The Heritage of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary
Our heritage of faith, love and compassion as Franciscan Sisters of Mary grew from our founder, Mary Odilia Berger. She and her companions left Germany in 1872, arriving in St. Louis determined to live a consecrated religious life, to become self-supporting and to help people in need. They came with little more than experience in caring for sick and injured persons and love for others in their hearts. They cared for the sick in their homes, sheltered single mothers-to-be, protected young working women and embraced the care of orphans.
Five years after arriving in St. Louis, while ministering to the sick and nursing persons with smallpox and other illnesses in their homes, the focus of the sisters, who had become known as the Sisters of St. Mary, began to shift to the care of the sick in hospitals.
As years passed, the sisters increased their knowledge and skills, developed technology and established institutions. Essentially their ministry was to bring the healing presence of God and the love revealed through Jesus Christ to their sisters and brothers, especially those in most need.
Seven SSM who were committed to a Franciscan way of life and guided by Mary Augustine Giesen, formed a new community in 1894, named the Sisters of St. Francis of Maryville, MO (OSF).
Throughout their histories both congregations distinguished themselves as gracious, hospitable and committed women. They met the needs of the times, especially the needs of people who could not access life's basic necessities. They became leaders in establishing hospitals and advancing health education. As hands-on healers, managers and administrators, researchers and inventors, the sisters have been compassionate leaders in health care administration, nursing education and the development of allied health professions.
Following Vatican II, both congregations began renewal and planning for their futures. By the early 1980's, there was an awareness among them of being called to a shared future. To this end, they began serious conversations, socialization and shared programs to deepen their relationships.
In May 1985 members from both congregations made a momentous decision. Casting individual ballots, the OSF and SSM voted to reunite as a single congregation. In August 1987 sisters from each tradition met to elect leadership for the reunited congregation, resulting in the formation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary.
During devastating epidemics and societal ills, the sisters have cared for their needy sisters and brothers, believing with Mary Odilia Berger, that "all are God's children" and, as sister to all, heeded the admonition of Mary Augustine Giesen, to "turn no one away."