Franciscan Sisters Walk 150th Anniversary Pilgrimage

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

October 26, 2019

Seven Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity walked a very familiar path to Clarks Mills, our 1869 founding place on Saturday, October 25, 2019. It was about a 7 mile pilgrimage walk of gratitude in the name of entire Community beginning at 7 a.m.. It was a very emotionally charged journey for Postulant Mary Jane, Novice Sister Maria Guadalupe, Sister Clare Rose Oswald, Sister Elaine Turba, Sister Anne Turba, Sister Leonette Kochan and Sister Julie Ann Sheahan.

After Morning Prayer with the Motherhouse Community, the walk began with a stop at the graves of our foundresses in our oldest Motherhouse cemetery. This paragraph from our Sister Donna Marie Kessler’s account from A Star of Hope Shone in The Convent Sky was read:

“Historically, the foundation of this Community is astonishing. There were six people involved: Father Joseph Fessler, born in Oberhausen, Germany, 1834; Josephine Thoenig, Austrian Tyrol, 1834; Mary Ann Graf, Canton Argau, Switzerland, 1839; Teresa Gramlich, Schlierstadt, Germany, 1842; Sophia Fessler, Oberhausen, Germany, 1845; Rosa Wahl, birthplace unknown, 1847. They met together in a little known village, Clarks Mills, in pioneer Wisconsin, in the United States of America, in 1887 and, together, founded a Franciscan Community of Women Religious in Manitowoc, yet a village, in 1869. With them was a young candidate, Mary Doyle, born in Vermont in 1854. Gathered from far-flung places and marked by small, humble beginnings, this Community was destined in years ahead to grow and to serve the Church in large numbers in Wisconsin and far beyond.”

Later, this reflection from Mother Gabriel (Teresa Gramlich) revealing her original hope when she was called to Clarks Mills in June 1866, as well as the profound religious experience these women knew on their reception day, was read at the historical marker in Clarks Mills at the end of the journey.

“Can you really comprehend what feelings passed through our hearts when we were clothed in the religious garments and thus consecrated to the service of God!”

Sister Barbara Mathe, Sister Dolores Herrmann and Sister Margaret Ann Wallander joined the group for a 10:30 a.m. Mass. Father Richard Klingeisen, pastor of St. Mary, Clarks Mills-St. Michael the Archangel, Whitelaw, was kind to offer the Eucharistic Liturgy for the pilgrims. The readings encouraged us to continue to walk confidently knowing the Holy Spirit is alive among us. Our Blessed Mother, too, is ever near as an advocate and guide in being faithful in following in the footprints of Jesus.