SAINT FRANCIS PROVINCE
In 1900, the Franciscan friars invited the Sisters to join their ministry to the people of Sacramento, California. Soon, the Sisters began working in other Franciscan parishes on the west coast. They began work in health care in 1911 in Havre, Montana.
Moving to the West Coast came about through the invitation of Franciscan priests who were working with immigrants from Germany. First in Sacramento, then in Los Angeles we began to join in this work in schools and parishes with immigrants from Germany, Japan, Mexico, and Southern Europe. Invitations then came from the Northwest, Oregon, Washington. The call to Montana came first as an invitation to begin a ministry of health care in rural North Central part of the state. Teaching there soon followed. For the first several decades, teaching, child care and health care were the greatest needs of the Catholic immigrant communities.
In 1939 St. Francis province on the West Coast and Sacred Heart Province in the Prairie states were established. The first Provincial Center was in Monrovia, California. Later it was moved to Sierra Madre and in 1961 it was moved again to Redwood City, California.
In the nineteen sixties and seventies with the renewed vision of church expressed in the Second Vatican Council, and the struggles in the US for human and economic rights, the work of the sisters also broadened out - answering to genuine human needs. As our ministries diversified, our living situations also became diverse. We lived in smaller communities, and where sisters live in twos, or singly, they formed small regional communities. With this changed circumstance we came to understand more clearly that we are called to create community wherever we live and work, with the people with whom we live and work.
Another development that has had great influence in St. Francis Province is our relationship with Associates. These sisters and brothers are not called to the vowed life, but feel deeply the call of the Franciscan spirit of Mother Magdalen and her Sisters. They share our mission, vision, prayer life and assemblies.
Some of our Sisters have worked in Mexico over the years. We continue in Mexico, now as part of an interprovincial mission in Chiapas, established at the invitation of Bishop Samuel Ruiz of the Diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas. The Sisters' base is in Palenque where they have a house of hospitality, the beginnings of a clinic, and a discernment house. From this base, the Sisters work in the many small centers of their far-flung parish, ministering to the indigenous and mestizo communities.
A poem celebrating our call to and presence in the western US describes the spirit of our history in a few powerful words:
We are women with wilderness in us and we have often turned to journeys.