneca (present-day Lackawanna) at the request of Rev. Thomas Hines.

  • Bishop John Timon removed Mother Agnes Spencer from her position in 1858. She became the Superior of a School and Orphanage at St. Mary’s Parish in Dunkirk NY. Mother Agnes left the Congregation two years later when she became the Reverend Mother of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Erie PA.


  • Mother Julia Littlenecker Reverend Mother of the Congregation until 1861, followed by Mother Magdalen Weber from 1861-67, and Mother Anastasia Donovan from 1867-1869.


  • Construction of St. Mary’s School for the Deaf and Motherhouse is completed. The residential school was located on 125 Edward St in Buffalo and opened on September 2,1862. Mother Mary Anne Burke is first Principal, a role that she continued until her death in 1927.

From top l to r: 1. Illustration of St. Mary’s School for the Deaf and Motherhouse, artist unknown, late 1860s or early 1870s; 2. Mother Mary Anne Burke (1870s); Mother Anastasia Donovan (1870s); Sisters of St. Joseph with Rev. Nelson Baker at St. John’s Protectory (late 1890s).


  • The Sisters assisted with the operations of St. John’s Protectory, a reformatory home for older boys. Rev. Nelson Baker becomes Superintendent of the Protectory and St. Joseph’s Orphanage in 1882. He forged a successful partnership with the Sisters of St. Joseph to serve the needs of Lackawanna.


  • The Sisters opened many new missions in the City of Buffalo over the next 35 years: St. Vincent de Paul School (1865), St. Michael’s School (1866), St. Francis Xavier School (1871), St. Boniface School (1872), St. Joseph’s School (1882), St. John the Baptist School (1883), Working Boys Home (1888); Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1897), and St. Mary Magdalene School (1898).


  • New educational missions outside of the City of Buffalo included Sacred Heart in Niagara Falls (1867), St. Vincent’s in Akron OH (1868); Sacred Heart in Dunkirk (1873); St. John the Baptist in Alden (1876), St. Patrick’s in Niagara Falls, Ontario (1877); Good Shepherd in Pendleton (1885), St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in New Oregon (1885), St. Peter and Paul in Williamsville (1886), St. Pius in Cohocton (1888); St. Mary’s in Chillicothe OH (1891); St. Patrick’s in Salamanca (1892), St. Martin’s School in Langford (1892), St. Patrick’s in Java Center (1893), and St. Mary’s School in Medina (1899).


  • The Diocese of Buffalo and Rochester separate; the Sisters split between the two congregations.

  • Mother Mary Anne became the new Reverend Mother the following year after Mother Anastasia steps down. Mother Mary Anne remained in her position for the next 44 years. Mother Anastasia spent four decades as the Superior at St. Mary’s Home and School in Dunkirk.


  • St. Joseph’s Farm and School was established for male orphans on a sixty acre plot purchased on Bennett Road in Dunkirk. The farm provided for the nutritional needs of the Dunkirk missions.

1.Photo at top left is Sister Marcelline Brophy during the 1880s, first Principal of Our Lady of Victory Elementary School and the first Superior of Our Lady of Victory Infant Home; Photo of Faculty and Students at Mt. St. Joseph Academy (1893); 3. Photo taken of a graduating class at Ascension School in North Tonawanda NY circa 1910. 4. Sister Mary Thomas Ryan outside of St. Mary’s Home for Business Women in the early 1910s.


  • Our Lady of Victory School in Lackawanna is formally established as an elementary school taught by the Sisters. A high school program began in 1921. Victory Academy High School, as later named, closed in 1972. Our Lady of Victory Elementary School remains in operation.


  • The Sisters of St. Joseph purchased the former Bailey estate on Main St. in Buffalo in 1883. They named it Mt. St. Joseph Farm. Mother Mary Anne planned a new Motherhouse. The Novitiate for the Congregation moved to the property in 1889.

  • The Institutional Board of St. Mary’s School for the Deaf purchased twenty-three acres of land at Main and East Forest Ave (Dewey Ave.) to build a larger school. The younger boys at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf move to the property to accommodate the school’s overcrowded conditions.


  • Construction of Mt. St. Joseph Academy and Motherhouse is completed in 1891. Mt. St. Joseph Academy is set up as a residential school for girls through the high school level and a limited number of young boys.


  • The opening ceremony for the new building for St. Mary’s School for the Deaf is on December 8,1898. The former site for the school at 125 Edward St. is repurposed as St. Mary’s Home for Business Women, a residential boarding house for single and widowed women. It remained open until 1948.

  • The Sisters of St. Joseph organized schools in St. John the Baptist in Boston (1904), Mt. St. Joseph Boys School (1904), Immaculate Conception in East Aurora (1906), St. Vincent de Paul School in Attica NY (1906), Our Mother of Good Counsel in Blasdell (1906), Ascension School in North Tonawanda (1907), St. Joseph’s School in Fredonia (1915), St. Charles Borromeo in Lackawanna (1919), Our Lady of Loretto School in Falconer NY (1925), St. John the Baptist de la Salle School in Niagara Falls (1925), and Christ the King School in Snyder NY (1929). New diocesan schools in Buffalo included St. Anthony of Padua Italian (1907), Blessed Trinity (1907), St. Matthew’s (1907), St. Francis de Sales (1913), St. Margaret’s (1917), and St. Mark’s School (1921).

From top left: 1. Sister Leo Hyland and Sister Stanislaus Provencher in Salamanca in 1925; 2. St. Vincent de Paul School in Attica NY in 1928, l to r is unidentified man;, Sister Marguerite Sauter, Sister Dolorosa McCue, Sister Gerard Murphy, Sister Ursula Clarke, unidentified woman, Sister Bathilde Bennett; 3. Sister Eugene Karg and her first class at St. Matthew’s School (1933).


  • Sister Josephine Hourihan and other community members began taking care of young children at the request of Father Nelson Baker, who was concerned about high infant mortality rates locally. Our Lady of Victory Infant Home opened in 1909 with Sister Marcelline Brophy as the Superior.

Mother Scholastica Kerwin (date of photo unknown)

Mother Constantia

Mother Constantia Driscoll ( late 1920s or early 1930s)


  • Sister Ernestine Dowd and Sister Columba Deely opened St. Vincent’s Home for the Aged for elderly men and women.

  • Mother Mary Anne Burke stepped down as Reverend Mother in 1913 but remains Principal of St. Mary’s School for the Deaf. Mother Mary of the Sacred Heart Dunne (1913-1916) and Mother Scholastica Kerwin (1916-1919) are elected to three year terms. Mother Austin Teresa Quinn is Reverend Mother from 1919-1928.


  • Our Lady of Victory Hospital opened through the efforts of Rev. Nelson Baker, Sisters of St. Joseph, and a group of physicians in response to the Spanish Flu Epidemic in 1918.


  • Sister Agnes Joseph Gracey created Mt. St. Joseph Normal Training School. It is designed as a three-year collegiate training program for the Sisters.


  • Mother Mary Anne Burke died on December 9,1927. Mother Constantia Driscoll is appointed the new head of St. Mary’s School for the Deaf. She holds this position for one year until elected Congregational Superior in 1928 until 1937.

From top left: 1. Sister John Catherine (Dorothy) Feltz; 2. Sister Mary Ann (Mary Edwin) Kolb at Mt. St. Joseph Kindergarten in Clarence in Oct.1965; 3. Groundbreaking ceremony for the Clarence Residence on March 23,1970 as Sister Madonna Sweet and Sister Mary Anne Devine look on in background; 4. Photo of Mother Hubert Pollard (seated), Sister Mary Anne Devine (standing left), and Mother Harold Brown.


  • St. Joseph’s School for Exceptional Children opened on the former land where St. Joseph’s Farm was located. St. Joseph’s School for Exceptional Children taught students with learning disabilities.


  • The Sisters of St. Joseph began teaching at Bishop O’Hern High School until 1971.


  • Mother Harold Brown is the last Reverend Mother elected in the Congregation, remaining in that position for the next six years. Mother Harold and the Sisters initiated a new capital fundraising campaign to build a new Motherhouse and Seniorate.


  • The Sisters opened Mt. St. Joseph Business Institute, which provided college-level business training for recent high school classes. Taught by Sister St. Paul Emry and Sister Mary Patrick Murphy, it closed in 1972.

  • Mt. St. Joseph Teachers College changed its name to Mt. St. Joseph College to reflect the diversity of its academic programs.


  • Mt. St. Joseph Kindergarten Branch in Clarence opens, with Sister Mary Ann Kolb as the Principal. It expanded to include other grades. The school is located in a house on 121 acres of land that the Congregation purchased from Carl Metzger for the new Motherhouse.

  • The Sisters of St. Joseph begins missions in Bolivia and Peru. Sister Judy Justinger missioned in Columbia and Peru during the 1990s.


  • Mt. St. Joseph College was re-organized as Medaille College, a secular co-educational college that admitted lay people. The Sisters of St. Joseph gave up formal ownership of the school, but the first dean of Medaille College was Sister Alice Huber.

  • The Sisters of St. Joseph receive permission to change the Habit on January 27th.

From top left: 1. Sister Marion Grimes and Sister Marion Zimmer at the Opening of the Center for Justice in 1974; 2. LCWR Religious Women’s March for Justice in Washington D.C. on May 30,1982 with Sister Jean Marie Zirnheld, Sister Karen Klimczak, Sister Augusta Kaiser, and Sister Linda Glaeser 3. Sister Philip Marie Cirincione as a pastoral associate at St. Boniface Parish in 1973, she later missioned as a Pastoral Associate for St. Martin de Porres Parish.


  • Mother Mary Anne Devine is the first President of the Congregation (1969-1977).


  • Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Clarence Residence is March 23,1970.

  • Siegfried Construction finished building the Motherhouse in the beginning of Fall 1970. The laying of the Cornerstone for the Residence occurred on November 1, 1970. Mt. St. Joseph Academy Motherhouse is demolished soon after.

  • Many of the Diocesan Schools administered by the Sisters closed by the early 1970s. The Sisters became increasingly involved in Social Justice and Spiritual Ministry. The Congregation permitted Sisters to live independently from the existing convents.


  • Center for Justice was founded in 1974 by Sister Marion Zimmer and Sister Kathy Rimar, OSF. Its mission was to advocate for social justice in Buffalo and globally. Several of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Buffalo worked with the Center before it closed in 1995.


  • Center for Christian Living founded by Sister Michele Beiter and Sister Marie Kerwin. The Center focused on spiritual enrichment and renewal and remained open until 1991.


  • The Congregation elected Sister Madonna Sweet as the President (1977-1985).


  • Groundbreaking on the Claremount Apartments is on June 15, 1978. The Claremount is a subsidized housing complex for the elderly adjacent to the Clarence Residence.


  • Sister Karen Klimczak established Hope House as transitional housing for men who have recently leaving incarceration. It is now known as Bissonette House part of Peaceprints of WNY.

From top left is 1. Sister Bette DiCesare is standing center left with a family from the Clarence Refugee program in 1987; 2. First Associate Commitment Ceremony on March 19,1988 ( l to r) Associate Rev. Michael DelVecchio, Sister Mary Walter Love, and Associate Ann Marie Walter; 3. Sister Bea Manzella and Sister Agnes Clare Hatch at the opening of the Heritage Center in May 1998.


  • Sister Mary Walter Love is President from 1985-1988. Sister Mary Anne Devine served as acting president from 1988-1989 after Sister Mary Walter died. Sister Jean Marie Zirnheld is President from 1989 until 1993.

  • A new transitional housing program for refugee begins in the Clarence Residence. The program continued until the late 1990s.


  • The Associate Program of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Buffalo was created.


  • Sister Bea Manzella served two terms as President from 1993 until 2002. The Sisters sponsored ministries during her time as President which included the St. Joseph’s Center for Spirituality; The Family Support Center in Clarence beginning in 1994; T.R.Y. (Teaching and Restoring Youth), founded by Sister Augusta Kaiser in 1997 to provide adolescent girls with transitional housing.


  • Renovation of the Clarence Residence is complete, with an updated dining room for the Sisters as well as a new heritage room.


  • Sister Elizabeth Savage was President from 2002-2007, Sister Loretta Young was president from 2007-2009, and Sister Jean Marie Zirnheld was reelected as President in 2009 for two five year terms.


  • The Sisters of St. Joseph hold the 150th Anniversary Celebration of the arrival of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canandaigua. The Sisters and friends put on a production at St. Louis Church on December 8,2004 of Tom Fontana’s play Full Circle

Sister Karen Klimczak outside of Hope House in 2000;

Sister Marion Zimmer and Associate James Mang preparing for the opening of the Sister Karen Klimczak Center in early 2007. Associate Audrey Mang donated the photo in 2021.


  • Sister Karen Klimczak Center for Nonviolence opens in February 2007 in her memory. One of the Congregation’s missions, it supported Sister Karen’s work in nonviolence advocacy and education.


  • The Sisters of St. Joseph moved their Congregational Offices from the property at 10324 Main Street on the property to the Clarence Residence. The property at 10324 main st. was sold.


  • New Leadership Team is President Sister Patrice Ryan with Sister Beth Ann Finster, Sister Janet DiPasquale, and Sister Mary Lou Schnitzer.


  • The Leadership Team established a new collaborative partnership with the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur of the Eastern Region for some of their Sisters to live in the Clarence Residence. They joined several Sisters of Social Services who already lived here.