The Franciscan Presence in America: A Story of Devotion

On April 26, 1858, the German Franciscans of the Holy Cross Province found a new home on the shores of American soil. Exiles from their fatherland, they established an independent province on July 2, 1879. The new province was named after the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Their mission was simple – to bring the Gospel to the German-speaking Catholics.

Franciscan Friar standing with two Chippewa leaders, 1929

First, parishes were established in Illinois and then to Missouri, Indiana, Nebraska and Ohio. Their deep devotion stretched further to the Native Americans in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota and Athabaskans living in Alaska.

As the missions opened up, the Friars began to serve the souls in far off lands. They were entrusted with their own missions in countries such as; China, Brazil, Africa, South Sudan; while sending missionaries to Morocco, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Vietnam.

This medallion, received in 2009, is preserved in the Provincial Archives and stands as a testament of the friendship and respect between two chiefs – one of the St. Croix Band of Chippewa and the other of Father Michael Perry, the Minister Provincial at the time of the Sacred Heart Province. Extraordinary keepsakes stand as a physical reminder to the long history and spiritual ministry imparted by the Franciscans priests and brothers to all of God’s people.

Medallion, St. Croix Band of Chippewa, 2009

Today, the Franciscans continue to care for the needs of parishes in nine states. They support one another in fraternal communion. They proclaim the Gospel in respect to the diverse cultures for which they labor. And, it is within the walls of the Provincial Archives, where the documents come alive once more to reveal the Franciscan devotion for God’s people as it has shaped our history’s past.

Denise Thuston
Provincial Archivist (Franciscan Province of the Most Sacred Heart)