Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA)
In 1849, a pastor and his assistant led a group of 12 women and men, Third Order Secular Franciscans, from their parish in Ettenbeuren, Bavaria, to Milwaukee, Wis. Arriving at the diocese on May 18, 1849, the six women in the group, with Mother Aemiliana Dirr as their leader, committed themselves to founding a religious community to spread the gospel among German immigrants, especially through educating children, caring for the disadvantaged, and, when possible, establishing perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Diverted from education to household duties at the newly built diocesan seminary in 1856, overwhelmed with physical labor, and finding themselves unable to develop a truly religious life, the founders left the community. The sisters and their newly elected leader, Mother Antonia Herb, moved the motherhouse to Jefferson, Wis. There, at St. Coletta Convent, the sisters renewed their aspirations to teach and establish perpetual adoration.
In 1869, the Rev. Michael Heiss, bishop of the newly formed Diocese of La Crosse, requested Mother Antonia move the motherhouse to La Crosse, Wis. The sisters moved to La Crosse and into the new motherhouse, St. Rose of Viterbo Convent in 1871.
The first Maria Angelorum Chapel was dedicated on August 2, 1871 and seven years later, the sisters realized their goal to begin perpetual adoration. The adoration has continued without interruption ever since.
By 1906, the new Maria Angelorum Chapel was completed, replacing the first community chapel and the second Chapel of Adoration. Today, the FSPA are rooted in Eucharist and in communion with all of God’s creation; they are committed to: nurture cosmic awareness, develop right relationships with all creation, and promote sustainability of Mother Earth, and effect just treatment of all, especially women, in church and society.