"Rooted in the Gospel we are sisters to all, serving with reverence, justice and compassion." The Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities have expressed this mission statement in many ways since the congregation's beginnings in Philadelphia in 1855. While the ways that we live and minister have adapted to the changing needs of the world and the Church over the past 162 years, our mission has remained strong.
The three courageous immigrant women who formed this congregation had little idea what would be accomplished when they said yes to God's call. They began by providing lodging and food to immigrant women who were settling in the neighborhood. As more women took vows and joined the congregation, we expanded our ministries and established hospitals and schools. From these three courageous women would come six Franciscan congregations of women religious, hospitals, schools, orphanages, nursing homes, retreat centers, and ministries to the poor and marginalized. Our ministries would reach far beyond Pennsylvania to other states, and Puerto Rico, Kenya, and Peru. Thousands of women entered religious life as sisters in this community; one, Mother Marianne Cope, was canonized a saint.
Today, we continue to help those who are poor find lodging, food, clothing and healthcare. We address the spiritual needs of people as chaplains in hospitals, long term care facilities, detention centers, and homes for the dying and as spiritual directors in parishes. Education also remains an important ministry for the congregation and our sisters are principals, teachers, and assistants as well as school social workers. Many sisters minister in parish settings as pastoral associates, faith formation leaders and parish outreach coordinators.
Among the social justice issues that we address are human trafficking, immigration and care for creation. We use social media to educate ourselves, supporters, policymakers and the general public about human trafficking, to help people recognize the signs that someone is being trafficked and to identify resource centers for victims. We monitor human trafficking-related state and federal legislation and issue calls to action when appropriate.
Our sisters continue to support those who come to this country in search of a better life for themselves and their children. Sister Suzanne Susany is an immigration attorney in Pittsburgh, working to ensure that newcomers to our nation have access to due process of law. Sisters Beth Niederpruem and Mary Reichelderfer work with Vive in Buffalo, New York, which provides lodging, food, clothing, counseling, and legal assistance to individuals and families seeking asylum in the U.S. and Canada.
To shine a spotlight on the profound impact of Catholic sisters in our communities and around the world, and in conjunction with National Women's History Month, the third annual National Catholic Sisters Week (NCSW) will be held March 8-14. National Catholic Sisters Week is supported by a $3.3 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, is headquartered at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn.