The work of the Institute began in Baltimore, the first house being opened in 1890. The Very Reverend Provincial of the Josephites, feeling the need of Sisters to help him in the missionary labors of the Society, found a few ladies who desired to devote themselves to the work, and, after usual probation, gave them the habit and later allowed them to pronounce the simple vows of religion, he being appointed their Ecclesiastical Superior.
Then began the life which they now live. The work was missionary and catechetical. The Sisters had catechism classes at the convent, which was then one house in the row of five which they now occupy; they also had sewing classes in the evening; they went about the various hospitals and charitable and penal institutions, looking up Catholic Negroes who needed instruction or encouragement to attend their religious duties; and visited their poor homes to prepare the sick for the sacraments, or to rescue children from vicious surroundings. As the community grew larger the missionary work broadened out and took in the needy of all nationalities. It was at this time that the Sisters began going into the country to teach catechism in the rural churches. An immense amount of good has been done in this way and much needed assistance given to the Reverend Pastors, as many of them testify.
In 1897, His Eminence, Cardinal Gibbons, moved by the needs of the Catholic deaf mutes, placed this work in the charge of the Institute. A school and home was opened for them, the only one in the Baltimore Province. Houses have since been opened in Trenton, N.J., New York City, and in San Juan, Santurce, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The active work of the Institute, as outlined by the Constitutions, embraces the keeping of industrial schools for indigent girls, schools for deaf mutes, and day nurseries; teaching catechism and giving religious instruction wherever needed; visiting the poor in their own homes, and in institutions, such as alms-houses and hospitals, and preparing the dying for the last sacraments.
The life of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart is one of utmost simplicity. The Constitutions prescribe a novitiate of two years, after the candidate has been a postulant six months. The community at present numbers forty-seven professed sisters, five novices and six postulants. There are six houses. Each has some special work, but wherever the Mission Helpers have a house, missionary work is to be carried on among the poor without regard to race or nationality, although immigrants are the recipients of their special solicitude. The Mother-house and novitiate are located at the Sacred Heart Convent, 416 West Biddle Street, Baltimore, Maryland.
That there is great need for the work of the Institute is amply evidenced by the many urgent entreaties received from bishops and priests to make foundations. But, alas! The laborers destined for it—the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart—are few. May the Lord of the harvest send them subjects to do His blessed work!
Elinor Tong Dehey, ed., Religious Orders of Women in the United States (Indiana: W.B. Conkey, 1913), 295-298.