Month: January 2016

Big Sisters and Little Sisters


          Who are the purple-robed Sisters who live across the street from the church?

          Over the years, the convent at 1001 South 47th street has been home to several different religious orders with different ministries. The Assumption Religious arrived in 1999 (having lived on 49th St since 1978). They were known initially in the parish as the “Big Sisters of the Assumption” for disambiguation, since their convent was formerly occupied by their ‘cousins’ the  Little Sisters of the Assumption, who are a nursing order.

          Founded by Mother Marie Eugenie in Paris, France, in 1839, the Assumption Religious are an international contemplative and apostolic order, with a goal of transforming society through education. Their mission found a great following from the beginning: communities grew and quickly spread throughout Europe; and then to the Americas, Asia, and Africa. Today, Assumption Religious are active in 35 countries. Other United States communities are in Lansdale; Worcester, MA; and Chaparral, NM.

          The Assumption Religious have a long history in Philadelphia! When the Sisters arrived in America from France in 1919, their first ministry was Ravenhill Academy boarding school for girls in East Falls – most famously attended by Grace Kelly (actress, and later Princess Grace of Monaco). Former Philippine president Corazon Aquino also attended in the 1940s – when our beloved late Sister Francis Joseph was teaching there as a layperson, before she joined the order. The school closed in 1977 and the Ravenhill Mansion  currently houses administrative offices for Philadelphia University.

         Today, our local Sisters come from France, Ecuador, the Philippines, and the United States; and are active in the Parish as well as on the Penn campus. They teach at the Hispanic Bible Institute and provide sacramental preparation for the Hispanic community at the Cathedral. A sister is The Director for Evangelization with the Filipino Apostolate of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and at Our Lady of Hope Parish in North Philadelphia. The international character of the community makes them well-suited to work with the many immigrant groups in the Archdiocese.

          At de Sales, they participate in the pastoral council, the choir, and engage in many other activities associated with our parish such as the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, Taize prayer, a young adults group and a book club. The Parish Crafts Ministry meets at their convent  at 1:00 pm the 2nd and 4th Wednesday, each month and anyone who knits or crochets is invited to make items for the needy. With the laity, they arrange study groups and retreats.

          If you would be interested in finding out about  Scripture study groups, and other related activities, contact the Sisters at (215) 386-5016 or email 



Saint Francis de Sales United in the Most Blessed Sacrament is a Catholic Church located at 47th St. and Springfield Avenue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, not too far from the University of the Sciences and the University of Pennsylvania. Founded in 1890, the parish initially served Irish and German immigrants who were settling in Southwest Philadelphia.. The church building was constructed between 1907 and 1911. Today, its  Byzantine-Romanesque architecture and imposing polychrome Guastavino dome are a local landmark and an anchor in a diverse and vibrant historic neighborhood.

The people who built the church, long ago, also built the community around it. These are some of their stories and the stories of the people who came after them. Hope you enjoy them!