Foundress of the Congregation
Mother M. Clara Pfaender named Anna Theresia Pfaender (December 6, 1827 – October 5, 1882) born a much loved eldest daughter in Hallenberg, Germany, died a faithful outcast in Rome, Italy.
Mother M. Clara wanted to give her all to God, but she wasn’t sure how to do this. Inspired by the life of St. Francis, she wanted to follow his life of holiness. Mother M. Clara entered religious life with the Sisters of Christian Charity.
Wanting to live a more integrated contemplative and active life, she left that congregation, became a member of the Secular Franciscans, and began the work of establishing a new congregation.
At the age of 33, Mother M. Clara wrote the constitution of the Congregation of Franciscan Sisters, Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Approved on October 30, 1860, this new constitution provided a way to live the Franciscan spirit.
Adoration was important to Mother M. Clara. In the presence of the sacred host, she could ponder how Christ was present in herself and in others. In her prayer, she sought to be nourished and transformed. Mother M. Clara desired to consciously carry the presence of Christ to others. With the heart and mind of God she could discern how she could be of loving service.
Mother M. Clara said that her Sisters needed to respond to whatever manner of loving service the Lord gave them to do. To serve the needs of the times meant that Mother M. Clara was to be attentive to where the spirit was calling her.
At the same time as the restrictive laws of the Kulturkampf in Germany prevented the sisters from teaching, their reputation for tending the wounded during wartime allowed them to continue to provide nursing care for the poor.
Mother M. Clara was not disheartened. She sent Sisters to other countries in Europe and to the United States. There the ministries of healthcare and education flourished.
Mother Clara's message to her congregation is timeless. Her constitution and life example continues to guide her Sisters today. She met many sufferings and challenges in her day but she turned these events into opportunities for hope.Mother M. Clara was committed to promoting the reign of God through her conscious attention to God's presence in her life and the loving manner in which she served others.
Even though Mother M. Clara died in exile from her beloved congregation, recent research has allowed us to honor and celebrate her faith-filled life. These documents highlight the religious fervor that she lived until the end of her life.
Christ taught Mother M. Clara what was hers to do in her life. We are grateful that God has raised up her saintly life for us today. We are blessed to have such a Foundress of our congregation.