How did we begin?
Sister Marta Silna and Sister Theresa Gottvald began their religious life as
Mercy Sisters of St. Francis in Brno, Czechoslovakia. Both Sisters worked as registered nurses in hospitals when their country was still free. They then worked under Nazi rule, during World War II, and later after the war, under the communistic regime in their country. Their Motherhouse was confiscated by the communists and used for government purposes. In 1950, Sister Marta and Sister Theresa fled their country because of religious suppression. They escaped with the help of the people involved in the underground. They took refuge in Austria and worked as nurses in a hospital in Innsbruck.
In the meantime, Bishop Louis B. Kucera of Lincoln, Nebraska, was facing a staffing crisis at St. Thomas Orphanage. He learned from Father Jan Smutny, a Czech refugee priest, that Sister Marta and Sister Theresa were in Austria, so he contacted them and made arrangements for them to come to the Lincoln Diocese.
However, the sisters experienced emigration problems. Sister Marta had
received a visa for Canada, but Sister Theresa had been denied. They searched for a way not to be separated, but in October 1951, Sister Marta was informed she had to leave for Canada immediately, which she did. Later, Sister Theresa, who was still working in the hospital in Innsbruck,
received a visa to emigrate to the United States. After many difficulties,
Sister Theresa finally arrived in Nebraska on November 13, 1952. She began working at the orphanage immediately. Sister Marta was informed that she could join Sister Theresa only after spending two years in Canada. Finally, Sister Marta joined Sister Theresa on December 18, 1953. After having been apart for over two years, the sisters were glad to be together again and greatly enjoyed their work at the orphanage.
Soon, the beginning of a new community was authorized by Bishop Kucera. February 15, 1954, saw the official beginning of the American community. Over the years, several changes were made in the direction of the young community. At first, the young women who joined the community took care of the children at the orphanage. Later, they were asked to begin training for the teaching apostolate. In 1963, the orphanage was closed,
and the sisters moved to a newly-built Motherhouse outside of Lincoln, at the Catholic Center near Waverly. The sisters established mission houses in three other Southern Nebraska towns.
In 1958, the original black habit was exchanged for a simpler gray habit with a black veil. Six years later, this was modified to a practical street-length gray habit and veil. In 1961, the title of Mercy Sisters of St. Francis was changed to the Marian Sisters of the Diocese of Lincoln by Bishop James V. Casey. At that time, new Constitutions were written according to revised Canon Law.
The leadership of the community has been passed on over the years. Sister Theresa and Sister Marta served separate terms as Major Superior of the community from 1954 to 1970, and then entrusted the leadership to new members.
The Marian Sisters continue to live their Franciscan heritage. They follow the rule of St. Francis of Assisi. Being Marian Sisters, they also have Mary, our Blessed Mother, as a beautiful example and role model. The Assumption, August 15th, is celebrated as the community feast day. From
these two channels of grace our community charism is derived: To do
God's will joyfully in imitation of Mary and St. Francis.