Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sisters of St. Francis Celebrate 150th Anniversary

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sisters of St. Francis Celebrate 150th Anniversary

Article excerpt

In 150 years, there have been many things that have come and gone in the Pittsburgh area, but one constant has been the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. The Sisters are celebrating their 150th anniversary by inviting the public to an open house Sunday at their Mt. Alvernia campus that straddles Millvale and Shaler.

In the beginning, Sisters Magdalene Hess, Elizabeth Kaufman and Stephen Winkelman arrived in Pittsburgh to establish the community. According to Sister Lorraine Wesolowski, spokeswoman for the community, the ministry in the United States actually began in Philadelphia when Bishop John Neumann established the religious order. The congregation has its origin from St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century.

"They came to the United States to serve the German immigrants in Philadelphia, but as they grew and the needs increased, the bishop asked the sisters to relocate to various places in the country. Some of the sisters moved to Buffalo, then came to Pittsburgh," she said.

The three sisters came to beg for money and instead ended up staying in Pittsburgh, thanks to the request from a young physician, said Sister Ann Carville, senior elder of the community.

"He told them they were needed here, and they stayed. Things were so much simpler then and they just stayed and started ministering to the folks here," she said.

Over the years, the sisters have served in many ways and are known for their role in health care, education and social services.

"They established St. Francis Hospital, but they were also asked to teach the German immigrants and became known as great educators in our area. When parishes were flourishing, we staffed many schools in nearly every way," Sister Lorraine said.

In 1871, the sisters here became an independent congregation, but due to declining numbers, the sisters in Millvale and Sisters of the St. Francis of Neumann Communities in Syracuse merged in 2007, forming one of the largest Franciscan congregations in the United States.

The sisters in the Western Pennsylvania Region encompass not only the Pittsburgh area but also Altoona, Johnstown, Greensburg and Puerto Rico. Like many religious communities, their numbers have dropped. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, there were more than 600 sisters in the independent congregation in Millvale, but today there are just over 90.

As a whole, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities serve 12 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Kenya and Peru with five regions including Western Pennsylvania. There are more than 400 sisters in the whole community.

"We have done remarkable things - established health care, education and housing in Pittsburgh. Our women are extremely dedicated, hard working women from the area who have dedicated their lives to serving others," Sister Ann said.

In 1936, the sisters established the Mt. …

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