Sisters of Bon Secours celebrate congregation's bicentennial

February 2024

The early Sisters of Bon Secours did something that was unheard of at the time, traveling outside of the convent to minister to the sick and dying - wherever they were needed, and that practice has continued since. Here, in 1956 in Paris, Sisters of Bon Secours use scooters to travel around their community to minister to the sick.


Throughout this year, the Congregation of the Sisters of Bon Secours and many of the sisters' ministries are marking the bicentennial of the congregation's founding in Paris, France.

Sr. Marie Blandine DeFrance and a novice at the Sisters of Bon Secours motherhouse in Paris, where the congregation was founded.

The Sisters of Bon Secours, USA, which is headquartered in Marriottsville, Maryland, has planned multiple events, including a Palm Sunday concert at the sisters' retreat center in March and a celebratory Mass at the Baltimore Basilica in May. Baltimore Archbishop William Lori will preside over that Mass.

Facilities within the Bon Secours Mercy Health System also will mark the occasion, including with chaplain-led prayers in staff meetings at some locations. The system's Richmond, Virginia, market held a service in January to formally recommit to its values. That market also is incorporating anniversary themes into this year's physician and associate recognition events and its hospital week and nurses' week commemorations. Also in that market, Richmond Bishop Barry Knestout will celebrate a Mass in honor of the sisters' anniversary at Richmond's Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

Sr. Rose Marie Jasinski, congregation leader of the Sisters of Bon Secours, visits the graves of the first two superiors of the congregation, Mother Josephine Potel and Mother Angelique Geay. The gravesite is in Paris.


In the Greenville, South Carolina, and Hampton Roads, Virginia, markets, Bon Secours facilities held in-person prayer services, distributed prayer cards and handed out desserts, including eclairs at Hampton Roads. Some Hampton Roads sites also provided French-themed meals.

A group of a dozen women founded the Congregation of the Sisters of Bon Secours in Paris in 1824 amid the devastation that followed the French Revolution. "Bon Secours" means "Good Help" in French. The sisters took what at that time was a bold approach: They left the security of their cloister to nurse sick and dying people at home. Their message that there is a God who loves all people was the same then and now, says the website of the congregation's U.S. province.

Sr. Fran Gorsuch, the vocation director of the Sisters of Bon Secours of the USA, takes part in a television interview during Catholic Sisters Week in 2019. Sr. Gorsuch had promised to dye her hair green if donors could raise a certain amount for a community in West Baltimore, Maryland. She is speaking at an urban farm in West Baltimore that is sponsored in part by the Sisters of Bon Secours.


In 1881, Cardinal James Gibbons of the Archdiocese of Baltimore invited the sisters to establish a health care ministry in that archdiocese. The women immigrated to the U.S. and established their first hospital in Baltimore in 1919. Over time they built up a network of health care facilities, primarily on the east coast. The sisters' U.S. hospitals consolidated as Bon Secours Health System in 1983. In 2018, that system merged with Cincinnati-based Mercy to form Bon Secours Mercy Health, which today includes 49 hospitals. Bon Secours Mercy has a presence in seven states as well as in Ireland.

Sr. Alice Talone, who is active in parish ministry and outreach and who is a former Sisters of Bon Secours USA provincial leader, visits with Julianne Esteves, a member of the Bon Secours volunteer ministry program. That program involves a year of service after graduation.

Worldwide, the sisters have health care, housing, education and other ministries in six countries: the U.S., France, Great Britain, Ireland, Peru, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Laypeople can join the congregation through an associate program.

The sisters have been innovators throughout their history, says the USA sisters' website, which notes that the congregation established the world's first formal home health care service, the first day care in the U.S. and the first Catholic facility for disabled children.

The congregation has one request for everyone who wishes to honor the sisters during this milestone year: "We are asking people to think of and pray for the Sisters of Bon Secours when they are doing any type of service work for others," says Liz O'Neill, the communications director of the Sisters of Bon Secours, USA.


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