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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. A separate community was founded in Los Angeles, California, US in 1871, and formally established in 1924.
Joaquin Masmitjá was born in Olot, Spain, on December 29, 1808, the fourth child of Francisco and Maria Gracia. He entered the minor seminary for the Diocese of Gerona and then went on to get degrees in canon and civil law. Masmitjá, who was greatly devoted to the Blessed Virgin under the titles of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sorrowful Mother, was ordained a priest on February 22, 1834.
Assigned to his hometown parish, Fr. Masmitjá became increasingly concerned over the poor education of young girls. he sought to rebuild society through their education in prayer and Christian Doctrine. On July 1, 1848, Fr. Joaquin Masmitjá founded the Institute of the Daughters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
During the Spanish Civil War Sisters Carmen (age 41), Rosa (age 36) and Magdalena (age 34) Fradera, who were also blood sisters, were executed by the militia. They are among the 498 Martyrs of 20th Century Spain beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.
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. The Sisters established two houses, one in Gilroy and the other in San Juan. Very soon, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart were teaching in several schools in different parts of California. Their lifestyle attracted young women to followed the charism of Fr. Masmitja, and the Sisters inaugurated a third house in San Luis Obispo (1876), a fourth house in San Bernardino (1880), and finally the last house during the lifetime of Fr. Masmitja was established in Los Angeles (1886).
On January 11, 1886 the IHMs began teaching in the Cathedral School of Los Angeles, directly behind the Cathedral. For several years it served as an elementary school, but under the leadership of Sister Gabriel, IHM, four years of high school were added. The high school was an academy for girls only. The IHMs taught at the Cathedral School until June 1969. The sisters also ran 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. Bishop Francis J. Conaty played an important role in the acquisition of the property and the building of this Motherhouse for the IHMs. In 1916 Immaculate Heart College was established in Los Angeles. (The building was razed in 1975 due to fire and safety concerns.
Mother Genevieve Parker was instrumental in securing the separation of the California IHMs from the Spanish Community. With the help of Bishop John Joseph Cantwell of Los Angeles, the separation was completed in 1924 and Mother Genevieve was elected the first mother-general.
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. The sisters evangelized not just in the schools but, after regular classes, in many missions in small mining towns around Tucson. Due to growth over time, in 1946 the sisters in Arizona became the Province of Saint Joseph. In 1947 the Novitiate moved to Sabino Canyon Road, at the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains outside Tucson.
The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Tucson also have a Korean Ministry which allows the Korean Catholic community to use space at St. Ann’s Convent, for Liturgy and faith formation.The IHM sisters remain active in both Arizona and Florida. In 2010 the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from Miami, started a new mission in La Concordia, Diocese of Jinoteca, Nicaragua, Central America.
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By the 1960s, there were 600 professed Sisters in 68 elementary schools, 11 high schools, one college, and two hospitals. In the late 1960s a dispute arose between the institute and Archbishop James Francis McIntyre of Los Angeles. While the institute attempted to incorporate recommendation of Vatican II, Cardinal McIntyre refused to let the sisters teach in archdiocese schools unless they wore habits and adhered to a variety of traditional rules.
Archbishop 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.
Then-superior Anita Caspary remained firm in implementing the reforms and on 1 February 1970 about 300 of the IHM Sisters followed Caspary and were subsequently dispensed from their vows and fired from the schools in the archdiocese. They went on to form a non-canonical group that admits both men and women known as the Immaculate Heart Community. The 68 sisters who decided to remain were allowed to keep the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary as their name. As of 2015 there are five sisters.
An ensuing property settlement left remaining the IHM sisters with certain properties, while those dispensed obtained control of Immaculate Heart College and Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles.
The headquarters of the Immaculate Heart Community are located 5515 Franklin Avenue near Western Avenue, in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles. Immaculate Heart Blythe Street serves the San Fernando Valley, located in Panorama City, Los Angeles. The Immaculate Heart Community does run a Center for Spiritual Renewal and La Casa de Maria on 26 acres in Montecito, California since 1943. It was also the hub of activity for the Novitiate for many years. As of 2011 the Immaculate Heart Community numbered 160 members.
After failed attempts to resolve differences with those remaining in the congregation and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Mother Joanne, a former Treasurer of the Institute, Sister Eileen and Sister Giovanni were directed by the Holy See to find another diocese that would welcome them and their works. They some relocated to the Diocese of Wichita in Kansas. The IHM Sisters of Wichita work primarily in the ministries of education, youth ministry, rereat work, and conduct classes in Catholic catechesis.
The Convent of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was located in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles, sharing the former Earle C. Anthony estate with the Cardinal Timothy Manning House of Prayer for Priests. Designed by Bernard Maybeck in 1927, the mansion was remodeled and enlarged in the mid-1990s. Both facilities were closed by the Archdiocese in 2011. Disputes of ownership between the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles gained media attention when Katy Perry attempted to purchase the estate in 2015, with plans to restore it to a private mansion.