On 2 May 1871 when Alice Ingham, a 41 year old Lancashire woman, her stepmother, Elizabeth and two friends began living a simple Franciscan community life together, they could not have envisaged how far that dream would spread nor the more than 800 sisters who would continue to follow their vision up to the present day. In Franciscan simplicity and apostolic zeal, they worked for the poor, ignorant, sick and dying in the mill town of Rochdale. They earned their living and the resources with which to help the poor, by means of a Millinery and Confectionary shop on the ground floor of their house on Yorkshire Street, Rochdale.

Our Foundress’ spirituality was lived out in very pragmatic ways. God was found in the common place, in her loving concern for the practical details of life. Love and compassion were demonstrated in caring for the needs of the children, in doing the laundry for the poor and in prayerfully supporting her sisters as they adjusted to their new mission life in Borneo.

Her saying “Courage, confidence and love and all will come right” guided the sisters at the turn of the twentieth century. It still guides us today as we reflect on her life:

  • Courage learned in the fire of suffering, embracing the cross of Christ, strengthened daily through daily prayer and attendance at Mass;
  • Confidence in the presence of God who is always leading and in St. Joseph, Our Blessed Lady and St Francis, all great troubadours of the faith and models of fidelity;
  • Love rooted in the love of Christ and given and shared freely with her sisters and the poorest of the poor in simplicity and mutual charity.

Listen to Mr. John Welsh read a poem, Alice Ingham 1830-1890, about our Foundress by Sister Maureen Maguire, FMSJ on YouTube at: