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Precious Blood Sisters


Under this title are included several congregations of religious women who owe their origin, directly or indirectly, to the influence of St. Gaspare del bufalo.

Adorers of the Blood of Christ. (ASC, Official Catholic Directory, #0100); founded, 1834 in Acuto, Diocese of Anagni, Italy, by Bl. Maria De mattias, according to the plan of St. Gaspare del Bufalo and under the direction of Giovanni merlini. Dedicated principally to the education of the poor, the sisters opened 65 schools in central Italy before the death of the foundress in Rome (1866).

On Oct. 17, 1860, a group of Precious Blood Sisters, who had been established originally at Steinerberg, Switzerland, in 1845, and who later moved, because of government hostility, to Gurtweil, Baden, Germany, formally joined the Italian foundation. Ten years after this amalgamation the Gurtweil sisters opened a school in the U.S. at Piopolis in southern Illinois, when the kulturkampf threatened them in Baden. While the majority of the sisters who went to America between 1870 and 1873 became an independent congregation (Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O'Fallon, MO), the few sisters remaining at Piopolis under the direction of Mother Clementine Zerr, the novice mistress, continued under the Italian affiliation. When Mother Clementine was approved as superior of the U.S. foundation by the superior general, she transferred headquarters to Ruma, IL, in 1876. Subsequently, the sisters extended their work through Illinois, Missouri, and the Great Plains states, with a second central house and novitiate in Wichita, KS. The small band of German sisters who remained in Europe found a permanent home in 1879 in Banja Luka, Bosnia, whence new foundations were later made in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Poland. Sixteen sisters, brought from Banja Luka to the U.S. in 1906 by Mother Pauline Schneeberger, formed the nucleus of a third U.S. province with its central house in Columbia, PA.

In 1855 Pius IX granted initial approbation to the congregation; final papal approval of the constitutions was given in 1897. The spiritual ideal of the congregation is centered in the mystery of Redemption through the Blood of Christ, which the sisters worship in particular through daily eucharistic adoration. Their active apostolate consists primarily of work in schools and hospitals. The generalate is in Rome. There are three U.S. provinces: Ruma (1876), Wichita (1929) and Columbia (1925).

[a. myerscough/eds.]

Sisters of the Most Precious Blood. (CPPS, Official Catholic Directory #3270); a congregation with papal approbation whose motherhouse is in O'Fallon, MO. The community was founded originally in 1845 at Steinerberg, Switzerland, by Rev. Karl Rolfus and Magdalena Weber (Mother Teresa) to honor the Precious Blood in convents of perpetual adoration. In 1848 the Swiss government forced the young community into exile, and a new settlement was made at Ottmarsheim in the Alsace region of France. Some eight years later, at the invitation of Rev. Herman Kessler, 18 sisters went to Gurtweil, in Baden, Germany, to establish a school and open a home for delinquent girls. The combined responsibilities of perpetual adoration and the active apostolate of teaching posed serious problems. The conflict was resolved in 1860 when the sisters of Gurtweil separated from those of Ottmarsheim and became affiliated with the Sisters Adorers of the Most Precious Blood, a congregation dedicated to the active apostolate.

Difficulties with the government in Baden, which sought to establish nondenominational schools, led the sisters to answer a call for teachers from Rev. Blasius Winterhalter of St. John's, IL (later Belle Prairie, now Piopolis), in the Diocese of Alton (now Belleville). On Feb. 2, 1870, nine sisters set sail for America; others followed in the next few years. The majority of these sisters soon separated themselves from the European congregation and became known as the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O'Fallon, MO. This was accomplished in 1874 with the assistance of Abp. Peter Kenrick of St. Louis, MO, and his vicar-general, Henry Muehlsiepen. Mother Augusta Volk was the first superior general of the new community to which the Holy See granted final approval in 1938.

The congregation is engaged in academic education, catechetics, pastoral ministries, social outreach, care of elderly, parish ministries, and foreign missions.

[m. p. thaman/eds.]

Sisters of the Precious Blood. (CPPS, Official Catholic Directory, #3260); a congregation with papal approbation whose motherhouse is in Dayton, OH. The community originated in 1834 at Castle Loewenberg in the Diocese of Chur, Switzerland. Mother Maria Anna Brunner, the foundress, was then an elderly widow and the mother of six children. In the previous year, during a pilgrimage to Rome for the Holy Year of 1833, she came in contact with the Society of the Precious Blood, whose founder was (St.) Gaspare del Bufalo. Inspired by his example, she determined to devote her remaining years to the adoration of the Precious Blood and to the spreading of this devotion. After returning to Castle Loewenberg, she soon attracted a sufficient number of associates to keep up nocturnal adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. By the time of her death in 1836 the nucleus of the future congregation was formed and its main features indicated. Her eldest son, Father Francis de Sales brunner, guided the early years of the community and eventually transferred it to the U.S.

In 1844 three of the sisters went to Peru in northern Ohio. About six months later a permanent foundation was made at New Riegel, OH, where there now stands a convent adapted for the use of a cloistered group that was later formed within the congregation. The motherhouse in the U.S. was transferred from New Riegel to Maria Stein, OH, in 1846, and then to Dayton in 1923. The U.S. community was granted final approval by the Holy See in 1946.

In accord with the primary purpose of the foundress, daily eucharistic adoration is maintained in the community's principal houses. In fulfillment of Mother Brunner's secondary aim, the sisters from the beginning engaged in academic education and catechetics. Gradually their apostolate broadened to include care for the sick and the aged, healthcare, retreats and spiritual direction, social outreach to immigrants and homeless, and pastoral ministries.

Bibliography: Not with Silver or Gold: A History of the Sisters of the Congregation of the Precious Blood, 18341944 (Dayton 1945).

[m. o. gutman]

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