Franciscan Sisters of the Poor - Brooklyn, New York
Blessed Frances Schervier founded the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor in Aachen, Germany. An affluent and educated woman, Frances came to maturity at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. At that time, Aachen was an industrial center experiencing profound social misery. Frances was only 13 when her mother died and she had to take over management of the family home. So strongly was she drawn to help the poor, that she used her position as head of the household to purchase food and clothing for them.
A person of deep prayer, she was keenly aware of the misery around her. With the help of Father Josef Istas, Frances set up a soup kitchen for the poor. She begged to obtain food, compassionately conducted night watches with the ill, cleaned their homes and comforted the dying. This illustrates how Frances dealt with a larger social phenomenon occurring in Germany at that time whereby many of conscience were troubled by the deplorable social conditions. Many lay Christians found themselves grouping together to represent the Church in care of the sick and needy, and from this social conscience evolved hospitals and other social service works.
In 1844, Frances joined the Secular Franciscan Third Order, meeting several companions who shared her passion for social work and service. One of them subsequently described a dream she had in which God revealed that Frances was to found a religious congregation. Frances took this message seriously and conceived the congregation in 1845. In 1851, the Sisters earned canonical approval and the first 24 Sisters made their final profession of vows in 1852. The congregation grew quickly and, in 1858, the Sisters were requested to start a house in Cincinnati, OH, to serve the sick and poor in the German immigrant population. This new foundation, called St. Mary's Hospital, was the beginning of the ministry of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor in the United States.
In carrying out the healing mission of Jesus, it was Frances Schervier's vision to see Christ in the poor and to heal their wounds. Frances died in 1876, but more than a century later, the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor continue her healing ministry as an international, multi-cultural religious congregation ministering in healthcare, pastoral ministry and social services in the US, Brazil, Italy and Senegal.
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