This December, the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio will enter their 100th year of mission and ministry. A year-long celebration will begin on December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and the official anniversary of the Sisters coming to the Toledo area.
Responding to a request in 1916 from Bishop Joseph Schrembs, 23 Franciscan Sisters from Rochester, Minnesota, came to northwest Ohio to teach Polish immigrants in the Diocese of Toledo. Under the direction of Sister Mary Adelaide Sandusky, soon to be known as Mother Adelaide, the Sisters were first stationed at St. Hedwig School in Toledo. In 1917, they purchased 89 acres of land in Sylvania, and formally established the Motherhouse of what is now known as the Sisters of St. Francis, Congregation of Our Lady of Lourdes, of Sylvania, Ohio.
In 1918 the Sisters responded to another request from the Bishop, this time in healthcare. Five Sylvania Franciscans went to Gypsum, Ohio, near Sandusky, on the shores of Lake Erie, to care for victims of the flu pandemic that was sweeping the country. In 1921, the Sisters were asked to manage a hospital in Ashland, Kentucky, beginning their official entry into their healthcare ministry.
By 1960, under the direction of Mother Adelaide, as general superior and spiritual leader, the Sylvania Franciscans grew to more than 500 Sisters teaching in 50 elementary and high schools in six states and ministering in 17 hospitals in seven states.
Throughout the years, the Sylvania Franciscans have adapted their ministries, in response to God’s call and the values of St. Francis and St. Clare, to serve the ever-changing needs of the human family. Committed to reverence and respect, the Sisters of St. Francis are active in issues of peace and justice and care for the environment.
Today, the Sylvania Franciscans have more than 150 Sisters and minister in 16 Dioceses in eight states, as well as the island of Haiti. In addition, there are 70 Associates who have made a commitment to share in the proclamation of Franciscan values. The Sisters of St. Francis respond to God’s call to live the Gospel in joyful servanthood among all people through lives and ministries that reverence human dignity, embrace the poor and marginalized, and respect the gift of all creation.
Placing their individual gifts and talents in service to the needs of God’s people, the Sylvania Franciscans today are engaged in such diverse ministries as education, healthcare, social services, religious education, media, law, art, parish and retreat ministries, and spiritual direction.