As I reflect on our community’s past 150 years in the United States and 75 years in Wheaton, my dominant feeling is one of gratitude for God’s gracious and loving presence with us. Beginning in 1872 when our pioneer courageous Sisters came from Germany to establish the beginning of our province in the USA to the relinquishment of our flourishing and successful health care and housing ministries in 2016, the wisdom and guidance of God’s Holy Spirit has been with us.
Not all the years rolled by smoothly. On two occasions throughout the years, our finances were “thin” and we worried about being able to care for our Sisters. Then there were the high points of our motherhouse moving to Wheaton in 1947, the opening of our beautiful motherhouse in 1954, the multiple diverse ministries our Sisters provided in healthcare, housing for the poor, retreats, spiritual direction, teaching, elder care, and administration. All this reveals our commitment, prayer, perseverance, hard work, and determination to respond to the Gospel’s challenge to meet the needs of the times and especially the needs of the poor.
May our presence yesterday, today, and tomorrow continue to be a blessing in the heart of the world.
When the Anniversary Planning Committee first met to discuss a year of events, it was important for us from the very start to recognize this was going to be a year of celebrating not just the events of the past, but the presence of Wheaton Franciscans today and into the future. I think one of the greatest gifts Mother Clara gave to us was the instruction to “meet the needs of the times.” With this simple phrase, she gave us a two-fold mandate:
Be present and mindful of the current situation;
respond with creativity, vision and freedom.
This way of thinking takes us beyond ourselves recognizing that what we do today lays the foundation for the next generation. Mother Clara could never have imagined the kinds of ministries we are engaged in today, neither can we envision where we will be in 25 years when we will celebrate 175 years in the US and 100 years in Wheaton! Whatever the future holds, the spirit of the Wheaton Franciscans will flourish and live on as long as we continue to be mindful of the world around us and respond with love.
As this year of celebration comes to a close, I want to express my sincere gratitude to everyone and anyone who helped, participated and supported all of our anniversary events.
Special thanks to Kevin Korst, our Archivist who helped uncover the inspiring stories and interesting photographs to help us explore our past; and to Jeanne Connolly and Jamie Nicholas who used these to create beautiful communications and website pages for all of us to delight in.
Finally, I am especially thankful to the Planning Committee, Sr. Alice Drewek, Sr. Jackie Drazen and Covenant Companions Consuelo Cabral and Mary Ellen Durbin for their leadership, tireless creativity, and hard work! It was a joy working with you!
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 [...]
Coming to America With the restrictions of the Kulturkampf in place, a letter from the pastor of St. Boniface Parish in St. Louis, Missouri couldn’t have come at a better time. The pastor requested sisters from Germany to come to St. Louis to help establish a hospital for the many German immigrants who settled in the area. Finally, a door was opening for the sisters who longed to serve God but were denied that opportunity in Germany. Three sisters volunteered and arrived in December of 1872. Thus began the arrival of Mother Clara’s Franciscan Sisters [...]
The Franciscan Expansion Beginning at the end of the 1800s, the Franciscan expansion grew immensely. Sisters were requested in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Colorado to develop various ministries for those communities. As a result, in 1884 the United States became the first Province of the Congregation with Mother Bernarda Passmann elected Provincial Mother Superior. The Needs of the Times While sisters initially began both teaching in parish schools and providing nursing services for [...]