The Activities of the Congregation of the School Sistersof the Order of St. Francis of Assisi of Christ the Kingin the U.S.A
The beginning in 1909 of the activity of sisters of Maribor's St. Francis of Assisi congregation in the USA marked a new era in education of children of Slovene and Croatian immigrants. The instruction was taken over by women-teachers. The instruction was in English with a few hours per week in the Slovene and Croatian languages, which was very important from the aspect of preservation of religious and national identity and a gradual adaptation of children to the American way of life. The archival materials of the St. Francis of Assisi congregation which I used in the study are kept in the Maribor bishopric archives.
The second half of the 19th century saw a more massive influx of Slovene immigrants into the US. The Catholics to America, too, and continued its work there by establishing Slovene parishes.
The great majority of Slovene immigrants wanted for their children to preserve their religion and their mother tongue. The biggest problem was the shortage of qualified teaching staff. In that respect were similarities between Slovene and Croatian Schools.
In 1909 the priest of the Croatian parish of St. John the Baptist in Kansas City, Kansas, asked for assistance the Maribor Congregation of the School Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi The sisters responded favorably and began with their work that same year in Kansas City, Kansas. The following year they spread their activities to the parochial school in the Slovene parish of The Holy Family in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1912 to the Croatian parish of the Mother of God in Joliet, Illinois, and in 1915 to the parochial school in the Croatian parish of the Holy Heart of Jesus in South Chicago, Illinois. This last they did in spite of the difficult war times. The Maribor diocesan ordinary did not grant just any application for work in parochial schools in the US. Its primary concern was that the sisters should retain the good reputation that they had acquired back home and keep up the high standards of work also in the U.S. This was perhaps the reason why in 1909 they were not allowed to teach in the Slovene parish in Waukegan, Illinois. The exact however, remain to be further explored. In 1914, too, the ordinary did not give its permission for The School Sisters to teach in the Slovene parish in Springfield, Illinois. The likely reason in this case was the fact that Franciscus Saloven, the priest in Springfield had been prosecuted by the Levantine diocese law prior to his departure for the U.S.
The procedure of sending the Sisters to the US was as follows they first had to sign contracts with individual priests and then obtain the permission from the Maribor bishop and the Austrian Consul General. This was often a very time-consuming procedure, especially when all parties involved could not reach an agreement. World War I prevented all but one of the sister’s departures to the US. The one exception was their departure for Chicago, Illinois. In 1922 the School Sisters of St. Francis the US established the North American Province. Since then their organization flourished. In 1927 it had as many as 52 orders with over 500 Sisters.
The activities of the School Sisters among Slovene and Croatian immigrants in the US Were not limited to parochial schools only. They were also very successful agricultural schools, and in novitiates.