A great story of a group of sisters setting out to build a Catholic community in Kansas, from the Wichita Eagle:
It was on faith that the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Wichita broke from their California order and came to Wichita in 1976, and it’s on faith that they’re now endeavoring to establish their first permanent home here.
“It’s a beautiful story,” said Bronwen Lewis, a Catholic who is helping the sisters raise money to end their nomadic existence.
“The story is the most compelling modern story of faith that I know of.”
Following a directive from Rome, three sisters came to Wichita to establish the order, which now includes 22 women who have bounced among borrowed homes.
“One of these days we’re going to build,” Sister Eileen MacDonald, one of founders, said to the young sisters in the 1980s.
There was no “we’re” about it, though.
“You’re going to be the ones to build it,” MacDonald told them.
“It was ingrained,” said one of those young sisters, who is now Mother Mary Magdalene O’Halloran, the general superior of the order.
“So we just knew when it was time, we’d know what to do,” she said. “In our line of business, you learn to trust God.”
After a couple of dashed hopes with potential properties over the years, the sisters came upon an auction sign for 80 acres in Colwich in 2012. The Simon family, a Catholic family of 10 children, owned the land and the farmhouse on it where their parents moved after marrying in 1912. Several bachelor Simon brothers later lived there.
One of those brothers was the late George Simon. O’Halloran said she learned he was one of 47 young men from the Colwich area to fight in World War II and that members of St. Mark’s parish struck a deal with the Virgin Mary for their safety. She said they built a shrine to Mary and prayed a rosary every Sunday for her to return the men unharmed.
“And she did,” O’Halloran said.
A local priest did a videotaped interview with Simon a few months before Simon’s death in 2011. O’Halloran watched the video, which is on YouTube, while she was looking into purchasing the Simon property.
“When he was recounting … being surrounded by grenades and bombs … he paused and said, ‘And then the blessed Virgin Mary saved my life.’
“It was kind of like a signature – Mary’s signature – to go ahead,” O’Halloran said of buying the property. “It was just a little sign that Mary was with us.”
In addition to having their order named for Mary, the sisters have a particular devotion to her because of her reported appearances to three children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917 and her instruction there to pray for the conversion of sinners. That’s one of the missions of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Catherine Simon is the third youngest of the Simon children and the only one still living. Her family was able to take the property off the auction block and sell it to the sisters. They closed last year on June 13, the anniversary of what was said to be Mary’s second apparition at Fatima.
“My mother and my sister were very much for the blessed mother,” Simon said. “The whole family – very devoted.”
Below is the YouTube interview with George Simon mentioned in the article.