Franciscan Missionaries of Mary

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Franciscan Missionaries of Mary
Blessed Mary of the Passion, founderess of the congregation
TypeRoman Catholic religious order
  • Rome, Italy
Superior general
Sr. Françoise Massy, F.M.M.
Key people
Hélène de Chappotin (Sister Mary of the Passion, F.M.M.), foundress
5474 (2017)

The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary are a Roman Catholic religious institute founded by Mother Mary of the Passion (born Hélène de Chappotin de Neuville, 1839–1904) at Ootacamund, then British India, in 1877. The Missionaries form an international religious congregation of women representing 79 nationalities spread over 74 countries on five continents.


Mother Mary of the Passion, a novice of the Sisters of Mary Reparatrix, a congregation dedicated to the training of women in the spirit of St. Ignatius of Loyola, had been sent in 1865 from France to the Apostolic Vicariate of Madurai in British India, which was under the administration of the Society of Jesus. They had been requested to help train a native congregation of religious sisters. After her religious profession the following year, she was appointed the Provincial Superior of the houses of the congregation in that country.[1]

A dissension in the ecclesiastical Province which Mother Mary had previously worked to resolve arose again. As a result, 20 of the Sisters left the congregation, including Mother Mary. They gathered in a convent in Ootacamund, which Mother Mary had recently founded. They formed a new community there under the authority of the local Vicar Apostolic.[1]

These women resolved to form a new congregation, and Mother Mary traveled to Rome that November to seek permission for this from the Holy See. She obtained this from Pope Pius IX on 6 January 1877, under the name of Missionaries of Mary.[1] Unlike the instruction focus of the Sisters of Mary Reparatrix, the Missionaries would carry out a ministry of providing medical care to the women of India who were unable to receive it from male doctors, due to the practice of purdah, which strictly segregated them from contact with men. Mother Mary had seen the consequences and felt called to deal with the situation. As women themselves, they would have access to the parts of the home restricted to females.

The Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda Fide, which supervised all Church activities in non-Catholic territories, suggested to her that she open a novitiate in her native France, to train recruits for the new congregation. In keeping with this, one was opened in Saint-Brieuc, and new vocations to the Missionaries came quickly.[1]

Mother Mary had to return to Rome in 1880 to resolve issues about the new foundation. She had to make yet another voyage there in June 1882. This one was to be a turning point in the identity of the Missionaries. Firstly, they were granted permission to open a house in Rome itself. Secondly, Mother Mary came into contact with Bernardino of Portogruaro, the Minister General of the Franciscan friars. Under his guidance, on 4 October that year (the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi), she was admitted to the Third Order of St. Francis, which was a return to the Franciscan vocation to which she had felt called when she was briefly a candidate in a monastery of the Poor Clares early in her life. The new congregation formally adopted the Rule of the Franciscan Third Order Regular on 15 August 1885. At that time they took the name of Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.[1]


Chapel St. Joan of Arc, mother house in Paris.

The work of the Franciscan Missionaries quickly spread to other countries, including China. It was there, in 1900, that 7 Franciscan Missionaries of Mary were murdered during the Boxer Rebellion, in which missionaries throughout that country were killed. These Sisters were canonized in A.D. 2000 as among the Martyrs of China.[1]

By the time of Mother Mary of the Passion's death in 1904, there were 88 communities serving in 24 countries around the globe, serving a variety of services for women and children.[1] There was a mission at Fantome Island, near Palm Island, Queensland as well as a leprosarium.

United States[edit]

In November 1903, seven sisters from Canada, Ireland and France arrived in Worcester, Massachusetts, in response to a request for sisters to minister among the many immigrant families from Canada. The following year, Bishop Matthew Harkins of the Diocese of Providence invited them to come to Woonsocket to serve families who worked in the mills.[2]

In 1937 the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary assumed responsibility for the McMahon Memorial Temporary Shelter, where children forcibly removed from homes would be housed until more permanent situations could be found. This has now become McMahon Services for Children[3] St. Francis Hospital in Flower Hill, New York, the only specialized cardiac care facility in New York, was founded by them in 1922.[4] In Boston, Massachusetts, the Franciscan Missionaries accepted responsibility for the pediatric hospital founded in 1949 by Cardinal Richard Cushing, funded by Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., and his wife Rose. It is now known as Franciscan Children's.[5]

Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Kindergarten School in [[Montreal]] in 1943
Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Kindergarten School in Montreal in 1943

Current status[edit]

As of 2017, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary formed the fifth largest religious institute for women in the Catholic Church, with 5,474 members serving in 74 countries.[6] Medical care centers have been opened worldwide.




  1. ^ a b c d e f g "A Path in the Spirit". Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
  2. ^ Higgins FMM, Rosemarie. "The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary", Rhode Island Catholic, September 17, 2015
  3. ^ "History of McMahon Child Care". McMahon Services for Children. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
  4. ^ "About us". St. Francis Heart Center. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
  5. ^ "About us: History". Franciscan Hospital for Children. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  6. ^ "Statistics", FMM Institute

External links[edit]