Born on August 31, 1826, Barbara Boll was not quite two years younger than her sister Anna (Boll) Bachmann. Seemingly she had long experienced a call to religious life, even entertaining the desire to found her own religious community. However, when she arrived in the United States, she could not yet discern clearly the path God was calling her to follow. Feeling that she herself possessed neither the skill nor preparation to found a religious community, she tried to solicit the help of her sisters, Cunigunda and Louisa, but neither of them felt called to religious life. Barbara also consulted Revererend Francis Tschenhens, CSsR, asking him to be her spiritual advisor. Father Tschenhens directed her to the School Sisters of Notre Dame but Barbara, feeling this was not the direction in which the Lord was calling her, decided to wait.
Following Anthony’s death, Barbara went to live with her sister, Anna Bachmann, to help her care for and support her children. When Barbara confided her desire to found a religious community, Anna saw in this the convergence of roads—the realization of Barbara’s dream and the answer to her own prayers during the long vigil at her husband’s bedside. Together, they consulted Reverend John Hespelein, CSsR, rector of St. Peter’s Church. Father Hespelein promised to direct them and he provided them with a horarium outlining a way of life. He also suggested a ministry. They should reach out to German immigrant girls who needed safe and respectable homes. And so, the little house on Apple Street was not only the Bachmann home dedicated to the Holy Family but became truly the Holy Family Home. It was recorded by early members of the community how happy both women were at what they believed was the first step toward their goal.
Both Barbara and Anna provided the main means of support for the little hostel. Barbara sewed on a piecework basis for a local tailor while it was believed Anna managed a little store.
On Easter Monday, April 9, 1855, Bishop John Neumann professed the three founding members as members of the Third Order of St. Francis. Mrs. Bachmann, now referred to as the foundress, received the name of Sister Mary Francis; Barbara Boll became Sister Mary Margaret; and Anna Dorn, Sister Mary Bernadine. From there the congregation and its members began to grow and prosper as a congregation.
In March of 1860, the Conventual Fathers sent for the sisters to staff the school in St. Mary Assumption Parish in Syracuse and later returned for more recruits for St. Joseph School in Utica. In these new ventures, Mother Francis and her sisters were encouraged at what they believed was the enlarging scope of their work. This assumption of duties in New York did indeed lead to a wonderful flowering of Franciscan life, but in a manner in no way anticipated by the founding sisters. After a short time, Bishop Wood announced that he was separating the New York foundations from the motherhouse in Philadelphia, and that he was requesting Bishop John McCloskey of Albany to affiliate them into his diocese.
Hard as that blow was to bear for all the sisters and particularly the three founders, history reveals that it was God’s way of bringing into existence the Syracuse foundation that he had destined for a particularly noble work of charity. This separate community is famed for its work with the lepers begun by Mother Marianna.
In 1861, Reverend Father Kleinenden, CSsR, rector of St. Mary Church in Buffalo asked Mother Francis for sisters to engage in service work in his parish. Mother Mary Margaret (Barbara Boll) became the first superior general of the Buffalo branch which began in 1863.
Learn more about our history and see a short timeline of events here. Stay tuned for more spotlights on other founding members and superiors.