Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph
Called by God into the Fraternity of Francis, we live in Simplicity, Servanthood, and Joy, renewing the spirit of Mother Colette Hilbert, "In all things Charity."
FSSJ HistoryThe Legacy of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph
Agnes Victoria Hilbert
Agnes Victoria Hilbert, was educated in a private academy in Cieszyn, the territory of Austrian Poland, by the Sisters of Charity of St. Charles Borromeo. Agnes was received into the Charity Sisters’ Congregation in 1883 and given the name of Sister Mary Colette. The seed of her missionary vocation was realized not to minister to the Church in Africa, but across the Atlantic Ocean to the Church of the United States.
“Birth” of a New Congregation
In 1889, Sister Colette and four Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo were sent to educate the children of St. Stanislaus Parish in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Eight years later, Sister Colette was transferred to Trenton, New Jersey and was asked to end her affiliation with her Congregation in Europe and establish a new Congregation of Sisters in the United States. With the assistance of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, Pope Leo XIII had granted Sister Colette permission to establish a new Congregation of Sisters with the mission of service to God’s people through education and charitable works.
Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph
On September 8, 1897, Sister Colette and four American novices adopted the Rule of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis as their way of life in God’s service. In 1898, after having been granted permission and a blessing for the new venture by Pope Leo XIII, Sister Colette became the first Reverend Mother of the newly-established Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph (FSSJ). Because of the Congregation’s growth in the number of women applying to this new way of life, the Sisters moved from Buffalo, New York to the convent in Hamburg, New York.
Finalities with Expressions of Love
Because of Mother Colette’s new appointment, she wrote to the Charity Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo, asking for their blessing and expressing her gratitude to her former Congregation. A letter arrived from the Charity Sisters with good wishes, blessings, and success, and “loving regards from all of us.” The postscript is recorded as “If ever, dear Sister, you should be in need, our doors and our hearts are always open to receive you because we love you.”
Mother Colette – FOUNDRESS
“In All Things – Charity”
Mother Colette’s rich educational background and teaching experience on two continents contributed to an enriched curriculum. It was not only the curriculum and her leadership qualities that formed her pupils, but also her compassion for the needy among the students. Mother Colette’s philosophy of life can be summed up in four words: “In All Things – Charity.”
Buried in St. Stanislaus Cemetery in Cheektowaga, New York, Mother Colette is remembered and honored each year on July 13, the anniversary of her death in 1938.
To date, 14 General Ministers have followed the Foundress in servant leadership.
Service to God’s People
Through the many years, as young women were entering the Congregation, the Sisters opened and staffed countless schools and served in various educational positions in Alabama, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C. FSSJ’s Immaculata Academy, a high school for girls, and Hilbert College, named after Mother Colette Hilbert, were built on the convent grounds. Sisters also ministered in health care in Michigan, New York, Wisconsin, as well as Vietnam and Brazil.
Becoming St. Francis Park
The Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph have always been open to the Spirit of God and what God is asking of us at each time in history. In the 2000s the Sisters became more aware that we were being called to create a legacy of a new home – one that would be constructed in the Spirit of St. Francis’s love of creation and one that would allow us to open our home, our spirituality and our hope for the future to others. In 2010, the new Immaculate Conception Convent was built (LEED Platinum) at 5229 South Park Avenue, Hamburg, NY.
In 2018, The Sisters’ vision of opening and sharing our home became a reality when Catholic Health purchased Immaculate Conception Convent. Immaculate Conception Convent, now St. Francis Park, has become an independent living facility for seniors from all walks of life. There is a special feeling of community, safety, kindness and hope at St. Francis Park.
Renewing the spirit of Mother Colette Hilbert, “In all things-Charity.” The message of the Gospel is one of love. Through our ongoing conversion and with compassionate hearts, we commit ourselves to a way of life that leads to a living transformation into Christ in personal and communal endeavors.
FSSJ Constitution, 7
Our Values expressed through Minisry
Ministries to Continue the Mission
Although the FSSJ continue in their ministries of teaching, pastoral ministry, and outreach to the vulnerable, the Sisters are challenged by the evolving needs of the Church to translate the Gospel into effective action. The Sisters continue their involvement in peace and justice issues, reaching out to the poor, and serving on Boards of Trustees of Hilbert College and Gerard Place. They also volunteer their services in areas of need.
The source of spiritual strength not only for the Congregation, but for the people of God, comes from the Sisters’ communal prayer life and the untiring prayers of the Sisters retired from active ministry and those residing in the health care community. Called by God, the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph serve the Church and continue the legacy of St. Francis of Assisi and their Foundress – Mother Colette Hilbert.
Joy – >
Charism Statement of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph
Called by God into the Fraternity of Francis,
we live in Simplicity, Servanthood, and Joy,
renewing the spirit of Mother Colette Hilbert, “In all things Charity.”
Mother Colette Hilbert is the Foundress of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph
5229 South Park Avenue, Hamburg, NY 14075
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