Thursday, April 7, 2011


CHAPTER XI The Purchase of a New Mother House, Foundation in Szt. Ivan. For a long time Mother Franziska had been thinking of obtaining for the Congregation a new Mother House which would really be suited to its needs and which could again house the novitiate within itself as the nature of things required. If space was gained by the purchase of the Heart of Mary Convent, it also made its lack at the Marienanstalt all the more noticeable especially during retreats and Clothing celebrations. Therefore, Mother Franziska had already exerted great effort during 1888 to buy what she considered a suitable building site near the Botanical Gardens from the Commune of Vienna, but according to the ways of the Lord this was not to be the site of the planned Mother House. Let us listen to Mother Franziska’s words in a circular to her spiritual daughters, how the Congregation unexpectedly came into possession of one: “To my Spiritual Daughters! Wonderful are the designs of Divine Providence and inscrutable are the ways of the Lord. For more than twelve years we were wishing and hoping to enlarge the Mother House through purchase of the neighboring garden. God alone knows how many prayers were said, how many Holy Masses were celebrated and offered for this intention. You, dear Sisters, know that we, as we saw that our hopes in this regard were in vain, were dealing with the Vienna municipality concerning a building site near the Botanical Gardens and did everything to come into possession of this site in order to build a Mother House there which was suited to the needs of our beloved Congregation. During these dealings a man came and offered us, under the best conditions imaginable for sale, a house which is even more beautifully situated than the planned building site. This house is bordered on the north and west side by the Botanical Garden, cannot be obstructed by other buildings on three sides and is so high that one can see distinctly all of Vienna, even the suburbs surrounding it for a distance of two hours. The house has 32 rooms, hot-air heating, water and gas piping, an elevator from the cellar to the attic, etc. and was built only four years ago. We can move in without making one stroke of paint. One hundred sixty square ‘Klafter’ land from the Botanical Gardens were given Mr. Kerstan as an option for purchase by the Court Office for enlarging his garden, and this piece will surely be given us by our good Emperor. The house is in Jacquingasse nr. 4. The sale took place on the Feast of the Mother of Mercies (September 24) and we will probably be able to move in as soon as our Foundation Feast (November 21). What do you say, my dears, to this new Mother House? Don’t you recognize here the actions of Divine Providence? God tests our patience and perseverance in prayer, but you see that these were not useless. The All-Good gave us something much better for this. We must take this lesson to heart. God wanted us to receive such a fitting Mother House after twenty years of our existence. The year 1888 was in every way meaningful. God sent us much bitterness in this year, but much good has also come about in the Congregation.” Then Mother Franziska recounted the already mentioned enlarging of the foundations in Troppau, Krakow, Prague, Dolnja-Tuzla and St. Andre and closed with the words: “I have many worries about whether we can meet all the obligations we have incurred with the purchase of the new Mother House. Pray with great trust to our holy father, Joseph that he may send benefactors to us. The convent will bear the name “Mater ter Admirabilis” (Mother three-times admirable) and will be placed under the special protection of this good Mother; She will not abandon us. Pray also that the Lord may send workers into His vineyard. We have far too few candidates. Now I commend you to the protection of the Holy Angels and am, in faithful love, concerned about your spiritual and physical well—being. your, Franziska Lechner. Mother House, on the Feast of the Holy Archangel Michael, 1888.” From this letter we see how happy Mother Franziska was about obtaining the new Mother House, but her beautiful words also show how she related every event to God in order to heighten the joy of her spiritual daughters with this reference to the goodness and providence of the Lord. On October 31 the ownership of the Kerstan house was transferred to the Congregation and some sisters immediately moved in. On November 2 Mother Franziska took leave of the Marienanstalt in order to move with some additional sisters to the new Mother House. With emotion and gratitude to God she left the house which was so dear to her and had been the cradle of the Congregation and within which she had lived so many years alternating in joy and trouble. As once with the entrance into the Marienanstalt, so now her dear possessions, a crucifix, a statue of Mary and one of Joseph, accompanied her as she took possession of the new Mother House. She herself carried the cross, while two other sisters carried the statues of the Mother of God and of the holy Foster Father of Jesus in their arms. These were the actual statues which she had purchased twenty years before. Contrary to her own expectations Mother Franziska felt herself immediately at home in the new Mother House. Even today the sisters themselves like to tell of these early times. Mother Franziska helped with the unpacking, gave instructions about arranging things, lent a helping hand, cooked for the sisters while these were busy in the house or collecting alms, and when the sisters returned from their trips, sat with them, asked them how things went, recounted various things, in short, she lead a life with her little family as only a faithful, caring and loving mother can. One of her first concerns was to furnish a chapel in the new Mother House. Mr. Kerstner’s artists’ studio which stood attached to the house on the site where now stands the novitiate building, provided a suitable space for this. To the joy of Mother Franziska, this chapel was blessed by Msgr. Dr. Anton Horny on November 21, the Feast of the Presentation of Mary and Founding Day of the Congregation. He then immediately celebrated the first Holy Mass and reserved the Blessed Sacrament. Then followed the Clothing of three postulants and the blessing of the house. In this month the Congregation, through the graciousness of the Holy Father, received a new Cardinal Protector. In a letter dated November 26, 1888, His Eminence the Secretary of State, Cardinal Rampolla, informed Mother Franziska that His Holiness had, at her request, entrusted this office to Cardinal Serafino Vannutelli (earlier the Apostolic Nuntio to Vienna). Mother Franziska was overjoyed at this and soon shared the news with her spiritual daughters. On January 24, 1889 she received a very beautiful and fatherly letter from the newly-appointed Cardinal Protector. Soon the new Mother House would enjoy a visit from this honored guest. In March, 1889, Cardinal Vannutelli was sent by the Holy Father on business to Salzburg. When Mother Franziska heard of this she sent her General Assistant, Sister Ignatia Egger with Sister Helene Bonard there on March 30 to greet His Eminence in her name and to ask him to visit on an eventual trip to Vienna. The Cardinal cordially received the sisters and agreed to their request. On April 10 he came to Vienna and on the 12th he celebrated Mass in the Marienanstalt. He promised Mother Franziska to do all that was possible for the Congregation. Mother Franziska was all the more overjoyed to hear this promise because in a request dated March 7, 1889, she had asked from His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII the second Roman approbation, the actual recognition of her Congregation and its Constitutions, and therefore asked Cardinal Vannutelli to once more place this request at the feet of the Holy Father. It was a great desire of Mother Franziska to receive this second approbation, and before sending the request she once again paid a visit to all the Bishops under whose jurisdictions her institutes were operating, to receive from them letters of recommendation. On April 24, the Cardinal Protector celebrated Mass in the Mother House chapel and immediately thereafter viewed the house, guided by Mother Franziska. The house pleased his Eminence extraordinarily well. This exalted visit was a great joy and encouragement for Mother Franziska and the sisters. Now an event that happened in between must be brought to the fore. Soon after the blessing of the new Mother House, Mother Franziska had to take a trip to Budapest on December 3, 1888 on a matter regarding construction. Not many peaceful days, like those first ones in the Mother House, were granted to her. The Marian Institute in Budapest, which Mother Franziska had to enlarge as early as the year 1886 through the purchase of a neighboring house on Knezit Street, had long ago become once again too small. Therefore she decided to enlarge it with the addition of a side wing and a chapel tract. This was begun in February, 1889. In April of the same year Mother Franziska had the additional house purchased in 1886 demolished and replaced with a three story building which would be called the “Margaretinum” and would house the pupils of the Institute. These buildings were possible only with the help of noble benefactors and through the inheritance left from the estate of Mr. Konstantin Rokk in the amount of 17,200 florins. The blessing of the same took place on December 7 in the presence of Mother Franziska and countless guests. The terrible blow suffered by the Imperial Family, and with them all Austria through the unexpected death on January 30, 1889 of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Rudolf, was also a deep sorrow for Mother Franziska, more so in view of His Majesty being the greatest benefactor of the Congregation, of Her Majesty, the Empress as the exalted protectress of the same, and of the exalted Crown Princess, Archduchess Stephanie, the protectress of the Marian Institute in Prague. Mother Franziska prayed much and ordered prayers for the eternal rest of the deceased and. for strength for the severely tried Imperial Family. On February 3, she went to the Supreme Office of the Court and asked if she and the sisters couldn’t alternate spending holy hours by the body. Although on this day only the most exalted persons were allowed admittance, her request was granted, giving her great consolation. Not long after, another suffering touched Mother Franziska, whose grateful soul was always very touched at the death of her benefactors. On May 17, 1889 died the noble and much-tested Queen Mother Marie of Bavaria, who had also been so kind to her and took such a gracious interest in the growth of her Congregation. On May 31 Mother Franziska appeared before the exalted Archduchess Adelgunde in order to respectfully express her sympathy on the death of the Queen Mother. When she was announced to the exalted Lady, her brother, who was at the time in Vienna, His Royal Highness, the Prince Regent Luitpold of Bavaria, was also present. Mother Franziska was immediately admitted. The exalted personages graciously accepted her sympathy and spoke with her in the most familiar and kindly way. His Majesty was pleased at the mention that many Bavarians were members of the Congregation and was overjoyed at Mother Franziska’s promise that she and all the sisters would pray in a special way for him and for the deceased Queen Mother. The Exalted Archduchess Adelgunde soon returned Mother Franziska’s visit by unexpectedly coming to the Mother House on June 10, Pentecost Monday, just as the sisters were assembled on the veranda for supper. The exalted Lady felt that she had to bid Mother Franziska adieu before her departure for her summer residence, and conversed with her in the most kindly way. In fact, her Royal Highness often deigned to grant Mother Franziska the honor of a visit. For a long time now Mother Franziska had been preoccupied with a plan for building a Novitiate house next to the Mother House, and especially, to build a church, which she intended to meet an urgent need of this neighborhood because of the great distance of other churches. The space next to the Mother House with its artist studio-turned chapel was, however, too small to allow this plan to be carried out. Therefore, her fervent wish, which she had already expressed in the previously mentioned circular of the Feast of St. Michael, 1888, was to receive a piece of the Botanical Gardens as a building site through the graciousness of the Emperor. In case this wish should be fulfilled, she had the intention to build a church in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mother Most Admirable in gratitude for the favor of His Majesty and as a lasting memorial of the coming marriage of her Royal Highness the Archduchess Maria Valeria with the Archduke Franz Salvator. In His wise providence God saw to the fulfillment of these wishes. How this happened will be shown in the following letter in which Mother Franziska gives her spiritual daughters the joyful news: “To My Dear Spiritual Daughters, Good children are always happy when their Mother receives a pleasant surprise, and all the more must you rejoice when the entire Congregation receives special graces! Five weeks ago we made the decision to turn with our request for a gift of the piece of the Botanical Garden that borders on the Mother House to the exalted Bride, the Archduchess Valeria so that she could ask this of our much loved Emperor. In the request, which was warmly supported by our good Cardinal (She means the Rev. Dr. Ganglbauer of Vienna) we stated that we are asking to receive this building site because a church is urgently needed for our Mother House as well as for people in the surrounding streets. This church is to be dedicated to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Mother Most Admirable and the cornerstone of the building will be laid on the day before the wedding of the exalted Bride and that, upon its completion, special daily prayers will be offered at Holy - Mass for the exalted Imperial Family. The exalted couple was so overjoyed with this request of ours that the good Archduchess went straight to her Imperial Father and asked His Highness to grant the request immediately. We had a plan made so that the exalted lady could see how the church and the connected convent eventually would look. The good Archduchess succeeded so that our beloved Emperor immediately gave the order that as much of the Botanical Gardens as we need would be transferred to us by the Court Steward’s Office. Yesterday the Secretary of the Court was here and we will receive a gift of 900 square meters-besides the church there will still remain a nice garden. You will understand what an act of extraordinary graciousness this is on the part of His Majesty. May you, dear sisters, see this as a happy and extraordinary event for our Congregation. The Mother House will be enlarged and the church will be attached to the novitiate building. I am so happy that God has made us worthy to build a church in His honor and I hoped also that, according to God’s will, the Mother House will soon be brought to its completion. God is infinitely good to us! All these signs of grace oblige us to show our gratitude to God by faithfully keeping our Holy Rule. Pray that you may always recognize your election to the religious life as one of the greatest graces. Only then will you constantly live and work as good religious women. May the Precious Blood of Jesus which is to be specially honored this month not have been poured out in vain for any one so that someday we will all see one another again in Heaven! God bless all! Your, faithful mother, Franziska Lechner. Mother House, July 11, 1889” From now on the lively spirit of Mother Franziska was often occupied with the building of the church and this was also the favorite topic of conversation. Before it could be started, however, she took over a new foundation. The Archabbot of Martinsberg, Claudius Vaszary now Cardinal and Primate of Hungary, asked Mother Franziska to send sisters of the Congregation to direct the school which he had built in Szt. Ivan near Raab in Hungary on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Emperor’s reign and which was given a capital grant by Canon Vitus Molnar. This last named, also joined in the plea of the Archabbot. On August 21, 1889 Mother Franziska therefore traveled to Szt. Ivan and found the house to be very nice and suitably built, and the school and kindergarten well equipped with useful learning materials. From there she traveled to Martinsberg to thank the Archabbot for his trust and was received in a very friendly manner. On September 25 six sisters moved into the house, and Mother Franziska also traveled again to Szt. Ivan to arrange the house with them and to be present for the blessing set for the 29th. This last was solemnly celebrated by the Archabbot and Mother Franziska had opportunity on that day to be convinced that the people of Szt. Ivan were very happy to have sisters in their town. On November 4, 1889 Mother Franziska expressed to the Emperor the humble gratitude of herself and the entire Congregation for the extraordinary graciousness signified by the gift of the church building site and His Majesty showed himself most gracious toward her. With the same kindness she was received on January 9, 1890 by the exalted Archduchess Valeria to whom she respectfully expressed her thanks for the intercession with His Majesty. On February 19 Mother Franziska gave Archduchess Immakulata, for herself and her son, Archduke Franz Salvator, a picture of the future church and the connected convent, and on the next day she went for the same reason to the Archduchess Adelgunde. Their royal highnesses took the sketches kindly and deigned to express pleasure at the beautiful work planned.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Founding of the Convent St. Joseph’s Home in Dolnja—Tuzla, the Foundations in Crakow and Hirschtetten, enlargement of various branches of the Congregation.

Besides the three foundations in the year 1885 already mentioned, the way was prepared for a fourth at the same time. Namey, the congregation received, thanks to His Excellency the Imperial Finance Minister von Kallay, a gift from the Bosnian government of a piece of land of outstanding quality, measuring two hundreds yoke, only about 25 minutes distant from Dolnja—Tuzla. Its reclamation, however, cost much money and even more effort because the ground was uneven and partly cut by deep gullies and the brush was only removed with untold difficulty. The sisters commissioned by Mother Franziska to do the clearing had to take their meals in a miserable clap—board hut. Since the cooking was done in the same hut, the heat was nearly unbearable. After the strenuous work of the day they still had to make their way to Tuzla to enjoy there a short night’s rest. When Mother Franziska came to Tuzla on April 17, 1886 she found about seventy yoke cleared and cultivated. She was immensely happy over this industriousness and zeal of the sisters, but more so over the joyful self—sacrifice with which they accepted every strain and difficulty. During this stay Mother Franziska also gave the order to build a house on this property which she intended to call “Joseph’s Home”. She wanted to develop a model farm here as in Slatina near Sarajevo and in Breske, intending it also to help with the upkeep of the house in Tuzla.
April 28 was the day set as the opening of the Doboy—Dolna—Tuzla railroad line, planned with great festivities, because the presence of the Imperial Finance Minister von Kallay and many important persons from Vienna and Budapest were expected. The sisters in Tuzia had to decorate the church, school and convent and Mother Franziska arranged these things with her usual taste. She also went with some sisters to the railroad station for the welcome of the Ministers. Their Excellencies, von Kallay, and the Regional Governor Baron Appel with their wives, greeted Mother Franziska in the most cordial way. The next day these personages visited the sisters in their little residence and also the school where they received a respectful greeting from the children. They also visited the sisters in Joseph’s Home and in Breske in order to see everything and Mother Franziska received unanimous praise for her arrangements. On May 3 she continued her trip to Sarajevo where the visit of the Archduke Albrecht was announced for the 15th. The important guest was most solemnly received by the entire population. The pupils and students of the sisters were also lined up for the greeting. Mother Franziska who was also present, received a greeting from the Archduke as soon as His Highness caught a glimpse of her. On the 25th the Archduke and many important persons made a visit to the festively decorated St. Joseph and Marian Institutes. After the formal greeting and a visit to the house chapel, His Highness, guided by Mother Franziska, visited the school and other places, expressing high praise for the practical arrangement of the institutes and especially over the great number of orphans. As a special sign of graciousness the Archduke Albrecht deigned to take along some samples of the children’s needlework as a souvenir. The day after this visit Mother Franziska returned to Tuzla to make the arrangements for Archduke Albrecht’s visit there which was planned for May 29, and also to inspect the work already begun on the Joseph’s Home Convent. On the 28th she started her return trip to Vienna. The solemn blessing of the Joseph’s Home Convent took place on September 19, 1886 the Feast of Our Sorrowful Mother. Mother Franziska could not be present on that day, but on October 1 she made another trip to Bosnia and found, to her pleasure, that the new convent was very beautifully completed.
His Excellency, the Archbishop and later Cardinal Dunajewski of Crakow had expressed the wish to Mother Franziska that there might be a “Marian Institute” erected also in Crakow. Therefore, on July 17, 1886, she sent the, until then, Superior of the house in Biala, Sister Josefa Kock, with Sister Hedwig Skrobanek to Crakow to prepare the way for such an institute. They first rented a small apartment to take in servant girls, but this proved impractical. On August 30 Mother Franziska arrived in Crakow and made untold trips for five days looking for a suitable dwelling, unfortunately, in vain. Only later they found shelter in the house of Princess Sanguska in the “Franziskanergasse”, which provided space for twenty servant girls. The institute remained there until Mother Franziska, as will be recounted later, could purchase a suitable house for it in the year 1888, because until then, all her efforts during various trips to Crakow, had remained as unsuccessful as the first time.
On October 26, Mother Franziska gave the Imperial Councilor, von Feifalik, secretary to Her Majesty Empress Elizabeth, an album, in which the practiced hand of a sister had beautifully drawn all the institutes and asked this man, very inclined toward the Congregation, to personally give it to her Majesty as the exalted protectress of the same. Thereafter, during the following month, Mother Franziska received from the Councilor von Feifalik a letter containing the following:
uWith regard to the request of the 26th of the month, I received the exalted command to transmit to the revered Congregation of the Daughters of Divine Charity the gracious gratitude of Her Majesty the Empress and Queen for the album with the views of the Congregation placed at her exalted feet and asked me to add that Her Majesty was very pleased with this offering and with true and honest satisfaction was informed of the report about the universally, richly blessed activity and the beautiful success of the Congregation under her exalted protection.
Royal Government Councilor
Gldoll, November 12, 1886.”
February 28, 1887 brought Mother Franziska a great sorrow and the Congregation a great loss. On this day the Reverend Cardinal Protector Jakobini, the fatherly friend of the Congregation, who always took the liveliest interest in its work and flourishing, passed away. Mother Franziska truly mourned the death of the noble Prince of the Church and without delay ordered common prayers and Holy Masses throughout the entire Congregation for the eternal rest of the deceased. At her request the Reverend Apostolic Nuntio, Vannutelli celebrated a Requiem for the departed in the Mother House on March 2, an, on March 5, the Auxiliary Bishop Eduard Angerer in Heart of Mary Convent.
During the course of the year 1887 Mother Franziska was forced to undertake an enlargement and renovation of the house in Troppau because of lack of and the bad roof there. At the same time she wanted to have a chapel built to honor St. Joseph. so many people, even from Prussia, came to the monthly meetings of the St. Joseph’s Association begun in the Troppau House and held separately in the German and Bohemian languages that the little chapel could no longer hold them and many had to take places in the corridor and adjoining courtyard. This condition determined Mother Franziska to make the above mentioned decisions in spite of the poverty of the Congregation, since devotion to her dear St. Joseph was very important to her. In March, 1887 she theref or traveled to Troppau to make the agreements concerning the construction and the cornerstone of the chapel was laid as early as the 24th of the same month. Mother Franziska made the trip to Troppau three times more that year to look after the construction, since this caused her much worry. The walls of the house, though thick, had no real foundation and so caused many difficulties and unforeseen expense. St. Joseph, however, made his help meaningfully evident. It was surely attributable to his intercession that six near accidents were avoided during the dangerous construction and that noble benefactors were found. A sufficient reward for Mother Franziska was the solemn blessing of the chapel on December 11, 1887 and that it was well visited, as she could see from the reports of the sisters and during later trips to Troppau.
At the end of September 1887 Mother Franziska undertook another trip to Prague and from there wanted to go to the sisters in Brunn, but this last could not take place because frequent bouts of illness made it necessary for her to return directly to Vienna from Prague. The doctor called in diagnosed peritonitis. The news of this threw the entire Congregation into the greatest consternation and continual “storm novenas” were held by the sisters and their charges for the recovery of their beloved spiritual mother. During this illness, on October 22, Mother Franziska had the joy of receiving the visit of His Excellency, the then Apostolic Nuntio to Vienna and later Cardinal Luigi Galimberti. He had only that day at noon heard about her serious illness and came immediately to express his sympathy and to inform himself of her condition. On the same day the Reverend Bishop Dunajewski of Crakow, also in Vienna at the time, came to visit, too. These joyful events had a beneficial influence on the patient. God heard the fervent prayers for the preservation of Mother Franziska and she regained her health, of course, only slowly after such a serious illness.
During her illness Mother Franziska again received a request for a foundation from Hirschstetten near Vienna. This township had been asking for two years that sisters of the Congregation would take over the direction of a Kindergarten there, but to Mother Franziska th field of work seemed too small, since she rightly believed that two to three sisters could not build a real community life as the Constitutions prescribed. She had therefor promised to send sisters to Hirschstetten if they could also give the manual arts instruction in the elementary school. After the town came to the point where they were able to do this Mother Franziska sent sisters to Hirschtetten on November 28, 1887. Besides the kindergarten and the manual arts instruction in the school, they conducted also a professional school set up by Mother Franziska. The house set aside for this foundation at first belonged to the civic community, but in 1893 Mother Franziska purchased it for the Congregation.
December 31, 1887 was the day of the 50th Jubilee of the ordination to the priesthood of His Holiness Pope Leo XIII and Mother F’ranziska used this occasion to express the childlike devotion and respectful love of herself and her spiritual daughters for the Hoiy Father in a congratulatory telegram. Also, the Congregation did not neglect to send some home made pieces to add to the gifts for ecclesiastical use that came at that time from everywhere to the Holy Father. On January 2, a telegram of gratitude with the following message arrived:

“Expressing his gratitude to the Congregation for the wishes and the gifts sent to him, the Holy Father cordially sends the desired blessing.”
Mother Franziska was very pleased about this and took it as a great grace to be able to begin the new year with the blessing of the Holy Father. At the beginning of the same she placed her Congregatidn under the protection of the Holy Family to whom she had great devotion, and to promote this devotion she ordered that from then on a Prayer of Offering to the Holy Family chosen by her be recited each Sunday in common in all houses of the Congregation. She also had 20,000 copies of this prayer printed for distribution. The blessing for this devotion was not lacking since the year 1888 would be forever a memorable one for the congregation because of the purchase of a new Mother House. Before this event, however, there are still to be recounted further enlargements of existing houses by Mother Franz iska.
In February, 1888, her greatest wish, to gain her own house for the foundation in Crakow, was fulfilled when she purchased a building in the “Bischofsgasse” from Mr. Von Wisocki. The cost for this was 25,000 guldens. Unfortunately, Mother Franziska did not have this money. On the advice of the Reverend Bishop Dunajewski she turned to Countess Potocka with the request to help her make the purchase with a loan and this noble lady gladly lent her 6,000 guldens for the down payment. So the deal was closed on February 11. Mother Franziska could now pursue her long—held plan of adding a boarding facility and school, especially for the children of the German military and civil personnel, to the section for the servant girls. Because of the lack of German Catholic schools, the children mentioned had to attend a Protestant school if their parents wanted them to receive instruction in their native language, so this decision was welcomed by the Bishop as well as by the German inhabitants of Crakow. On September 9, 1888 the house, which Mother Franziska named “Marieninstitut” was blessed by the Reverend Bishop Dunajewski. After this solemn act he turned to Mother Franziska in a talk which emphasized that he felt a special joy in having sisters from her Congregation in his diocese and what a good fortune it was for the fathers in the military to know, when they were called by the Commander—in—Chief to fight for their country, that their daughters were in such good hands. After the blessing the school was opened with sixty children. The numbers grew so quickly in such a short time that the rooms were overflowing within the first year.
Since the Marian Institute in Prague had also become too small Mother Franziska had to have a third floor built that year. In April, 1888 she made the agreement with the builder and on October 1 the blessing was undertaken by Bishop Count Schonborn with Mother Franziska present at the celebration.
As for the sisters in Crakow, so Mother Franziska was also able to acquire a house for those in Dolna—Tuzia during the year 1888. This had also been a preoccupation of longer duration for her since, for variow reasons, the building assigned by the township could no longer be used a a school and the little building that served as residence for the sisters was not suitable. On the advice of regional Governor Councilman Vukovic she purchased a suitable building site as early as February, 1887 and traveled to Tuzla on April 12, 1888 to make arrangements for the construction. She did this, of course, with a heavy heart since, as usua1 she had no money while at the same time she had the most fervent trust in the kind providence of God. On April 17, the blessing of the cornerstone. took place. The Mass celebrated on this occasion by the Pastor, was attended, besides by the sisters and their students, -by all the wcrkers involved in the building, including even the Turks and Serbs. To the joy of Mother Franziska, in a sermon, the Pastor encouraged the workers to work hard so that the building could soon fulfill its purpose. Of course, Mother Franziska also visited the sisters in Joseph’s Home and in the Emmus Convent in Breske and had the joy of seeing that the neighbors, even the Turks, had already begun to imitate the methods of the sisters in cultivating the land. The Turks said that the presence of the sisters was a blessing for the entire valley. As these had won the love of the inhabitants from the very beginning, so Mother Franziska enjoyed in Bosnia the very special respect of the inhabitants of every confession. When she came to those places where she had foundations, they called to her from all sides “Casna majka!” (Reverend Mother!) and each one wanted to greet her. She knew also, how to communicate lovingly with everyone, regardless of the station or nationality or confession they belonged to, and they were able to read her kindness and love in her face and were attracted to her, even when she could not speak the Bosnian national language and had to use a sister as translator.
In October 1888 the building in Tuzia was completed and, to the joy of Mother Franziska, the sisters and the population, was consecrated to the Divine Heart of Jesus and the Queen of the Holy Rosary on the twenty—fifth of the month. The Convent of Maria Loretto in St. Andr also experienced a valuable enlargement through Mother Franziska. It was not through building, but through the purchase of a neighboring house and 43 yoke of land (called Fuchsenhube). This house and lands were the earlier “Meierhof” of the previous Dominican Monastery, and through this purchase on June 6, 1888, were returned to the monastery, to the great joy of the inhabitants of St. Andra. For them the purchase was a real benefit, since, before there was only a courtyard and now the pupils had a garden with a playground. The farm was intended to help with the support of the convent. Since the building on the Fuchsenhube, which Mother Franziska named “Joseph’s Rest”, was in bad condition, she later, in 1893, had a new farm building erected. she always had a special joy with this property and every time she came to St. Andra she asked penetratingly about the progress on the farm and made a tour of the barns and fields. In this area she had knowledge and experience also and was able to give practical orders. During such tours of the Congregation’s farms she never missed giving a friendly word to the hired workers, encouraging them, praising them for good work and giving them a small financial gift. Such kindness was not without results, and if she here and there had to say a word of reprimand, it was usually well accepted, since the employees were convinced of her maternal kindness.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Foundations in Biala and in Zone XVIII of Vienna,
Foundations in Foherczeglak, Trip to Rome.
Soon after the arrival of the Decree of Recognition from Rome, Mother Franziska, who never allowed herself rest and was always considering how to spread more and more the work of the Congregation for the greater glory of God and the good of neighbor, again undertook the founding of another branch. A woman with the name Bachmann, had encouraged her to erect a foundation in Biala in Galizia. For this reason she sent the Superior of the Troppau house, Sister Stanislai Fu13 and Sister Magdalena Horacek, to the above named city, to inform themselves of the conditions there. The sister informed Mother Franziska that a beautiful field of work would present itself in Biala, as well as the fact that the palace Lipnik, not far from the city, owned by His Majesty Archduke Albrecht, and inhabited only by clerks, would be a suitable building for this purpose. Mother Franziska immediately took hold of this idea and with her own quick decisiveness, entered a request to His Highness that he would deign to turn over the Lipnik Palace to the Congregation for educational purposes. God blessed this request. On September 17 the courtier Jesse shared with Mother Franziska that his Royal Highness most graciously granted the requested permission with the remark that he was happy to give the palace to the Congregation because of its richly—blessed work. On September 18 Mother Franziska, who was overjoyed at the fulfillment of her wish, had the written permission in hand allowing the Congregation to take over the palace on May 1, 1885. therefor, on September 22 she traveled with sister Stanislai to Krakow to ask the Reverend Bishop Albin Dunajewski’s permission to make a foundation in his diocese. He received her in the most friendly manner, was happy that the Congregation would begin a field of endeavor in his diocese, informed himself of everything in detail, and promised to introduce the sisters into Biala himself. Mother Franziska used this time of her stay in Krakow to visit a number of the many churches and convents found there. Then, with her companion, she traveled to Biala. The first day there was very painful for her. As she wanted to view the palace the people living there, hearing the reason for her coming, were angered that they would have to leave their apartments on account of the sisters. Mother Franziska and Sister Stanislai had to make them understand that His Royal Highness can do what he wants with his property and only then were they somewhat friendlier. The palace with its 25 rooms and halls, situated in a beautiful park more than three yoke large, seemed to Mother Franziska to be very suitable for an institute. Mother Franziska enjoyed a friendly reception from the district chief, the mayor and the clergy, as well as the promise to support the planned work. After she called at the Dukal Properties Office in the nearby little town of Saybusch, she returned, via Troppau, to Vienna, where she arrived on September 29. Here Mother Franziska found a letter with the joyful news that His Royal Highness had graciously allowed that the future institute in Biala be named, after his wife, Archduchess Hildegard, “St. Hildegard”. On December 1 Mother Franziska visited the Governor of Biala who was then in Vienna. His Excellency received her in a most friendly way and told her to bring her petition the very next day so that he, himself, could look it over and advise her of any necessary changes. When Mother Franziska brought the petition, His Excellency was completely satisfied with it and expressed his joy over the fact that the Congregation would also branch out into Galizia and promised to visit the Biala institute in the coming Spring. After everything which was necessary had been arranged Mother Franziska sent Sister Josefa Kock, destined to be the Superior of the new foundation, to Biala with two sisters on January
23, 1885. She had especially chosen the Feast of the Espousal of Mary as the travel day because, with her childlike trust she wanted to ask Mary to be the Superior and Joseph to be the master of the house. On March 9 Mother Franziska traveled to Biala to arrange the adaptations of the house which his Royal Highness had deigned to allow. These began immediately after the tenants had departed on May 1. On April 4 Mother Franziska received the joyful news that Her Royal Highness the Archduchess Isabella had deigned to be Protectress of the educational institutions to be set up in Biala. Therefor she traveled to Prel3burg to thank the Archduchess for this kindness. This lady received her most graciously. On June 5 Mother Franziska had an audience with Her Royal Highness, Archduchess Adelgunde, the Duchess of Modena, who also received her very kindly and gave her a large copper engraved portrait of Archduchess Hildegard. Naturally this portrait was placed in the convent of St. Hildegard in Biala. In the meantime the renovation work there had been completed and so on June 8 Mother Franziska went to Krakow to talk with the Rev. Archbishop Dunajewski, who wanted to carry out the dedication himself, to discuss some things with him in this regard. Then she went to Biala to undertake the proximate preparations for the dedication. This took place on June 14 in the most solemn manner and became a festival for the entire Biala because the city did everything to give its very beloved Shepherd a worthy reception. He stayed at the convent. From early morning on into the night people streamed in crowds to see him and the arrangement of the palace—turned—to—convent. Mother Franziska soon had the joy of learning that the school and kindergarten in St. Hildegard convent were well attended, and that many boarders were registering for the boarding school. So this institute soon flourished and even now is a blessing for the inhabitants of Biala.
Some months after the first steps regarding the branch in Biala were made Mother Franziska also enlarged the Congregation’s activities in Vienna. In every way, when we consider foundations, the year 1885 was a busy one for Mother Franziska because it brought the Congregation three new branches. Since, through God’s blessing, the number of sisters, happily increased from year to year, and also many students and servant girls registered for acceptance, the space in the Vienna Marienanstalt had long ago become too small. Therefor, Mother Franziska, although she had no wherewithal, was forced to think about calling forth another such institute in Vienna, in order to house there the novices and the servant girls seeking employment. To this purpose she looked at various houses in January, 1885 and found a suitable house belonging to the St. Joseph’s Savings and Credit Union, in district XVIII, Johannesgasse Nr. 13 (now Lacknergasse 87). As early as January 30th, Mother Franziska verbally closed the sales contract trusting in God’s help and gave the Union as down payment the emergency fund of 175 florins she had deposited with them. On March 31 the written contract was made and Mother Franziska again had an opportunity to experience the help of St. Joseph in whom she had taken refuge. As late as the 30th a considerable sum of the amount she was to pay at the closing of the sale was still missing, and on the 31st she not only was able to meet the amount due, but even had something left over. The trust of Mother Franziska was rewarded through income whose arrival was totally unexpected. In May the tenants vacated the premises and the renovation and building of an additional floor was begun. The boarders were able to enter their new home which Mother Franziska gave the beautiful name, “Heart of Mary Convent” on July
16. On August 20th the same was solemnly dedicated by the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, Dr. Colestin Ganglbauer in the presence of countless clergy and other guests. In a beautiful talk His Eminence pointed out the blessed work and self—sacrificing activity of the sisters and expresse
the wish that the new Institute would bring forth much fruit for the honor of the Congregation, the edification of the faithful, the consolation of the poor and to the moral perfection of all who would dwell therein, through the blessing of God and the protection of Mary. This wish of the Cardinal did not remain unfulfilled for much good has been done in Heart of Mary Convent since that day for the servant girls seeking employment, as well as for the youth in the boarding school, grade school and kindergarten. Those sisters received on August 18, 1885 immediately began their novitiate there and Heart of Mary Convent remained the Novitiate of the Congregation until 1890.
Now we must mention the taking over of the third foundation of this year. It is the kindergarten established by His Royal Highness Archduke Albrecht on his estate Bellye (Foherczglak in present day Slovakia) for the children of his servants.
His Excellency the Apostolic Nuntio Serafino Vannutelli (now Cardinal), whom Mother Franziska admired and who was very much in favor of the Congregation thanked His Royal Highness Archduke Albrecht that he had turned over the Lipnik castle to the Congregation and at the same time asked that His Highness would deign to give over to the Congregation also the administration of the institute at Foherczglak. The Archduke said that he would gladly do this if the Bishop at Funfkirchen, in whose diocese Foherczglak was situated, would agree. As Mother Franziska learned this from His Excellency she sent her General Assistant, Sister Borgia Un and Sister Immaculata Prillinger to Funfkirchen on May 30, 1885. The Bishop Dulansky received the sisters very kindly and said it would make him very happy if the Congregation would come also to his diocese. Thereupon Mother Franziska received a letter as early as mid—June informing her in the name of Archduke Albrecht, that the administration of the Institute in Foherczglak would be turned over to her Congregation. Therefor, she went there on July 7 to speak with the manager about the furnishing of the house. It and the garden pleased her extraordinarily well. To the satisfaction of Mother Franziska, her Royal Highness Archduchess Isabella accepted the title of its protectress. The dedication took place on October 4, 1885. Mother Franziska of course went to Fdherczglak for the celebration, on the way there visiting the Bishop of Funfkirchen to thank him for accepting the Congregation into his diocese and ask for his blessing on the new foundation. Prelate Dobzay from Funfkirchen undertook the dedication. All Foherczglak took part in the celebration. When Mother Franziska came again on November 3 to Foherczglak she saw to her great joy that seventy children were already attending the kindergarten. In 1892, on the orders of Archduke Albrecht the sisters were also given the administration of the girls’ school there.
Whenever God grants a rich blessing, He usually tests also. This happened to Mother Franziska also. The year 1885 in which, to her joy, the Congregation experienced a swift growth, did not spare her a harsh trial. In July six sisters in the foundation in Dolnja—Tuzla became ill with typhoid and two of these died. Two employees also caught the disease and had to be taken to the military hospital. The house and the street were therefore sealed off. In any case, the disease was caused by the bad water. Before the conditions in Bosnia became more ordered through the Austrian government the Turks buried their dead just anywhere, even right next to houses and so it happened that the water often flowed through these graves and became polluted. It is not easy to describe the worry and care that Mother Franziska’s loving heart endured during this time and how many fervent prayers she sent to Heaven, since the sufferings of her spiritual daughters were always her own. The letter, written on
September 4, 1885 to all the sisters gives us the best insight:
“To my spiritual daughters,
A holy, but painful duty urges me to address these lines to you.
You all know how severely God has visited our poor Congregation since July through sickness and death. The sisters in the house dedicated to the Queen of the Holy Rosary had much to suffer. Sister Augustina found them in a pitiable state when she went there to visit. She did everything possible to get help for the sick. The trip was to have been a vacation for her, and now she had to care for her sick sisters which she also did with a self—sacrificing love.
Our Director Canon Jeglic, without any idea of the misery in which the sisters found themselves, had arrived days before as a God—sent consoling angel. He immediately administered the Sacraments of the Dying to the mortally ill Sister Luitgardis who received them with full consciousness, love and devotion. She was very happy to be able still to receive this consolation from the Reverend Director. On July 16 she succumbed to her great pain and was quietly buried the next day. The other sick were deeply moved by this swift death. Sister Leokadis who was summoned from Emmaus (the convent in Breske) to nurse also became ill and died in nine days of abdominal typhoid.
To this sister, too, the Director was consolation and spiritual physician. As he came again, with his fatherly care, to Tuzla on his return trip to Sarajevo, to uplift the downcast sisters, he found Sister Leokadia near death and immediately gave her the Last Sacraments. From August 11 to August 19 the sick sister received the Food of Angels three times with great devotion as food and strength for the journey to eternity. She died peacefully and with resignation on the 19th. She was buried on the 20th at 9 in the morning.
Four priests, many school children and others accompanied the coffin. You can imagine the worry about the poor sisters who are still ill. The sisters had to be brought immediately to Emmaus to allow the entire house to be disinfected. All precautions were taken to clean the plague—stricken house and well.
The poor employees, Mathias and Michael, who also had to suffer the typhoid and were cared for in the military hospital, are now the custodians of the house in Tuzla.
The last day of June Sister Theodora in Sarajevo vomited blood. She was immediately brought to Bethania and everything was done to save the life of this good, noble sister. Unfortunately, this pious sister was also to be taken from me by death. On August 29 at 11:30 in the night, peaceful and

surrendered to God, she died. Theodora gave edification throughout her days in her holy vocation and during her entire illness by her love, patience and true piety. She was valued and respected by all, a true Daughter of Divine Charity. Now this noble soul has received the reward which every holy religious may count on. On the 30th she was buried in our cemetery in Bethania next to Sister Ferdinanda. So soon had she followed the dear Sister Gregoria (Theodora’s blood sister). In this great pain about my spiritual daughters I am consoled by the thought that all three were so beautifully prepared and resigned when they left this life and that we certainly have in them intercessors before the throne of God. The Lord is harvesting, for Sister Aloisia and Sister Ruperta are now also seriously ill and the doctor has given up hope for Sister Mathaa.”
To this account Mother Franziska added in maternal care the admonition that all the sisters should take reasonable care of their health as a gift of God, thinking of being useful for the ever—growing field of activity of the Congregation. After giving some more details about the latest foundations mentioned, she closed in her accustomed cordial manner with the words, “God bless you all. Recommending you to the care of the holy Angels, I am, in love.
faithful mother,
Sister M. Franziska Lechner.
Actually, Mother Franziska’s life was richly blessed with sufferings and trials. It may seem, of course, because of the rapid succession of foundations, that luck was constantly lending her a hand and that everything was always going smoothly, but this was not so. We have often told of the countless money worries of Mother Franziska and these were multiplied by the interest payments to be made on loans needed to build or buy her houses. Besides these cares and the worries entailed in the direction of so many institutes, Mother Franziska had to endure all kinds of suffering——persecution of her person and the congregation by misinformed or ill—intentioned parties, painful ingratitude from those whose benefactor she had been, the various obstacles in the way of the foundations, etc. The greatest part of these sufferings can only be hinted at with a few general words without being told in detail, however, to protect the honor of those persons who caused Mother Franziska these afflictions or of their descendants, who are still living. Her greatness of soul during these hours of suffering was truly worthy of admiration. No matter how great the trials, she constantly bowed to God’s adorable will and never wavered in her trust in His help. She often told her spiritual daughters that God sends these sufferings to draw us closer to Himself and encouraged them also to a patient endurance of all hardships. Her revenge toward those who brought suffering to herself or to her Congregation consisted in praying for them. So, upon hearing of his death, she ordered prayers in all the houses for the repose of the soul of a man who was not at all well—intentioned toward the Congregation and had caused Mother Franziska several bitter hours, just as if he had been the greatest friend and benefactor of the Congregation. This is one beautiful indication of the measure in which the noble heart of Mother Franziska practiced love of her enemies.
Now there is another event to add which Mother Franziska always considered the most important of her life and of which she often movingly spoke with joy——her trip to Rome and her audience with the Holy Father, Leo XIII. The reason for the trip was to thank His Holiness for the lately received gracious Decree of Recognition and the appointment of a Cardinal Protector for the Congregation. On November 17, 1885 Mother Franziska had an audience with the Emperor in which she also reported to him the appointment of Cardinal Jakobini as Protector of the Congregation and of her coming trip to Rome. His Majesty was very interested in this and said to Mother Franziska, “Tell the Pope that I am not only pleased that the Cardinal Secretary of State is your Cardinal Protector, but that I thank His Holiness for everything that he has done for your Congregation and that I ask for his prayers for myself.” Mother Franziska was very happy about this assignment becuse she rightfully believed that His Holiness would give it much weight. Their Royal Highnesses the Archduchesses Elizabeth and Marie, the first the wife of Archduke Karl Ferdinand, the second the wife of Archduke Rainer, whom Mother Franziska also visited before her departure, asked her to lay their deepest respect at the feet of His Holiness.
Before her departure, Mother Franziska sent the following letter to her spiritual daughters:
“Before the year 1885, which was so rich in events, finds its close, I cannot neglect urging all of you to join me from the heart in fervently thanking our good Heavenly Father for His blessing.
Each Superior should read the beginning of the enclosed brochure (the account of the fifteen years of the Congregation’s activity), so that all the sisters may be reminded about the graces we have received. The latest of these is that His Holiness has had a brief prepared for twelve of our houses, according to which all the sisters and those in their care can gain the plenary indulgence in the house chapels on the Feast of the Portiuncula, August 2. This could not be included in the booklet which had already been at the printers. This extra—ordinary grace will certainly be the most beautiful Christmas gift for the houses concerned. Monsignor Cadaldi gained this special grace and honor for us from the Holy Father.
How happy I am to be admitted soon with my first General Assistant, Sister Augustiria to kiss the feet of His Holiness, not only to thank him for the Decree of Praise, as well as the appointment of a Cardinal Protector, but also to be able to request the apostolic blessing for each sister and the entire Congregation. This trip to Rome is of great importance for the Congregation. For the first time the Superior and two sisters, representing the Congregation, will approach the Holy See, the Cardinals and other dignitaries, who work at the Holy See, in governing the Church. We will encounter many things of which we now can have no idea and therefore we cannot prepare ourselves for them, so we are very much in need of the prayers of our dear sisters.
I ask the Superiors to have a Holy Mass offered in each of our Convent chapels on January 7, the day of our departure and ask each sister to receive Holy Communion, offering it for us, so that the Lord will grant us His special protection and blessing and that the Holy Spirit may enlighten us that we may bring about much good for our dear Congregation. We depart for the holy city trusting in the help of the Almighty, accompanied by your prayers, equipped with all kinds of written recommendations. We will certainly remember you at the various holy places.
During our absence Sister Borgia, second General Assistant will be called to the Mother House to guide the Congregation. All letters are to be addressed to her.
In closing I ask all the sisters again to thank the Lord for all blessings and to pray very fervently for us. Isn’t it true, dear children, that you will prepare yourselves very well for the birth of the Divine Child and at year’s end remember those of our sisters who have fallen asleep this year, as is our obligation.
Now I call upon Mary that she may call the blessing of her Divine Son upon all of you and be Mother, Protectress and Superior, guiding the Congregation along with St. Joseph. In addition, I wish each one truly happy holidays and a good year’s end. Then the beginning of the year 1886 will be richly blessed. God bless and protect all of you, dear children!
With cordial greetings,
Faithful Mother,
Franziska Lechner
Mother House, December 17, 1885”
On January 7, 1886 Mother Franziska in the company of her First General Assistant and Superior of the Mother House, Sister Ignazia Egger and the Superior of the institute in Sarajevo, Sister Augustina d’Armaille, began the journey to the Eternal City with the prayers and good wishes of her spiritual daughters and the pupils in the various houses. Recognizing its importance she wanted first to ask the protection and intercession of the Mother of God at the shrine of Loretto. On January 8 the travelers reached Padua, where they honored St. Anthony. On January 9 they arrived in Loretto and were deeply moved as they entered the holy house where the Incarnation of the Son of God took place and the three holiest persons had lived. Mother Franziska had so many intentions to present to the Holy Family that the day was too short. At 11 in the evening she and her companions arrived in Rome. The next day they went to the tomb of St. Peter to commend themselves to the protection of the Prince of the Apostles. The sacredness of the place as well as the grandeur of St. Peter’s made such an overpowering - - impression that they were moved to tears. On the 13th they attended Holy Mass at the tomb of St. Peter and received Holy Communion. Mother Franziska prayed in this place for her Congregation, for those in its care, for the entire Imperial Family, the Bishops in dioceses where her sisters were working, the benefactors, and so on, until here, too, the time was too short. From there, Mother Franziska and her companions went to the Cardinal Protector Jakobini who received them in a fatherly way, informed himself thoroughly of the Congregation, and was especially happy about the honor and graciousness constantly shown toward it by the Imperial Family. Here they also met the undersecretary Mocessi, who was also very kind. Oh the 14th the pilgrims visited the tomb of St. Paul, one hour distant from Rome, the Church of “Our Lady of Snows”, and other churches. On the 15th they attended a Holy Mass in the prison of St. Peter and saw the place where the Saint lay in chains. With emotion they also contemplated the well which sprang up there and the rock upon which a soldier threw the Prince of the Apostles and where the Saint’s face was imprinted. A reverent shudder took hold of them as they viewed these holy places. Then they visited the tomb of St. Frances of Rome, the patron Saint of Mother Franziska, the Coliseum, where many thousands of Christians suffered martyrdom for Christ, and the oldest church in Rome, the Lateran. With holy reverence and deep emotion they also climbed on their knees the 28 steps of the Holy Stairs upon which Christ stood before Pilate, and which is found near the Lateran. On the 16th they went to Cardinals Hergenrother, Melchers, Laurenzi and to Monsignor Lorenzell, the Rect6r of the Bohemian College, all of whom received them very kindly. The time from the 17th until the 30th of January was also spent visiting the sanctuaries of Rome, the Catacombs, various convents, institutes and such persons whose good will could be useful to the Congregation. In the meantime Mother Franziska informed herself through the Rev. Father Daum of the Holy Spirit Fathers and a Consultor of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops and Regulars, about everything that would be necessary for the petition, to be made within a few years, for the second recognition by the Holy See, the actual approbation of the Constitutions and the Congregation, and made some preparations in this regard. The 31st was to be the happy and memorable day of the audience with the Holy Father. In the morning Mother Franziska and her companions were present at His Holiness’ Holy Mass in the chapel in the Vatican and received Holy Communion from the hands of the Vicar of Christ. There followed a second Holy Mass, for which the Holy Father also remained and after this the pilgrims were admitted to the audience. The Reverend Andreas Frisch, Canon of St. Jerome’s in Rome accompanied them and introduced Mother Franziska to His Holiness as the Foundress and Superior General of the Congregation as well as the other two sisters. After Mother Franziska had expressed her most respectful gratitude to the Holy Father for his graciousness to the Congregation, His Holiness spoke in a gracious and truly fatherly manner with her as well as with Sister Ignazia and Sister Augustina, asked about the number of houses and very especially about the activity of the sisters in Bosnia. This last, and in fact, the general rapid and richly blessed spread of the Congregation pleased the Holy Father very much. Mother Franziska also transmitted the words of gratitude from His Imperial Majesty Franz Joseph, with which the Holy Father showed great pleasure. At this he remarked that the Austrian Imperial Family not only bore the title, “Apostolic” but also has become noted for its apostolic activities and added, “Tell His Majesty that you attended the Pope’s Holy Mass and that you received Holy Communion at his hands and had a little conference. Tell him also, that I will pray for him as he asked.” The Holy Father encouraged Mother Franziska and her companions to continued zealous work and especially challenged them to work in Bosnia for the Church and civilization, because there is a great and beautiful mission. Twice during the conversation, the Holy Father grasped Mother Franziska’s hand and held on to it for a long time, then he placed his hand in blessing on her head as she knelt before him. Mother Franziska was so moved by the fatherly kindness of His Holiness that she, completely forgetting herself in her joy and holy respect, kissed his hand causing him to smile. In conclusion Mother Franziska received the Apostolic Blessing for the members of the Imperial Household, for various highly placed friends and benefactors of the Congregation as well as for herself and all the sisters. His Holiness also blessed the medals Mother Franziska had brought. along, for this purpose. he audience had lasted more than half an hour. Deeply moved and filled with holy enthusiasm, Mother Franziska and her companions left the Vatican Palace. On February 2, the Feast of Candlemas, they were to receive another proof of the Holy father’s favor. In the afternoon His Eminence Cardinal Jakobini in the company of Undersecretary Mocessi arrived at the convent of the French St Joseph Sisters where Mother Franziska was staying and gave her, as a present from His Holiness, a ca!.dle, 1 meter, 25 centimeters tall, decorated with an image of the Mother of od, the Papal Arms, flowers and scroll work, as well as some large silver medals in cases and beautiful rosaries. His Eminence remarked that receiving a candle on Candlemas Day, delivered by a Cardinal was an honor reserve for sovereigns and very highly placed persons. Mother Franziska also received a candle and two photographs of himself as a gift from Cardinal Jakobini. Of course she and her companions were overjoyed at these gifts. Upon her return from Rome, Mother Franziska had a glass case made for the candle from the Holy Father, and it was hung up in the chapel of the Vienna Marienanstalt. Later this and the candle were brought to the sisters’ choir in the church of the new Mother House. Mother Franziska gave the candle from Cardinal Jakobini to the St. Joseph Institute in Sarajevo. She kept the medals and a mother of pearl rosary from the Holy Father as precious souvenirs. In the same way, she carefully preserved the veil she had worn at the audience and upon which the hand of the Holy Father had rested. His Eminence, Cardinal Jakobini and other important persons with whom Mother Franziska spoke before her departure for Rome were overjoyed as only good friends could be, at the honors the congregation had received from the Holy Father. On February 3rd she, with her companions, began the return trip to Vienna where she arrived safely on the 7th and was joyfully received by the sisters and the pupils. By singing the hymn of praise, the “Te Deum” they thanked the Almighty for the safe return as well as all the graces granted to their spiritual mother as well as the entire Congregation through this trip. Mother Franziska, who always was glad to share her joys with her spiritual daughters had already sent news from Rome in the form of detailed reports of the experiences they had there. These reports were, at her request immediately duplicated in the Mother House and sent to the other houses. The second report, written immediately after the audience with the Holy Father, closed with these words, “Our young Congregation is greatly respected here, and much is expected of us. We are obliged to measure up to these hopes and not to disappoint them. Let us use this good will to confirm ourselves in good and to be true Daughters of Divine Charity and faithful children of Holy Church. May the blessing of the vicar of Christ be for all the sisters a stimulus for conscientious fulfillment of our obligations.” Many more times Mother Franziska told of the happy days of the Rome journey and usually, added similar encouraging and admonishing words, as those presented from her account. Just as recognition and honors were for her not an occasion of vanity but a stimulus for good, for work for God’s glory and the good of neighbor, so she wanted her spiritual daughters to receive them in the same spirit.
On February 11, 1886, during an audience with His Majesty , the Emperor, Mother Franziska fulfilled her noble mission by giving him the Holy Father’s Apostolic Blessing which pleased him very much. Upon her request, Mother Franziska was also immediately admitted to the honorable Archduchesses Adelgunde, Marie and Elizabeth and they were also overjoyed with the Blessing of the Holy Father as well as with the greetings from Cardinal Jakobini. With an equal joy Mother Franziska was received by the other important persons to whom she was assigned to bring the news of the Apostolic Blessing and everywhere she found the friendliest sympathy with the favors and good will which she and her Congregation received in Rome.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Foundations in Bosnia, Recognition by Rome

When Bosnia and Herzegovina were occupied by Austria in 1878, the wish was awakened in Mother Franziska to spread the work of the Congregation there also where so much good could be done through the confirmation and spread of the holy religion and civilization. This seemed to her to be a partial fulfillment of the desire of her youth to be able to work in a mission la’nd. She often expressed this wish to the sisters, many of whom, offered to go to Bosnia in case it should come true. The insight into the situation in Bosnia, became, in the activity theoretically planned there, an occasion for various jokes. These jokes were to become reality sooner than expected. During Advent, 1881, the newly—appointed Archbishop Josef Stadler came to Vienna where he visited the Jesuit Fathers and expressed the wish to call sisters to the capitol of Bosnia, Sarajevo, at the very beginning of his new work. The Jesuit Fathers brought Mother Franziska and her Congregation to his attention and the Archbishop soon appeared at the MarienansLalt. Mother Franziska was overjoyed when she heard the reason for his coming. Naturally, nothing concrete could be agreed upon for the time being, because the Archbishop had, himself, yet to become acquainted with the circumstances of his new field of activity. On March 15, 1882 a telegram arrived unexpectedly with the following message: “I will buy a little house with a garden for you if you will agree to send sisters. Details in letter. Stadler, Archbishop”. On March 21 the greatly desired letter of the Archbishop arrived, wherein he recounted that he had purchased a little wooden house with barn and a rather large garden from a Turk for the price of 2,500 florins and would give the sisters an additional 500 florins for the furnishings. He was able to use the 3,000 florins from the Holy Childhood Association for this purpose. This letter of the Archbishop was worded so kindly that Mother Franziska and the sisters were moved to tears. On the next day, the 22nd, Mother Franziska requested an audience with His Majesty the Emperor, to share with him the Archbishop’s desire and ask if he would deign to grant this planned foundation his special protection. Since the 23rd was already determined as a day for audiences, Mother Franziska was afraid her request for one would be too late. It was granted to her, however, even though she really was the last on the list. On the next day, when she appeared at the Hofburg, the adjutant on duty said to her, “Now, Mother Superior, today you may come in immediately,” and she was the fourth person to come to His Majesty although many important persons were waiting. As she entered, His Majesty gave her a friendly smile and said, “I am happy to see you again. What do you wish from me today?” Mother Franziska then presented her desire and His Majesty listened with great interest and was happy that the Congregation wanted to make itself useful also in Bosnia where help was so very much needed. He promised his help to Mother Franziska and said he would take the sisters under his special protection. Overjoyed, she left the audience hall and, since it was known that the occupied territory stood under the Imperial Finance Office, went directly to the Imperial Minister of Finance, Slavy, who also received her graciously and expressed satisfaction with her decision. When Mother Franziska returned to the Finance Ministry on March 31, she heard that His Majesty had already talked with the Minister about a support for the planned foundation, which was again evidence of how much interest his Majesty took in it. With the sisters, who shared her enthusiasm for the work of the Congregation in Bosnia, Mother Franziska now was concerned with collecting the things that would be most necessary and indispensable for the beginning of the foundation. She, herself, as she liked to do at the beginning of a new foundation, searched the house to find what could be
dispensed with here and useful there. As soon as April 1, the first shipment, consisting of two crates with various articles necessary for the household, and four boxes, was on its way to Sarajevo. Mother Franziska also sent sisters to Croatia, on the one hand to collect funds for the foundation in Sarajevo, and on the other hand to acquire the Croation language so that they could then more easily make themselves useful in Bosnia. She herself wanted to travel to Sarajevo as soon as possible to inform herself directly of all the circumstances and to help with the beginning of the foundation. However, before she undertook this long journey, she made another trip on April 19, for a cause that also was very close to her heart.r This was the ecclesiastical recognition of her society as a canonical Congregation, since the secular authorities still saw it as merely an association. She had already applied for this earlier and now went to the Minister of Culture to speed the cause. He received Mother Franziska very kindly and said he was happy to be able to do something for the Congregation, adding that he had already arranged everything in the best way and thereby gave her a hope that the matter would soon be settled satisfactorily. This actually did come about, while Mother Franziska was in Bosnia a&, on May 13, 1882, according to a decision at the highest level, the Society received recognition as an ecclesiastical Congregation.
On April 22, Mother Franziska and Sister Helene Bonard who was appointed the Superior of the new foundation in Sarajevo, said good—bye to Cardinal Ganglbauer and the Auxiliary Bishop Angerer, both of whom expressed great pleasure over the new field of activity of the Congregation and promised to pray for it. On the 24th Mother Franziska went to the Ministry of Finance to Section Chief von Merey, who told her, to her great joy, that on the very day after her audience, His Majesty had called the Minister of Finance to himself and asked him to write to the governor and commandant in Bosnia, Baron von Dahlen, that it was his express wish and command that he give the sisters his very special protection. This great interest coming form all sides, toward Mother Franziska’s planned undertaking confirmed her in her resolve to work as well as possible through her Congregation for the good in Bosnia. As soon as April 24, with the prayers and good wishes of the sisters she began the journey there in the company of Sr. Helene Bonard and Sr. Richarda Spaniol. On the one hand, in the face of the largely unknown conditions in Bosnia and the predictable difficulties, they experienced a feeling of anxiety, but on the other hand, they were filled with courage and trust in God and ready for any sacrifice. With God’s help the long journey went well. At the border station, Bosnia—Brod, the railroad officials, who had been notified by the War Ministry, who had charge of the railroads and mail in Bosnia, of their coming and found them good places when they changed trains. At every larger station in Bosnia, the travelers noticed that the railroad officials had been notified of their trip and that all were happy about the arrival of the sisters. Since at that time the railroad went only as far as Zenica, a good coach was provided there for Mother Franziska and her companions. At five in the afternoon of April 28 they arrived safe and sound at Sarajevo and rode immediately to the Bishopts palace. After they had first greeted the Divine Savior in the Most Blessed Sacrament in the house chapel, they were most cordially received by the Archbishop. After a small refreshment they, with the Archbishop, immediately had to view the Turkish house purchased for the Congregation. Mother Franziska and her companions were especially happy about the beautiful garden attached. The next day they went to visit the important off icia1s of the city. They were consoled by the friendly reception they experienced everywhere. On April 30, the Archbishop appointed Canon Anton Jeglic, later Vicar General and Auxiliary of the Diocese of Sarajevo and Bishop of Laibach, as director of the new foundation. He always gave generously of himself
to this office and was a fatherly friend and counselor to the sisters and in his present position, to our great joy, still has great good will toward the Congregation.
On May 1, Mother Franziska and the two other sisters were invited to dinner by the sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, who also had a foundation in Sarajevo and found that here, too, they were cordially received. In the afternoon, some of the Sisters of Charity went with their guests to view the purchased Turkish house. The previous owners, two Turks name Turanovic and their sister, very good people, still resided in the house for the time being. The Turkish lady served coffee and, to drink it, the sisters had to sit, Turkish fashion, on a carpet in the garden. Later, Mother Franziska remarked that the Sisters of Charity, she herself, and her companions, the two Turks and their sister, must have formed an interesting group.
Since the things—beds, etc,——sent from Vienna had not yet arrived, Mother Franziska and the two other sisters lived in the Archbishop’s house. On May 8, the Feast of the Discovery of the Holy Cross, they moved into their house on Banjski brije, Nr. 8. They felt unique sentiments at this entrance. The Jesuit, Father Xaver Slavic, who had come with the Archbishop and his secretary, blessed the apartment. A part of the house was still temporarily occupied by the two Turks and their sister. These then moved to Constantinople, in order not to, as they put it, lose their faith among Christians, Mother Franziska felt great sympathy for these good, noble people. With her whole heart she would have liked to bring them to the true faith. The first days after they moved in were passed in making and receiving visits, since, according to the custom of the place, Mother Franziska had to make introductions and receive the same from all the better families of Sarajevo. On May 7 the two sisters summoned later, Amanda Eberl and Emerana Zweck, arrived.
At first Mother Franziska wanted to renovate the house, but she soon saw that this was not the way to meet the needs of the planned institute; so she decided to imediately build a decent building from the ground up. The demolition of the old building began as soon as May 8. On May 10 Mother Franziska rented an apartment consisting of two and a half rooms and a kitchen from a Turkish woman in a building across the street, at a cost of twenty guldens a month. Although this was, relatively speaking, not a small sum, the apartment was miserable and had an overabundance of mice. They built their nests in the cushions that circled the rooms according to Turkish custom, and which the sisters, lacking beds, used for sleeping. There was no possibility for a decent night’s sleep after the countless activities of the day. In order to have a little peace from the unwelcome guests who often used their freedom to run back and forth over the sleeping sisters, the cat had to be enticed in at night with the most delicate names, but then it was her hunting the mice which disturbed their rest. This continued for eight months until the completion of the building, while the sisters had to find their way in what were, from every point of view, the most primitive conditions. During her presence Mother Franziska shared all these difficulties with the sisters and encouraged them with her example.
On May 12 she bought the adjoining house from the Turk, Ibrahim Curcic for the price of 1,375 guldens. It was in very bad condition and good for nothing except demolition, but Mother Franziska felt the purchase was absolutely necessary to remove an unwelcome neighbor. It was her general practice to remove irritating or unsuitable neighbors from the vicinity

of her convents, when at all possible, and she bought more than one house for this reason. Mother Franziska arrived at the idea to build, on the site of the first Turkish house, an institute dedicated to St. Joseph for boarders and day students, and to erect one dedicated to the Virgin Mary for orphans and other poor girls on the site of the second house. On May 24, the demolition of the two buildings began and Canon Jeglic also laid the cornerstone for St. Joseph’s Institute. Among the construction workers present at this solemn ceremony were many Turkish laborers who were visibly touched. Mother Franziska and the sisters were overcome with deep emotion on seeing this since on that very day the Church celebrated the feast of Mary, Help of Christians, the title by which she was honored since the glorious victory of the Christians over the Turks in 1683. Mother Franziska was often at the building site to supervise and arrange things. Sister Richarda, who understood the language of the country had to accompany her as translator. The remainder of the time Mother Franziska became a real servant to her sisters. While they were running errands or checking on the building, she cooked and did other household tasks for them. It often happened that she was occupied with cooking or cleaning or such things, when someone arrived asking for the Superior, and she had first to remove her work apron before going to the visitor. She did not think it beneath her to do humble work and she encouraged the sisters and candidates never to consider any work done for the Lord as inferior. She would not tolerate avoidance of work and insisted that the teachers also do some light household tasks which would not interfere with their other activities, for example, cleaning up the classroom, stoking its stove, etc, as well as taking part, according to their strength, in the so—called big cleaning which was often done during the school vacations. She considered such work to be very advantageous for the preservation of humility as well as for health. She also showed no preference for the sisters who taught over those who did only household tasks and did not even want them to be called “teachers”, but rather, “the sisters in the school”, “With us,” she often said, “all sisters are equal and all are teachers, whether they are in school, with the boarders, servant girls, in the kitchen, laundry or occupied with house cleaning.” In every activity the sisters come into contact with those we care for, must give them some instruction or other, and so relate to them as teachers. Besides this, before God, it doesn’t matter what one did, but how and with what intention it was done.” With these and similar words and orders she sought to confirm the sisters in the spirit of humility, which quality was hers in such a high degree.
Since food was so very expensive in Sarajevo, Mother Franziska decided to buy land near the city in order to more easily support the future convent with its produce; Although the sisters lived very simply, they already were in need of much money, especially now while they were so few. She thought, too, that the Bosnians could learn how to profitably work fields and pastures from a model farm, run by the sisters and so this would be also useful for the poor inhabitants and theref or a source of much good. On May 29 therefor, she looked at the property she thought suitable, and which was owned by a Turk. On June 5 she went once again with Archbishop Stadler, his secretary and Canon Jeglic, but it was to her regret not possible to agree with the Turk who demanded a very high price. Mother Franziska used the 8th, 9th, 11th, 14th, 18th and 21st of June to look at various properties to find something suitable and inexpensive. In these search forays she went in a circle two hours distant from Sarajevo and was on the go with the sister accompanying her for usually about four to six hours per day. Evenings they came home so tired that the next day they could hardly move. The roads were bad and often nonexistent, and their way could be described simply by the saying “through thick and thin”. One day Mother Franziska and her
companion had to climb over nineteen fences, which often separate fields and pastures there, cross eight streams which had only logs as bridges, and, in a carriage, cross a river that ran so swiftly that it almost carried wagon, horses and occupants away in the current. To top all these difficulties, Mother Franziska also fell into a swamp from which she was extracted only with difficulty. None of these efforts and difficulties could discourage her, however, or the sisters who were encouraged by her example. On the contrary, these adventures often gave them material for joking and laughter. On July 2 Mother Franziska looked again at a piece of land with a little house three quarters of an hour distant from Sarajevo in Slatina, which, to her seemed very suitable. On July 3 the Archbishop left for confirmation trips and Mother Franziska spoke with him before his departure, to say good—bye and to give him a full report about this last viewed piece of property. He strongly urged her to purchase it. On the evening of the same day the sale was verbally concluded, as Mother Franziska came to an agreement with the Turk to buy the property with harvest for 4500 guldens. As the woman did not speak German, a Franciscan priest, the Rev. Daniel, helped with the purchase. Mother Franziska immediately sent a telegram to Vienna to send her the necessary sum of money and the not less needed sisters. On the same day, July 3, they began with the excavations for the Marian Institute connected to the St. Joseph Institute, and as early as July 7, the Reverend Canon Jagadic blessed its cornerstone. On July 8 two of the sisters who had been summoned arrived and on the 13th another four came to Sarajevo. On the 10th Sister Richarda Spaniol and Sister Ferdinanda HeiB moved into the house in Slatina. In this regard Mother Franziska and the sisters had still before them some difficult struggle to endure with the so—called Kmet. This is a kind of co—owner of a property, having various territorial rights——a common arrangement in Bosnia, The Kmet was a Serb, who was instigated by his fellow believers and did not want to give his rights. All the persuading by Mother Franziska and the various men who were helping her in this and who talked with him for hours did not help. He would not sign the bill of sale. In any case he hoped to extort money from the sisters and the Turkish woman. Mother Franziska saw herself constrained on July 12 to word the contract in such a way that the woman was obliged to have •the Kmet removed by fall and therefor immediately undertake the necessary action against him with the authorities. On the following day Mother Franziska had eight Turks use all their persuasive powers for three hours to get him to sign the deed. Only after one of the Turks, whose property was larger than that at Slatina promised to take him on as Kmet, did he finally sign the contract. In spite of all this, it was only on May 4 of the following year and after the Congregation had paid 1,000 florins that they got rid of him, with the building in Sarajevo, also, Mother Franziska had incalculable difficulties. She and the sisters had to be on constant watch not to be cheated, since dishonesty seemed to be the order of the day. On July 18 the building of living—quarters and stable began because the existing house there was in extremely bad condition. On this and the following day Mother Franziska made her farewell visits since, now that the main work necessary for the beginning was arranged, she had to return to Vienna. Doing this, she again became convinced that the better classes, military as well as civil officials were well intentioned toward the sisters which was a great consolation in view of the many difficulties already endured and those still expected. On July 20 Mother Franziska alone began her journey to Vienna where she arrived safely. The sisters received her with the greatest joy and accompanied her to the chapel where they together prayed the Te Deum in thanksgiving.
On the 25th Mother Franziska paid a visit to Cardinal Ganglbauer to
give a report about the reception and future work of the sisters in Bosnia, and the great Prince of the Church expressed very great joy in this regard. On the 27th she had an audience with his Majesty for the same purpose and at the same time thanked him for the civil recognition of the society as an ecclesiastical Congregation. His Majesty also was very happy about the information given him. Mother Franziska brought joy also to the auxiliary Bishop and at the Imperial Ministry with this report.
In August 1882 Mother Franziska received 1,000 florins from the will of Countess Esterhazy who died in 1881 and this immediately went to Bosnia. In fact, everythingshe could possibly spare went to this latest foundation, as it was her custom to care for new houses in a special maternal fashion. In October Mother Franziska had a steer, four -cows and a calf shipped to Bosnia for the farm in Slatina, a farmhand from the Breitenfurt Refuge, who was assigned to help with the field work in Bosnia, brought them there. In September 1882 Mother Franziska again undertook the long journey to Bosnia because the new foundation was so close to her heart and she wanted to be present at the dedication of the almost completed houses. She again took four sisters and a postulant who were assigned there. On September 14 all arrived safely in Sarajevo and Mother Franziska remained there until mid—November. She herself wrote the report of this stay in the Congregation’s Chronicle so her own words can be added here. She recounts:
“On September 29 we moved into the St. Joseph Institute——with what feelings! On the 30th we began with the registration for the school. On October 1, the Feast of the Holy Rosary, the house in Slatina, called “Bethania”, was dedicated by the Reverend Archbishop. The celebration was very simple, with only the secretary and the sisters present. On October 4, the name day of our beloved Emperor, we opened the school in Sarajevo with sixteen children. We took them to the Imperial Office. On the eighth the first boarder, Hermine Kastner, a captain’s daughter, entered the St. Joseph Institute. On October 25 there was the solemn dedication of our Institute. It was undertaken by our Reverend Archbishop with the assistance of nine priests. The State Commander Baron Appel with his wife and all the staff officers, His Excellency Baron Nikolics with all the higher officials, the Mayor with all the magistrate clerks, the heads of the Greek, Israelite and Mohammedan cultural communities, the Consuls, etc. were present at the ceremony. Until now, Bosnia had not seen such a celebration. All the nations and creeds united to do it honor. On this day we already had 52 pupils. The parents brought their children as boarders and pupils. On October 12th we bought the neighboring Jewish house on Sarajevosmaila Street Nr. 3. We found it necessary to purchase this house because of its situation and because of the, for us, unwelcome neighbors. It cost 1500 gulden. The Jew absolutely did not want to sell it for this price and there was a terrible struggle with him. What I suffered from the moment of my arrival for the second time in Bosnia is not to be described. The workers, professionals and delivery men came from early morning until night, with advances, with bills, then again with a settlement, etc. It was terrible to think how some of these people wanted to cheat us. With each of them we had everything in written agreements and yet they tried to work behind our backs in every possible way. Only God knows the sleepless nights of worry and pain endured by Sister Helene and I. How often were we without money and the workers were due to be paid. On some Saturdays Sister Helene went to the Archbishop to borrow money and often His Excellency as well as the. Cathedral Canons gave us their last coin. The resources at the Mother House were completely used up; All the foundations did their best. The erection of the St. Joseph and the Marian Institutes, their furnishings, the purchase of Bethania, the building there, the renovation of the old
Turkish house, the implements for the farm, the furnishing of the riouse, etc. cost the poor Congregation the sum of 41,000 guldens, benefactors 7,000 guldens, the Reverend Archbishop 1,700 gulden (besides the house and garden which he purchased for 2,500 guldens), the State 600 gulens. To collect this money cost some tears. May God reward all those who helped us!”
This short account, even though far from complete, gives us at least a tiny insight into the many troubles and cares which the foundations in Sarajevo and Slatina caused. In spite of this, the Bosnian houses remained, so to speak, her pets, as parents often love their problem children most. The reason was the large field of work offered the sisters there and the fact that their work could, in many respects, be considered missionary work. The poor people of Bosnia are in very great need of civilization and instruction, especially in the holy religion even though the situation has improved in this respect compared to how they were at the time of the occupation. From the tears of which Mother Franziska speaks, grew truly glorious fruit. Since the foundation hundreds of boarders and poor orphans were raised and thousands of students educated in the St. Joseph and Marian Institutes. The orphanage, the Bosnian school for poor children, and the kindergarten proved to be special blessings for the Bosnian children, while the section for the boarders and the German school are useful to the children of the military and civil officials. The German school and the kindergarten were later transferred, as will be recounted in the proper, place to another house founded by Mother Franziska, St. Augustin, and this made room in the St. Joseph Institute for the Normal School founded by her in 1884 where hundreds of teachers have already received their training. Mother Franziska’s zeal for the effectiveness in Bosnia, her gratitude to God for being allowed to work, through the congregation, in a mission land, and her humility, with which she ascribed all success to the Almighty, have surely all won such great blessing for the effectiveness of these foundations, The following reflections are expressed in a circular which she sent to her spiritual daughters upon her return from Bosnia on November 27, 1882. She writes:
“To my spiritual daughters!
Since it was not possible to see and greet all of you after my return from Bosnia, I would like by means of this letter to greet you with these words: ‘The Lord has done great things for us!’ Although we are the youngest in His holy Church, He still has chosen us for such a great and sublime work. Come, let us in spirit fall before the Lord, the merciful, to thank and praise Him for His grace! Yes, dear Sisters, in Sarajevo we experienced God’s loving and fatherly care and have seen the wonderful ways of Divine Providence. We wanted to begin our work there in the poorest and most humble conditions because we were very conscious of the poverty of the Congregation. But the Lord had other plans for the least of His handmaidens, for He prepared a double field for the work of our sisters there. In the school for the poor and the Sunday School in the orphanage (Marian Institute) they try to serve the children and poor girls. In the Institute of St. Joseph they teach the children of the military and civil officials and from middle—class families. This is a great field of work for the sisters. The ignorance of the truths of our holy religion among the Bosnian children is unbelievable. If the sisters understand how to educate these children entrusted to them by God in a true love of virtue, genuine zeal in fulfilling the duties of our religion, and joy in work, they will have
fulfilled the duty given them in God’s wise plan, because these children will become a blessing for their own families and also edify others by their lives.
Where in May there stood two Turkish houses there are now two convents and we are so happy to have Holy Mass every day in our chapels —— still more —— the Most Exalted Lord of Heaven and Earth has taken up His residence there. The best care has been taken for the spiritual needs of the sisters. A third Turkish house with fifty yoke of land is the property of the Congregation. Next to this a house named “Bethany” was built. The main purpose of this is thai the sisters may teach the Bosnians to unite work with the service of God, how to cultivate a field and to plant a garden. There, too, the sisters have a little house chapel where Jesus can be enthroned in the tabernacle and where Holy Mass will be celebrated. Before my departure I was forced to buy another house. It is attached to the Marian Institute, takes a corner from our garden and, what determined me even more to the purchase was that the owner, a Jew, constantly harassed us. This house now has the name ‘Bethlehem’. Eighteen sisters are now divided among these four houses and in the spring others must join them. Now, my dear Sisters, has not the Lord done great things? Not only the special protection and blessing which we experienced in Bosnia, obliges us to give thanks to God, but today, as I write these words, all the good things the Lord has done are vividly before my eyes, since it is the day, on which I received, fourteen years ago, permission to found the Congregation. Poor, alone and helpless I stood with the document from the authorities in my hand, in my poor rented room, praying and considering what I should now begin to do with this permission. Today I praise the Lord and speak from the innermost part of my soul, ‘Lord, I thank you with my whole heart, because you have listened to the words of my mouth.’ Now there are 237 consecrated virgins at my side who want to serve God in the Congregation. May they all work in such a way as to be pleasing to God and of service to neighbor!
In closing I ask all to pray most fervently that our good God may always grant His Fatherly blessing to our Congregation and that in his fatherly goodness He may ordain that the collecting sisters may find sympathetic hearts who will support us with alms. May the Most Holy Trinity, God Father, God Son and God Holy Spirit bless you! May Mary be your Mother, St. Joseph you protector, God’s Angel your companion! If the Lord grants this petition no one will be happier than
faithful mother,
Sister M. Franziska Lechner.”
On February 16, 1883 the foundation in Sarajevo, and therefore also Mother Franziska received a hard blow. At 6:30 in the evening, because of the open fireplace, a fire broke out in the house, named “Bethlehem” purchased in the Saramaila Street, and it and all it contained became victim to the flames. It is true that at the customary shots which constitute a fire signal there, officers, clerks——people from everywhere——came to help,
but as they opened the door to get into the building raging flames broke out so that in two or three hours everything lay in ashes. Shortly before the fire started the sisters had brought freshly laundered linens into the house for folding and besides this, eight beds were there also, making the damage even more painful for the poverty—stricken sisters. This news brought Mother Franziska great distress. One consolation was the way all Sarajevo shared a sympathy for the sisters stricken by this misfortune. A similar sympathy was expressed to Mother Franziska from all the friends of the Congregation who had been interested in the foundations in Bosnia, and od ordained that support came from various places to cover the cost of the damage. Soon after this accident Mother Franziska had to undertake a building project at the foundation in Brunn, where the lack of space demanded
it. She had decided to demolish and rebuild the front wing. Therefor she traveled to Brunn on March 2, 1883 and held the necessary consultations and signed the contract with the builder Arnold. As soon as end of August the building was completed and on the 31st Mother Franziska returned to make plans for the dedication of the new house. It was undertaken in the most solemn way by Bishop Franz Salesius Bauer on September 5, in the presence of many important guests.
On September 24, 1883 Mother Franziska again undertook a journey to her beloved Bosnia. This was the occasion for two additional foundations in this needy land. She received extraordinarily friendly greetings from the religious as well as the civil authorities. Archbishop Stadler and Baron Nikolics expressed the wish that Mother Franziska would also establish a foundation in Dolnja—Tuzla and the three—hours distant Breske. she immediately received this wish with enthusiasm, since Tuzla, the largest district town of Bosnia, having a salt mine, iron and coal mines, seemed to her to offer a good field of work, especially so because, though the inhabitants were mostly Roman Catholics, only Greek—Catholic schools existed. She felt the desire expressed was the finger of God and thought that such a promising field of endeavor had to be taken into consideration. Therefor, she resolved to stop in those places on her way back in order to see the conditions first hand. On October 11 she traveled with the Superior of the institute in Sarajevo, Sister Augustina d’Armaille and the Rev. Canon Jeglic to Dolna—Tuzia, where they arrived at 12 noon. Most of the inhabitants of the town had never seen nuns and so became very excited at the sight of Mother Franziska and her companion and asked one another what kind of persons these could be. The travelers found the friendliest welcome both with the Pastor Ikic as well as district chairman Horawitz, district leader von Wiener—Welten and other influential persons. All were overjoyed with the plans and promised to do their best to be helpfully supportive of the sisters. Of course this reception confirmed Mother Franziska even more in her decision. On the 13th she drove with Canon Jeglic and her companion also to Breske, only a few hours away from Dolna—Tuzla where news of her arrival and its purpose had preceded her. Mid—way the Pastor, six mounted members of the community and other inhabitants of the place met and greeted them in a most cordial manner. Some of the party were assigned to cut away the fences that separated the fields and pastures so that the guests could travel comfortably. At the border of the community of Breske they were offered Turkish brandy and wine in greeting. There were speeches and the greeters broke out in cheers. And so the journey continued. Since the road was bad the farmers invited the sisters to drive through their fields, even though this destroyed much corn. Seven fences had to be cut to make a comfortable path. Mother Franziska and her companion were very touched by this reception on the part of the poor Bosnians. At the cemetery about sixty women were awaiting them, who, at the sight of the sisters, did not know quite what to do. They thought they were in the presence of
superhuman beings, fell to their knees, crossed themselves, and followed them to the parish house. The first stop of the new arrivals was in the parish church to thank God that He opened for them the way to the hearts of these poor people. Here happened a touching interval which may not be omitted. While Canon Jeglic, Mother Franziska and Sister Augustina were praying in the church a child was brought in for Baptism. At first Mother Franziska took the poor woman who carried it to be a Gypsy because she, as well as the child, were wrapped in rags. Later she learned that she was Bosnian and the Godmother of the child. Immediately Canon Jeglic offered to baptize the child and as soon as it had received the Holy Sacrament, Mother Franziska whp did not take note of the poor exterior, but thought only of the child’s soul, radiant with the baptismal graces, made the sign of the cross on its forehead and kissed it. When the Bosnians saw this they were almost beside themselves with joy and gave Mother Franziska a gift of ten Kreuzers, although, for performing the baptism Canon Jeglic had received only four. This little episode caused much merriment in the party and was often enthusiastically retold on various occasions.
Mother Franziska, upon returning to the parish house, conferred with the pastor about the setting up of a school, envisioning also a model farm such as at Bethania, obtained some parcels of land and returned, on the 14th to Dolnja—Tuzla, with the firm determination to send sisters to Breske soon. A similar escort as at the welcome accompanied them a good part of the way back. On October 15, the feast of St. Teresa, Mother Franziska discussed in greater detail with the Pastor and the authorities of Dolnja—Tuzla the foundation planned for there, and finally decided to send sisters by the end of November to begin a school. The municipality provided the building for this and Mother Franziska decided to rent a small house for the sisters to live in. This foundation would be named to honor the Queen of the Holy Rosary and placed under the special protection of St. Teresa and the holy Apostle of the Faith, St. Francis Xavier. On October 15 Mother Franziska began the journey home to Vienna. This trip to Bosnia was one of the most difficult for her. For seven nights she was unable to sleep, added to this, many stretches had to be traveled in miserable coaches since the network of railroads in Bosnia was by far not so extensive as it is today. As with the sleeping quarters during the trip, so also the meals gave opportunity for various acts of mortification. The furnishings in the Bosnian inns are rather primitive, and besides the poverty great uncleanliness reigns there. Mother Franziska often recounted that the food in the inns was often stored on the bare earthen floor, was prepared with soiled hands, and other such things. Once she and her companion watched as a Turk, preparing to bring them coffee, spit into the cups, wiped them with his soiled apron and halved the sugar cubes with his teeth. Naturally, Mother Franziska as well as her companion were not encouraged by these preparations, but to avoid giving offense, she calmly drank the coffee. In any case, the Turk meant well, someone other than the sisters might well have received “unwashed” cups. None of these difficulties were too much for Mother Franziska. Her heart was happy and at peace with the thought of once again being able to do something for the glory of God, whose unworthy instrument she considered herself to be.
On December 3, 1883 Mother Franziska sent three sisters from Vienna for the foundation in Dolnja—Tuzla, who were then followed by two more from the foundation in Sarajevo. On the 12th she received permission from the finance ministry to found, the schools in Dolnja—Tuzla and Breske and the news that the Ministry of the Interior was granting the Congregation a piece of 30 yoke of land for cultivation in Breske. Mother Franziska was overjoyed by this, all the more so because this piece bordered on a 20 yoke parcel
which the Regional Director of Wiener—Welton had purchased in the meantime for the sisters to facilitate the foundation in Breske. On December 17 the school in Dolnja—Tuzla was opened with 23 Bosnian and 6 German children. This school has brought a rich blessing up until now for the Catholic inhabitants of Dolnja—Tuzla who no longer must give their children to persons of different faith for their education. The German school for the better class, that is, the children of military and civil officials, as well as the Bosnian school for the poor and the kindergarten, enjoy good attendance. Even people of other faiths entrust their children to the sisters. As will be recounted later, after Mother Franziska had built a suitable building for the schools in Dolnja—Tuzla and, as living quarters for the sisters in 1888, she added quarters for boarders.
In mid—January, 1884 Mother Franziska had a visit from Archbishop Stadler of Sarajevo who told her that at the audience he had just had, the Emperor expressed great pleasure at the work of the sisters in Bosnia and encouraged him to do everything that the Congregation grow there more and more. When the Archbishop was invited to dinner on the 20th with His Majesty, he once again heard praise for the Congregation and soon Mother Franziska was to hear this honor and praise herself from the lips of the beloved Sovereign. She had requested an audience on February 18th, and on entering immediately heard His Majesty say, “It is a pleasure to see you.” Mother Franziska thanked for the grant received for the Marian Institute in Budapest from the State Lottery and presented a summarized report of the work of the Congregation, compiled on the occasion of its fifteenth anniversary of existence, whereupon His Majesty said, “You have an honorable history and beautiful accomplishments to show. You can be pleased.” Mother Franziska mentioned also that she planned to go to Bosnia in the coming week to begin the fifth foundation (she counted the foundation in Sarajevo as two, because it consists of two institutes), which pleased His Majesty who said, “Where do you get the means?” Mother Franziska responded that soliciting was done to support the foundations. This great recognition was for her a new impetus for continuing her activities in Bosnia, On the 23rd she left for Bosnia with her niece, Sister Gonzaga Rinauer, and Sister Eleonora Muller, destined to be Superior in Breske. In Dovoj she was met by Canon Jeglic and Sister Richarda Spaniol from Sarajevo. In Dolnja—Tuzla Mother Franziska had the joy of hearing that the sisters were well liked by people of all faiths and that the children gladly came to their schools. On February 28 Mother Franziska drove to Breske with Canon Jeglic and Sisters Eleonora and Richarda in order to introduce the latter into the little hut which a farmer had lent to them as a temporary home. She later often said that her feelings at this were indescribable. Her loving maternal heart well considered the sacrifices and privations the sisters here would have to endure before the completion of their house. On the other hand, it was surely a great consolation that they had joyfully declared themselves ready for anything. After a three- day stay, during which the site for construction of the school and farm building was selected, and the donated land was viewed, Mother Franziska returned to Dolnja—Tuzla and from there, with the Canon and Sister Gonzaga, back to Sarajevo in the most unfavorable weather. She said about this trip, “I will not easily forget this trip. It was the most difficult I have made until now”. The travelers reached Sarajevo on March 3. Mother Franziska had come with the determination to have the Marian Institute enlarged, so that so many children would not have to be turned away. Of coarse, the material circumstances of the Congregation would not permit this, but Mother Franziska trusted in God’s help and this was not lacking. The officials in Sarajevo were very friendly, since the finance minister von Kallay had asked them to be helpful in the construction of the building. Finally,
the district government also gave free wood, stones and sand, so Mother Franziska signed the contract with gratitude to God and trust in His continued help in closing the various agreements concerning the construction. The result was that the same year saw the completion of a two—story, double tract addition, gaining also a suitable and worthy space for the house chapel. On March 20 Mother Franziska and Sister Gonzaga arrived in Vienna.
The cornerstone for the convent in Breske was laid on April 7. In June Mother Franziska went there to check on the construction, and, unfortunately, had to admit that some unconscionably pocketed their high daily wages, doing very little to earn them, and she therefore had to dismiss some of the workers. ‘Of course, this caused great worry, but all the greater was her joy to hear, in the following month, about the completion of the building which was solemnly dedicated on July 17 by Archbishop Stadler. Mother Franziska named this convent “Emaus” and always had a special interest in it. She was always happy to hear how the boys there would make the two—to—three hour walk, even in the cold and dark of winter, to attend the sisters’ school. Actually, the school is intended for boys and girls, but the Bosnian farmers are of the opinion that girls don’t need education and so it is very difficult to persuade them to send them to school.
On June 21, 1884 Mother Franziska had the great joy to be granted, by His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII, for seven years, her request for a plenary indulgence for all the members of the Congregation on the Feast of our Lady of Snows. As she shared this with her spiritual daughters she added, “In order to show our gratitude to God and to His Vicar, will you, my spiritual daughters, upon receiving this joyful message, sing a Te Deum in the chapel and pray for His Holiness. May Mary ask for us the grace that our young Congregation may always redound to the glory of Holy Church, consolation for the Holy Father and the welfare of our fellow human beings. Mother Franziska always honored the Mother of God in a special way under the title of “Mother Most Admirable” (dreimal wunderbare Mutter) as she is very much honored in Ingolstadt in Bavaria through a miraculous copy of the Sacred Image of Our Lady of Snows in Rome. She dedicated her Congregation in a special way to Mother Most Admirable and made the Feast of Our Lady of Snows one of its main feasts, to be solemnly celebrated annually in all the houses of the Congregation. She also ordered the common recitation of a very beautiful Prayer for the Feast of Our Lady of Snows which she composed and in which the entire Congregation, each individual sister, all those in their care, and all the houses are again consecrated to our Mother Most Admirable and in which it is promised to do all possible to have her honored under the title, “Mother Most Admirable”. She wrote about it in the Congregation’s
“On April 2, 1884 we sent the Holy Father a written request for permission to recite the title ‘Mother Most Admirable’ three times during the Litany of Loretto. We did this in order to be able to venerate Our Mother most Admirable in a very special way because we have made this a special obligation in order to give joy to our good Mother. A meeting of the Cardinals had to be called because of this unusual request. To the great joy of us all the permission arrived from Rome as soon as May 1. Our dear Reverend Archbishop was very happy about it. May this good Mother, for whose honor we strive, in spite of all our weaknesses, to contribute, show herself truly a Mother Most Admirable to us all. This pious wish of Mother Franziska has been fulfilled many thousand times over, because Our Mother Most Admirable, whose picture is found not only in the chapels, but also in most rooms of the individual houses, has consistently shown herself to be Mother and special protectress of the Congregation and demonstrated
her wonderful help in countless cases to it as well as to individual members and those in its care.
Still a third exceptional grace was granted the Congregation in this year, to the inexpressibly great joy of Mother Franziska. On August 11 she received a document dated July 26, 1884 from the Sacred Congregation for Bishops and Regulars, in which the purpose of her Congregation——as is stated literally—was, in the name of His Holiness Pope Leo XIII, “praised and commended to the highest degree”. Concurrently there followed a few comments concerning changes to be made in individual points of the Constitutions. Mother Franziska was supremely happy about the contents of the Decree which was the same as the long desired approval from the Holy See. Her efforts of many years were finally crowned with success, since in 1883 she once again asked for letters of recommendation from the Bishops of the Dioceses where the Congregation was working and had made various trips for this purpose. As there happened to be retreat taking place in the Mother House, with the sisters from the various foundations present, Mother Franziska was able to share her joy immediately with her spiritual daughters. She had the decree read by the retreat master after the close of the Spiritual Exercises on August 14. Since it was dated on the Feast of St. Anne, she ordered that this Saint, in gratitude, should from that time on be revered as one of the patrons of the Congregation. She also made sure that the small changes in the Constitutions requested by the Holy See be implemented immediately. This great honor of recognition by the Head of the Holy Church gave Mother Franziska once again an occasion to admonish the sisters to take to heart the faithful observance of the Holy Rule as she so often recommended. In the same way she encouraged all to a great gratitude toward the Holy Father, whom she reverenced in a childlike way, and to express this gratitude in fervent prayer. In order to demonstrate her gratitude also to the Mother of God for her intercession in this intention so important to the Congregation she sent several sisters to Maria—Zell on September 29, 1884 to offer the enshrined Virgin a golden heart in which were inscribed on parchment the names of all the members of the Congregation.
Now that the recognition had come from Rome it was possible for the first profession of perpetual vows to take place, for up to now the sisters as well as Mother Franziska had made only temporary vows which were renewed annually. Mother Franziska and. the older sisters had long desired this grace. November 21, 1884 was chosen and the most beautiful celebration ever held in the sixteen years of the Congregation’s existence took place. The Reverend Cardinal C6lestin Ganglbauer himself presided at the celebration. At the High Mass, celebrated by His Eminence, Mother Franziska and forty of the oldest sisters who were deemed worthy to receive the grace of perpetual profession received Holy communion, after which His Eminence, drawing his theme from the beautiful celebration, gave a moving talk in. which he encouraged Mother Franziska and the sisters to work, so zealously in the future as they had until now for the glory of God and the good of neighbor. Thereupon Mother Franziska professed her holy vows for life. With what holy enthusiasm and fully radiant heart she did this can easily be imagined. It was, after all, the fulfillment of one of her greatest desires. Following her, the remaining forty sisters gave themselves as lifelong offerings to the Lord. Mother Franziska spoke often of this happy day, which remained unforgettable for herself and the sisters who were present.
Mother Franziska had the constant wish to have a dignitary of the Church in Rome as a Protector for her Congregation and directed a request in this
intention to His Eminence Cardinal Jakobini, Secretary of State. After he himself expressed his willingness to be Cardinal Protector of the Congregation, Mother Franziska sent through the Apostolic Nuntio a request strongly supported by His Eminence Cardinal Ganglbauer on January 22, 1885, to His Holiness Pope Leo XIII, containing a petition that His Holiness would deign to appoint Cardinal Jakobini as Protector of the Congregation. On March 2, 1885 Mother Franziska received an Italian letter from Cardinal Jakobini which, translated, reads:
Reverend Mother!
Since it is the Holy Father’s wish that the Congregation of the Daughters of Divine Charity should have a public sign of the favor with which he views it and recognizing the good which the congregation does, he came to the decision to give it a special Protector in the person of a highly—placed dignitary. Not satisfied with this, he wanted also to agree with the request which you most humbly presented in the name of the Congregation, to the Papal throne, by appointing my poor person to this office. As I am notifying you of this, Reverend Mother, I can assure you that the prosperity of your so highly esteemed Congregation will always be close to my heart and that I, as much as my weak strength will allow, will make every effort to promote it in such a way that it may always give meritorious service and so become deserving of the gratitude of all good people.
Wishing you and your religious Congregation the fullness of heavenly graces, I sign this as one favoring you, Reverend Mother,
in the Lord,
Rome, February 27, 1885 Cardinal L. Jakobini
The joy felt by Mother Franziska over this letter and her grateful feelings over the honor given by the Vicar of Christ were indescribable. Now her Congregation had a powerful intercessor and protector of its rights in Rome. She immediately had all the foundations notified of the grace received. On March 5 the Vienna Newspapers carried the news and all the benefactors and friends of the Congregation rejoiced at the recognition given it. Highly placed Princes of the Church like His Eminence Cardinal Schwarzenberg, prince—bishop of Prague, Count Furstenberg, prince—bishop of Olmut, etc. members of the imperial family as well as her Royal Highness the Archduchess Adelgunde, Duchess of Modena, and Marie, wife of His Royal Highness, Archduke Rainer, congratulated Mother Franziska. She rejoiced in these honors, not for her own person, but for the sake of the Congregation. Her own heart remained as humble as ever and could not cease thanking God for the great graces received.