Mount St. Francis
Our congregation originated in Herford, Germany where the plight of many homeless and hungry children touched the heart of the young woman we know as our foundress, Mother Xavier Termehr. Soon other young women asked to join her in this work of compassion and our congregation was born in November 1864. From its beginning, the congregation has been committed to serving human needs and are not limited to one apostolate. The sisters cared for the orphans at Haus Bethlehem and also nursed the elderly in their homes. A destitute elderly couple was cared for in the orphanage until their death.
When the call came for nurses on the battlefields of the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian wars the sisters responded, earning the Iron Cross from Empress Augusta and Emperor Wilhelm in 1872 for their service. Two sisters died of infection while nursing the soldiers.
Political changes resulted in the passage of laws in 1875 which called for religious communities to either disband or go into exile unless they were strictly nursing orders. The entire community of 18 professed sisters, seven novices and four postulants chose exile. But where to go? A nephew of the elderly couple mentioned above, a pastor in Iowa City, had visited the sisters to express his gratitude for their kindness. On learning of their choice to emigrate he offered them refuge in Iowa City. On September 8, 1875 they arrived in their new home.
In Iowa City the sisters opened the first Catholic orphanage in the state and nursed the sick, much as they had in Herford. A new apostolate opened for them as they were requested to take charge of parochial schools. Within a year of their arrival in Iowa, the congregation began to accept postulants.
Archbishop Hennessy of Dubuque, Iowa requested that the congregation move to Dubuque to open and staff an orphanage in that city. They arrived in Dubuque in December 1878, lodging at first in an abandoned stone church. The orphanage opened in fall of the next year. (The sisters staffed it until it closed in 1968.) As in Iowa City, the sisters were also called upon to staff and often to establish Catholic schools.
New apostolates were added as the years progressed including the domestic department of the local seminary, a home for the aged, a second orphanage (in Sioux City, IA), a home for working girls in Dubuque, hospitals, the only Catholic college (now University) in the Sioux City, IA diocese and a mission in China.
Our commitment to community and ministry among those in need is still vibrant. We have ministered in Chile, Guatemala, and El Salvador, in Tanzania and Zimbabwe and currently in Honduras and the island of St. Lucia. With fewer sisters in classroom teaching, we also educate though ESL classes and after-school tutoring programs. We are pastoral associates, chaplains, spiritual directors and social workers, workers in health care and alternate health therapies, and volunteers in many organizations. We partner with other religious congregations and civic organizations to respond to those whose needs are greatest in this country and abroad.
Though we speak a different language and dress in different attire from that of Mother Xavier and the founding sisters, we are truly their daughters in faith and in commitment.
Our strength, our hope and our joy flow from our commitment to prayer, to each other, and to the people God calls us to serve in love. We believe the words of Mother Xavier "God is with us still."
Click here to view a video of our history.
Archivist Sr. Veronica Bagenstos, OSF
3390 Windsor Avenue
Dubuque, IA 52001