Reverend Mother Mary Immaculate Tremmel

Sixth Superior General
June 29, 1931 – July 1, 1937

Reverend Mother Mary Immaculate Tremmel, the sixth superior general for the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, was born Lidwina Tremmel on February 25, 1862, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Lidwina came to live with the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia when she was just 13. Three years later, on July 19, 1878, she began her two-year novitiate and took the name Sister Mary Immaculate. Sister Adele Francis Gorman, OSF,[1] notes that she was a “kindly, sensitive person . . . [who was to rise] to the highest office in the congregation fully aware of circumstances in the world” (228). On October 4, 1880, Sister Immaculate was among “the first group of novices professed in the new chapel at Our Lady of Angels Convent. . .” (Gorman 228).

In July 1881, after two years at St. Alphonsus School in Philadelphia, Sister Immaculate was sent to teach at St. Mary School in Salem, New Jersey, a mission the Sisters of St. Francis would leave 10 years later. In 1887, Sister Immaculate moved from St. Mary’s to St. Peter Convent in Wilmington, Delaware. Just a year after that, she was selected to head the congregation’s mission at St. Aloysius Academy in Lewiston, Idaho. Sister M. Jeanette Clare, OSF,[2] notes: “The experiences of the journey to that school were grueling, and many were the hardships that awaited the Sisters on arrival, hardships that they all bore with cheerfulness and youthful adaptability” (58-9).

Sister Immaculate’s next assignment, beginning in August 1892, was at Mount St. Joseph Academy, Tekoa, Washington, “a day and boarding school for young ladies and boys under twelve” (Clare 59). Sister Immaculate remained in Tekoa until 1906, when she was appointed eastern provincial and superior of the Reed Street convent. Six years later, she was elected vicar-general and superior for Glen Riddle.

Mother Immaculate continued to hold those responsibilities until August 1918, when she became superior of the new provincial house that was located on Philadelphia’s Spring Garden Street. Her multifaceted talents remained evident as she opened and then worked in St. Francis Orphanage in Orwigsburg, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania; established St. Michael Home for the Aged in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania; and then, in August 1929, became provincial for the Western Province. In June 1931, Mother Mary Immaculate Tremmel was named superior general, succeeding Mother Kilian Schoeller, who had died in January.

With her years as superior general paralleling the heart of the Great Depression, Mother Immaculate was acutely aware of the widespread suffering and, as Sister Adele Francis Gorman shares, “repeatedly reminded the sisters of the plight of those suffering from the Depression”

(237). Mother Immaculate’s 1932 Christmas “letter included a request often repeated in her correspondence, that the sisters practice charity in word and deed” (Gorman 238).

In spite of the difficult times, however, in 1932, Mother Immaculate’s congregation acquired Immaculata Convent in Mallow, County Cork, Ireland. Mother Immaculate had been prompted to seek a convent in Ireland to support the orientation and education of the young Irish women who, for many years, had been becoming Sisters of St. Francis (Clare 59). Other significant highlights of Sister Immaculate’s administration were four school missions—including St. Stephen School in Bradshaw, Maryland—and the establishment of St. Francis Villa in Havre de Grace, Maryland, a residence for aging sisters.

Ill health forced Mother Mary Immaculate Tremmel to withdraw from her responsibilities after the order’s 1937 elections. After 65 years with the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, she passed away on March 13, 1940, and is buried in Our Lady of Angels Cemetery.

Sources:

[1] Sr. Adele Francis Gorman, OSF, Celebrating the Journey . . . , History of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia 1855-1970, Vol. II, ed. Sr. Emily Ann Herbes, OSF (Aston: Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, 2005). On pages 227-46, this work provides an extensive history of Mother Immaculate Tremmel’s leadership years.

[2] Sr. M. Jeanette Clare, OSF, The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, Glen Riddle, Pennsylvania 1855-1955 (Philadelphia: William T. Cooke, 1955).