Our Lady of Sorrows Sisters Celebrate 175 Years

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by Sr. Mary Coleman, OLS

In our 175 years as a congregation, we now look back on our history from our origins in Italy and Louisiana.

Blessed Elisabetta Renzi founded our congregation, the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows, in 1839 in Coriano, Italy. In the first school and boarding schools the girls were taught prayers, reading, religion, sewing, embroidery and other tasks that would help them become good mothers. The first schools were all in rural poor areas of Romagna and Marche regions.

Blessed Elisabetta also had a dream of her sisters becoming missionaries and leaving Italy to serve God and his people in different countries. Her dream did not happened until 1947 when Bishop Charles P. Greco invited the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows to his diocese in North Louisiana to staff parochial schools for African-American children: Our Lady of Sorrows in Moreauville, St. Anthony School in Cottonport and Our Lady of Sorrows in Pineville.

In the most recent years, while continuing to work at St. Mary’s School, we opened three community homes that belong to us. These are the OLS Community Homes in Alexandria for mentally challenged young men and women. There is an office building and the well known OLS Cooking Jar. Close to these homes is our St. Joseph convent.

We began the Elisabetta Renzi Child Development Center in Shreveport for early childhood education and the Renzi Education and Art Center in Shreveport to offer a safe environment, academic assistance and art education for at-risk youth. Our Lady of Sorrows Convent in Shreveport is the home for our retired and ill sisters as well as a place for preparing new vocations to our style of life.

Our latest call to serve Louisiana’s people came not long ago from Lafayette and we went to minister on campus at the University of Lafayette, working with the Our Lady of Wisdom Church and implementing vocation ministry to help young women and men discern their call from God to follow religious vocations.

These past few months have seen a new beginning in responding to a call from a school outside of Louisiana and now we have a new mission at Holy Cross School in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

In remembrance of these 175 years of service, we will make a pilgrimage to the places in Louisiana where our sisters offered and continue to offer their services. It will be one of the ways we express our gratitude and thanks to God’s call to be a religious family and for the services we were and are able to offer in the past and those we continue to do.

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