The Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Divine Child began in the Diocese of Buffalo in 1927 to help thousands of children of Italian immigrants in need of religious instruction. The community merged with the Sisters of St. Francis in Williamsville in 2003 which, in turn, merged again with other orders to form the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities in 2004.
Some original members of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Divine Child gathered recently at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Buffalo for Mass to remember their origins and to be recognized by the Italian Federation. Former FMDC sisters present at the Mass included Sister Concetta DeFelice, Sister Renee Kopacz, Sister Marianne Ferguson, Sister Teresita Richardson, Sister M. Bernadine Salazar, Sister Francis Marie Vallone, Sister Mary Walheim, Sister Nancy Walsh, Sister Mary Helen Buscarino and Sister Louise Alff.
Sister Concetta spoke about the history of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Divine Child and their service to the diocese. Sister Concetta, who joined the Franciscan Missionary Sisters in 1959, called the reunion a wonderful celebration.
"In the afternoon, we went for a lovely luncheon at Salvatore's (Italian Gardens in Depew) to speak again and thank the Federation for picking us, recognizing us."
Sister Concetta said merging with the Sisters of St. Francis proved to be a grace-filled experience.
"Our whole purpose was to strengthen our charism and continue our mission. That's the reason why we chose, as a community, to merge. We are very happy. The Williamsville Franciscans were so welcoming."
In their service as Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Divine Child, the community expanded its ministry to serve all eight counties of the diocese. They also expanded outside the area to serve in Texas and Brazil.
The Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Divine Child were known as "Blue Nuns" and went door-to-door gathering information from households in order to know the populations of people in the neighborhoods they served. Sister Concetta also said that teaching was always a major part of their ministry.
"We continued our ministries when we merged," Sister Concetta said. "We just continued wherever our ministries had us. Some have retired and some are continuing their ministries. I am presently one of the Western New York regional ministers for the Sisters of St. Francis. Sister Francis Marie is 92 and still visiting nursing homes. Sister Louise is part of our leadership team out of Syracuse."