Ministries: Social and Legal Services


Social Services


The RSHM LIFE Center, Sleepy Hollow, NY


The RSHM LIFE Center in Sleepy Hollow, NY, ( has been providing a variety of services for women and children since its founding in 1995. In addition to their educational programs, RSHM sisters, lay staff, and volunteers provide a Moms and Tots program for preschool children and a Senior Outreach Program, through which seniors themselves organize to visit the homebound elderly. The LIFE Center also runs a camp each summer for six weeks. The RSHM LIFE Center is licensed by the State of New York Office of Children and Family Services. Please see our video on our YouTube channel: RSHM Channel



Centro Corazón de María, Hampton Bays, NY


In 2002, RSHM established a center in Hampton Bays, Long Island, NY, to assist immigrant families in adapting more easily to life in the United States. In addition to ESL classes, the center collaborates with a variety of agencies to provide a wide range of services: pre-natal programs; workshops in child care and parenting; health education and counseling; assistance with government benefit programs and forms. The center also helps families cope with the loneliness of being in an unfamiliar culture through its women's support group and many social events and seasonal celebrations. Please see our video on our YouTube channel: RSHM Channel



Columba Kavanagh House, New York City, NY


Founded by an RSHM in 1987, Columba Kavanagh House is now jointly sponsored by the RSHM and the Handmaids of Mary, with its income provided by rent, rent subsidies, and contracts with the New York City Department of Homeless Services and the Department of Mental Hygiene for the provision of social services. Its mission is to provide clean, safe, affordable, permanent housing with respectful, effective social services to persons of low income who want and need support services for independent living. Columba Kavanagh House mainly serves formerly homeless, single adults who have a history of substance abuse and/or mental illness. Columba Kavanagh House is comprised of three single room occupancy (SRO’s) facilities, located in the Harlem Community of New York City. The organization is well respected in both the Harlem Community and the supportive housing industry. RSHM currently serve on the Board of Directors and the staff.


Renée Rushton, RSHM, The Valley Family Center, San Fernando, CA 

The Valley Family Center provides counseling and educational services for adults, teens, and children to facilitate personal growth, strengthen the family unit, and protect human dignity for all persons in need. The Center offers individual counseling for women, men, and children who have suffered from Domestic Violence at some time in their lives.  There are, as well, group counseling, and support groups for victims of Domestic Violence. The Valley Family Center was founded by Sr. Una O’Connor, RSC in 1983 and has grown and is now incorporated as an independent 501(C)(3) non-sectarian corporation, run by a board of directors.  The Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary have supported The Valley Family Center since 2008 in a variety of ways including: volunteer services and financial contributions. Visit the web site at 


In Collaboration with LifeWay Network

The Eastern American Province of the RSHM is a member of NY-CRC-STOP (New York Coalition of Religious Congregations to Stop Trafficking of Persons), a coalition of 30 religious congregations of women and men within the NY metropolitan area searching for ways to combat human trafficking through educating the public, working for legislation to prevent human trafficking, and providing safe housing for survivors of human trafficking. With other congregations and foundations, we also support LifeWay Network which was established "to provide a safe and welcoming environment for steps toward a new life path for survivors of human trafficking. Its goal is form partnerships, to establish a safe house, and a network of safe spaces for these survivors." In 2011, LifeWay was successful in establishing a safe house in the New York metropolitan area.

Legal Services 

RSHM attorneys make their expertise available to populations who would otherwise have little or no access to legal services, as well as to other religious congregations. 

Kelly Carpenter, RSHM, Immigration Legal Services

In its 18th year of providing diverse services to the local community, the RSHM LIFE Center in Sleepy Hollow, NY, began a new venture and I’m very excited to be part of it. As a practicing attorney, I know that there is a great need for legal services in the immigrant community. The immigrant population in the Hudson Valley regions has one of the highest rates of growth in New York State and the population of Sleepy Hollow is 52% foreign born. At the RSHM LIFE Center Immigration Legal Services in Sleepy Hollow, NY, we provide reliable advice and direct legal services to immigrant families in our community. We are carrying on the RSHM legacy of education by teaching the immigrant population about immigration law and their rights, thereby empowering the community to make the best choices.
Maureen Kelleher, RSHM, Legal Aid Services of Collier County, FL
My ministry is in the field of immigration.  I represent immigrants who are victims of domestic violence or other crimes, unaccompanied minors, families who are applying to unify their members, and those facing deportation who have meritorious defenses. During the crisis of Haiti's earthquake, we assisted more than 500 Haitians applying for temporary protected status (TPS) and those applying for extensions. The populations I serve are low income workers from Mexico, Guatemala, and Haiti mainly doing farm labor in Immokalee, an area known for growing citrus and winter vegetables. In the coastal part of our county, my clients work at jobs such as dish washing, housekeeping, lawn care, and golf course maintenance. Getting these clients legal permanent residency--their green card--is such a life changing celebration for my clients that for these past 27 years I have truly loved my job. It is easy to see Christ present in each of my days.  

Bernadette Kenny, Legal Services for Religious Congregations
Since admission to the Bar in New York State in 1984, I have served as general counsel for many religious congregations in New York State and have consulted with numerous others or their attorneys throughout the country. My work has provided me the opportunity to serve on boards of directors of various ministries of both the RSHM and of other religious congregations. I have also served as a faculty member at legal seminars geared to the leadership of religious congregations, teaching since 1994 and directing since 2008 the Institute of Law and Religious Life at Misericordia University in Dallas, PA, and publishing a number of articles on the application of civil law to religious congregations and their members. I have been an adjunct faculty member at Fordham University School of Law for 21 years. I often think of my work as helping religious congregations “render to God and to Caesar” by putting the civil law at the service of the values that religious life upholds. This ministry has deepened my appreciation of my call to religious life and of the gift that religious life is to the Church--the people of God.
Maria Timoney, RSHM, Southwest Virginia Legal Aid Society
In the United States, individuals do not have a right to a lawyer in civil cases. That means that if your landlord is evicting you, if you are seeking protection from family abuse, if your home is being foreclosed on, or you have been denied benefits you need, you generally have to pay to hire a lawyer or try to represent yourself. While Legal Aid programs nationwide don't receive enough funds to help everyone who needs assistance, they are the only hope that poor people have for legal advice and representation in civil matters. I have practiced with Legal Aid for over 20 years and am one of four attorneys representing indigent individuals throughout a six county region in the Appalachian area of southwest Virginia.


Eastern American Province 50 Wilson Park Drive Tarrytown, NY 10591 (914) 631-8872      Western American Province 441 N. Garfield Ave Montebello, CA 90640 (323) 887-8821
Religious Communities for Women Women Religious RSHM
Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary Religious Vocation Marymount
Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary Working for Justice RSHM Schools
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International Congregation of Women Religious RSHM Extended Family Become a Sister