175 Years of Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Scotland – and Beyond
In many ways our story is unique. Founded in 1847, ours is the second oldest women’s religious Congregation in Scotland, and it predates by some years the earliest foundations for men. Unlike all the others, which were established as branch houses of Congregations already in existence abroad, our Congregation is the only Congregation in the post-Reformation Catholic Church founded in Scotland. Today we have communities in seven countries, spanning four continents.
Our history is a human one, a story of people, living in community and working in the world. Though shaped by its social and religious context, it is nonetheless a story of communities of persons, of the journey of the individual, of the impact of mind upon mind and heart upon heart.
Coming to Glasgow’s East End in 1847 from France, Mother Veronica Cordier and Mother Adelaide Vaast began the work of our Congregation by educating and caring for poor and needy children and families, including the growing number of Irish immigrants.
The first eight novices were professed in St. Andrews Cathedral in 1851 and from that point our Franciscan Community was firmly established. The ministry which began in Scotland, flourishes here to this day – sisters teaching, nursing, engaged in pastoral work and witnessing by their presence in parishes.
In 1950, answering a request by the White Fathers, sisters left Scottish shores for Nigeria over 70 years ago. Today, our sisters in Nigeria are trained in medicine, education, pastoral, and social care and communications. This enables them to help with the development of their own areas. We are currently ministering in several Nigerian dioceses.
Our sisters have been active in the United States for over 50 years, in teaching, nursing and social outreach.
In the last 30 years we have responded to the needs of a changing world by establishing a Centre in Kenya where hundreds of men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS are able to live with hope while coping with the ravages of this disease. Our Kenyan sisters are also teaching, nursing, directing communications, involved in pastoral and social care, and working on organic and self-sustaining farming.
Continuing our commitment to lifelong learning, we have, since 2016, established a community of sisters in Bridgetown, Barbados, teaching in St. Patrick’s Primary School and involved the Diocesan Catechetical Programme.
Our Mission Development Office is in Dublin and our sisters are in the Scots College, Rome.
In Scotland, we continue to be involved in pastoral outreach, nursing and witnessing by our presence in the communities we serve. The circle is complete as our last sister teaching in Scotland continues a legacy built on the shoulders of generations of courageous and generous women.
In this year of our 32nd General Chapter, we ask your prayers for all of us – women now of the 21st century, looking forward in hope.