The Franciscan Missionaries, 50 years in the United States


nuns-webThe Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary pose for a photo at the congregration’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of their apostolate in the United States.

The Franciscan Missionaries of the Immaculate Heart of Mary marked the 50th anniversary of their congregation’s apostolate in the United States on May 26 with a Mass and a luncheon at St. Bridget Parish in Glassboro. Bishop Emeritus Joseph Galante was present at the ceremony as well as Mother Ann Muscat, Superior General.
The community was originally established in Cairo, Egypt, in 1859, by Blessed Mother M. Catherine Troiani, a native of Giuliano di Roma, Italy. Mother Catherine had a dual mission of teaching and caring for abandoned children.
The Franciscan Missionaries is today an international missionary community with about 600 sisters whose apostolic activities span five continents (15 countries) and include ministries in clinics, hospitals, orphanages, schools, homes for the aged, as well as parish work. Currently, there are seven members of the community working in this country.
The first group of three sisters arrived in New York City from Naples, Italy, on May 16, 1963. The trio, Mother Cherubina Sciberras, Sister Angela Muto and Sister Gemma Procopio, traveled to the Vineland home of Joseph and Lillian Procopio, Sister Gemma’s brother and sister-in-law. There they took temporary residence for about two months. The following July, the three sisters were given lodging by an order of Irish sisters in Bellmawr.
With the arrival of three more members in December 1963, Sister Vittoria Gauci, Sister Carmel Rose Muscat and Sister Carmelina Zammit, a temporary residence for the six sisters was established at a small house in Grenloch with the help of Father Charles Keiser, first pastor of St. Jude Parish in Blackwood. There, the sisters awaited the completion of the new school and convent at St. Jude Parish. which were still under construction – their first American apostolate.
Classes at St. Jude were subsequently begun in the parish hall in October 1963. Following the completion of the new parish facilities in 1964, the sisters occupied their new convent and opened the new school building for classes on Jan. 6, 1964. Initially established for grades one through three, the school added a fourth grade the following September and one new grade in each succeeding year. Later, more sisters were sent to Blackwood to teach in the school and help in the parish.
More than 20 sisters have served the St. Jude Community. Among them are three American sisters: Sister Janice Novak of Blackwood, Sister Karen McConnell of Hi-Nella and Sister Stacie Gagnon of Maine.
In June 1972, four sisters undertook the staffing of Holy Saviour School in Westmont. In 1979, the community established the Ave Maria House, a spiritual center, which has since been closed.
In April 2006, while finishing the year teaching at St. Jude School, the sisters had to leave Blackwood and relocate to St. Bridget in Glassboro. In September 2006, the sisters undertook the staffing of St. Bridget School in Glassboro where they worked for two years.
At the end of the 2008 school year, St. Bridget School merged with St. Catherine School in Clayton which is today St. Michael the Archangel Regional School. Four of the sisters currently work there. In August 2009, the other sisters who were at Holy Saviour joined the sisters in Glassboro.
Today, all seven sisters reside at their own convent on Ellis Street in Glassboro while ministering at St. Michael School in Clayton, Our Lady of Peace Parish in Williamstown and Our Lady of Hope Parish in Blackwood.
The community’s Mother General, Mother Ann Muscat, was also stationed at St. Jude and Holy Saviour.

1963-2013, in gratitude
On the 50th anniversary of the presence of our religious family in the United States, we, the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, wish to give thanks to God for having called us to live, contemplate and witness in the Church of Camden, following the ideal of St. Francis of Assisi and of Blessed Mother M. Catherine Troiani, our foundress.

Sister M. Dorothy Aloisio, FMIHM is pastoral assistant, Our Lady of Hope Parish, Blackwood.