Our Congregational History
In 1864, Sister Margareta Pucher was a member of the School Sisters of Graz, Austria. At the call of Bishop Anton Martin Slomsek, she and several others Sisters were sent to minister in Maribor in the Slovenian area of Austria. As she served there Sister Margareta came to believe that the Slovenian people of that region needed to be cared for with particular dedication and love. Moved by her love for the poor, uneducated children of Maribor, Sister Margareta risked leaving the Congregation of the School Sisters of St. Francis of Graz and founding a new Congregation, known as the School Sisters of Maribor, on September 13, 1869.
Separating from the community her community of 25 years was not easy. However, Sister Margareta felt compelled to do this. “For my part, I am ready to make this sacrifice, if the good Lord wants to accept my littleness . . . I have had many opportunities to convince myself that there is no place in this monarchy where the education of the children is so lacking as it is here.” (The Founding Letters of the School Sisters of Maribor – May 13, 1869)
Maribor Bishop, Maksimilijan Stepisnik named Margareta the first Superior General of the new Congregation whose charism was shared through the education and instruction of youth in the Diocese of Maribor. Soon young women began to join the new community and calls for service throughout Slovenia were answered.
Toward the end of the 19th Century a daughter house was opened in Mostar (Bosnia/Hercegovina) and as the 20th Century dawned another house was established in Split (Croatia).
In the first decade of the 20th Century houses in the United States and Egypt were opened. In the 1930’s, the Sisters established houses on the South American continent. This settling of the community on other continents came in response to the concerns of the many immigrant peoples who had migrated from Croatia and Slovenia. The Sisters heard the call of their shepherds and, like their foundress Mother Margareta, responded by dedicating themselves to the works of education and instruction in schools and by lending assistance to orphans, young women, the sick, and the elderly.
Until 1922, all the houses of this Congregation were directly connected to the Motherhouse in Maribor under the auspices of the local bishop. With the document “Decretum Laudis” (SCR, n2393/22 of May 1922), the Congregation came under Pontifical rights and received the approval of its own Constitutions. That November it was divided into four provinces with their respective centers in Chicago, Maribor, Tomadio (now Trieste) and Split. (SCR, n 5876/22, November 18, 1922)
The expansion of the Congregation between the two world wars contributed to the birth of other provinces; the first in Herzegovina, with its center in Mostar and the second in Argentina with its center in Rosario (now San Lorenzo). Presently the Congregation consists of nine provinces and the Region of Rome. In addition, the Trieste Province maintains a presence in Egypt and Sisters from the Split Province minister in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Currently Sisters are present in 14 countries. In addition to those already mentioned, they minister in Austria, Serbia, Uruguay, Paraguay, Germany, and Switzerland.
The addition to the community title of the phrase “of Christ the King” was requested by the community in 1935 and granted by the Church in 1947. (SCR, n 2776/47, March 14, 1947)
In 1941, in the midst of World War II, when the Germans and the Italians occupied Slovenia, the Sisters were forced to abandon the Motherhouse in Maribor and all their houses in Slovenia. Through these dramatic circumstances the Generalate was moved to Rome, (SCR, n. 4893/41, July 19, 1941) in 1956, Mother Theresa Vidan moved the Congregational government to a larger house also in Rome. Since 2004 the Generalate has been located in Grottaferrata.
Though five major languages are spoken in the Congregation, Italian has been chosen as its official language.
After Vatican Council II, in compliance with the Council’s directives at the General Chapter of 1969, the Sisters initiated a process of revising their Constitutions. Study and experience led to several revisions (Chapters of 1975 and 1981) of the Congregational Constitutions for which the final text was approved in 1983. (SCR, n. L.68-1/82, June 24, 1983)
Throughout the 1990’s and into the new millennium declining vocations and the struggles of aging have not stopped the Sisters from living their mission. Within the heritage of Franciscan spirituality and Congregational tradition, the Sisters continue to strive to bring the Gospel message to all.
Again, listening to the call and directives of the Church, study of the Congregational documents and the writings of the Church on religious life led to a call by the 2005 General Chapter to again revise the community’s Constitutions.
Throughout the provinces work continued on this living document up to the Extraordinary Chapter of 2008 where the revised Constitutions and Directory were completed. Official approval was gained on the Feast of Christ the King, November 23, 2008.
With these Constitutions as a guide, the Sisters are striving to present a life of prayer, community living, and service through which we continue to offer our giftedness with gratitude and love to the Church of our time.