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The deep faith and courage of our Sisters during these times of war, epidemics, poverty and other challenges is truly admirable! Bishops in Germany, Belgium, and the United States continued to beg them to begin new institutions. At least six new establishments were begun in Germany; nine hospitals and 2 social service houses in United States; and the Congregation returned to Belgium.

1Sr. Mary Julian Lichon, St. John Social Service Center 2Home nursing in Germany 

Nursing training was a priority both in Germany and the United States. Already in 1904 training had begun at St. Francis Hospital in Ehrenfeld and at St. Mary Hospital in Dusseldorf.

The school of nursing at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Dayton opened in 1915, where a maternity ward was also opened in a separate building. A new school for nurses was then opened at St. Mary’s Hospital in Cincinnati, and in 1933 the obstetrics ward was opened there as well. In 1938 the Sisters returned to Belgium for the first time since the Kulturkampf. They served at Notre Dame College at St. Lambert in Herstal. Soon after they expanded to St. Anthony’s Home and Petit Seminaire in Bastogne and to the House of Calvary in Jumet.

5A Sister visiting the elderly, St. John Social Service Agency  3St. Elizabeth Covington, Kentucky

7Anti-Germany war poster6St. Mary Hospital in Hoboken, NJ, decorated to celebrate its expansion, c.1915 World War I erupted in Europe in 1914. Our Sisters’ cities were invaded and bombed.  When the United States declared war on Germany, the German Sisters in the United States without naturalization papers were investigated by the government, which later issued identification cards to them and required them to swear under oath that they would no longer send money to Germany.

Food was scarce and communication between the Sisters located on two continents became more difficult. In order to relieve the scarcity of milk somewhat, two cows were acquired at St. Clara’s in Aachen, one for the needs of the Sisters and the other for the leper hospital.

Following the Armistice, the Sisters in Germany were overwhelmed with the money and gifts from the Sisters in the United States. Transportation improved and 20 Sisters were sent from Germany to the United States to assist in staffing St. Mary Hospital in Hoboken as soon as it was returned to the Sisters by the military.


11Picking berries, perhaps at Mt. Alverno in Warwick, NY 10Novices Lourdesheim, Aachen, c. 1930 12Procession in Cologne, c. 1930

In 1908 the Constitution received final approbation. After changes in Canon Law in 1918, the Constitutions were modified and resubmitted. There were changes in formation regarding the vow renewal ceremony, preparation time for professing vows, and the number of Delegates for the Chapters. For this reason as well as the unstable social and political conditions in Germany the Chapter was postponed several times. The Latin manuscript returned to the Mother House in Aachen in 1930, after having been in Rome since 1924. In 1933 the Rule and Constitutions were translated and printed in English.  

13A class at St. Mary Hospital in Cincinnati, OH  9Sister in the communal ward with patients, St. Elizabeth’s in Covington, 1935


8Sr.Johanna Burkhart, St.John Social Service CenterIn 1934 the Sisters received word that the opening of the process for the Beatification of Mother Frances had been approved. Sisters who had personally known Mother Frances, both in United States and Germany, were interviewed under oath concerning her virtues.  In the midst of other sufferings, the Beatification Process served to renew their energies and commitment.
In 1934 the Chapter was postponed for two years while a Papal Visitation was made of the houses in the Vicariate in United States. A letter from the Sacred Congregation of Religious stated that the Delegates for the General Chapter in 1936 “should deliberate and discuss if it be advisable: 1. that the Institute be divided into Provinces; 2. that at least one member of General Council be elected from the number of North American Sisters.”  At the Chapter Mother Rufina Thelen was elected Major Superior with Sister Zacharia Grimburg first Assistant.  Sister Siegfrieda Beule, from the United States was elected fourth Councilor. Because of the large number of Sisters and the wide scope of the institute, all the delegates considered it necessary that the Congregation be divided into provinces: two in Germany (Province of St. Francis in Lindenplatz, Mother Hugolina Jansen elected Provincial, and Province of St. Elizabeth in Cologne, Mother Leutbergis Lambach elected Provincial); and two in the United States (St. Clare Province in Cincinnati, Mother Tarsicia Marie Fries elected Provincial, and St. Anthony Province in Warwick, Mother Aquilina Kroeger elected Provincial).

14Mother Zacharia Grimberg 15Mother Rufina Thelen 16Mother Tarsicia Marie Fries 17Mother Aquilina Kroger

In 1938 the Mother House was transferred from Lindenplatz back to the first Mother House on Elizabeth Street in Aachen. The relics of Mother Frances were also transferred back in 1939.
In 1939 World War II began in Europe and the Motherhouse and Novitiate in Aachen were evacuated for two months for safer sites. When the Sisters returned, they were provided with secular clothing should it be needed.

18Our aspirants after the Procession of Corpus Christi, 1940

The two Provincials from the United States, Mothers Tarsicia and Aquilina were asked to meet with Mother Rufina at the Mother House on January 25, 1939, where the Sisters now lived under the Nazi regime. Upon their return, on February 25, 1939, they shared: “All we heard about that distressed country is true.”

19Novices in Belgium, c. 1930 21Sisters at St. Francis Hospital in Greenville, SC

20Sisters in a Chevrolet Suburban leaving Warwick, c. 1935They were deeply moved by the welcome they received from the Sisters in Germany and by their immense confidence in the Providence of God.  Only later was it disclosed that Mother Rufina had wanted to share that, due to the uncertain future, she must provide for the possibility of a Vicariate House in Liege, Belgium. The Belgian properties purchased during the Kulturkampf had been sold long ago, but Mother Rufina, much like Mother Frances, knew the Congregation might be faced with leaving Germany. No money could be sent out of Germany; therefore the Provinces in the United States would give financial aid. The house was dedicated on December 18, 1939, in the presence of all the Sisters from Herstal. Their first ministry there was the care of the poor and sick.


Published: November 14, 2014

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