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Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis

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A Congregation, founded by the Venerable Mother Frances Schervier at Aachen in the year 1845, whose members observe the Rule of the Third Order of St. Francis, as given by Leo X for Tertiaries living in community, and Constitutions adapted to their special work, care of the sick poor, dependent upon charity.


Frances Schervier, born in Aachen, 3 January, 1819, was the child of John Henry Caspar Schervier, proprietor of a needle manufactory and associate magistrate of the city, and Maria Louisa Migeon, descendant of a wealthy French family. Frances's education was thorough, and it was always her desire to serve the sick and poor. She began by giving them food and clothing, labouring for them, and visiting them in their homes and hospitals. In 1840 she joined a charitable society, in order to exercise this charity more actively. In 1844 she and four other young ladies (Catherine Daverkosen, Gertrude Frank, Joanna Bruchhans, and Catherine Lassen) became members of the Third Order of St. Francis. The following year, with the permission of a priest, they went to live together in a small house beyond St. James's Gate, and Frances was chosen superior of the community. The life of the sisters was conventual, and the time spent in religious exercises, household duties, and caring for the sick poor. In 1848 the community numbered thirteen members.

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In the latter part of 1848 a mild form of cholera broke out in Aachen, followed by an epidemic of small pox, and an infirmary was opened in an old Dominican building, the property of the city. The Sisters offered their services as nurses and they were authorized to take up their abode in the building (1849). New members were admitted in 1849, when they were called to take charge of an infirmary for cholera patients in Burtscheid. In 1850 they established a hospital for incurables in the old Dominican building, and the home nursing and charity kitchens in different parishes were entrusted to them. In 1850 the "Constitutions" were compiled and submitted to the Archbishop of Cologne. They were approved, and on 12 August, 1851, Mother Frances and her twenty-three associates were invested with the habit of St. Francis. On 13 June, 1850, they took charge of a hospital in Juelich (later abandoned). In 1851 a foundation was established at Bonn and also at Aachen for the care of the female prisoners in the House of Detention. When the home of the Poor Clares, before their suppression in 1803, was offered for sale in the summer of 1852, Mother Frances purchased the spacious building for a convent — the first mother-house. The congregation grew steadily and rapidly. In 1852 two houses were founded in Cologne, and a hospital was opened at Burtscheid. Foundations were established in Ratingen, Mayence, Coblenz (1854); Kaiserswerth, Crefeld, Euskirchen (1855); Eschweiler (1858); Stolberg and Erfurt (1863), etc. The number of institutions in Europe at time of present writing (1911) is about 49.

Congregation in America

The year 1858 marks an important epoch in the development of the congregation, namely: the transplanting of the congregation to America. Mrs. Sarah Peter, a convert of Cincinnati, O., received a commission from the archbishop in that city to bring German Sisters to America to care for the destitute poor of German nationality, and Irish Sisters for the Irish poor. While in Rome in 1857 she submitted the plan to the Holy Father, who advised her to apply for German Sisters to some Austrian bishop. Cardinal Von Geissel, the Archbishop of Cologne, earnestly recommended the Congregation of Mother Frances for the purpose. In Ireland she succeeded in obtaining the Sisters of Mercy. Mother Frances resolved to found a house in Cincinnati, and on 24 August, 1858, the six sisters chosen by her set sail for America. Upon their arrival in Cincinnati, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd kindly gave them hospitality. Soon they received the offer of the gratuitous use of a vacated orphanage for their patients. The following year three more sisters arrived from Europe, and in March they purchased several lots at the corner of Linn and Betts Streets (the present site of St. Mary's Hospital ), and began constructing a hospital. More sisters soon arrived from the mother-house, and in 1860 they were able to establish a branch-house in Covington, Ky.

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In the spring of 1861 Mrs. Peter offered her residence to the sisters for a novitiate, and home for the Clarisses or recluses, a contemplative branch of the congregation, for whose coming she had long been negotiating with Mother Frances. In October, 1861, three recluses came to America, and from their arrival up to the present time perpetual adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament has been carried on without interruption in this novitiate convent of St. Clara. Mrs. Peter reserved for herself the use of several rooms, wherein she lived a life of retirement until her death in Feb., 1877. The congregation owed much of its rapid progress in the New World to the influence of this noble lady. Hospitals have been founded in the following cities of the United States : Cincinnati (1858); Covington, Ky. (1860); Columbus, O. (1862); Hoboken, N. J. (1863); Jersey City, N. J. (1864); Brooklyn, N. Y. (1864); 5th St., N. Y. City (1865); Quincy, Ill. (1866); Newark, N. J. (1867); Dayton, O. (1878); N. Y. City (1882); Kansas City, Kan. (1887); Fairmount, Cin., 0. (1888); Columbus, O. (1891); 142nd St., N. Y. City (1906). In 1896 the novitiate was removed to Hartwell, O., where the congregation possesses a large convent, church, and grounds, the centre of activity of the Province in America.

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