A congregation founded in Holland in 1832 by the Rev. John Zwijsen, pastor of Tilburg, aided by Mary M. Leijsen, for the instruction of children and the betterment of a people deprived of spiritual aid by the disastrous effects of the Reformation. The See of Utrecht had been vacant for about three hundred years when, on the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in Holland in 1853, Bishop John Zwijsen, of Gerra, was made Archbishop of Utrecht and Primate of Holland. He found no Catholic institutions for the education of girls in this vast diocese, neither were there any teaching orders, with the exception of his humble congregation. The founder's accession to the See gave fresh impetus to his cherished work, and from this time the congregation spread rapidly throughout Holland and Belgium. There is now hardly a city of the Netherlands that has not one or more of its communities. Among these institutions are homes for the aged and infirm, the blind, the mutes and also hospitals. The Rules were approved by Gregory XVI in 1843, and Pius IX approved the congregation in 1848. About the middle of the eighteenth century, when the cholera was raging in Holland, the heroic charity of the sisters won the recognition of King William III who conferred decorations of honour on the congregation. It has three houses in England devoted to school and hospital work. In 1874 the first house in the United States was founded at Baltic, Connecticut, where there is a Parochial school and an academy for young ladies. The congregation has other houses at Willimantic and Taftville where the same work is carried on. In 1907 St. Joseph's community of Willimantic donated, one of the convent buildings for a city hospital, which from the outset proved a success. In 1894 the congregation took charge of the leper settlement, city and military hospitals of Paramaribo, South America; and in East India, the sisters are doing missionary work among the natives. In December, 1907, this congregation had 2621 professed members, 488 aspirants and novices and 102 houses. The number of schoolchildren enrolled was estimated at 54,300; the sick, aged and infirm cared for 3446.
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