Sisters of St. Francis celebrate their centennial; look forward to their future

by Sylvania AdVantage Staff

Sister Mary Jon Wagner, OSF serves as Congregational Minister.
Sister Mary Jon Wagner, OSF serves as Congregational Minister.

“We stand on the shoulders of those who were before us and look to the future based on the vision of the past,” said Sister Mary Jon Wagner, Congregational Minister of the Sisters of St. Francis.

“This year of celebration of our 100-year anniversary has been a time of reflection,” she added. “It’s as if the ‘DNA’ of the Sisters of St. Francis has been passed on through the years and will continue on in the years to come.”

In 1916, a small group of Franciscans from Rochester, Minn., moved to Toledo to teach Polish immigrants in city Catholic schools. The next year, those 23 women under the direction of Sister Mary Adelaide Sandusky managed to purchase 89 acres of farmland in Sylvania and formally established the Motherhouse for the Sisters of St. Francis, Congregation of Our Lady of Lourdes of Sylvania.

Through the years, they have answered the call for education, healthcare, social work, religious education, parish and spiritual direction, outreach to the elderly, and meeting the needs of the poor and marginalized.

“We build collaborations with those who share our mission and our values, ” Sister Mary Jon stated. “We are called, we plan, develop and build. Then we form partnerships and turn projects over under our sponsored ministry. We are not silos. We reach out and connect with our lay brothers and sisters who share the Franciscan spirit and ministry.”

For example, Lourdes University was originally founded for those entering the Sisters of St. Francis order. Through the years, the institution evolved and admitted some lay women. Later, Mercy School of Nursing personnel needed an educational component for its nursing students and Lourdes, under the auspices of the Sisters of St. Francis, admitted nursing students some of whom were men, which led to the inclusion of both male and female students. First a school, then a college and now a university, which evolved into today’s institution, the administration has been taken over by lay partners met the Sisters’ goal as sponsor.

“The Sisters of St. Francis continue in a sponsorship role and we have members of our leadership team who sit on the board of trustees,” Sister Mary Jon reported.

She cited the movement of Franciscan healthcare to a large Catholic healthcare management company as another example of the Sisters’ business vision. “We answer the call, we fill the need, then we find partners to hand off the facilities so we can find and fill other needs,” she explained. “We live the Gospel and do whatever it is that we are called to do. We take what we have and we build on that in keeping with our mission and values that have remained in place for the last 100 years. That legacy will always continue as we walk with one another and continue to form partnerships with those who share our mission. We are all in this together. We share the joy and spirit of one another.”

She added, “Our legacy will continue as we keep our vision alive and become those shoulders for the next group to stand on.”