Diverse, joyful, blessed!

To be Franciscan means following in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi who took the Gospel literally and embraced a life of utter poverty so that he could become poor like the poor Christ. He wrote a “Rule of Life” for the many followers attracted to his way of life. This way of love is still as powerful today as it was then. Read on to learn more.

“The truly poor in spirit, following the example of the Lord, live in this world as pilgrims and strangers.”

(TOR Rule Ch. VI-22)

Sr Christina Fuller in parish ministryWhat are Franciscans?

Franciscans are women and men called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, as did Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi. Living out this calling can take many forms, as is evident in the Franciscan family found throughout the world.  The Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart are a congregation of vowed Franciscan women religious.

Merciful, Joyous and Poor

We Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart live by the charism: "merciful, joyous and poor, doing works of neighborly love".  A "charism" is a gift of the Spirit given to a founder of a ministry to meet a specific need at a certain time. This gift is meant to be shared and passed on to others so that the work of the Spirit continues. 

rooted in Simple Gospel living

Like Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi, we journey in the footprints of Jesus through simple, Gospel living...

  • discerning God's dream for us personally and communally
  • gathering in fraternitas (community) with Jesus as our brother
  • being a welcoming and joyful presence
  • placing our incompleteness in God's transforming heart
  • embracing diversity in our life and ministries
  • furthering the new reign of God

reaching out to our neighbors

Our Franciscan heritage calls us to live with open hearts and minds, extending hospitality to all. Therefore, we welcome and embrace minorities and diversity in cultures, religious perspectives, prayer styles, talents and professional callings.

Brief history of the FSSH

Fr Wilhelm BergerMother Anastasia Bischler
Founded by Father Wilhelm Berger in Germany in 1866, the Sisters moved to the United States because of Bismarck's Kulturkamf decree to disband or leave the country. With the leadership of Mother Anastasia, they settled first in Avilla, Indiana, in 1876, moved their Motherhouse to Joliet, Illinois, and finally to Frankfort, Illinois.

The Sisters continue to be merciful, joyous and poor, doing works of neighborly love through their ministries in education, health care, administration, parish work, campus ministry, and wherever there is need in Illinois, Indiana, California, and in Brazil in South America.

Always collaborative, the Sisters also have a growing number of Associates who are partners in our mission to embody the love of Christ.

Who are Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi?

St. Francis of Assisi, the little poor man, literally walked in the footprints of Jesus throughout his life. His utter poverty and humilitySculpture by Kay Francis Berger, OSF resulted in the wounds of Jesus imprinted on his body, fulfilling his dream of becoming like Jesus in all things. His deep love and dependence on God are evident in his many writings and prayers. His grand celebration of the birth of Jesus at Greccio began the Christmas custom of nativity sets. His love and care for creation, a visible sign of God’s beauty, brought him to call everything in nature “brother” and “sister” and led him to become the Patron Saint of Ecology. On his deathbed, he composed the beautiful “Canticle of the Creatures” expressing the praise given God through all creation. Through the centuries, thousands of others have been drawn to his dream and have dedicated their lives to “rebuilding the church” just as the voice from the San Damiano cross asked Francis to do. The values and spirit of Francis that all Franciscans seek to live are needed in this world now more than ever!

The life and preaching of Francis inspired the first women follower, St. Clare of Assisi, often called “the little plant of Francis.” With Francis as her mentor, she and the other women who joined her, lived a life of gospel poverty, prayer and penance secluded from the world. As Abbess, she lived among the Sisters as one who served, often assuming the most menial tasks. It is said that after a time in prayer, her face was radiant, and these moments of deep contemplation are reflected in her many written letters and prayers. Her reputation became so widely known that popes, cardinals and bishops consulted with her. By the end of her life, her Rule of Life, the first written by a woman, was approved for the Order of the Poor Ladies or Poor Clares. Her name means “clear” and “bright,” which is why she is the patron saint of those with eye disease.

Photo: Sculpture by Kay Francis Berger, OSF, on display in the Motherhouse sunroom.