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The Catholic Defender: Blessed Mary Frances Schervier


This woman who once wanted to become a Trappistine nun was instead led by God to establish a community of sisters who care for the sick and aged in the United States and throughout the world.


Born into a distinguished family in Aachen—then ruled by Prussia, but formerly Aix-la-Chapelle, France—Frances ran the household after her mother’s death, and established a reputation for generosity to the poor.


Her desire to enter a religious order was thwarted by the early death of her mother in 1832, when Frances was only 13 years old.


While she was perhaps not prominent in the eyes of the world, she enjoyed the distinction of extraordinary supernatural privileges from the very days of her youth.


She was obliged to remain at home and attend to the household, though she did not let these circumstances prevent her from caring in a very special way for the poor and the sick.


In 1844, she became a Secular Franciscan. The next year she and four companions established a religious community devoted to caring for the poor.


They found a dwelling at the old city gate of St James, and took possession of their first religious abode on the eve of the feast of St Francis in 1845. Prayer and works of mercy were their principal occupation.

In 1851, the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis were approved by the local bishop; the community soon spread. The first U.S. foundation was made in 1858.


"The impress of poverty and penance should mark even our chapels and churches and be their distinctive feature."


Mother Frances visited the United States in 1863 and helped her sisters nurse soldiers wounded in the Civil War. She visited the United States again in 1868. She encouraged Philip Hoever as he was establishing the Brothers of the Poor of St. Francis.


When Mother Frances died, there were 2,500 members of her community worldwide. They are still engaged in operating hospitals and homes for the aged. Mother Mary Frances was beatified in 1974.


"One is as it were rich, when one has nothing; and another is as it were poor, when he has great riches" (Prov 13,7). This passage of scripture fits the servant of God, Frances, who with all her heart espoused holy poverty and thus came into the possession of the grace of God.


"You are my friends if you do what I command you.... I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another." (John 15:14,17)

"If we do this faithfully and zealously, we will experience the truth of the words of our father Saint Francis who says that love lightens all difficulties and sweetens all bitterness. We will likewise partake of the blessing which Saint Francis promised to all his children, both present and future, after having admonished them to love one another even as he had loved them and continues to love them."


So lavish was her liberality that one of the old servants once remarked, "One of these days the child will have dragged everything out of the house." Later she was an active member of several benevolent societies of women and also of what was known as St John's soup kitchen, a charitable enterprise organized to feed the needy.


Words to live by :


"If we do this faithfully and zealously, we will experience the truth of the words of our father Saint Francis who says that love lightens all difficulties and sweetens all bitterness. We will likewise partake of the blessing which Saint Francis promised to all his children, both present and future, after having admonished them to love one another even as he had loved them and continues to love them."





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