Mother Theresa Maxis (1810-1892), I.H.M.

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Tuesday 23, October 2007 | Category:   Consecrated Life


Icon of Mother
Theresa Maxis, I.H.M.

About me: Mother Theresa Maxis, cofounder of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, was born an illegitimate child of a Haitian mother and white British father, a fact concealed for over a century. An IHM historian discovered the truth in the mid-1940s while writing the history of the congregation’s first 100 years.

Although the IHM community has confronted racism since at least the 1930s, in their schools, during the Detroit civil disturbances in the ‘60s, and in many other political actions, its members didn’t realize their own cofounder was a woman of color, nor did they realize there was a cover-up until the writing of the book, No Greater Service, published in 1948.

Mother Theresa Maxis played a key role in forming four communities of women religious, including the first African American community of women religious in the United States, the Oblate Sisters of Providence. The other three communities include the Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM's) of Immaculata, Pennsylvania; Monroe, Michigan; and Scranton, Pennsylvania.

I belong to: The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

My vision: During her time in the Oblates, Teresa had spent some time as the community’s elected superior. Unfortunately the era was one of pre-Civil War bigotry in Maryland. The bishop didn't see the need for an African American community of sisters and forbade them to take in new members. The threat of of the community's dissolution was very real. She left the fledgling Oblate community and traveled to Michigan to join a Redemptorist priest in founding a new order of religious sisters to teach immigrant children. From this beginning sprang the three communities of IHM's.

The four communities are now formally involved in a reconciliation and healing process confronting racism. In September of 2006 the four communities wrote a statement proclaiming the racism in their history and condemning the sin of racism.


Reprinted with permission from PrepareTheWord.com. ©TrueQuest Communications.

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