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C 8 01November 1957 - Inauguration of Villa Francesca SchervierThe years following the 1952 General Chapter and separation from Germany were a time of learning and service for the Sisters in Italy. Following the separation, the members of the new Franciscan Sisters of the Poor expanded their ministries in Italy while operating the House of Governance in Frascati. By the mid-1970s, Italy was established as a Region with a strong commitment to serving young people and the poor.

In 1954 Regina Mundi opened in Rome. It was a special course of studies in sacred theology, philosophy, and other subjects offered by the Sacred Congregation of Religious for Sisters of various countries of the world. Sisters Marie Clement Edrich and Sister Mary Patrick Reilly were the first two of our Sisters to participate.

The Congregation opened Villa Francesca Schervier in Rome in 1957 as a house of studies. It was home to the Sisters studying at Regina Mundi. Temporarily Professed Sisters lived there and studied at the Sedes Sapientiae. Sr. Benedicta Scheidweiler was the mistress. The property was sold in 1968.

C 8 021961 - Asilo (preschool) in Riozzo, near Milan
C 8 04June 1, 1963 - Asilo (preschool) in the Congregational House in Frascati
   C 8 03 a1964 - Asilo in RiozzoC 8 051972 - Sr. Natalia in Borgolombardo

Asili, or preschools, were an important early ministry in Italy. In 1956 Sr. Benedicta and Sr. Concetta Marie D’Aurio studied and became qualified as kindergarten teachers.  They were in charge of the Congregation’s first asilo, in Frascati. A foundation was established in Riozzo, near Milan, in 1958. It began as an asilo but within a month the foundation included parish work and youth organizations. The Sisters were the first religious to serve in the parish. Sr. Concetta Marie D’Aurio was the first Superior. The Sisters withdrew from Riozzo in 1972.

In 1963 an asilo opened in Falvaterra, a small town about 60 miles from Rome. The asilo was built by the town, and the mayor was happy to have it operated by the Sisters. Sister Hermine Odenthal was the Superior of the group. The others were Sisters Maria Giovanna Granata, Bernadetta Fezza and Immacolata Stanzione. In addition to the operation of the asilo, the Sisters were engaged in various other activities with the young people of Falvaterra. In 1969 the Sisters invited young women from the village to come to the convent to learn sewing, and they made items of clothing to send to poor children in Africa.

The president of the Pio Istituto di Maternità asked the Congregation to take charge of a new day nursery for children up to age 2 1/2 in Borgolombardo, Diocese of Milan.  It opened in 1964 with Sister Benedicta as the first Superior, along with Sisters Rosamaria Guida, Immacolata Stanzione, Natalia Sasso, and Mariapia Grimaldi.  

The 1968 General Chapter brought much change to the Congregation. This Chapter, the first after Vatican II, was a time of renewal. In 1968 the Congregation had 480 Perpetually Professed members: 410 in the United States, 25 in Brazil, and 45 in Italy.  Because so many Sisters were concentrated in the United States, a decision was made to move the Generalate from Rome to the United States.

The 1968 General Chapter also applied a new, experimental type of governance structure. The Chapter decided to eliminate the two Provinces of the United States in order to reduce the number of Sisters serving in Leadership, thereby reducing the financial burden of supporting two Provincial administrations. On a trial basis, the Congregation was divided into areas corresponding to geographic territories. There were two areas in the United States (East and Midwest), one in Italy and one in Brazil — with area Directors and area Councilors. The area Directors were chosen as communication channels between the local communities and the central governance to promote the Areas’ development, while attending to their needs, coordinating the implementation of the General Chapter decrees, and managing the ordinary aspects of life in consultation with the two Area Councilors.

C 8 061968 - General Chapter at the Congregational House in Frascati
C 8 07The end of the 1950s in Casetta Nova: the caretaker’s house before the works
C 8 08June 1960 - Benediction in occasion of the installation of Mother Frances statue at the Congregational House in Frascati

Sr. Marie Clement Edrich was chosen as the first Area Director in Italy. Sister Benedicta Scheidweiler was elected the First Councilor; Sister Cristina Di Nocco was elected Second Councilor; and Sister Annunciata Marino as alternate. Sr. Benedicta was the Area Secretary and Sisters Marie Grace Nichting and Cristina Di Nocco were chosen for Membership Development. The new Area House, Casa San Francesco, opened in Rome on February 1, 1971.   

The property at Vermicino, the previous Generalate, was sold to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in late 1972. The previous “San Vincenzo” on the property became “Casa Schervier.”  The Sisters moved in from the former Generalate and the opening Mass was celebrated there on December 14, 1972.

In March 1972, a decree from the Holy See approved, ad experimentum, the following governance form, as solicited by our Congregation: the Sisters of the United States remaining directly under the responsibility of the General Superior, whereas the Sisters in Brazil and Italy were led by their respective Regional Superiors. This is how, on an experimental basis, the Regions of Brazil and Italy were born. This experiment was to go on for two years until the 1974 General Chapter. The assessment of the experiment was positive, and the implementation of this form of government was confirmed in 1974.

In 1973 Sisters Cristina Di Nocco and Beata Nigro began community life at Casa Sant’Antonio, Frascati, with two young women, Raffaella Terrano and Giuseppina Bertini. This community encouraged young people to experience community life with us and was the beginning of our Casetta Nova “Youth Center.”

On November 19, 1973, Casa Oliveri in Sicily was opened. Sr. Annunciata Marino and Sr. Maria Luisa Langella assisted in the Parish of San Giuseppe and operated a kindergarten. This was our first mission in Sicily.

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Published: January, 14, 2016

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   Beginning of the 1970s - Oliveri (in Sicily) on the left, prayer in the Community Chapel - on the right, Christmas feast in the Asilo (preschool)