Our History

The Short History of The Franciscan Sisters of Siessen in South Africa

Pioneers-Sisters-of-Siessen-Arrived-to-South-Africa-7-September-1932In 1932, the 7th Day of September, our first six Sisters arrived in this country from Germany. Coming here they responded to the call of the then Vicar Apostolic of Kimberley , Bishop HJ Meysing OMI who later became the first Archbishop of Bloemfontein.

Soon they were joined by more Sisters from overseas who courageously and enthusiastically tried to live their Franciscan Charism on African soil.

Since then the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Siessen has been witnessing the service of God and His people here in Southern Africa.

Great was the joy when the first African sisters were received in 1952. Since then our Community has enjoyed the steady flow of young African ladies and we are glad to say that most of our sisters in this Province today come from different nationalities mainly from South Africa and Lesotho.

Worldwide our Congregation is now found in Germany, our Motherhouse established in Siessen in 1854, South Africa (1932) and Brazil (1936), Italy(1987) and Sweeden (2010).

THE HISTORY OF OUR CONGREGATION:

The Short History of Franciscan Sisters of Siessen in South
Africa

The Franciscan Sisters of Siessen were a Teaching Sisters of St. Francis who were approved as an autonomous congregation

On 15.11.1853 the episcopal ordinariate in Rottenburg (…) approved the founding of an independent cooperative of the school sisters and the teaching and educational institute in Oggelsbeuren (…) With the episcopal confirmation
However, the state approval is not necessarily accompanied, because the establishment of the Congregation as a school order was state for a long time granted only on call. This had far-reaching legal consequences, in particular with regard to
the possibilities of acquiring land or buildings. As early as March 2, 1854, four sisters moved out of the Dillingen Monastery, – the Conventuals M. Seraphina Model, M. Clementia Mühleisen, M. Johanna Nepomucena Strobel, and M.
Agatha Weiss, all native Wuerttemberg women – in the mediatized and makeshift established convent Oggelsbeuren / Oberamt Ehingen on the Danube. Already on May 1, 1854 they opened with 17 pupils the local teaching institute. From
Oggelsbeuren the two congregations in Bonlanden and in Heiligenbronn have already been established in the coming years. These four sisters and postulants were given the task which is to carry them all lifelong.

The main purpose of the foundation would have to be teaching and education. All the foundations of our Order shall be characterized by poverty and simplicity of life, in the spirit of our seraphic Father Francis. The members must turn to God alone and trust in his ever-present providence.

To Add

In addition to their activity in the narrower academic area, the Congregation was called upon at the turn of the century to turn its attention to female employees and workers in urban dormitories: in the Marienheim in Stuttgart, in St. Antonius, Friedrichshafen, and (only after the Second World War) also in Schwäbisch Gmünd. Children and young people from socially difficult circumstances were looked after by the sisters in the Marienpflege in Ellwangen (since 1908) and in the children's home St. Josef in Stuttgart (since 1920). 3. At the time of the World Wars Both world wars, both the First World War and the Second World War, represented a heavy burden, challenge and opportunity for the Congregation. 3.a World War I and the post-its contribution to overcoming the effects of the First World War, the community made many other congregations of the diocese by setting up military hospitals in the motherhouse and in their larger homes, where injured and recovering soldiers were cared for. 
In handwork lessons, the girls were encouraged to produce laundry, protective and dressing materials for the hospitals and soldiers at the front. Wherever possible, the sisters helped out in the yards to bring in the harvest and replace servants, fathers, and sons who had been drafted for military service. After the end of the First World War, the situation for the Congregation as a school order deteriorated again: the onset of teacher reductions at elementary schools to the detriment of the community challenged them to move to a new field of activity: nursing. Trained nurses and teachers, who were retrained, supplied from now on the communities in the rural area, all in all Sießen nurses were at 40 stations over time. Several sisters worked from 1928 in the children's sanatorium for children with tuberculosis in Wangen, which had been founded by the Caritas Association. 
The uncertain situation of the Weimar period and the first signs of a National Socialist dictatorship, but also the newly emerging missionary enthusiasm, allowed the Congregation to go beyond the borders of the country and focus on another area of ​​activity: foreign missions. 

In South Africa

South Africa

The history of the Franciscan Sisters of Siessen in South Africa especially in the Free State Province is very closely linked up with the history of the Church in the area. The challenges facing the one are very much the same challenges facing the other. 
A great challenge facing the sisters in particular, was that one of introducing and consolidating religious life among women in the particular circumstances prevailing in the area. 

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The congregation locally attracted mainly African vocations and has had to deal with the classical missionary problem of integrating and building up an authentic religious community made up of missionary and local personnel. The challenge is all the more, the greater the differences. The congregation has tried to meet this challenge by working among other things, at broadening the base. Efforts were made to raise the standard of education in the area, which could not but help in getting good material for religious life. Efforts are also made to build up a strong spirituality among members.   
Therefore on the 4th August 1932 six Franciscan Sisters of Siessen left their country Germany to embark for South Africa. Great were their zeal and idealism and great indeed they had to be in order to march the hardships they were to face.

Wrapping up

So the mission was started in 1932 in South Africa, the sisters came to what was then the Vicariate of Kimberley, and area stretching from the boarders of Lesotho far north into Botswana. They worked in many places: praying, teaching children and adults, nursing the sick, assisting the priests in all spheres of heir missionary work.  After a long search it then succeeded in 1943 to acquire a farm, which should serve the sisters as a livelihood and home. They called the place Assisi. Here they soon opened a mission school, later a hospital ward and a maternity home.
The sisters in Southern Africa live a simple life style and a prayerful hardworking religious women among lowly people. They are currently working in 4 dioceses. Kimbelry, Bloemfontein, Kroonstad and Johannesburg.
Through the example of St. Francis of Assisi the sisters support the church and the Priests with humble service. 
There has been a genuine concern for the physical and spiritual well-being of the local population.
Our Franciscan vocation is based on the living of the Gospel. There is much in the past that gives us founded hope for a successful future. May the sisters strive to build on what was solid in the past, and there is no doubt that their future will be even brighter. May the fundamental characteristics of religious devotion, obedience, poverty and chastity, be visible through your Franciscan life-style.
 
Amen.