BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Two Franciscan provinces from Pennsylvania have joined together to form the School Sisters of St. Francis, United States Province.
The merge of the School Sisters of St. Francis Bethlehem Province, and the School Sisters of St. Francis Pittsburgh Province, became official on January 1.
Each of the provinces had its own closing rituals to end the year, according to former Provincial Vicar Sr.Barbara DeStefano, OSF, who said that they “included remembering, sharing, grieving, birthing and celebrating each phase ritually. They consisted of guest speakers and special meals.”
The theme of the sisters’ gatherings was change, Sr. Barbara said.
“All of our lives involve times of grace and abundant blessings, as well as times of loss and letting go, times that call for conversion and transformation,” she said.
The new province has 104 members comprising 46 from the Bethlehem branch and 58 sisters from the Pittsburgh group. Its provincial minister is Sr. Elaine Hromulak, OSF, who r was from the Pittsburgh side. The formal name of the new consolidated community is School Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis, United States Province.
The Bethlehem congregation began in Gratz, Austria, and was later branched off, said Sr. Barbara who lives and works at The Catholic Community of St. Matthias in Somerset, N.J.
“We have provinces, regions and delegations around the world: Italy, Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, South America, India, Central Asia, Africa, and, of course, the U.S.,” Sr. Barbara said. “Our sisters came to America around 1913 from the Slovak Republic. Our general motherhouse is in Rome.”
The Pittsburgh province was established in 1947, and the Bethlehem Province began in 1956.
“Our sisters were ministering in the Bethlehem area before that, but did not become a separate province until 1956,” according to Sr. Barbara.