Our Community History -- The Beginning of the Congregation
In 1723, a young woman and her mother saw the children in the streets near Salzburg, Austria that were too poor to be in the public school that required tuition. Their parents were working all day, and the children had no one to educate them or to watch them during the day. Maria Hyacintha and her mother, who were Third Order Franciscans, took it upon themselves to begin educating the young people in their home. Soon other women joined them, and so the Congregation began!
Motherhouse Moved to Vienna
In 1845, three Sisters moved to Vienna at the request of Austrian royalty to work in education. Empress Carolina Augusta asked for Sisters to come to teach the children of the military. The Bishop of Vienna later required the Sisters to establish a separate Motherhouse in Vienna. Mother M. Xaveria fulfilled the request in that same year. Since that time, our Motherhouse has been in Vienna.
Coming to America
In 1931, our Sisters decided to extend the mission to the United States. The Sisters were able to learn English, work in a seminary, teach in schools, take classes, and work as nurses and teachers in several cities, including LaCrosse, Wisconsin; Trenton, New Jersey; Youngstown, Ohio; Independence, Iowa, and other places.
In 1939, a Region was established in Argentina. The Sisters spread the Franciscan spirit through their apostolates of schools, youth ministry, a hospital, a boy's home, and various other beautiful ways. We treasure our hermanas in our Sister Region in the Americas.
Texas (back to the history in the States)
After working in many apostolates and being educated in the central and eastern United States, the Sisters were looking and praying for a place to create a Regional House for all the Sisters to live together. It happened that the bishop of the Amarillo diocese was looking for Sisters to staff a Catholic Children's Home, new Catholic schools, and eventually a new Catholic nursing home (St. Ann's opened in 1963). So in 1954, the School Sisters migrated to Texas to begin their new lives and establish the Texas Region. Since then, we have been fundamental in the opening and staffing of schools in our diocese and in other areas in the state. The community is currently ministering only in the Amarillo diocese as the harvest is more than plentiful here in this mission territory.
The Catholic Children's Home was established in 1954, donated by the late Rose Gordon. After 40 years of loving and caring for the children that needed a temporary home, it had to be closed in 1994 due to government regulations. We have so many good memories from there! People that have lived there stop by from time to time to reminisce and to see the Sisters that used to care for them.
Today - Charism Understanding rooted in our History:
The founding grace of Mother Maria Hyacintha Zechner was Franciscan in essence and transformative in effect. She tried to be the face of Christ to many through prayer and gospel living.
The purpose of the Congregation, according to the foundress, was first for the glory of God and secondly for the sanctification of the members. Through our relationship with God and each other, we are called to bring the light of Christ to the world today.
Mother Hyacintha belonged to the Secular Franciscan Order before she founded the Congregation. This revealed her deep desire that her daughters would be rooted in the Franciscan spirit through conversion, love, hope, and joy. Our consecration to Jesus gives us freedom to serve the needs of the world.
School Sisters of St. Francis
aka: Franciscan Sisters of Christ the Light (more on this later!)