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Mother Mary of Jesus the Good Shepherd, Frances Siedliska,
a noble Polish lady, founded her religious Congregation in 1875, in Rome,
under the auspices of Pope Pius IX. As a particular objective for her foundation,
Mother Mary chose the relief of needy persons through social and charitable
activities, as well as the Christian education of youth.
The Most Reverend Patrick A. Feehan summoned the Sisters of the Holy Family
of Nazareth to Chicago to give assistance to the poor immigrants, who formed
a large part of the archbishop's flock. Prior to the Sisters' departure,
the little band of eleven, together with the foundress, were given an audience
with Pope Leo XIII. The Holy Father had words of encouragement and fatherly
affection for each of them. Giving his apostolic benediction, the Pope
manifested joy and enthusiasm in regard to the Sisters' future work. In
the far-off mission he foresaw unusual opportunities awaiting the Sisters
in their work for souls.
Leaving Rome on June 17, 1885, the group landed in the harbor of New York
two-and-one-half weeks later, on July 4. Immediately upon their arrival,
the intrepid foundress and her Sisters boarded a train for Chicago. When
Father Vincent Barzynski, CR., met the Sisters at the railway station,
he escorted the newcomers to their first American quarters on Belden Avenue,
in St. Josaphat parish. Here, amid poverty and privation, the Sisters were
accommodated in a combination building that housed the parish church, the
school, and the convent. The Sisters met their charges: ten orphans who,
until then, had been cared for by parishioners.
Mother Mary set aside time for a retreat during which insights regarding
the apostolate were shared. Accordingly, when the school year commenced,
September 9, 1885, two hundred children were registered for classes. That
same month found Mother Mary receiving a request from Father Radziejewski,
pastor of St. Adalbert parish, for Sisters for his school. Soon similar
requests were directed to her from various pastors in the country. In proportion
to the needs of the Church, she called on her Sisters from European convents
of the Congregation.
The drain on the Community's European strength was eased somewhat when,
in God's providence and in due time, American aspirants to the religious
life began to come to the order. After a period of traditional formation
and necessary preparation, these young women proved to be heaven-sent in
their dedication to the Congregation's apostolic commitments.
As early as 1885 Mother Mary established the Community's first American
provincialate and novitiate in a modest building on Division Street. A
section of this building was converted into boarding school accommodations
for girls. Before long, these proved to be inadequate for the increasing
numbers of applicants, and a larger building was purchased near the
Division Street site. Additional room was provided for the boarding school residents
when, in 1908, the novitiate was transferred to a newly constructed provincialate
in Des Plaines.
Following the example of the foundress, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth
seek to cultivate and preserve an attitude which favors undertaking any charitable
apostolate which is required by circumstances of time and place, in accordance
with the directives of the Church. From the beginning the Community has grown
both in numbers and in the diversity of apostolic works entrusted to it in various
parts of the world. In the centennial of its history, 1975, membership exceeded
2,000. From the Community's 146 convents the Sisters reach out to staff elementary
and secondary schools, colleges, child-care institutions, nursing homes, retreat
centers, and hospitals on four continents.
In the Archdiocese of Chicago the Congregation is currently fulfilling its mission
in fourteen parish schools, its own high school, Holy Family Academy (q.v.),
and in its two hospitals-the St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital Center in Chicago
(q.v.) and the Holy Family Hospital in Des Plaines (q.v.) In
addition the Congregation
operates its own De Lourdes College (q.v.), Nazarethville, a retirement
(q.v.), and the St. Joseph Retreat Center (q.v.), all of which
are located in
Since June of 1979, direction of the personnel in the Chicago Province, one
of four in the United States, has been entrusted to Sister M. Hilary Dyroz, C.S.F.N.
There are 380 Sisters in the Province.
From "A History of
the Offices, Agencies, and the Institutions of the Archdiocese of Chicago" - 1981
Reprinted with the permission
of the Chicago Archdiocese.