Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio, Celebrate Their Centennial
December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, was the 100th anniversary of the Sisters of St. Francis coming from Rochester, Minnesota to teach in Toledo Catholic schools.
A Mass, celebrating their Centennial, was conducted by Bishop Daniel Thomas, of the Diocese of Toledo, in Queen of Peace Chapel. The liturgy was followed by a reception at the Franciscan Center, where more than 250 people enjoyed dinner and a program, emceed by retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger, that included a presentation on the Spirit of Franciscanism by Fr. Bob Wilhelm and testimonials of personal experiences with the Sisters of St. Francis by Janet Robinson, past president of Lourdes University, former Provost and head of the nursing program, and Jim Haudan, CEO of Root, Inc., a strategy execution company that helps organizations engage their people as the catalyst and driver for change.
The Sister’s legacy in in northwest Ohio began in 1916 with a request from Bishop Joseph Schrembs for Franciscan Sisters to come to Toledo to teach Polish immigrants in Catholic schools. Under the direction of Sister Mary Adelaide Sandusky, soon to be known as Mother Adelaide, the Sisters were first stationed at St. Benedict and then at St. Hedwig Schools. 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.
Since 1917, the Sisters have taught in 125 schools in 13 states. Specifically, the Sylvania Franciscans have taught in 40 schools in the Diocese of Toledo, where the Motherhouse resides, 56 in the whole state of Ohio, 24 schools in Minnesota, which is where they originated, and 21 schools in Michigan. The remaining 24 schools were in Wisconsin (1), Missouri (1), California (2), Louisiana (7), Maryland (1), Nebraska (1), Mississippi (2), Texas (5), New Mexico (3), and Illinois (1).
Since 1918, the Sisters have ministered in 20 hospitals in seven states; eight in Texas, five in Ohio, two in Michigan, two in Louisiana, one in Kentucky (there first), one in Nebraska, and one in Arizona.
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 150 Sisters and minister in 15 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 Sylvania Franciscans currently have 26 Sisters ministering in healthcare and human services, 17 in mission and pastoral work, 12 in the undergraduate and graduate setting, five in elementary schools, and three in social work.
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.