Our Franciscan roots began with Alice herself and her early companions, all of whom were members of the Franciscan Secular Third Order. Alice’s spiritual director was Father Gomair Peeters OSF, a Belgian Friar, who arrived in St Francis’ parish, Gorton, Manchester in 1865. The date of Alice’s first meeting with Fr Gomair is unknown but we do have the first extant letter which he wrote to Alice, dated 8th October 1871. It is obvious from this letter that the correspondence between them had begun long before that date. He was her spiritual director, friend and supporter over the years until his unexpected death in December 1878.
We are fortunate in having many of Fr Gomair’s letters to Alice. Through them comes his obvious support and concern for Alice together with the conviction that she was being called to a new ‘work’ as he encourages her to place it under the protection of St. Joseph and our great Patriarch St. Francis. Alice was admitted to the Third Order of St. Francis at Gorton and was professed by Fr Gomair who later, in October 1874, received her private vow of chastity. After the death of Fr Gomair in 1878, Alice continued under the direction of Father Polycarp OSF at Gorton from where he wrote to her on 1st April 1880:
I am very glad to hear that you and the other Sisters received the Religious habit. I wish you every blessing and I will pray that the Seraphic tree, which you and the late Father Gomair planted in a humble place at Rochdale, and is now transplanted into a more fertile soil, may continue to grow and flourish. May it spread its branches in different directions and produce abundance of fruits in the vineyards of the Lord.
Our Franciscan identity continues today in the 21st century as we try to live the ideals of the Franciscan Rule.