Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd

The first American foundation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd was begun in Louisville, December 1, 1842, under the direction of Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget, S.S., Patriarch of the West. At that time, the Sisters came to Kentucky from their General Motherhouse at Angers, France. Although the Sisters suffered much in Louisville, during the “Know-Nothing” days, they perseveringly laid the foundation for the present growth of the Order in this country.

A foundation of the Community was established in Cincinnati in 1857, at the request of Mrs. Sarah Pewter and with the approbation of Archbishop John B. Purcell. On February 26, 1857, the Sisters took possession of a frame building located on the corner of Bank and Baymiller, as their first convent. Additions were made to the institution on Bank Street from time to time as conditions demanded. In 1870, it was found advisable to purchase a farm at Carthage, Ohio, where the Convent of Our Lady of the Woods was established. That same year, the Province of Carthage was erected.  The present Ft. Thomas community of Good Shepherd Sisters came from the Carthage Province. The love and care of Bishop Toebbe for the orphans made him eager to introduce the Sister of the Good Shepherd into the Diocese, whose aims and accomplishments won recognition and appreciation wherever they went. The Sisters coming to Ft. Thomas had previously conducted a day nursery, the “Angel Guardian,” in Cincinnati. One of the Sisters, in a letter under date of February 19, 1887, states:

The 1st of May, 1865, the house of the “Angel Guardian” was opened. Its first situation was on Lytle street. April 22, 1867, our sisters moved to Pearl street, where, on the first of October, 1872, the good mother M. of the Annunciation died. Their next move was to Newport Ky., January 6, 1875, where they now own an extensive property.

In 1873, Mr. Robert Beaton of Cincinnati donated a residence and farm to the Sisters south of Newport, Kentucky, in Highland Heights. The brick building was surrounded by a tract of eighteen acres, laid out in orchards. Subsequently, difficulties arose and it was deemed advisable to buy the property from Mr. Beaton. The original building soon proved too small to house the personnel of the convent and additions were made from time to time. The Sisters bravely endured the hardships connected with the founding of a new institution. Their work was soon to win the esteem and aid of generous benefactors, among whom were Mr. And Mrs. James Walsh of Covington. By 1881, there were seventy-two children under the care of the institution.

 In 1881, Mother Mary of St. Scholastica Steine undertook the erection of the present chapel adjoining the convent. The cornerstone for the building was laid by Very Reverend Eberhard Brandts, V.G., on September 18, 1881. The new building, adjoining the convent on the west, was constructed of blue limestone. The Chapel, of Gothic design, was located on the second floor of the building in the shape of a Greek Cross, containing four separate apartments, with the main altar in the center of the Chapel, which has an octagon-shaped sanctuary. The apartments, each measuring about thirty by forty-five feet and with a seating capacity of about two hundred, were to serve as chapels for the Good Shepherd Sisters, the Magdalens, the orphans and the other personnel of the institution. The Chapel was dedicated on Sunday, October 19, 1883, by Father Brandts.  On July 2, 1885, the Sisters began the work of caring for problem girls. A special wing adjoining the Chapel was erected for these girls in 1890, making it possible for the Sisters to care for as many as one hundred and fifty girls. A priest’s rectory was built in 1895. The Sisters then turned their attention to the erection of the present convent building. The cornerstone was laid on June 28, 1903. Two years later, May 15, 1905, Bishop Maes dedicated the new convent building.  

During 1908, the school building was completed and a fuller educational program inaugurated. Later a vocational unit was added to teach the girls domestic science, sewing, fine embroidery, and electric machine operations. On December 28, 1925, the “Sister Magdalen Community” was established in the Ft. Thomas Convent. Sister Magdalen of St. Paul, Cleveland, Ohio, went to Ft. Thomas to begin the new Community, assisted by Sister Mary of St. Euphrasia O’Rourke, its first Novice Mistress. Bishop Howard blessed the temporary home of the Magdalens on the Feast of the Holy Innocents of that year. Financial conditions did not permit the building of a permanent convent for the Magdalen Community until 1944. A new building, the gift of the family of Mother Mary of the Compassion MacEachen, was completed in 1946. On April 10, 1946, Bishop Mullo9y blessed the new four-story wing addition, which contained twenty-seven rooms.

On November 22, 1949, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd at Ft. Thomas observed the Diamond Jubilee of the establishment of their foundation in the Diocese. At that time it was stated that the institution had cared for some ten thousand girls since its inception.  The latest addition to the Good Shepherd Institution was the new admittance department and gymnasium for Our Lady of the Highlands School which was begun in the spring of 1952. The new building was dedicated by Bishop Mulloy on December 32, 1952.  The work of the Good Shepherd Institution includes a grade and high school, an orphanage, and a protective Home for girls. 



excerpted fromĀ History of the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky, on the Occasion of the Centenary of the Diocese, 1853-1953, by Rev. Paul E. Ryan