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Discover Our Heritage

Our History

The Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters, Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, was founded on October 30, 1860, by Mother Clara M. Pfaender in Olpe, Germany. In 1863 the new congregation moved to Salzkotten, Germany.

In the founding Constitution, Mother Clara was careful to allow flexibility in the congregation’s purpose, stating, “No manner of loving service shall be excluded from their loving concern.” This statement helped the congregation to stay in Germany during the Kulturkampf [JN1] [JC2] to continue providing healthcare. The persecution caused by the Kulturkampf did influence Mother Clara’s decision to send her Sisters outside of Germany to continue teaching, nursing, and caring for orphans. After establishing houses in France and the Netherlands, Mother Clara decided the time was right to establish an American Province.

The first Sisters came to the United States in 1872 and settled in St. Louis, Missouri. There were 19 German Sisters in the United States by late 1875. With a rich history of responding to the needs of the times, the Sisters soon established ministries in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Colorado. As missions in America continued to grow, more Sisters made the long journey from Germany. In July 1947, the Sisters moved to Wheaton, Illinois, and became known as the Wheaton Franciscans.

Our Archives

The Archives hold our most treasured artifacts and serve as the official repository for all documents, records, and photographs collected since 1872, when the first three Sisters came from Germany. The archives hold the personal histories of individual members and the history of the ministries and services of the Region. The Heritage and Archive Coordinator is responsible for the preservation of these materials and for making them available as necessary.

Our archive collection is essential for celebrating the Sisters’ profound legacy and promoting our current justice, spirituality, community-building, and collaborative ministries. Using the past as a bridge to the present can effectively generate interest and reach a wider audience.

“The Congregation of Sisters of St. Francis, Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, endeavor to integrate the contemplative and active life so that the latter is nourished and strengthened through the former and thus becomes itself rich in blessing.”

For information from our Archives or for any questions about the Wheaton Franciscan history, we invite you to contact our Archivist.