Inspired by the Gospel values of St. Francis of Assisi and the active love of the poor shown by Blessed Frances Schervier, the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor house the homeless, care for children and families, feed the hungry, minister to the sick, offer spiritual sustenance to the hopeless and care for the earth. Today the Sisters pray and work in the United States, Brazil, Italy and Senegal.
The Sisters’ heritage is interconnected with St. Francis of Assisi, who was singlehearted in his love for Jesus. Francis was born in Assisi, Italy in 1181. The son of a cloth merchant, he cut a dashing figure and was quite an adventurer. One day while at prayer he experienced what may be called a conversion. He was asked by Jesus: “Francis, rebuild my Church, which has fallen into ruins.” In response to God, he became a peacemaker and healer, helping the poor in their suffering. He was passionate in his love and caring for the poor.
Francis attracted a large group of disciples. Today these followers number in the hundreds of thousands. The call that Francis received from God echoes today: “Rebuild my Church!” The people of God continue to be in need of peace, healing, hope. And the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor follow in the footsteps of St. Francis. They are spirit-filled women of hope, unafraid to love and be present to those in need.
The following prayer is attributed to St. Francis. It is also a favorite prayer of the Sisters . . . .
The Peace Prayer
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; To be understood as to understand To be loved as to love For it is in giving that we receive It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, And it is in dying That we are born to eternal life.
The group of women known today as the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor are here because of Frances Schervier. Born in 1819 in Aachen Germany, she was deeply moved by the life and mission of St. Francis of Assisi. The daughter of a wealthy manufacturer, Frances often visited her father’s factory to distribute food and clothing to the workers. She knew that they worked in awful conditions and many of them were poor. Still in her teenage years, this experience greatly shaped her life. A prayerful young woman, she dared to dream of helping the people living in her neighborhood who were sick and
poor: She wrote: “ I felt a glowing flame of holy love for my neighbor.” And the rest is history...
In 1844 she joined a group of people who lived according to the inspiration of St. Francis called the Third Order of St. Francis. This Order was founded by St. Francis himself and continues to exists today. At that time she and several friends volunteered at a soup kitchen at their local church. Just one year later, on May 11, 1845, she founded a religious congregation of women, the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor. The founding date has spiritual significance because it was the Feast of Pentecost, May 11, 1845, which celebrates the special coming of the Holy Spirit in the world.
As Frances Schervier worked among the poor she became more radically aware of how God was leading her and her group of friends to be instruments of healing for people:
"I recognized my Divine Saviour as clearly as if I had seen Him with my bodily eyes." It is Blessed Frances Schervier's charism and mission to see Christ in the poor and to heal His wounds. Today this continues to be the mission of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor . . . to heal the wounds of Christ in poor, suffering humanity.