Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters of the Immaculate Conception

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A visitor (center) meets with some Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters in Los Banos, California, who are all nurses (white habits) except for one (grey habit).

The Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters of the Immaculate Conception are members of a Roman Catholic religious institute of consecrated women, which was founded in Portugal in 1871. They follow the Rule of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis.[1] and, as the term “hospitaller” indicates, focus their ministries on a spirit of medical care. Their charism emphasizes both hospitality and service under the model of the Good Samaritan.[2][3] In this congregation, the postnominal initials used after each Sister's name is F.H.I.C.[4]

The Sisters’ mission, as expressed by their foundress, Mother Maria Clara, is simply “to do good where good needs to be done.” These words have paved the way for a large variety of apostolates including, but not limited to, education, catechesis, healthcare, pastoral work, assisting the elderly, missionary work, running orphanages, assisting immigrants, and assisting the homeless. The local needs where each convent is located oftentimes determine the apostolates of the sisters who live there, although generally each sister is also able to choose her preferred field of ministry to carry out. Ordinarily the habits that the sisters wear are grey, but those sisters working in the healthcare field don white habits while they are working. The daily prayer life of the sisters in this order consists of Mass, an hour of Eucharistic adoration, Liturgy of the Hours, and the rosary.[2][5]


On June 15, 1843 Libânia do Carmo Galvão Mexia de Moura Telles e Albuquerque was born in Amadora, Portugal. This third child of seven in a noble and devout Christian family had a very happy childhood until 1856 and 1857 when she suddenly lost both her parents to a cholera and yellow fever epidemic. At age 14 she entering a boarding school for orphaned nobility until the Daughters of Charity who taught her were expelled from Portugal in 1882 due to the anticlerical laws then passed.

For five years Telles e Albuquerque then lived in the palace of the Marquis of Valada. In 1869 at the age of 26, she entered religious life as a Capuchin nun, receiving the name Sister Maria Clara of the Infant Jesus. She soon desired to form a new community that would serve the people of Portugal who were wounded in a time of political unrest. Supported by Fr. Raimundo dos Anjos Beirão, she traveled to Calais, France, for her novitiate formation under the Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters of that city, preparing to found a new community after her novitiate has been completed. After professing her vows in France on April 14, 1871, she founded the first house of her new community, called the Congregation of the Hospitaller Sisters of the Poor for the Love of God, in Lisbon on May 3, 1871. Only five years later, on March 27, 1876, the congregation was approved by Pope Pius IX.

Despite many trials, the new religious institute continued to grow rapidly with more and more convents being established. The large number of sick, poor, and orphaned people found relief in the houses which the Sisters opened to shelter and care for them. In 1886 the Sisters expanded their service to the Portuguese colony of Goa, now part of India.

On December 1, 1899, Mother Maria Clara completed her life of service. She now rests in the crypt of the chapel of the general motherhouse in Lisbon, where many people still come to pray and ask her intercession. She was beatified on May 21, 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI, and her canonization process continues today. [3][6][7][8][9][10]


This international congregation is now represented in fifteen countries across the globe.

United States[edit]

In the United States, the sisters are located only in the state of California, residing in the Dioceses of San Jose, Fresno, and Monterey. The Hospitaller Sisters first came to the United States in 1960 in order to aid Portuguese immigrants. These sisters originally ran and taught in schools, but more recently their education and catechesis work has come to consist of teaching RCIA and Faith Formation, or CCD. The majority of the California sisters now are involved in healthcare. In Los Banos, where eleven sisters now live, the sisters run a non-profit house of residential care and skilled nursing for the elderly. This facility, called New Bethany, after the village of Bethany that Jesus stayed in, was opened in 1999. From that time to the present day the sisters attend to not only their patient's physical needs, but their spiritual needs as well through frequent public prayer and liturgy. The sisters in all three California houses also visit the sick and bring them Holy Communion. The United States province is currently the smallest out of the fifteen CONFHIC provinces worldwide, but has recently seen a renewed interest in their lifestyle amongst young women who are discerning a religious vocation. The convent in San Jose is designated as the house of formation for American vocations. [11][12][13]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Ream, David and Thérèse. "Altius moderamen" (PDF). The National Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order - USA. National Formation Commission. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Province Of Our Lady Of The Mount. Mumbai Bandra , India". Congregation of the Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. pdjsofttech. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  3. ^ a b CONFHIC (1999). A Gift and Prophecy. Lisbon, Portugal: Gráfica de Coimbra, Lda. 
  4. ^ Stanley, Bob. "Have You Ever Wondered What the Letters After the Names of Religious Indicate?". The Catholic Treasure Chest. Bob Stanley. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  5. ^ "Congregation of the Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters of the Immaculate Conception". Terra das Ideirs. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  6. ^ Sadan, Assisi. "FRANCISCAN HOSPITALLER SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION". Diocese of Cochin. Diocese of Cochin. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  8. ^ "Pope Encourages Portuguese Hospitaller Sisters". Zenit: The World Seen From Rome. Innovative Media Inc. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  9. ^ "Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (F.H.S.I.C.)". Goan Churches. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  10. ^ "Congregation Founder". Mount Mary Convent High School. Intellinects Ventures. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  11. ^ "Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters (FHIC)". The Valley Catholic. Valley Catholic Online. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  12. ^ New Bethany: Residential Care and Skilled Nursing Community. CONFHIC. pp. 1–5. 
  13. ^ Spaeth, Paul J. "Franciscan Third Order Regular Sisterhoods: Sisterhoods with a Primary Site in the United States". The Franciscan Institute Library. St. Bonaventure University. Retrieved 19 February 2014.