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c6 01Mother Tarsica Marie Fries and Sister Mellita Bucher May 1950 at San VincenzoThe relocation of the Congregation’s General House from Aachen, Germany, to Rome, Italy, was formally justified in an official document of the Congregation, as follows:

 

“To comply with the ardent desire of Holy Mother Church, and particularly of the then Holy Father Pope Pius XII, to have the central seat of government of Religious Orders and Congregations located in the Eternal City, the center and heart of Christendom, the 1946 General Chapter voted that the General House  of our Congregation be transferred to Rome as soon as possible, and that the proper application be made to the Holy Father through the Sacred Congregation of Religious, to obtain the required permission for this transfer.”

Resolutions and Notes from the 1946 General Chapter

 

The Sisters who were elected by the 1946 General Chapter held in Aachen, Germany were:

 

c6 02Pioneers to Rome 1947
c6 03Mother Tarsica Marie Fries and Filippini Sisters on Filippini convent terrazzo, 1947

Superior General     – Mother Tarsicia Marie Fries
First Councilor     – Mother Maria Viktoria von Brentano
Second Councilor    – Sister Siegfrieda Beule
Third Councilor    – Sister Claudine Tillenberg
Fourth Councilor    – Sister Mellita Bucher
Secretary General    – Sister John Berchmans Jakobs
Procurator General    – Sister Alexiana Schnaus

For the first time in the Congregation’s history a Sister from the United States was elected as Superior General.

On February 10, 1947, the Holy See granted permission to transfer the Congregation’s General House from Aachen to Rome “to take care of the poor and needy.” The Sisters also received permission from the local diocese to open a Social Services Center. On October 1 the pioneers, Reverend Mother Tarsicia Marie Fries (9th Superior General), Sister Marie Viktoria Beck, Sister Amalia Maria Wagner, Sister Concetta Marie D’Aurio, and Sister M. Veronica Amato, arrived in Rome to found the new Mother House.  

They were greeted at the train station by two Franciscan Friars who accompanied them to the General House of the Pious Matrons [Teachers] of St. Lucia Filippini on Via dell'Arco del Ginnasi, near Largo di Torre Argentina, in the center of ancient Rome, where they were guests.

One week later Mother Maria Viktoria von Brentano and Sister John Berchmans Jakobs arrived.  Sister Siegfrieda had suffered a stroke and was replaced as fourth Councilor and American representative by Sister Marie Victoria Beck.

Soon the Sisters found land available in Valle Vermiglia, in the Vermicino zone of Frascati, near Rome. Italy was then a very poor and basically a rural country, with little industry. Its political and economic collapse during World War II had further weakened its infrastructure. Frascati had been heavily bombed during the war and most of the city had been destroyed.

On April 16, 1948, the Congregation finalized the purchase of land and a small community of Sisters moved to the house that already stood on the property, later called Convento Sant’Antonio. In addition to the land, the Sisters also purchased livestock as well as fruit and olive trees. The Bishop of Frascati, Mons. Biagio Budellacci, who helped the Sisters purchase the property, celebrated Mass on Christmas Day in the Convento Sant’Antonio and from that moment the Blessed Sacrament resided in the Sisters’ home.

Not long after, the Sisters built a small house in Vermicino, which they called Convento San Vincenzo. It was first used by three of the younger Sisters in order to live close to the construction site and supervise the work on the General House. The others remained with the Filippini Sisters in Rome.

c6 04San Vincenzo construction c6 05

 

Being Franciscans in a war-torn zone, they literally had to rebuild the church after it had fallen into ruin. The Parish Church of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary was blessed on March 13, 1948. The Diocesan Annals report that its first pastor “... began this wondrously patient and precious work, effectively helped by the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, who proved to be, in these hard times, a real providence for the whole area.” The Sisters immediately set about tending to the needs of the populace. The first Ministry offered food to children; later the Sisters set up a day care center for children of 3 – 5 years of age. All the activities were initially held in the Parish, because there was not enough room in their home. The day care center was started by Sister Benedicta Scheidweiler from Belgium. Sister Concetta Marie, a nurse, took care of the healthcare needs of people living in the surrounding area.

c6 06San Vincenzo construction

 

c6 07Generalate construction with fields in foreground
c6 08Generalate, Frascati, Italy aerial view
c6 09Six Provincials visiting Generalate for 1950 dedication
c6 10Generalate kitchen about 1950
c6 12Convento San Antonio grounds
c6 14Aspirants, back row middle Consolata D’Ambrosio, right Cristina Di Nocco

Construction of the General House began some months later: the cornerstone was placed by Cardinal Fumasoni Biondi on December 10, 1948, and the groundbreaking ceremony for the new General House was held on January 3, 1949. By June 1949 the community moved to San Vincenzo, which became the temporary residence for Sisters of the General Council. The younger Sisters continued to work and sleep at Sant’Antonio but gathered together at San Vincenzo for prayers, meals, and the community spiritual exercises. Sister Cecilia Bosse, from the St. Clare Province in the United States, arrived in June 1949 to oversee the construction of the General House.

On June 10, 1949, Sister Adeline Engel, from the St. Clare Province, and Sisters Aloise March and M. Loretta Kirby, from the St. Anthony Province in the United States, arrived in Rome.  Also Sister M. Patiens Susen (later, Irmã Patricia), arrived from Germany on October 2, 1950.

In a communication dated January 14, 1950, the Sacred Congregation of Religious relieved Mother Maria Viktoria von Brentano and Sister M. Claudine Tillenberg of their offices on the General Council. Sisters M. Clarita Heinrichs and M. Gunthilda Ludwig were appointed to the vacancies. They arrived in Rome from Germany on October 5, 1950, along with Sister M. Agneta.

The Dedication of the General House took place on December 14, 1950. All the Provincial Superiors from Germany and the United States were able to visit the house in that time.
On the feast day of St. John the Evangelist, workers raised the cross to the apex of the roof on the new building. On the eve of the Epiphany the Italian flag was flown from the roof of the General House for the first time.  

On January 4, 1951, Sisters Alexiana Schnaus and Adelheid Sommers (later, Sister Adelaide) came to Rome from Germany. Sister Bathilda Thiel arrived after from Germany to serve as the cook.

On January 6, 1951, the Aspirant House was established in the Convento San Vincenzo and placed into the care of Sister Concetta Marie D’Aurio. Three candidates were admitted to the postulancy: Carolina Vitolo, from Italy, Gertrude Ferfers (later on, Sister Margherita), from Germany, and a third who did not remain long.

Also in 1951, Sister Alfonse Maria Brochhans was transferred to Rome to be the minister of Novices, a position she had previously held in Germany. On September 29, 1951, three Novices arrived in Italy, coming from each of the three Provinces in Germany.

The Novitiate was then canonically established. Soon after, Angiolina Marino, later Sister M. Annunciata, and Maria Giuseppa Carlitti, later Sister M. Clara, entered the Postulancy.

 

c6 15First Novice group, 1953. Sisters Francesca, Clara, Marie Hill, Annunciata, and Antonita

 

c6 11Laundry 

 

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Published: April, 28, 2015