A lot of
history has transpired since the first St. Francis of Philadelphia sisters
came to Baker City August 29, 1885.
This year the Franciscan sisters are celebrating 100
years since the arrival of sisters M. Stanislaus, Marcella, Ferdinand, de
Pazzi and Angelica in Baker city and within the Western Province.
During the past 100years, St. Francis Academy was born,
then closed later in 1970.
The sisters who traveled by rail through the wild herds
of buffalo and bands of Indians.
When they arrived in Baker City they were greeted by
the Rev. P. DeRoo, pastor of St. Francis Church.
The sisters’ convent contained five borrowed beds, five
chairs, a small basin and a few tallow candles stuck into bottles. Dishes
that were used during the welcoming meal were loaned, so a few household
items were purchased.
Upon arriving, the Rev. DeRoo asked the sisters to
conduct an academy. A telegram from the motherhouse in Philadelphia
encouraged the idea saying,” Remain in obedience. Start your school.
Preparations for school began. The sisters opened a
school for girls September 4 with 60 students. Etta Cleaver and Stella
Randal were the first two boarders at the academy, which the sisters
renamed after the patron of Assisi.
No desks were available and the youngest children were
taught in church, using the kneeling benches foe seats.
A few weeks later, the Brothers of St. Viator’s pastor
asked the sisters to teach the boys.
Sr. Stanislaus was appointed to take charge of more
than 40 boys, ranging from seven to 18 years in about six grades.
On Christmas 1885, the school had 80 students, 15 were
boarders. The sisters erected a crib and decorated the church with paper
flowers for the altars. It was recorded by Sr. Marcella that, “ The
boarders all remained at school since we did not want them to go to these
In 1904 an academy was built to suit the needs of the
schooling. The same building served to educate students until 1970.
first mother superior was Sr. M. Stanislaus; Sr. Polycarp, who came
to the academy in 1889, became superior in 1904. She was reputedly
at the academy for more than 40 years. The last superior at the
academy was Sr. M. Ruth.
St. Francis Academy was closed in 1970 due to financial
difficulties and a shortage of sisters.
In Baker, the Franciscan
sisters have worked in
St. Elizabeth Hospital since 1903,
and in the St. Elizabeth Nursing Home, which was started in 1940.
At this time 19 sisters work in the hospital and
The Western Province of Franciscan sisters ( now designated as
Sacred Heart Province ) expanded service around Oregon since members
arrived in Baker City.
In 1902, the Oregon Archdiocese was divided and the
Baker Diocese was created.
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of
the Franciscan sisters, St. Francis Cathedral is having a special mass
celebration at 11 a.m. August 24, followed by a luncheon in the hall.
Attending will be Sr. Rose Ceclia, minister general of
Sisters of St. Francis, headquartered in Philadelphia. Sr. Ester Anderson,
provincial general for the Pacific Northwest also will attend. The public
is invited to attend.