Presence in the United States

The presence of the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity in the United States dates from 1874 when Mother Aloysia Lenders and three companions arrived in New York City. They came at the request of the German Jesuits of St. Michael's parish in Buffalo, N.Y. There was a great need for German-speaking sisters to teach the young of the expanding German population on Buffalo's east side. Therefore, sisters were sent from the German province. 


The sisters' first house in the United States was a small frame dwelling on Ellicott Street. From there they moved into a larger brick edifice—Sacred Heart Convent and Academy—on Washington Street. This was to be the Novitiate for the new North American Mission as well as the center for a school for girls. The Novitiate remained in Buffalo until 1908 when the move was made to the old March estate in the Town of Lewiston. 

From 1874 until 1928, the houses and institutions in North America (including missions in Buffalo, N.Y., Columbus, Ohio, North and South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Nebraska, California, West Virginia, Oregon, and Colorado) were all mission houses under the jurisdiction of the German Province in Europe. Mother Cecilia Steffen was the first Mission Superior. Upon her death in 1904, Mother Leonarda Hannappel, one of the first sisters to come in 1874, succeeded her. Mother Leonarda was relieved of her duties in 1922 and Mother Gerard Zimmermann of Buffalo was appointed Superior. In 1928, permission was received to divide the German Province into two areas in Germany, a South American, and a North American Province. Mother Gerard was named first Provincial Superior of the North American Province in 1928. 


In 1939, a further division was made when the North American Province was itself divided into three separate provinces with headquarters at Stella Niagara, N.Y., for the Eastern Province (N.Y., Ohio, N.J., W.Va., Fl., and at one time S.C.); Denver, Colorado, for the Midwestern Province (Col., Neb., N.D., S.D.); Redwood City, California, for the Western Province (Calif., Wash., Ore., Mont.). Since 1992 the three U.S. provinces have sponsored a mission in Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico. Several indigenous women have been drawn to the congregation and a novitiate has been established.