The Founding of Our Congregation

Mother Clara worked in tandem with Bishop Conrad Martin to form a new order of women religious dedicated to prayer and caring for orphans while following the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi. 

On October 30, 1860, Bishop Martin approved Mother Clara’s Founding Constitution and thus begins the first big step on our journey toward the founding of the Wheaton Franciscans.   

The Kulturkampf and Branching Out

In addition to childcare, Mother Clara and the Sisters acted as nurses during both the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Their resulting actions spared them from being completely disbanded by the government during the Kulturkampf as they were declared a nursing order. However, the Sisters were no longer permitted to teach or recruit new women seeking to join the order. 

Persecution caused by the Kulturkampf greatly influenced Mother Clara to send her Sisters outside of Germany to continue the teaching and care of orphans. After establishing houses in France and the Netherlands, Mother Clara felt confident in sending Sisters to the United States 

Meanwhile in America

Between 1870-1900 around 12 million immigrants came to the United States with the hopes of economic prosperity, as well as political and religious freedom.

April 12, 1861 – The American Civil War began with the Battle of Fort Sumter. 

Here we see a “Chaplain conducting mass for the 69th New York State Militia encamped at Fort Corcoran, Washington, D.C., 1861. Photographed by Mathew B. Brady.” Source

April 9, 1865 – Gen. Robert E Lee surrenders his forces to Gen Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the Civil War, though the final Confederate surrender won’t come until seven months later when the CSS Shenandoah brings hostilities to a close on November 6, 1865. (Photo of Ulysses S. Grant)

March 1, 1872 – Yellowstone National Park becomes the world’s first national park, after President Ulysses S Grant signed it into law.