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The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) (founded as the Daughters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary) are a Catholic teaching religious institute for women. The institute was originally founded in Spain in 1848 by Father Joachim Masmitjá as a means of rebuilding society through the education of young women.
Father Masmitjá of the Diocese of Girona founded the institute in 1848 in an effort to alleviate the need for the education of children and girls in particular. After certain preparations, Father Masmitjá asked some of his more devout female spiritual directees to serve in a new religious institute. With their acceptance of his offer, the Daughters were officially formed on July 2, 1848.
In 1869, Father Masmitja's friend the Bishop of Monterey, California was visiting Spain. At that time, the bishop, Thaddeus Amat y Brusi, asked for some of the sisters to come to California. Two years later, with Father Masmitja's approval, Mother Raimunda led nine others to the new California mission. Once there, the sisters set to work administering existing and building new schools as well as administering orphanages. Mother Raimunda served as the provincial of the California sisters until her death in 1900.
By 1906, the sisters were able to build their own motherhouse. Also in the early twentieth century, the sisters began looking to separate from the Spanish parent institute. After several decades of ongoing negotiations and the help of Bishop John Cantwell of Los Angeles, the separation was completed in 1924 and Mother Genevieve was elected the first mother-general.
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During the late 1960s, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council and its call for renewal of religious life, the IHM sisters took part in an experiment led by the psychologist Carl Rogers (associated with the nearby Esalen Institute) who was promoting the 'encounter group', or what Abraham Maslow had referred to as 'Psychology Three.' In such encounter groups, under the direction of a facilitator, participants were encouraged to unmask their real feelings as they interacted with the other group participants. The first trial was held in 1966. With its apparent success, the experiment was begun en masse in 1967, with all the sisters and the schools they ran in the Los Angeles Archdiocese participating. These experiments took place in a general environment where already many religious institutes of women elected to discard habits, organized community life, and most other attributes of an organized religious congregation and the encounter groups facilitated such changes in the IHMs.
James Cardinal McIntyre of Los Angeles insisted that if the IHM Sisters were to continue teaching in the schools of the archdiocese, they would have to maintain a number of rules he believed were essential to female community life. The sisters, in turn, objected to the Archbishop dictating their attire, bedtimes, and hours of prayer. The Vatican congregation that oversaw religious life refused to intervene. Then-superior Anita Caspary remained firm in implementing the reform and, on February 1, 1970, roughly ninety percent followed Caspary and were dispensed from their vows. They went on to form a non-canonical group that admits both men and women known as the Immaculate Heart Community. An ensuing property settlement left remaining IHMs with certain properties, while those exiting obtained control of Immaculate Heart College and Immaculate Heart High School. Virtually no IHMs remained in teaching positions in the archdiocese's vast parochial school system, forefront of the exodus of religious that was soon to affect the nation's entire Roman Catholic school system.
After failed attempts to resolve differences with those remaining in the rump congregation, a group relocated to the Diocese of Wichita in Kansas. These IHM sisters remain active as does the small congregation in California.
In 1911, five sisters from Spain and two from California were sent to start a school in Mazatlán, Mexico. Six years later, in 1917, the sisters were forced to leave due to the Mexican Revolution. During a stop in their journey back to California, Bishop Henry Granjon of Tucson, Arizona invited the sisters to stay and they accepted. From there, they began building schools and accepting postulants. Due to growth over time, in 1946 the sisters in Arizona became the Province of Saint Joseph. The IHM sisters remain active in both Arizona and Florida.
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