Mother Catherine Spalding 

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Bronze statue of Mother Catherine Spalding from Wikimedia Commons

Mother Catherine Spalding  

Cofounder, Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (1793–1858)  

Catherine Spalding, who was born in Maryland, moved with her family to Kentucky at the age of three. Soon after, her mother died, and her father abandoned the family. Catherine and her four siblings were taken in and raised by her aunt and uncle, who had ten children of their own. At the age of nineteen she traveled to the new diocese of Bardstown. There, the local bishop, inspired by the success of the Sisters of Charity in Baltimore, had issued a call for young women willing to start a similar congregation in Kentucky to educate the children of the families flocking to the frontier. Catherine was one of three women who answered this call. Together, they formed a new community, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. Though she was the youngest, Catherine was elected superior.  

Although the original motive of the congregation was education, the sisters, inspired by the Rule of St. Vincent de Paul, extended their charitable work to include nursing and care for widows and orphans. During an outbreak of cholera, the sisters demonstrated great heroism in their care for the sick. Mother Spalding was particularly devoted to the orphanage—“the only place on earth to which my heart clings.” She poured herself out in service to her sisters, those in her care, and to the wider community, thereby fulfilling the motto of her congregation: “The charity of Christ impels us.” She died on March 20, 1858.  

“Our Community must be the center from which all our good works must emanate and in the name of the Community all must be done. Then let none of us be ambitious as to who does more or who does less. God will judge it all hereafter.” —Mother Catherine Spalding 

© Liturgical Press.

Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.

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