In every age there can be found persons whose hearts yearn for life in God, and from among these the Holy Spirit calls noble, generous souls to do His work. One of the great religious women who founded a modern congregation was Mother Maria Thereisa Bonzel, foundress of the Poor Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration. Fascinated and drawn to the ideals of St. Francis of Assisi, she and her first nine sisters cared for the needs of poor and neglected children and those without means in need of healthcare. As with Francis, Mother Maria Theresia wanted a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, especially in the Eucharist, to be the strength and support for the apostolic works undertaken.
A widespread anti-clerical reaction in Germany early in the 1870's restricted their work and the reception of new candidates. Undaunted, Mother Maria Theresia accepted the invitation of Bishop Joseph Dwenger to establish a convent within his diocese of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Six pioneer sisters arrived at Lafayette in 1875. Within weeks a temporary hospital was organized and the poor and sick of the area began receiving the healing ministry of the Sisters of St. Francis. In 1876, St. Elizabeth Hospital was dedicated. A section of this building was occupied by the St. Francis Convent. From here, the community grew rapidly, with the founding of many hospitals, schools, orphanages, homes for the aged and homes for social work.
In 1886, the size of the congregation and the large number of houses in the United States and Germany where anti-clerical reaction has since subsided, necessitated the division into two provinces; the German Province with the Motherhouse in Olpe, Germany and the American Province with its Provincialate in Lafayette, Indiana.
Mother Maria Theresia died in 1905 leaving a work richly blessed by God and a well-established congregation to her successors.
In 1931 the status of the congregation was raised from a diocesan to a papal community as it was placed under the guidance of the Holy See. Also at this time, the Sisters of the United States were formed into two provinces: the Eastern or Immaculate Heart of Mary Province which is now centered at Mishawaka, Indiana and the Western or St. Joseph Province now centered at Colorado Springs, Colorado.
In 1962 the Eastern Province opened it first foreign mission at Baybay on the island of Leyte in the Philippines. The mission became a region in 1976, and it was established as the Immaculate Conception Province in 1993. That same year the German provinces combined into one, St. Elizabeth of Hungary Province.
The Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration still strive in their various ministries to combine the contemplative life with the active, in perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and in selfless service to others in works of mercy. The Sisters endeavor to live in a Franciscan spirit of humility, joy and compassionate love for all.