Giving Guide 2023: The Benedictine Sisters Of Pittsburgh

In 1878, the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh moved into a small house on Washington Street in Allegheny City, now the North Side. Despite being unsettled and in need of more suitable housing, the Sisters immediately began living their work. Within four years they opened missions in Texas, New Baltimore, and Florida, were teaching in five local schools, and opened the first Academy for girls in Pittsburgh. Within five years they moved into the monastery they would remain in until 1926.

For the next 150 years, the Sisters educated over 6,000 young women, fought against social injustice for minorities and coal miners, opened a second Academy for girls, and served as administrators in schools, mental health facilities, and homeless programs. They worked tirelessly as foster parents, in jails, youth ministry, held specialized art classes, and were professors in local universities. Collectively, the Sisters provided countless hours volunteering in food banks, elder day programs, and serving on community councils and boards. They provided pastoral counseling and established an internationally attended leadership coaching program.

Just like the many well-established and much-needed nonprofit organizations in the area, the Sisters have served the community well. Unlike nonprofits, the focus of the Sister’s mission–seeking God in community, ministry, and prayer–is inclusive of all people and all needs. Time has not changed their desire to make the world a healthier and more welcoming place. Regardless of the number of days that have passed, the Sisters are still growing, still reaching out to help others. From the pastoral work of Sister Karen to the Leadership and Coaching program begun by Sister Susan Merrie, Sister Evelyn, and Sister Roberta to the online mental health therapy provided by Sister Shelly. Yes, there are fewer Sisters today, and yes, age is catching up to the strongest of them, but their commitment to the well-being of humankind, concern for the earth, their outrage at injustice, and their desire to learn more about the many beautiful cultures that make up our community has never been stronger.

The Sisters begin and end each day in devotion. They commit themselves to combating social hardship through the power of collective prayer. And power it does have: countless donor requests for the Sisters to bend their will toward illness, a relative’s needs, or a sick child arrive daily by phone, email, or mail. The words of the prioress, Sister Karen Brink, found on Facebook and Instagram, never cease to encourage, to find one’s better self to unleash goodness and courage in the face of adversity and injustice. These many years later, behind the walls of their home, the hard work of spiritual life continues. Sister Jeanne and Sister Benita pass on the requests for prayers, Sister Mary James and Sister Irene dedicate hours in the chapel, Sister Anne prays the Rosary daily. Their concern for us is never-ending, from Sister Michelle to Sister Susanne, to Sister Mary Agnes, and Sister Michael and on our losses, shortcomings, dreams, and our futures are present and live like music in the prayers of the Sisters.

To donate to the Benedictine Sisters, visit

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Story and Photography by The Benedictine Sisters

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