New Book Highlights History of Women Religious
Serving the Black Community in the Poverty Stricken South

Rochester, New York… In celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Rochester's mission in Alabama, Sister Carol Cimino, SSJ, Ed.D, has published a new book chronicling the Sisters' longstanding history serving the Black community in the poverty-stricken south. The Best Girls in the World: A History of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Rochester in the Missions of Central Alabama, 1940-2020 follows the journey of the Sisters from spectators to participants in the struggle for equal rights.

The Sisters' partnership with the Black community and churches, their involvement with grassroots organizations in the South, and heartfelt relationship with the people of Selma and beyond has continued for over eighty years. The Best Girls in the World documents that journey using archival material, interviews, and historical records and tells a story of the involvement of religious women in Central Alabama.

The account begins in September 1940, when five Sisters of Saint Joseph left Rochester, New York and traveled by train to Selma, Alabama. Their mission was to partner with the priests of the Society of St. Edmund from Colchester, Vermont, to care for the Black Catholics of central Alabama.  Meeting curious stares, threats from the Ku Klux Klan, and denigration from some of the white populace, the Sisters went about visiting the homes of poor Black residents and, eventually, with the backing of the Edmundites and Catholics in the Rochester area, they built a school, a hospital, a training program for nurses, and a strong bond with the Black community.

The events of March 7, 1965, known in American civil rights history as “Bloody Sunday” involved the Sisters of Selma in ways they could never have imagined, as they became embroiled in the battle for civil rights, tending to the wounds of those marchers who tried to cross the Edmund Pettis Bridge to make their petition for equality heard.

The Best Girls in the World is available for purchase on Amazon and in the SSJ Gift Shop.  The SSJ gift shop is located at the SSJ Motherhouse, 150 French Road, Rochester, New York.

Sister Carol Cimino is a Sister of Saint Joseph of Rochester.  She has served in a variety of positions in Catholic education, as teacher, principal, development director, and consultant. She most recently retired as the Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Buffalo, New York. In that position she oversaw 50 elementary and high schools in an eight-county area of Western New York State.  Sister Carol also is the author of several articles, pamphlets and two books in addition to The Best Girls in the World.

The Sisters of Saint Joseph of Rochester is a community of Roman Catholic women religious.  Serving our neighbors, all people no matter who they are or where they find themselves is our mission.  We serve in 12 counties of the Diocese of Rochester, rural Alabama and Brazil. More information about the Sisters of Saint Joseph and its ministries can be found at or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Book Cover - The Best Girls in the World