150th Anniversary of Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart

Sr. Laura Morgan, FMSC Franciscan World


Some of the Peekskill sisters visited St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City earlier this year. Pastor Andrew Reitz was there to greet them. (Photo courtesy of Sr. Laura Morgan)

Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Gemona, Italy, sent three sisters to America. Sisters Gertrude, Pelligrina, and Costanza arrived in New York City on Dec. 5 and were given hospitality at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street. Here began the first mission of our FMSC Community in the United States as these sisters served European immigrants, giving spiritual comfort, visiting the sick, instructing young girls, and bringing hope to the imprisoned, paving the way for these ministries to continue for the next 150 years.

The Jubilee year for our community has been filled with gratitude for all that these sisters and the many who joined them throughout the years have done in following the Lord’s call to spread the Gospel and build up His kingdom here on Earth. Our celebration began on Dec. 5, 2014 with a Solemn Vesper Service and homily by Kevin Daly, OFM, an anniversary Mass to open the year of celebration on Dec. 6, celebrated by Kevin Cronin, OFM, and a Vesper Service for the eve of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 7.

On April 25, many guests came to Mount St. Francis to participate in Heritage Day. It began with Mass celebrated by Andrew Reitz, OFM, and continued with lunch and pictures, PowerPoint presentations, and lots of stories of the wonderful memories of the Franciscan Sisters. On May 17, we enjoyed the dramatic presentation of “Luke: Stories on the Road” by Frank Runyeon. On July 1, the festivities continued with the Families, Friends, and Alumni Picnic.

On Aug. 15 we began our Provincial Chapter, with the opening Mass celebrated by Kevin Mullen, OFM, Provincial of Holy Name Province. We were so happy that Sr. Paola Dotto, FMSC, our General Superior, and Sr. Tiziana Tonini were here to celebrate with us as I, the new Provincial, and my council — Sisters Rose Cecilia Bozzo, Katherine Siegel, Clare Poothakuzhiyil, and Antonia Maguire — were installed. Aug. 30 treated us to the “International Heritage through Music” presentation, with song and dance by Mario Tacca, Mary Mancini, Maura Mulligan, Marie Reilly, and some of our sisters presenting song and dance from their native countries.

All these great events led up to our grand celebration on Dec.5, 2015. Joining us for a week in the United States were five sisters from the General Council in Rome: Sisters Paola, Tiziana, Emmapia, Giorgina, and Augusta, as well as the provincials from other parts of the world: Sr. Fides from Chile, Sr. Marta from Rome, Sr. Anna Maria from Gemona, Sr. Beatrice from Africa, and Sr. Angelica from Cyprus.

The day began with Mass celebrated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, concelebrated by 12 of our priest friends. The music provided by the choir from Holy Spirit Parish in Cortlandt Manor, and the presence of so many friends, relatives, and sisters must have put smiles on all the FMSC Sisters who have gone home to heaven. It certainly put huge smiles on our hearts! Wanting to include as many people as possible in the Eucharistic celebration, we had Fr. Charles Reinbold, chaplain at Mount St. Francis, proclaim the Gospel and Fr. John DeBellis from Holy Spirit led us in the Prayer of the Faithful. Our offertory procession consisted of a Peekskill Franciscan sister, a Franciscan Sister of Peace, a former student, a lay associate, and our new FMSC vocation.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan celebrates Mass for the sisters at their motherhouse in Peekskill, N.Y. (Photo courtesy of the Peekskill sisters)

Cardinal Timothy Dolan celebrates Mass for the sisters at their motherhouse in Peekskill, N.Y. (Photo courtesy of Sr. Laura)

After Mass, Cardinal Dolan visited the sisters in our infirmary, which brought much happiness to those whose limitations prevented them from being physically present at the celebration.

A delicious dinner awaited all in the convent dining room, which was transformed into an elegant setting for such a special day. Keeping to our charism of Franciscan hospitality, we engaged the Confirmation students from Holy Spirit Parish to serve our guests, and they did so with joy and perfection!

At the dinner, I shared one of the “little miracles” that added to the festivity of an anniversary: The story of Sr. Adelaide.

About six weeks before the ending of our anniversary year, Sr. Adelaide received a phone call from a man who said his hobby was metal detecting. On one of his outings, he found a small medal of Mary and the Child Jesus at the base of a driveway in West Park, N.Y. The medal was the size of a penny and inscribed with “1872-1922 Sr. M. Adelaide”. In his search to find out more about this, he discovered that the Franciscan Sisters had ministered at Ladycliff College/Ladycliff Academy in those years. Thus, he contacted the Franciscan Sisters to see if we had such a sister at that time. Sr. Antonia began to check the files and the archives and discovered that indeed we had a Sr. Adelaide, who was stationed in Highland Falls and was the superior of the Academy during the year 1922. Many pictures of her were in the archives, and interesting facts about her. She was born Mary Griffith on Dec. 8, 1854 and entered the community on Feb. 11, 1873, the seventh woman to enter after the arrival of the three founding sisters. She must have been very popular with her students, because seven of her students took the name of Adelaide for Confirmation! She died on July 28, 1926 and is buried in our Grove Cemetery at Mount St. Francis in Peekskill.

What a great surprise when the medal arrived at the convent on the morning of Dec. 4. As I held it, my eyes filled with tears as I felt the unity of this early sister with her and the sisters ready to celebrate 150 years of serving God as Franciscans. I decided to pin the medal to my habit and wear it for the celebration. In this way, Adelaide could be shared with everyone and the medal would stay in a safe place for the day. Sr. Adelaide and I have become good friends. I talk to her every day and tell her to intercede for the community, and I believe that she is doing just that. It is no coincidence that the medal was found at this moment in time… an added blessing to our 150 years of doing God’s work!

— Sr. Laura was elected provincial of Peekskill’s Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart on July 1, 2015. Information about the community can be found on its Facebook page and on its website.

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