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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 home (q.v.), and the St. Joseph Retreat Center (q.v.), all of which are located in Des Plaines.
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.

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