Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi

In 1849, a small band of lay Franciscans left their home in Ettenbeuren, Bavaria, and crossed the ocean to America to become missionaries to the German immigrants in Wisconsin. Amid hardship and struggles, the women organized a religious congregation, the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi.


Since Francis' time, hundreds of groups of women and men throughout the world have claimed the ideals of Francis as their inspiration and guide to living the Gospel. So it was with the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, Milwaukee, the founders and corporate sponsors of Cardinal Stritch University.

In 1849, a small band of lay Franciscans left their home in Ettenbeuren, Bavaria, and crossed the ocean to America to become missionaries to the German immigrants in Wisconsin. Amid hardship and struggles, the women organized a religious congregation, theĀ Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi.

Through more than 150 years, this Congregation has grown to be a strong influence in the life of the Church and in the civic community. In addition to providing domestic services to the priests and students at St. Francis Seminary, Milwaukee, for more than 100 years, the Sisters became teachers at all levels. Special education became a major area of dedication as witnessed at three residential St. Coletta Schools (Jefferson, Wis.; Palos Park, Ill., and Hanover, Mass.) and two day schools (Milwaukee and Braintree, Mass.).

In Milwaukee, St. Mary's Academy offered education for young women of high school age from 1904 to 1991. In 1937, St. Clare College (later to become Cardinal Stritch University) opened as a teacher-training school for the Sisters.

Today, the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi continue their corporate ministries in partnership with lay leaders. Since 1989, they have opened two apartment complexes for the elderly (Juniper and Canticle Courts) and St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care, an innovative and model facility for meeting the needs of both the elderly and children. In 1991, they converted the former St. Mary's Academy to the Marian Center for Nonprofits, a rental complex for service organizations. They also maintain the Liteh Kindergarten in Taipei, Taiwan.

In 2001, the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore merged with the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, bringing with them significant ministries such as the St. Francis Center for the Homeless, the St. Francis Youth Center in the inner city of Baltimore, Francis House, a community of volunteers, Aisling Retreat Center, and St. Elizabeth School for youth with special needs.

Not all Sisters of St. Francis are involved in corporate ministries. Many of them serve where their individual talents are needed, as parish and campus ministers, pastoral counselors, office managers and staff, chaplains, ministers to the elderly, and in various areas of education, including tutoring youth and adults.