Welcome to the Wheaton Franciscan Archives. The Archives hold our most treasured artifacts and documents.
The Franciscan Sisters, Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, came to the United States in 1872, and have a rich history of responding to the needs of a constantly changing society, with a particular preference for serving the poor.
Clara Pfaender founded the community of women religious in 1860 in Olpe, Germany. The Sisters were called into nursing duty when Germany was at war in 1866 and the 1870s. It was also a time of severe religious persecution under the German government’s Kulturkampf laws. Mother Clara often partnered with the laity in ministry, noting that “unusual situations call for unusual actions.”
Responding to a call to provide health services in the United States, the first three German sisters went to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1872. The missions in the United States continued to flourish; more sisters were needed to help in the hospitals and parish schools.
In December 1875, plans were in place to send the fifth group of sisters to St. Louis. Five Sisters left Germany to join the new U.S. foundation. They never arrived as the steamer, the Deutschland, sank off the coast of England. These Sisters are memorialized in the Gerard Manly Hopkins’ masterpiece poem, The Wreck of the Deutschland. (Click here for more information on the Deutschland.
During the ensuing years, the growth of the U.S. Province was matched by an expanding scope of human services. As human needs were encountered and the Sisters were invited to serve in other areas of the country, they responded by establishing hospitals, schools, orphanages and other ministries.
In 1947, the headquarters for the U.S. Province of St. Clare was relocated to Wheaton, Illinois, and the Sisters became known as Wheaton Franciscans.