The Catholic University of America

Final Examination of

Annette M. Pelletier, IHM

for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

Friday, April 19, 2013

10:00 a.m., Caldwell Room 125




Schools of Mission: Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Peru



Annette M. Pelletier, IHM

Director: Catherine Dooley, OP, PhD.

Acting Director: Sr. Margaret Schreiber, OP, S.T.D.


The first permanent mission of the United States Catholic Church in Latin America was a Catholic private school established by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in Lima, Peru, in 1922. The IHM Sisters of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, sent four sisters to Lima in response to the invitation of Emilio Lisson Chavez, CM, the Archbishop of Lima. Cardinal Dennis Dougherty of Philadelphia agreed to Lisson’s request to find a religious community of women to teach in a school that the archbishop promised to provide. The IHMs, a diocesan congregation of educators at the time, were selected. The success of Protestant mission schools among the Catholic population of Peru prompted the archbishop of Lima to provide an alternative to the American-style education where instruction in English and a modern curriculum prepared Peruvians of all social classes and geographical regions with a modern progressive education.


The IHM sisters tell the story of their experience of mission in their correspondence, diaries, annals, and reports. Their words and actions reflect attentiveness to the challenges of their new ecclesial context. The North American IHMs successfully established two American-style Catholic schools within five years without the aid promised by the zealous, but impractical, archbishop of Lima. Villa Maria Academy in Miraflores and St. Anthony School in Callao embedded the sisters into two social classes striving to find their place in the national effort to modernize Peru—the working poor, and the rising middle class. Eager for access to American-style Catholic schools where their children would be educated in English and their Catholic identity safeguarded, parents vied to register their sons and daughters in the IHM schools. The sisters tell an amazing story of how their educational mission endured through many unexpected events of earthquakes, revolutions, terrorism, epidemics, scandal, and division.