Foundress and early beginnings
Alice Ingham, the Foundress of the Franciscan Missionaries of St. Joseph, was born on the 8th March 1830 in Rochdale, Lancashire, England. Her mother, Margaret, died in 1842 and later her father, George, married her step-mother, Elizabeth, who was a great support to Alice as she discerned God’s will for her life.
In 1861 Alice became a member of the Secular Third Order under the spiritual guidance of Fr. Gomair Peteers, O.S.F. He directed her and a small group of women who began living a simple community life together in the Diocese of Salford. Unfortunately, the first Bishop of Salford died before the decision to become a religious Congregation could be made and Herbert Vaughan, priest founder of the St. Joseph’s Society for the Foreign Missions, was appointed the new Bishop of Salford. In 1878 he invited Alice “To be to the priests of St. Joseph’s Society what the holy women of the gospels were to the Apostles”.
On the 8th September 1883 Alice, now Mother Francis, and eleven of her companions all professed members of the Franciscan Third Order, made Religious Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. They became Sisters of St. Joseph’s Society, Associates of Mill Hill.
In 1885 five Sisters went to South East Asia to join St. Joseph’s Missionaries in the new mission of North Borneo and Sarawak. On leaving those countries, by then Malaysian States, ninety-three years later they left flourishing local Congregations of Sisters to serve the Church.
In 1886 Bishop Vaughan requested Sisters for his newly established “Rescue Society” in Salford, to care for abandoned children in risk of losing the faith.
These main branches of the Congregation were established within three years of the official foundation and continue to date except for the college management that has been superseded by the care of the Elderly.
In 1888 Mother Francis returned to the North of England, to Blackburn where she died in August 1890 at the age of 60 years. Her remains were taken to Mill Hill, London for burial, at the express wish of Cardinal Vaughan.
The first community was sent to Holland in 1891 and in 1906 the Sisters began work in Ireland. Through the Mill Hill Connection the international character of the Congregation became established, Dutch, German/Tyrolese candidates joined the English, Scottish and Irish members.
In 1925 the Congregation obtained Aggregation to the 1st and 2nd Order Franciscans and our title was changed to Franciscan Missionaries of St. Joseph. The Decree of Approval as a Pontifical Congregation in 1929 meant separation from the Mill Hill Society. The sisters have continued to work closely with the Mill Hill Fathers throughout our history.