Foundress Mother Frances Streitel

Mother Frances

The Venerable Mother Frances Streitel is the Foundress of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother. Read more details about her, her life and the beginnings of SSM by clicking on the plus signs below.

Her Story

A Beginning Like Many Others

Adam & Franziska Horhammer Streitel

On November 24, 1844, Adam and Franziska Horhammer Streitel rejoiced at the birth of their first-born daughter Amalia. She was born in Mellrichstadt, Germany, a picturesque town lying in the foothills of the Rhon Mountains and the Thuringian forest. According to the custom of her time, she was baptized on the day of her birth in her parent’s home and named Amalia Frances Rose.

Her parents, who lived a life based on the principles of the Catholic faith, had three other children: Adam, Hermann and Hedwig. The Streitel family manifested their sincere love of God and neighbor through their loving concern for the poor, the sick and the needy. Together they made their home an ideal Catholic family where daily prayer, attendance at Mass and celebration of the feasts of the Church, especially those of the Blessed Virgin Mary, were of fundamental importance.


Birthplace of Mother Frances

Her Childhood

Although a lively and strong-willed girl, Amalia soon learned self-control and self-discipline through the guidance of her mother, who demanded obedience, punctuality and orderliness in daily living. At an early age, she was taught to perform household tasks and to become skillful in needlework. She was also carefully trained in the manners of her social class. As she grew up, more social obligations were placed upon her, including the prospect of marriage.

Yet as she matured a great hunger began to grow within her–to seek more than social expectations of even marriage. The more she desired was to seek God in a life of service and solitude.

A Heart for God

Amalia’s religious formation began at an early age. When she was two, her mother taught her to make the Sign of the Cross and say little prayers. Amalia was bright and quick to learn, but she was also known for her love of the poorer children around her. There grew within her a deep and true love for God’s people. This led her to believe she was called to a religious life.


Young Mother Frances

She recalled that at the age of nine, she struggled to understand the meaning of Christ’s words, “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”

The reception of her First Holy Communion, on April 19, 1857, strengthened her bonding, along with her devotion to the Virgin Mary, which was fostered by her family. In her hometown, Mellrichstadt, of several shrines were dedicated to Mary as Mother of Sorrows.

Her Youth: A Time for Saying “Yes”

After completing her elementary education, Amalia was sent to Augsburg, Germany, to the Franciscan Institute known as Maria Stern. Here she obtained a diploma in French and music.

On September 24, 1857, she received the Sacrament of Confirmation, which confirmed her intuition that she was being called to the religious life. She herself tells us it came to her in a special manner when she reached the age of seventeen. Her notebook merely records: “August 1862, call to convent.”


Streitel Family Picture

Though very religious, her parents strongly opposed her desire to enter religious life. They wanted her to marry. A painful conflict continued for four years. It came to a climax when she refused to be introduced to a law student as a possible suitor. She hid in the attic as words had failed to alter her parents’ determination. In this way, Amalia’s intent to respond to God’s call was to devote her life to God alone.

Her Wish Comes True

At last, on September 25, 1866, Amalia entered religious life at the Franciscan Institute of Maria Stern where she was educated in her youth. Her parents had given their consent, provided the convent would not have strict enclosure nor which would engage in the care of the sick. Early on, Amalia told the Superior of her desire to care for the sick. Instead of being granted this preference, she was asked to continue her study of French and music so she could be a teacher.

She entered the novitiate on June 3, 1867, receiving the name of Sr. Angela. A year later she made her profession of religious vows.

Her wish to live a consecrated life had come true, yet she was still struggling with the daily expression of her commitment. In the name of obedience, she asked to teach. She was later appointed superior. After a while, Sr. Angela herself realized that she would need to relinquish her initial zeal and began to live an easier, less ascetical way of life. Like many of the saints, she suffered a long illness, and during that time, reflection and conversion began to shape her future.

She realized she desired to be poor like St. Francis of Assisi, not just in her own life, but to help bring about conversion in the Church and in society. The witness of loving austerity began to guide her and her love for the Crucified Jesus. She strongly perceived a call to live St. Francis’ vision: of both material and spiritual poverty, and love of the Crucified One for the sake of the Church and the entire world. This changed her life.

The Carmelite Convent

In prayer, Sr. Angela clearly became aware that she wanted to have a deeper spiritual union with God. It was through prayer that she understood that God was calling her to a new experience. Therefore, she asked to leave the Institute of Maria Stern and enter the Carmelite convent of Himmelspforten in Wurzburg. This decision to leave Maria Stern and enter the Carmelite convent on January 25, 1882, was made amidst an indescribable interior struggle.

Soon after her entrance into the Carmelite cloister, she received the habit of a novice and the name of “Sr. Petra.” In Carmel, she began a new phase of her life, and peace was restored in her soul.


The Carmelite Convent

In one of her letters, she wrote: “I had found in Carmel through prayer and sacrifice what I had sought for years. I had a novitiate. I could be obedient. Often I had occasion to divest myself of the ten years’ superiorship. I became childlike again and came close to the God of my heart.

Sr. Petra once again gave her all to God; yet, here she soon found herself led into an inner desert where God’s voice became clearer.  The journey was not over. A new vision emerged.

Her Vision

Her Vision

A NEW VISION: Activity and Contemplation: A Single Way

At Carmel, absorbed in prayer and silence, Sr. Petra came to understand that God was not calling her to live a cloistered life removed from the world. Rather she was being moved by a strong interior experience which called her to leave the Carmelite convent and be available for a new task from God. She began to accept that she was given a vision to unite the active Franciscan life with the Carmelite contemplation in some way. This is what she wrote:

“I was praying in the choir in the forenoon and saw something, to me hitherto strange. In spirit I beheld two mountains rise. These two mountains stood in line with each other. The mountain rising on the right was higher than the other and had some sort of gradations. On its summit, I believe I saw St. Elijah in rather indistinct form; farther down I also saw St. Teresa. The other mountain was not so high, probably because it was not so old. In the one I recognized Carmel; in the other, Alverno, on which St. Francis was standing with a cross in his hand. Both mountains arched themselves into one, the higher mountain arching and inclining toward the other from about the pace where St. Teresa stood…

The call which I received before or after this vision, and which came to me because I would not comprehend why the Lord wished me to lead me out of Carmel again, sounded like this: ‘To unite the active life with the contemplative.’ 

Perhaps this will shed light on what I saw. Carmel may represent prayer, Alverno, activity, Both prayer and work have received new shouts in the course of centuries, which have frequently misrepresented the sublimity of the one and the necessity of the other. In the one Order one often fails to understand the prayer of work; in the other, the work of prayer. 

Prayer and work must go hand in hand and like twin sisters, strive to remedy the spiritual and social misery of humankind, teaching it again what it means to pray and work.”

Beginning SSM

Shortly after she had her vision of uniting the active life with the contemplative, a new pathway emerged. Father Francis Jordan asked Sister to collaborate with him in the establishment of the women’s branch of his new foundation whose goal was Christian education. Just like Abraham, by faith and obedience to God’s will, she left for Rome without knowing exactly what she was going to do. She said “yes” not knowing where this would lead her or how it would relate to the vision of the merging mountains.

On February 16, 1883, Sr. Petra arrived in Rome. The dwelling offered by Father Jordan was truly simple, an apartment with very few utensils for the kitchen, without beds or chairs, but with the advantage of being near the basilica of St. Peter. Great was her joy because also exteriorly she could express her love for poverty and for the Church.


Father Jordan

She chose a new name: Sr. Mary Frances of the Cross. It was indicative of her mission and her experience.

For two years, Sr. M. Frances and Fr. Jordan sought to cooperate with each other in spite of difficulties and misunderstandings that arose. Each was being faithful but their charisms were very different. Separation became necessary if both communities were to flourish. In 1883 the ecclesiastical authorities separated the institute led by Sr. M. Frances from the one led by Fr. Jordan (Society of the Divine Savior, also known as Salvatorians).

On February 16, 1883, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother was thus formed, with Sr. M. Frances of the Cross as its foundress and first superior.


She became known as Mother Frances Streitel. The new community scrupulously followed the Franciscan Rule with special attention to poverty and caring and sharing with the poor. In order to provide a living, the sisters devoted themselves to the most menial works, such as tending the sick in their homes and taking care of the sacristy at the church of Campsanto Teutonico in the Vatican.

The sisters lived as very poor people among the poor, while cherishing contemplation of Christ with Mary at the foot of the Cross. The Sacraments and the Liturgy of the Hours were their spiritual nourishment. They did all they could so that the people they met could see God through their smiles, their words of hope and their hugs.

Timeline

TIMELINE OF THE LIFE OF MOTHER FRANCES STREITEL

November 24, 1844: Amalia Frances Rose Streitel born in Mellrichstadt, Germany.

1867: At age 23, Amalia receives Franciscan habit of Maria Stern, Franciscan order, and name “Sr Angela.”

1867-1880: Sr. Angela ministers with the community of Maria Stern.

1880: Sr. Angela experiences an interior prompting to leave and to go to Carmel; she receives the Carmelite habit in 1882 and the name “Petra.”

1882: After having a mystical experience in prayer before the Sacred Heart, and a vision of two mountains merging, Sister Petra realized God was calling her to begin a new task. She left Carmel.

1883: Father Jordan invites Mother Frances to Rome to collaborate on a women’s branch of the Teaching Society. She arrives in Rome on February 16. Though much effort was made, their collaboration clarified they had different charisms for the Church.

1883: Mother Frances begins the foundation for a new order, the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother. Other women join her.

1884: Mother Frances and the Sisters shelter orphans in the Convent. Homecare to the sick in Rome begins.

1885: The Congregation receives the name: “Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother.” Msgr. Jacquemin is appointed spiritual director.

May 15, 1890: Mother Frances arrives in the United States for the first time. She helps found St. Francis Hospital in Wichita, Kan., St. Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield, Wis., and St. Mary’s Hospital in Menomonie, Wis.

1891: Mother Frances establishes St. Mary’s Hospital in Oshkosh, Wis. (now Mercy Hospital of Affinity Health System), and St. Mary’s Parish School in Aleppo, Kansas.

1893: Mother Frances helps found St. Mary’s Hospital in Rhinelander, Wis., and Sacred Heart Hospital in Tomahawk, Wis.

1895: Mother Frances helps found St. Francis Health Resort in Denville, NJ.

1897: Mother Frances and the Sisters begin hospital work in Mankato, Minn.

1898: Mother Frances helps found St. Elizabeth Hospital in Wabasha, Minn.

1906: Mother Frances establishes an American motherhouse and novitiate in Marshfield, Wis.

March 6, 1911: Mother Frances dies in Castel Sant’Elia, Italy. The Congregation receives its official final approval as a papal Congregation of papal right on the day of her death.

March 27, 2010: Mother Frances Streitel receives the title “Venerable” by Pope Bendict XVI.

Quotations

QUOTATIONS FROM MOTHER FRANCES STREITEL

“Humanity conceals two jewels in its midst and so seldom appreciates their value – they are the poor and the sick.”
–Mother Frances Streitel
Norms 1883, #107 (1)

“May the poor always enjoy the friendship of our Sisters.”
–Mother Frances Streitel
Norms 1883, #109 (2)

“Prayer and work must go hand in hand and like twin sisters, strive to remedy the spiritual and social misery of [humankind].”
–Mother Frances Streitel
Letter #39 (8) to Fr. John Francis Jordan, July 1883a

“God wants us entirely, and if He sees our determination in His service and our constancy in the good we have begun…He will equip us with extraordinary strength of grace.”
–Mother Frances Streitel
Letter #96 (4) to Fr. John Francis Jordan, April 10, 1884

“Let us stand under the cross with the Sorrowful Mother. Let us look up to the Crucified with trusting faith, and we will experience that in the cross is salvation.”
–Mother Frances Streitel
Letter #24 (2) to Heddwig Streitel, June 24, 1989

“Our life is an alternation of cares and work, joys and sorrows, and through it all there appears the adorable will of God.”
–Mother Frances Streitel

“The book from which I draw my spiritual exercise is the Cross. With, through, and in the same I shall learn what is so necessary for my dying to self…”
–Mother Frances Streitel
Letter #1 (3) to Msgr. Anton De Waal, March 30, 1885

“…[I] was approaching the Divine Heart, asking why I was called to Carmel, then I received the answer: “To unite the active life with the contemplative.”
–Mother Frances Streitel
Letter #28 (9) to Fr. John Francis Jordan, March 31, 1883

“One who is truly poor is also humble and obedient.”
–Mother Frances Streitel
Letter #2 (2) to Fr. John Francis Jordan, February 18. 1883

“The ways of the Lord are wonderful!”
–Mother Frances Streitel

“It is a grace to be able to be poor in will.”
–Mother Frances Streitel
Letter #44 (1) to Fr. John Francis Jordan, September 1883

“The older one gets, the clearer it becomes that our present existence can only be transitory, a time of trial or preparation for a better life.”
–Mother Frances Streitel

“Since I have learned to pray again like a child, I am at peace with myself and with my fellow Sisters.”
–Sr. M. Angela Streitel (Mother Frances Streitel)
Letter #3 (8) to Mother Salesia Ellersdorfer, March 5, 1879

“Only the power of grace could teach me to ask in order to receive.”
–Mother Frances Streitel
Letter #9 (2) to Fr. John Francis Jordan, February/March 1883

Beatification

CAUSE FOR THE BEATIFICATION OF MOTHER FRANCES STREITEL

After the death of Mother Frances, the fame of her sanctity spread more widely and many favors were attributed to her intercession. Encouraged by these signs of her powerful intercession, the community arranged that the cause for her beatification be introduced in the Church leading to canonization.

In 1937, twenty-six years after the death of the Servant of God Mother Frances Streitel, the Bishop of Nepi-Sutri, the Venerable Bishop Luigi

Maria Olivares, initiated the first step toward canonization, the Diocesan Informative Process (collecting information). Father Aquilino Reichert, OFM, Conv., was appointed as Postulator. Because of the long period of time between beginnings in the documented testimony from the sisters who had known Mother Frances, three other Rogatory Processes (additional inquiries) were held. The first process took place in Würzburg, Germany; the second in Paterson, New Jersey (USA), the third, in Winona, Minnesota, (USA). All of this data was included in the Positio Super Causae Introductione (1946) and sent to the Sacred Congregation of Rites in the Vatican.

Holy Father Pius XII opened the Cause and Apostolic Process as early as June 13, 1947, but it was interrupted until March 30, 1963. At that time, Blessed Pope John XXIII gave his consent for the continuation of the Cause.

Under the direction of the Relator F. Peter K. Gumpel, SJ, the Cause was reopened and in 1994 Fr. Gumpel was replaced by Fr. Ambrogio Eszer, OP. Under his leadership, Sr. Therese Marie Mueller of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother completed the Positio required new proposition: An Extraordinary Life and Reputation of Virtues). In 2003, the general council appointed Sr. Therese Marie Mueller as Postulator for the Cause of Mother Frances Streitel.

The Novissima Positio was submitted to the Historical Congress on February 24, 2009 and on May 15, 2009 it unanimously passed the scrutiny of the theologians. The Commission of the Cardinals and Bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints met on January 19, 2010 and unanimously gave a positive vote regarding the Heroic Virtues of Mother Frances. On March 27, 2010, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI authorized the Congregation of the Cause of the Saints to promulgate the Decree of the Heroic Virtues of the Servant of God, Mother Frances of the Cross Streitel.

It is hoped that the holiness of Mother Frances and fervent prayer will result in miracles of healing of the congregation, the SSM associates, and all who know of Mother Frances.

Prayer for the Beatification of the Venerable Servant of God, Mother Frances of the Cross Streitel

Most Holy Trinity, almighty and merciful God, kindly hear my petition which I humbly present to You through the intercession of Your servant Mother Frances Streitel, with the firm trust of being heard.

Through the tender devotion and veneration which the Servant of God always had for Mary, Mother of Sorrows, grant me the grace…for which I ask You in honor of this Your servant and for the salvation of my soul.

Glory Be…

Publications

Walk in Love, the biography of Mother Mary Frances Streitel,

is filled with amazing detail, rich documentation and painstaking research. The “human condition” of Mother Frances, as well as her growth in grace, is precisely portrayed. Written by Sr. M. Carmeline Koller, SSM. Copyright 1981 by Franciscan Herald Press, 1434 West 51st Street, Chicago, IL 60609.

The Novena to the Venerable Servant of God Mary Frances of the Cross Streitel
outlines the nine days of prayer to obtain a Favor through the Intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Mary Frances of the Cross Streitel.

 

 

Mother Frances Franciscan Vision Brochure

Mother Frances Overview Brochure 

Mother Frances Virtues Card

Mother Frances Quotation Cards

If you are interested in receiving a copy of any of the above materials for yourself or distributing these brochures in your Catholic congregation, please contact eanderson@ascension.org.

Supplies available while quantities last.

Prayers to Mother Frances

If you have received a favor after praying to Venerable Mother Frances Streitel, please send the story to us for our records. You may email your story to Sister Sherri Marie Kuhn at sherrimkuhn@gmail.com.

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