Our Community History
75+ YEARS OF GRATEFUL LOVE
Sister Ida's Call
The First 25 Years
The Charism continues...
Discover the beauty of a Call from God and the results of responding wholeheartedly.
Sister Ida's Call
Ida is born
October 7, 1922, Ida Peterfy was born in Kosice, Czechoslovakia to a Hungarian family (before 1920 this city was part of Hungary and was known as Kassa—presently Kosice, Slovakia). She was the only child of Dr. Joseph Peterfy, a professor of law and history and later director of the city library; she was the fourth daughter of her mother, Ida Kristof, who had been widowed during World War I.
Ida's Faith grows
A personal relationship with God
In her own words: “My relationship to the ‘good God’ became much more personal as I learned about Him when we were preparing for First Holy Communion in the second grade. First Communion made a deep impression on me. The Ursuline Sisters' Mother Gonzaga, who read to us during embroidery class about the Irish persecution, was of help. The faith of the Irish people, the reality of their risking their lives to have Mass in their homes helped me to realize the preciousness of the Eucharist.”
Ida was also a charter member and first captain of the Sacred Heart League which was established at that time.
Scouting with Faith
No longer a minority
Pax Ting: Girl Scout World Camp
Decision for others
The religious knowledge of the children was very sporadic. Ida is challenged to introduce the Lord to them and change the children’s fearful and ignorant attitudes about God. The need to teach them in a gentle and effective way sparked Ida’s imagination to find approaches that were attractive to the children and captured their attention. To make the Jesus of the Bible come to life, she told them Bible stories to introduce them to God who is loving and caring, illustrating the stories with available props (like twigs) moving them as the characters of the stories. This was the beginning of her unique catechetical charism for teaching religion (now known as the Five Step Illustrated Method).
Life changing event described in Sister Ida’s own words:
The thought that ‘the Church’ needs to do something to teach the children became an urgent reality. With the threat of Nazi invasion of the country it became an even more urgent reality. The solution seemed very clear and simple in the light of the retreat, ‘You are the Church, you, teach the children.’”
Private Profession of Vows
The First 25 Years
God does not give a road map.
Consecration of City of Kassa
Through the Actio Catholica, Sister Ida organizes the consecration of youth to the Sacred Heart in various cities across the country from 1941 - 1946.
First Companions join Sister Ida
In September, Sister Ida begins studies at Pazmany Peter University of Budapest. She majors in Latin so that she can read the works of St. Thomas Aquinas (not yet translated into Hungarian) and so that she can understand the Liturgy. Sister Ida also conducts leadership courses for young women and catechetical enrichment programs.
In December, Sister Aurelia professes her first vows.
Business School opens
Russian occupation of Hungary intensifies
December 24, 1944, the Russian occupation of Hungary intensifies. Sister Ida and a Sister companion move from Budapest to Szekesfehervar, Hungary where they are under the protection of Msgr. Imre Pottyondy, Vicar of the Bishop.
Formulation of Panic Prayer
During the oppression of the Communist occupation in Hungary and the constant threat of danger to Sister Ida and her Sisters, on Easter in 1945, Sister Ida formulates her “Panic Prayer,” a prayer of complete trust in God, which her Sisters still pray today.
Catholic Action and Catechetical Formation
Sister Ida continues her studies and receives her M.A. with distinction in Hungarian and Latin Linguistics and Literature and acquires her High School teaching credentials.
At the same time, Sister Ida is employed as the national secretary for the Actio Catholica (Catholic Action) and works with the Sacred Heart League.
Catechetical formation courses are conducted by Sister Ida in major Hungarian cities including Budapest and Győr.
First Constitutions and Catechetical publications
During this year the first Constitutions of the Community are completed.
September 29, Agnes Raday joins the Community. Soon after, Helen Clare Nagy also joins.
Sister Ida and Sisters undertake printing of “Tele-Course” (Tavkurzus), a catechetical periodical, with the blessing of Cardinal Mindszenty. Father Viragh, SJ writes articles on theology, while Sister Ida contributes methods and lesson plans. The Sisters mimeograph and distribute the periodical even though this is against Communist law. After each use, the machine has to be dismantled and the parts carefully hidden. So as not to arouse suspicion from authorities, the periodical is mailed from a number of post offices and hand-delivered where possible.
Cardinal Mindszenty is arrested
On December 26, 1948, Cardinal Josef Mindszenty is arrested. As the political situation becomes increasingly perilous, friends and co-workers in the Hungarian hierarchy advise Sister Ida to leave the country and take the young community to the free world—that it may be developed further, and “later, when possible, return to Hungary.”
Leaving Hungary to Innsbruck
Through a series of providential events, God leads Sister Ida to Innsbruck’s Hungarian High School. Fully qualified to teach, she is the answer to the prayers of the Sisters of Charity who, just four months before graduation, received their visas to go to Holland.
In June, Sister Ida leaves for Canada, the only country then open to immigration. She works as a domestic for one year as part of the immigration agreement and saves her wages ($40 per month) to make arrangements for the passage of the remaining Sisters. Even though the International Refugee Organization (IRO) had been disbanded and sponsoring refugees’ transportation to the American continent had stopped, Sister Ida writes to the IRO director appealing for an exception for her Sisters. He generously grants free passage for the Sisters on the last US military ship for refugees.
Those who desire to continue with the Community take the risk of escaping the country and cross the Iron Curtain two by two to Austria.
Arrival to Canada
St. Joseph Press
With linguistic and Latin knowledge, they print the “Ordo” (Roman Catholic Church guide for priests, detailing the forms of Mass and other services to be followed for each day in the year) for the English-speaking Church in Canada.
Sister Ida and the Sisters organize a large-scale Children’s Day of Prayer to be held in May 1954. Cardinal James McGuigan, Archbishop of Toronto gives his full support.
Sister Ida declines the offer with the intention to settle the Community eventually in the United States.
Sister Ida becomes a Canadian citizen. TIME MAGAZINE: Canadian edition writes an article on the Community.
Invitation to USA
Arrival to Los Angeles
Mother Margarita, Superior of the Carmelites of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, generously welcomes the Sisters to temporarily live with them until they can move into a more permanent convent of their own. The Carmelite Sisters also give a beautiful picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Sisters as a gift.
Welcome in the Los Angeles Tidings
"Although they wear nylons and style their hair as they please, the attractive, smiling young women have taken the customary vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They have dedicated themselves entirely to God…Even in free Canada and the United States their mode of dress has its advantages. 'People feel free to ask us silly questions they would not dare ask a priest or nun.' Sister Ida said. 'We can dispel a lot of misconceptions about the Catholic Faith.'” (excerpt from Tidings article)
Teacher Training Courses
Leadership Courses begin
Leadership Courses are also conducted for high school and college age girls.
Sister Hermine and Sister Helen Clare arrive to Los Angeles after completing the closing of the convent in Canada.
The Joyful Apostolate
Formalization of our Habit
Sister Ida explained that during the first beginnings of the community, she had two important reasons for not adopting a traditional habit:
1) to be able to work in the apostolate undetected during those years of religious persecution, and
2) to be more approachable to those young people who had been alienated from the Church by Nazism and Communism.
Cardinal McIntyre listened, and then said: “Sister Ida, stay as you are. Don’t change. The Church will need you as you are.”
Citizen of the Year
Sister Ida and a team of Sisters conduct catechist formation courses in Spanish in La Paz, Baja California, at the request of Msgr. Juan Giordani. Sister Yolanda is among the team, her Spanish greatly needed. (The Sisters went for 3 summers ending in 1964.)
The “Catechist Companion” is first translated into Spanish at this time. It is also translated into Japanese and published in the National Catholic Japanese Digest.
Sister Mary Ann graduates Medical School
This gift later became instrumental in beginning our Mission in Taipei, Taiwan.
First Girls' Camp
My Friend Pookie and Family Camp
Sister Ida with her Sisters produces “My Friend Pookie,” a Television series of twenty-seven half-hour shows, airing over a period of three seasons (1970-72). In its first season, it becomes the first religious program to show up in the Nielsen ratings. In 1973 "My Friend Pookie" wins the Gabriel Award for exemplary achievement and public service in the art of communications.
Sister Ida develops Sacred Heart Family Retreat Camp bringing the entire family together in a camp-style retreat where all family members, young and old, receive the same spiritual content on their various age levels. The first Family Camp is held at Lake Tahoe with 7 families. Sister Ida’s vision for serving the married Church comes 10 years before Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio. The total number of families attending Family Camp continues to grow as Sacred Heart Family Camp spreads to other states and other countries.
A.R.C. studies program in Rome
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Sisters record the LP album “You are My Friend” with songs from their TV show “My Friend Pookie”.
First General Chapter
A General Chapter is primarily a solemn gathering of a Religious Community under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to elect the Superior General and her Council and to discuss matters concerning the Society in its response to the current needs of the Church and of the world. According to our Constitutions, a General Chapter is held every six years. It is to be “an outstanding manifestation of our sisterly love and zeal to promote the spiritual and apostolic vitality of our Society.” Const. #129
The Community makes a pilgrimage to the 1976 International Eucharistic Congress held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, traveling across the United States by bus sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.
During the pilgrimage, the Community travels on to visit Toronto, Canada where our Sisters were first established in the New World.
2nd Session of First General Chapter
Groundbreaking for Sacred Heart Retreat Camp
Dedication of Heart of Jesus Retreat Center & Gentlemen's Haberdashery
October 25, 1979 The first “Gentlemen’s Haberdashery” Men’s Fashion Show is organized by Orange County Supervisor Thomas Riley, the inspiration of his wife Emma Jane, to benefit the newly established Heart of Jesus Retreat Center. In later years in cooperation with Tony and Melinda Moiso and Rancho Mission Viejo, this delightful and very successful fundraising event showcases influential and up-and-coming Orange County businessmen as they “walk the runway” to support the Sisters’ work with children. The event runs annually for 30 years until 2009. After a brief 5 year pause the event resumes in 2013.
Dedication of Sacred Heart Retreat Camp
The Sacred Heart Retreat Camp facility in Big Bear Lake, California opens in the Year of the Family with 3 Family Camps. The Camp is dedicated and blessed by Bishop Philip Straling, Bishop of the Diocese of San Bernardino during the closing Mass of Family Camp on June 29, 1980.
Fashion with a Heart
The Sisters (at the invitation of Salvador “Tutti” Camaratta) help write lyrics and original songs for the recording and release of "A Cry in the Wilderness" album. The songs on this album give a presentation of Our Lord's life based on the Gospel of Saint Mark.
Second General Chapter
The Church's "Year of Redemption" & Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
5th Annual Gentlemen's Haberdashery
“Many times over the years I have witnessed the greatness of the American Spirit. Compassion for others, creativity in meeting challenges, and determination in accomplishing goals are significant attributes of our people. One example of this spirit is this community salute to the Sisters of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart. I am pleased to extend my personal congratulations and commendation to the Sisters for your generous voluntary contribution to your community. Your involvement exemplifies the highest tradition of service to others and enhances the lives of all our citizens. You have my best wishes and encouragement for a most successful luncheon.” – Ronald Reagan
Decree of Erection
"In the signing of this Decree of Erection with gratitude to God We pray that this Institute of consecrated life grow and flourish according to the spirit of its founder, Ida Peterfy and the wholesome traditions which she and her associates have established and in testimony of which We affix Our Signature and Seal on this 24th Day of June 1985.
Signed: Timothy Cardinal Manning"
Opening Mission in Taiwan
Sacred Heart Kids' Club
Since every video includes prayer as an integral component, when the new Catechism of the Catholic Church is released in 1994, the Sacred Heart Kids’ Club is immediately recognized as a dynamic catechetical tool in complete harmony with the four pillars of the Catholic Church: Creed, Sacraments, Commandments, Prayer.
Third General Chapter
Religious Life Proclamation from Chapter:
"Through the transforming love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, our lives become an acceptable sacrifice of praise to God. It is our common desire to surrender wholeheartedly to this transforming love and become authentic witnesses and living signs of the Real Presence of the Lord Jesus to one another and to the entire human family. Moved by the Holy Spirit who prompts us to genuine love, trust and gratitude for one another, we manifest our oneness with God and cooperate fully with his gifts. The holiness we have received through Baptism, and which is expressed with greater fullness in our Religious Consecration, unites us in a common purpose and binds us together in love. This is the foundation of the hope and joy characteristic of us as a community devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus."
A new Motherhouse is purchased in Northridge, California.
Building a Bigger Heart
The conference room, located in a remodeled garage, could not accommodate the requests from parishes to conduct retreats for large groups. To help meet the increased demand for retreats, a group of prominent business and civic leaders in Orange County formed a "Team of Hearts" with the leadership of Tony Moiso, Chairman of the "Building a Bigger Heart" campaign to raise the capital for the expansion of the Heart of Jesus Retreat Center.
Five Step Illustrated Method on Video
We break ground for the new Heart of Jesus Retreat Center in Santa Ana, CA with Bishop Norman McFarland, Bishop of the Diocese of Orange, CA.
50 Years of Grateful Love
Golden Jubilee Pilgrimage
Following the celebration of the Mass, the Holy Father personally greets each Sister in his reception room. He greets Sister Ida in Hungarian with the traditional greeting for a Religious Sister.
Bidding farewell, the Holy Father says to the Community, “You are a blessing for the Pope. You are truly American and truly Catholic.”
A Mission established in Hungary
After the fall of the Iron Curtain, three Sisters are sent to begin our Mission in Hungary. Sister Ida and Sister Hermine accompany the Sisters. The Sisters' convent and Sacred Heart Center is established in Budapest. Their work extends throughout Hungary and to neighboring countries.
Fourth General Chapter
Apostolic Decree from Chapter: "Recognizing the Church’s urgent call for more living, dynamic witnesses of Christ’s love and the need to teach with clarity all aspects of our Catholic faith, we, as a Community, proceed with the two-fold aim of vocation promotion and communicating the Truths of our Catholic faith more extensively…We realize that this is not our work, but the movement of the Spirit of Jesus, who inspires, directs, and accomplishes this undertaking through us, for the sake of His Body, the Church."
Sister Ida Diagnosed with Lymphoma
In June, Sister Ida is diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
While undergoing chemotherapy in July, Sister Ida directs an Ignatian 30 day silent retreat for our Sisters who recently professed final Vows.
Pilgrimage to Hungary
In her own words: “I remember being in the upper right balcony of the Ursuline church and looking down at the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar surrounded by candles and flowers. It had a very deep impression on me. I had a strong love for Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and I thought that I would happily be a flower in the presence of Our Lord all my life.”
Sister Arlene's Perpetual Vows
This is the last Vow ceremony that Sister Ida attends in this life.
The Church's Great Jubilee
This event, taking place on our Novitiate property, is given the privilege of the Jubilee indulgence and is attended by 1300 friends of the Community. It includes presentations for different age levels, Eucharistic procession through the city of Chatsworth, confessions and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The solemn opening of the Holy Door preceded the celebration of the Mass.
Sister Ida is called home
Feb. 12: The Mass of Christian Burial is celebrated for Sister Ida at St. John Eudes Parish in Chatsworth. Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles is the main celebrant; Archbishop Justin Rigali, Archbishop of St. Louis, MO; several Bishops, 40 Priests and 1200 faithful attend the Mass and continue on to her burial at San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills, California.
"We were blessed, for whatever reason in God's providence, to have Sister Ida here, to have the opportunity to know her and love her...we also pray that we would be able to capture that spirit of Sister Ida in our own commitment of faith in Christ, and in our lives we would live out the discipleship which she lived out to the full, and shared with us in such a visionary fashion." - Cardinal Mahony
Two weeks later, Sister Aurelia Majorossy, one of the first companions of Sister Ida in Hungary, passes to eternal life on February 26.
Fifth General Chapter
We record and release our Christmas album, “Love Does Such Things.”
Closing of Great Jubilee
Pontifical Appointment for Catechetics
The Sisters record and release an album of original songs, “God Has a Heart for You.”
In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, MO a new convent is opened at the invitation of then Archbishop Justin Rigali. The Sisters teach catechetical methods in the Paul VI Pontifical Institute and give retreats to various schools and parishes throughout the Archdiocese.
Sister Helen Clare Nagy, one of the first companions of Sister Ida in Hungary, passes to eternal life on December 1.
Blessing of Sacred Heart Monument
Description of the monument: The unity of the Holy Trinity depicted by the Hand of God the Father appearing in a triangle, the figure of the Son of God Incarnate, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in the sign of a dove. The humble offering of our hearts and lives to Christ is symbolized by the Sacred Heart badge, the emblem of our Society that our Sisters wear.
February 8, 2004: Blessing of the Sacred Heart Monument by Bishop Gerald Wilkerson at the gravesite of Sister Ida Peterfy in San Fernando Mission Cemetery. Over 400 friends attend.
Sixth General Chapter
Proclamation of our Spiritual and Community Life from Chapter: "Listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and recognizing the need for ongoing conversion personally and communally, we more profoundly recommit ourselves to a life lived and spent in union with our God and one another. This union with God is the source from which our apostolic love flows. Therefore, with zealous hearts we rededicate ourselves to the fullest expression of our prayer life as stated in our Constitutions and Statutes. Acknowledging the need to revivify our Community life, we reaffirm our commitment to deepen the bonds with one another as Sisters in Christ, sharing spiritually, supporting each other in all aspects of our lives, embracing with appreciation any correction in a spirit of sincerity, trust and humility."
After Chapter, the entire community travels by bus to St. Louis on our “Journey to the Heartland” Pilgrimage.
Catechist Companion published
In answer to many years of being asked to make Sister Ida's brilliant lessons available, the Catechist Companion, complete lesson plans on Creed, Sacraments, Commandments, and Prayer using the Five Step Illustrated Method is published by Liturgy Training Publications.
The entire Community is gifted with a Pilgrimage to Rome and Holy Land sponsored by generous community friends and benefactors. While in Rome, we had the extraordinary gift to be seated near the Holy Father during the Wednesday audience. When the Holy Father said, "My particular greeting goes to the Sisters of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart," we shouted for joy! The Holy Father responded with a warm smile and wave of welcome.
25th Anniversary of Mission in Taiwan
Celebration of Twenty-fifth Anniversary of our Mission in Taiwan. Six Sisters travel to join our Sisters in Taiwan for the event. The 50th Anniversary of religious vows of Sister Mary Ann and 25th Anniversary of Sister Mary Beth and Sister Anna are also celebrated in Taiwan at this time.
Juniors in the Vineyard
May 6, Sister Annette Chui passes to eternal life. She is the fourth of our Sisters to die.
Seventh General Chapter
Marian Pilgrimage in Year of Faith
Amar es Entregarse Award
Servant of God Sister Ida Peterfy
75 Years of Grateful Love in the Year of Consecrated Life
The Charism Continues...
Sister Hermine's 75th Anniversary
On May 7, 2016 Sister Judith Fogassy passes to eternal life after a very short battle with cancer. In April she sent this message to catechists in Hungary: "I love you very much! I carry you in my heart as always, and I will carry you in heaven as well...God has another plan, and it is good. I trust in Him. I trust Him in every moment."
25th Anniversary of Mission in Hungary
Eighth General Chapter
The History of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart
Discover the beauty of a Call from God and the results of responding wholeheartedly.