Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Sister Catherine Gilles shares on a recent Heritage Walk 2018 anticipating our 150th founding anniversary.
Anticipation is half the fun! In anticipation of next year’s celebration of 150 years of the Franciscan Community’s existence, the Sisters recently staged a Heritage Walk highlighting the locales in Manitowoc that were important in their beginning years. At each site participants were treated to stories connected with the ministry at that site and paused to pray for the people involved in that type of ministry at present. Following Mass and a Blessing of the Pilgrims at the Motherhouse, a group of Sisters met at St. Boniface Church for the start of a walk in the footsteps of some of the very early Sisters.
Education ministry for the founding Community members began at Clarks Mills when Father Joseph Fessler, their mentor, was pastor there. A young lady, Teresa Gramlich (the future Mother Gabriel) answered his call for help in giving Religious instruction to children in his parish. Teresa, in turn, gathered some additional help and the small group of catechists lived in community at Clarks Mills. When Father was transferred to St. Boniface parish in Manitowoc the, by then Sisters, took up their education ministry in that parish. Soon they were presented with a request to also provide health care – the early beginnings of the present Holy Family Memorial system.
After opening the pilgrimage walk with prayer and reflection at St. Boniface Church, the group moved to St. Mary’s Church parking lot, the location of the first school, parish rectory and Sister’s residence. They took time there to reflect on the founding of the Congregation and to thank God for it. At each stop Mother Gabriel (a.k.a. Sister Caritas, Community Archivist) shared with the group about the ministry and living situation for the Sisters there. A surprising number of buildings still standing in the neighborhood of St. Boniface Church served as both school and living accommodations for the Sisters teaching there. Movement was dictated by the increase in both parish membership and school enrollment. It was a surprise to most of the group to learn that that the original convent, known to the Sisters as “Little Nazareth” is still in use in Manitowoc. It seemed that when the Sisters had to move, the house was moved! It continued to serve as both housing and school at the site of St. Mary’s Church until a larger facility was needed there. It was then purchased as a private home and moved to 2115 Madison Street where it is still in use.
It seemed that when the Sisters had to move, the house was moved! It continued to serve as both housing and school at the site of St. Mary’s Church! After a few years when The beginning of the Franciscan Sisters health care ministry is also in Manitowoc.
The beginning of the Franciscan Sisters health care ministry is also in Manitowoc. In response to the need in the city, the Sisters opened a small hospital on 112 S. 23rd street. The 12 bed St. Mary’s hospital, now a residential home, was the precursor of Holy Family Memorial. Reflection and prayer there centered on health care ministry and those cared for. At Little Nazareth Convent, finally at rest at 2115 Madison Street, reflection and prayer focused on Ministry Services within the Congregation, food service, health care and many more almost unnoticed services to the Franciscan Sisters themselves.
A stop for a picnic at Silver Creek Park was the perfect break in the final stage of the walk back to Holy Family Convent. There the final gathering was at the 1873 Cornerstone.
That was the perfect place to pause and imagine what the Sisters who had watched it being laid must have been thinking and feeling, anticipating, thanking God for. A perfect place for present Community members to thank them for Faith, Vision, and Perseverance and ask for their prayers in the future.