Detroit: On Nov. 21, 1949, with the approval of John Cardinal Mooney, Archbishop of Detroit, and the guidance of Fr. John Ryan, Sr. Mary Schutz and Sr. Mary Agnes McInnis founded the Sisters, Home Visitors of Mary, focused on welcoming newly arriving African-American families in Detroit. Two by two the Sisters went door to door visiting neighborhood families. Through this personal out-reach, the Sisters invited people to the Catholic Church, to Catholic School and to Bible Classes for children and adults. As the number of black Catholics grew in the parishes, enculturation of programs and worship as well as leadership development became the focus. The Sisters owned and operated the Catholic Information Center in downtown Detroit as a means of informing and forming the laity, especially in liturgical, biblical and social justice developments. The HVM Sisters out-reached to those in prisons and imprisoned by drugs; a youth drop-in center and various programs to bring the races into dialogue were responses to the “signs of the times”, always with an eye on how to engage others and with others. (See historic photos below.)
Beyond Detroit, the Home Visitors of Mary served through diocesan, parish and organizations programs in Port Huron, Flint, and Grand Rapids. Retreats, seminary education, personal growth seminars and lay leadership programs organized by SHVM have enriched many in Michigan and beyond.
Nigeria: In 2001, invited by John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, Sr. Barbara Dakoske and Sr. Elizabeth Harris began ministry of the Sisters, Home Visitors of Mary at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria parish in Abuja under the leadership of Msgr. Kenneth Enang. The sisters went to Nigeria after having accepted one Nigerian novice in Michigan and discovering that other Nigerian women were interested in the congregation, drawn by its charism of person-to-person outreach. The sisters directed the parish day care center and the medical clinic. In 2002, three other women joined Sr. Barbara and Sr. Elizabeth, beginning formation of the HVM religious congregation in Nigeria. The congregation continues to grow. There are now 21 Nigerian Home Visitor Sisters and 15 Nigerian Home Visitor Associates.
The Home Visitors of Mary serve parishes in the Abuja Archdiocese and elsewhere in Nigeria as teachers, school administrators, catechetical leaders and youth ministers. HVM Sisters founded a Women’s Empowerment Center where women learn how to operate a micro-business from their home to provide much needed family income. HVM Sisters also operate the Sisters, Home Visitors of Mary Theology Institute where adult students work toward a diploma in theology.
In March 2012, HVM Sisters published a catechetical text book for youth that introduces a new method of teaching doctrine based on Scripture and life experiences along with Catholic Catechism. The book has been very well received! In July 2012, the HVM novitiate was moved to a newly-constructed (but still only partially finished!) convent in nearby Gwagwalada, Nigeria, about 35 miles to the Southwest of Abuja.
Please visit our Nigeria page for more details and photos of Sisters, Home Visitors of Mary in Nigeria!
Photo below: Sr. Mary Agnes McInnis and Sr. Mary Schutz in center with Msgr. John Ryan. Sr. Mary Agnes and Sr. Mary were postulates at this time. The two other Sisters are Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters (also known as Victory Noll Sisters). The Victory Noll Sisters worked in the catechismal ministry of the Archdiocese of Detroit. They assisted Sr. Mary Agnes and Sr. Mary with formation of the SHVM congregation in Detroit.
Photo below: 1950s: Sr. Rosemarie Abate and Sr. Mary Frances Roberts , in original Home Visitors of Mary habit, leave two by two for calls at the homes of neighborhood families.
Photo below: 1950s. The first Catholic summer Bible Schools in Detroit were initiated by the Home Visitors of Mary. Some 2-week Bible Schools had over 500 children attend. Hundreds of volunteers shared in the ministry, going door to door in May and June to invite neighbors to send their children; teens volunteered as aides and professional teachers assisted with teaching. The children in this photo are preparing to go into Mass at St. Elizabeth parish.