Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity
Pro-life, Teaching, Homeless Ministry, Nursing, Campus Minister, Medical Ethicist, Lawyer, Spiritual Director, Education Administrator, and more!
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920-323-9632 Sister Julie Ann Sheahan, OSF
Manitowoc, WI; Bapchule, AZ; Cambridge, OH; Chassell, MI; Green Bay, WI; Imperial, NE; Kaukauna, WI; Marquette, MI; Newton, WI; Omaha, NE; Oshkosh, WI; Republic, MI; St. Louis, MO; Sierra Vista, AZ; Tucson, AZ; West Point, NE; Yuma, AZ; Zanesville, OH
Patron Saints/Famous Saints of the Community
St. Francis and St. Clare and the many saints of our Seraphic Order
Our Congregation of Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity is rooted in the call of God to Theresa Gramlich and Rosa Wahl. Their simplicity, firmly built on faith in a loving God, their joyful acceptance of poverty, their love for the Church, and their selfless dedication to the service of others are the cornerstones on which our Congregation is built.
Our foundresses embraced the Franciscan heritage which we gratefully treasure. Like them we have answered the call to live the Gospel as Francis did in fraternity, total self-emptying, joy and peace. We, too, let Francis’ humility and simplicity, his love for God and neighbor, his reverence for created things, his spirit of poverty and prayer, his esteem for work permeate our lives.
As a Congregation of apostolic women religious we respond to God’s call by living in a more intense way our baptismal consecration. We fulfill our mission as ecclesial women through a life of contemplation and action. Our special purpose is to commit ourselves to the service and teachings of the Church through Catholic education, Catholic health care and other ministries in the Church. Our ministries are: Parish Leader, Youth Minister, Diocesan Staff, Administrator, Communications Director, Medical Center Chaplain, Lab Technician, Certified Nursing Assistant, Pro-life, Teaching, Homeless Ministry, Nursing, Campus Minister, Medical Ethicist, Lawyer, Spiritual Director, and Education Administrator.
The Catholic Religious Congregation of Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity was founded November 9, 1869, in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Our Calling is a response to a loving God. We are deeply rooted in Franciscan tradition, and in love for the Church. Mindful of our title, we are selflessly dedicated to the service of others. Our apostolates continue to grow and adapt to the needs within the Church and as women enter to serve with their unique gifts and abilities.
A Franciscan Congregation’s Foundation
Early in 1865, Rev. Joseph Fessler, a newly ordained priest from Saint Nazianz, Wisconsin was assigned to Immaculate Conception Parish, Clarks Mills. The parish children were among his first concerns. He asked 23-year-old Teresa Gramlich who lived nearby, to teach catechism for him. She agreed. On June 5, 1866, she left St. Nazianz to begin her new work in Clarks Mills.
In October, 1866 a priest of the Congregation of the Precious Blood from Ohio, Rev. Joseph Albrecht, stopped at Saint Nazianz with fifteen Sisters of the Precious Blood Congregation on their way to Minnesota. Due to the serious illness of one of the Sisters, Father Albrecht continued on to Minnesota with the men of the group planning to return in Spring. Before he returned the following year, three of the Sisters had decided to remain in Wisconsin. Rosa Wahl, Mary Ann Graf and Josepha Thoenig joined Teresa Gramlich in Clarks Mills on September 8, 1867.
Father Joseph Fessler was assigned as pastor of St. Boniface Church, Manitowoc, in spring, 1868. The little community of women moved to Manitowoc where a combination convent and school building was constructed for them by June, 1869.
Discerning a Franciscan Call
That summer Bishop John Henni of Milwaukee approved Father Fessler’s request and granted the young women’s desire to form a Franciscan religious congregation. Father Fessler’s sister Sophia joined them before their Reception as Novices on November 9, 1869. That day the women were received into the Third Order Regular of St. Francis as Sr. Maria Coletta, Sr. Mary Hyacintha, Sr. Maria Gabriela, Sr. Mary Seraphica, and Sr. Mary Odelia (the first superior).
In 1873, the cornerstone of their Motherhouse was laid at Silver Lake, the present Motherhouse, and Teresa Gramlich (Sr. Gabriela) became the first elected superior. In 1875 the young Franciscan community welcomed 27 Poor School Sisters of St. Francis from Germany, who were fleeing religious persecution. The two communities were amalgamated despite some natural tensions between the American and German Sisters. But when the Motherhouse caught fire in 1881 and destroyed many belongings, it providentially heralded a new beginning together.
Growing Franciscan Congregation – Called to New Ministries
Archbishop Michael Heiss granted the Community the status of a Diocesan Institute and approved new Constitutions in 1885. At this time there were one hundred religious and thirty-five postulants. The Congregation staffed twenty-two parochial schools, Holy Family Institute (a boarding school for girls) and a hospital.
The thriving community worked in Catholic education, healthcare, elder care, and were called into ministries beyond Wisconsin. In 1900, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity became affiliated with the Order of Friars Minor Conventual. The friars acted as spiritual fathers for the community. This bond was later changed, enabling the Sisters to participate in all the spiritual benefits accorded to the First and Second Orders, freeing them to self-govern.
The Community extended its ministry in health care. In 1898 the new Holy Family Hospital was built and staffed by the Sisters in Manitowoc. Within a few years a hospital was opened in Zanesville, Ohio and a home for the elderly in West Point, Nebraska.
In 1885 the State of Wisconsin granted a charter to the Congregation to operate an academy and normal school for the education of teachers. This was the forerunner of Holy Family College.
One of the most extensive charitable works of the Congregation has been missionary work among the poor, especially the Native Americans and parishes in the southwestern part of the United States and for a time in Lima, Peru. As early as 1930, a school was opened in Yuma, Arizona in the Tucson Diocese. More schools were accepted between 1936 and 1941 on the Aimel O’Odham and Tohono O’Odham Reservations. In 1946, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity responded to a request of the Marist Fathers and the Honolulu Diocese to staff a school in Kekaha, Kauai and later in Honolulu in 1956.
Guided By A Franciscan Vision
In the late 1940’s the Congregation began to petition the Holy See for acceptance as a pontifical congregation (a congregation directly responsible to Rome). On December 20, 1948, Pope Pius XII gave temporary approval and on January 22, 1962, Pope John XXIII gave definitive approval.
In accordance with Vatican Council II, our Congregation made concerted efforts, like St. Francis, to renew our spirit and life according to the Gospel, our charism and the changing times. On March 8, 1979, the Sacred Congregation formally approved our new Constitutions. On April 16, 1984, the 775th anniversary of the approval of the Rule of St. Francis, our Community embraced our revised Constitutions as our way of life.
2000 to Today: Living Our Franciscan Calling
We Franciscan Sisters have served in health care and education since our founding. In 1985, responding to ever increasing complexities of health care delivery in the United States, the congregation’s health care ministries- including acute and long-term care facilities, senior housing and physician clinics – were incorporated into the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity HealthCare Ministry, Inc. In 2012, the name was changed to Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Sponsored Ministries, Inc.
Today, the Congregation serves the Church in two archdioceses (Omaha, St. Louis) and in six dioceses (Columbus, Green Bay, Lincoln, Marquette, Phoenix, Tucson, and Steubenville). Where there is a need, our Sisters respond with zeal and creativity. God calls you. We invite you
The love-response to the Lord’s invitation, which we profess as consecrated women, is nourished and fostered in our lives primarily through prayer. We value the Eucharist, the daily continuation of the Paschal Mystery through which the Church lives and grows. We join with Christ in the Eucharist and in the Liturgy of the Hours as He continues His priestly work, ceaselessly praising His Father, and interceding with, in, and for the Church. Like Francis, we personally and communally honor and love our Lord Jesus Christ present on our altars in the Sacrament of Love. With Francis, we treasure God’s presence in His word in Scripture. We set apart at least an hour each day for personal contemplative prayer. The Community provides an opportunity for each Sister to renew and deepen her spiritual life through an annual retreat.
We accept His call to suffering and personal sacrifice as part of our call to love as He loved. We honor Mary as Spouse of the Holy Spirit and ask her to obtain for us the grace of an intimate union with her Son in order that the presence of His love in us will draw others to intimacy with Him.
We fast and abstain on the vigils of St. Francis and the Immaculate Conception in addition to the days of fast and abstinence generally observed in the local Church.
Our Franciscan heritage leads us to reflect frequently on God’s tremendous love for us in the mysteries of our faith, especially in the Incarnation, Eucharist and Passion. (The Franciscan Crown, Stations of the Cross, praying with outstretched arms, and celebrating Franciscan Feasts with simple significance are important to us. Our home and Profession music is truly unique to us). We also accustom ourselves to endure privations, to live in humility, in simplicity, and in proper relationship to created things.
Our 150 years blessed Congregation is consecrated in a special way to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The entire Order is dedicated to Mary under the title of her Immaculate Conception. We are blessed with a joyous life with countless traditions.