History & Heritage
FROM THESE BEGINNINGS.......
In the course of history, we are often surprised how seemingly unimportant events and decisions made with faith and trust in God’s providence, can change the course of history. Thus it was for the Sisters of St. Francis of the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin, Hastings-On-Hudson, NY, the Sisters of St. Francis, Third Order Regular of Buffalo, NY and the Sisters of the Third Franciscan Order, Syracuse, NY. These three congregations share a common foundation. Each traced its roots to the original foundation of the Neumann-Bachmann Heritage Congregations founded in Philadelphia in 1855 by St. John Neumann, Mother Mary Francis Bachmann, Sister Margaret Boll and Sister Bernardina Dorn. These three faith-filled women were invested on April 9, 1855 in Bishop John Neumann’s own Chapel.
Five years later, in 1860, Mother Francis Bachmann sent six sisters from Philadelphia, including Sister Bernardina Dorn, to respond to a call from the Franciscan Friars to serve the immigrant people in Utica and Syracuse, NY, then part of the Albany Diocese. Later that same year, Bishop James F. Wood, then bishop of Philadelphia, summoned Sister Bernardina Dorn and Sister Antonia Eulenstein to Philadelphia, where he told the two sisters that he was separating those serving in central New York from those in Philadelphia, and was requesting Bishop John McCloskey of Albany to incorporate them into his diocese. Thus was born a new community, formed in 1860 through faith, pain and trust in God’s will. It became known as the Sisters of the Third Franciscan Order of Syracuse, NY. Sister Bernardina Dorn was elected the Mother Superior of the new community. In 1883, while serving as the second Mother Superior of this community, Mother Marianne Cope, now Blessed Marianne, responded to a call to go to the Sandwich Islands, now Hawaii, to care for those afflicted with the disease of leprosy. This response brought to the community and to the people of Hawaii a new and beautiful heritage, the effects of which continue to be experienced today. http://www.blessedmariannecope.org
Just a year after responding to the call from the Franciscan Friars, in 1861 the sisters in Philadelphia responded to another call, this time to serve in the Diocese of Buffalo. Mother Francis Bachmann sent Sister Margaret Boll with two other sisters and her eldest daughter, Johanna, to begin this mission. They arrived December 18th with seventy-five cents in their pockets, fifty cents of which went to have their luggage delivered. After the death of Mother Francis, when the sisters in Buffalo were asked to send their votes for the election of a new Mother Superior, Sister Margaret notified their Spiritual Director in Philadelphia that the Bishop of Buffalo would have the Buffalo sisters select their own Mother Superior. Again, what began, as a mission in 1861 became an independent foundation and a new diocesan community in 1863 for the Diocese of Buffalo. Mother Margaret Boll was named the first Mother Superior of the new community. On July 6, 1965, the Sisters of St. Francis in Buffalo became a Pontifical congregation. On November 8, 2003, The Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Divine Child, a small community in ‘Western N.Y., merged with them, a move deeply enriching to both communities.
In 1865, sisters from Buffalo went to Pittsburgh to open St. Francis Hospital. By 1871 twenty-nine sisters were ministering there when the Bishop of the Pittsburgh Diocese requested them to sever their relationship with Buffalo and come under his jurisdiction. Thus it was that another painful separation occurred, accepted with faith and trust in God’s providence. In 1882, sisters from Buffalo responded to another call coming from beyond their diocese, this time to assist Fr. John Drumgoole in the New York City area in the institution for homeless youth which he had founded under the patronage of the Immaculate Virgin. This ministry flourished, continuing after the untimely death of Fr. Drumgoole in the blizzard of 1888. In 1893 the sisters in Mt. Loretto and New York were given the new Rule that was being followed in Buffalo. Since this new Rule was not able to be followed in these missions, Father James Dougherty petitioned the Archbishop of New York, Rev. M. A. Corrigan, that the community of New York and Mt. Loretto be permitted to form an independent community. This occurred in June 1893. Twenty-one sisters decided to return to Buffalo and twenty-eight sisters remained to form the nucleus of the new community known as The Sisters of St. Francis of the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin, which eventually built their Motherhouse in Hastings-on-Hudson. Mother Catherine Wallace was elected Mother Superior of the new Community on Aug. 12, 1893.
Each congregation had its own blessed and proud heritage to offer as gift to one another when a new beginning was made.
Following a long period of separation, six congregations who traced their history, directly or indirectly, to the original Philadelphia congregation gathered to plan formal and informal meetings in order to become reacquainted and to learn how the mission of each congregation deepened and expanded. This process began in the late 1970’s. In the 1990’s sisters from the six congregations served in common ministries and met regularly to collaborate on ministry, formation and vocation programs. In 1997 the major superiors of the three congregations located in Hastings-on-Hudson, Syracuse and Williamsville (Diocese of Buffalo) began to meet on an informal basis. Following this the three Leadership Teams began to meet. By 1999, the Leadership Teams of the three congregations stated, “We will explore intentionally and together a shared future.”
A Task Group was formed, composed of four members from each congregation; this Task Group gathered monthly with a facilitator. For four years the Task Group met, planned and communicated their progress to the congregations. The Lord’s plan for our congregations came to fruition with the unanimously affirming vote to form a union of the three congregations. This vote occurred November 29, 2003. The Founding Event of this new congregation, the Sisters of St. Francisof the Neumann Communities, union of the three New York State congregations of the Neumann-Bachmann Heritage, was celebrated July 14, 2004. This date marks, as well, the beginning of the first Chapter of the new congregation.
Millvale Sisters Merger
In February of 2005 the Sisters of St. Francis of Millvale sent a formal letter of petition for merger with the newly formed Sisters of St. Francis. This congregation had been separated from the Sisters in Buffalo in 1871 by the Bishop of the Pittsburgh Diocese. A Merger Task Group was formed in October 2005, to begin dialogue for such a merger. Regularly scheduled meetings of the Task Group have occurred since that time. The Task Group has met periodically with the Leadership Teams of both congregations, has provided newsletter communications, established prayer partners and provided other activities to enable the members of both congregations to know one another better. On April 18, 2007, the Sisters of St. Francis of Millvale, in a canonical congregational chapter, formally voted to merge with the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. Incorporation ceremonies were held on August 26, 2007 in Syracuse, general headquarters of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, and on September 30, 2007 in Millvale, celebrating the merger and reuniting of the two congregations.
".....may they all be one..." Jn 17:21