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Mother Magdalen Damen

Mother Magdalen Damen by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Artwork Narrative:

This foundress of the Franciscan Sisters of Penance and Christian Charity of Nonnenwerth was born in 1787 at Laek, in Dutch Limburg. She received the habit of the Third Order of St. Francis in 1817, and gathered a few other women around her to teach children and care for the sick. There were no institutions to provide these services.

The local priest profited from their help, but opposed their efforts to form a religious community. Once they had become a community, however, he stepped in and replaced Mother Magdalen with another superior who was better educated. Mother Magdalen went back to the kitchen and garden.

Mother Magdalen grew deaf as she became older. She ended her life as she had begun it, a contemplative wrapped in silence and prayer. She died on August 7, 1858, having just said, “Yes, I shall pray for you all!”

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The Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity were founded by Catherine Damen in Holland in 1835. Catherine chose St. Francis of Assisi as her model and spiritual father and changed her name to Magdalen. A woman of great simplicity, she spoke little and labored much, insisting "God will provide." Her simplicity of purpose brought conviction and launched a committed following. Her community soon spread throughout The Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Indonesia, Brazil and the United States. Later the community spread to the Philippines, Mexico, Tanzania and Guatemala.

In 1874, the German sisters sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and settled in Buffalo, New York. Twelve years later, in 1886, the sisters agreed to do missionary work with the Lakota Sioux Native Americans. They came by train to St. Francis Mission on the Rosebud Reservation and in 1888, to the Holy Rosary Mission in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Later missions were established in Nebraska, North Dakota, and Denver, Colorado. The Sacred Heart Provincial Offices are now located in Denver, Colorado at Marycrest.

Responding in trust to our mission is the gift these daughters of Magdalen Damen, our Foundress, left to us. We treasure this heritage and are eager to add our own lived experience to this rich tradition. The Rule of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis provides the foundation for our way of life.

Today, our commitment and mission is still that of reaching out to those in need. To companion a person in realizing a new and better life is the guiding spirit of our ministry.

As Franciscan Women, we seek new ways of living and communicating the Gospel. We strive for conversion of heart in our relationship with God, with others and with all creation. With Jesus Christ, Bread broken and shared, we work for justice and peace and for the transformation of society. As Women of Hope, we choose life and denounce all that threatens it. We collaborate with others who witness Gospel values and the presence of God within all persons of good will.

—Excerpts from Marycrest Franciscans