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."


Residents and visitors to St. Francis Park, Hamburg, New York, are privileged to gaze upon the icon, now placed in the foyer that leads to the chapel.  It beckons the viewer to seek Mother Colette’s intercession, her spiritual support in their needs.

The creation of the Mother Colette Hilbert Icon began just before the 1997 hundredth anniversary of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph.  Mrs. Helen Lyons, mother of Sister Ann Lyons, commissioned the painting for the celebration.

Mr. David Smith, an experienced iconographer and painter of fine art from Buffalo, New York, accepted the commission.  Before launching his artistic work, David studied the biography of Mother Colette and spent reflection time at her graveside at St. Stanislaus Cemetery in Cheektowaga, NY.

His completed icon depicts both Mother Colette’s lifelong calling to minister to those needing healing of illnesses and her vocation to found a new Franciscan community of women.

Therefore, the frame of the icon shows her nineteenth-century knowledge and use of an array of medicinal herbs, learned early in her religious life in Poland.  A pertinent quote from In All Things Charity, page six of her biography, notes:  Familiar with the medicinal value of plants, she personally prepared herbal teas for the sick.  When the flu epidemic was raging, she insisted on her Sisters wearing camphor bags….


On the left side of the icon’s frame, one sees comfrey for wound-healing;  thyme, a natural antiseptic;  burnet, a root tincture to treat infections and inflammations of the throat and upper respiratory tract.  On the right side, top to bottom, there appears rue, an eyewash for cataracts;  chamomile, an herb that soothes and calms a stressed mind or migraine pain;  sage, a remedy for laryngitis, sore throats, and for easing pain in the female reproductive organs.

Mother Colette most certainly attained quite a love and knowledge of nature’s plant life from her father, Baron Von Hilbert who was an arborist.  This fact is evident in a page 117 quote from the biography:

[At the Gardenville farm] it was not uncommon for one having difficulty with planting to find Mother kneeling beside her, deftly working with her fingers to set a plant into the soil, teaching proper procedure.   In addition, it is recorded that:  Mother told the Sisters to treat each of their students with the same care as they would give to a tender, young plant.

This is precisely the image that David Smith incorporated in the icon:  Mother Colette holds in her left hand a tender, young plant—a sapling in a small mound of soil—the beginnings of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph which Mother Colette nurtured with wisdom and loving care.

  Sister Carol Clare Czyzewski, FSSJ

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