The Sister Servants of Mary (1892)


Introduced into the United States, 1892

THIS branch, or offshoot, of the Servite Order originated in Florence, Italy, toward the close of the thirteenth century. Juliana Falconieri was born in answer to prayer, her virginity to God. In this resolve she was encouraged and sanctioned by her uncle and godfather, St. Alexis, whose keen foresight had long beheld in her the future Servant of Mary, the first of the long line of saintly women who would not shrink to stand with Mary at the foot of the Cross. As yet there did not exist an order of women with this sole aim. In 1287, the first convent of the Sisters Servants of Mary, or Mantellate, was founded. On July 16, 1737, the name of Juliana Falconieri was inscribed on the calendar of canonized Saints, and June 19 was set for the celebration of her feast.

The daughters of St. Juliana, imbued with her spirit, have since founded houses in other countries. Introduced into France in 1844, they settled in a place called Cuves in the Diocese of Langres. In 1851 they removed to London and engaged in missionary work under the guidance of Father Faber and the Oratory Fathers. They were the first Sisters to wear the religious habit in the streets of London since the time of Henry VIII. They spread anew into France, Austria, Belgium and our own land. In 1892 family business called two of the Sisters to America. While here they were offered a foundation in Wisconsin.

This earliest American charge was the school of St. Michael’s. Here they had remained two years, when, to the regret of the people, the school was given up for a more important work. At the beginning of 1893 the Rev. F. B. Luebbermann, of Mt. Vernon, Indiana, applied to the Mother-House in England for Sisters to take charge of his school. Rev. Mother M. Philomena Juliana, O.S.M., who was then Superioress-General, sent five Sisters for this purpose, and in September of the same year they commenced their missionary labors. Success attended their efforts; slowly but surely Mary’s chosen order has thriven. They now have flourishing houses in several of our States, the principal being in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. The quiet seclusion of Enfield, Ill., affords an ideal spot for the Mother-House and novitiate. There, too, is a favored and select academy for young ladies.

Taking charge of parochial schools, workrooms, academies, etc., affords them the means of best living up to their vocation, to instill into youthful hearts devotion to the Passion of Jesus and the Sorrows of Mary. They also, after the example of their holy Foundress, engage in other works of mercy, such as the care of orphans, visiting the sick, instructing converts, etc., spreading everywhere and always the sweet, consoling devotion to the Mother of Sorrows. Above all, in imitation of St. Juliana, they do all in their power to excite in the hearts of those under their care a great love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. This is the devotion of these latter days, and that which Pius X is striving to bring to the front by the practise of daily communion.

In 1908 the Servants of Mary were warmly welcomed to the Diocese of Sioux City by the Right Rev. Joseph P. Garrigan, and a transfer of the Mother-House and Novitiate from Enfield was deemed advisable. Preparations were accordingly made, and Cherokee was chosen for the site of the new building. Mount St. Mary rose as if by magic — a beautiful and spacious edifice. No more healthful and charming spot could have been selected for its erection than the height of land just on the outskirts of the town. A host of kind friends, headed by their zealous and devoted Pastor, the Rev. Wm. P. Desmond, welcomed the Sisters to their new home. December 8, 1908, was a memorable day, marking as it did the solemn dedication of Mount St. Mary conjointly with the dedication of the Immaculate Conception Church at Cherokee, Iowa. In a touching and eloquent sermon, which Bishop Garrigan delivered after the dedication of the convent, he predicted great things for the community in the years to come.

Although the Order has just begun its work in the West, the devotion to Mary’s Sorrows has already taken root there and gives great promise for the future. The Mother-General from England, Sr. M. Antonia, O.S.M., visiting the houses in this country in 1902 and in 1911, was much pleased with the progress the order had made. At the last General Chapter held in London, July 31, 1906, a Vicaress-General was appointed for America, and present conditions attest that Mary’s blessing rests on the labors of Her Servants in our glorious land.

Praised be God and His Sorrowful Mother conceived without sin!

The Catholic Church in the United States of America, Undertaken to Celebrate the Jubilee of His Holiness, Pope Pius X, Volume II: The Religious Communities of Women (New York: The Catholic Editing Company, 1914), 328-330.

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