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As professed religious of the greater Franciscan Family, we rejoice that in the 19th century Elizabeth Hayes firmly planted our roots in Franciscan spirituality, mission, history and literature.  In her spirit, we strive to live according to the Rule and Life of the Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St Francis of Assisi .  Elizabeth Hayes (1823-94) is an interesting woman of talented forebears who through love of reading, culture and journeys sought to serve her God through outreach to others.

  Passport Photo of Foundress

In her early twenties after the death of both her parents Elizabeth went to England and there became a teacher.  In turn she embraced the Oxford Movement, the pioneer Wantage Anglican sisterhood, Catholicism in 1856 and then the Franciscan movement when a neo-monastic revival found enthusiasts in both Catholic and Anglican churches.  

The community she joined was led by Mother Elizabeth Lockhart in Greenwich, yet after having received the habit from Henry Edward (later Cardinal) Manning in Bayswater, London, she went to make her novitiate with the Glasgow Franciscans of the Immaculate Conception, a group who trace their roots back to the French Grey Sisters and to the 14th century Franciscan, Angela of Foligno.  

At her profession Elizabeth took a fourth vow to serve the foreign missions.  This vow together with her background in education were strong influences on the direction she gave to her own foundation.  Elizabeth ’s desire for mission in foreign places fired her with a courageous determination and she went to Jamaica after her profession but she was disillusioned by having to teach daughters of the rich when her dream was to work with the poor.  She felt called to something quite different and obtained permission to leave and begin the search for God’s will once again.  

Elizabeth spent years seeking the path she was to follow…searching for her dream…years that called for extraordinary faith and courage.  She had a bold and broad vision yet her capacity to mingle comfortably with key religious and literary figures of the period in England , Paris , Rome and North America set her apart. Finally, she laid the foundations of our Institute in Belle Prairie, Minnesota in 1872.  Here she began her first school in 1873 and the next year published the first Franciscan journal in English, the Annals of Our Lady of the Angels.  Elizabeth took numerous trans-Atlantic crossings in her stride and her zeal for the accomplishment of the reign of God was supported by hard work and fearless activity.  She held fast to her call to be a missionary and she fulfilled that as foundress, educationalist and pioneer journalist.  

Since that time our Sisters have left their footprints on many countries serving in her spirit.  

(A more detailed History of the Institute is available on