History of Marianist Sisters

Web banner 1

A brief history of the Marianist Sisters

Mother Adèle

The Marianist Sisters were established in the wake of the French Revolution, a time of violence and intense societal upheaval when the Catholic Church was battered and sorely disrupted.

Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon was born into an aristocratic family in 1789, the very year the revolution began. Young Adèle spent part of her young life in exile in Spain and Portugal, having fled with her family in fear for their lives. The family was able to return to Trenquelléon in 1801.

Adèle felt called to religious life at an early age, and through a fortuitous series of circumstances, she came into contact with Fr. William Joseph Chaminade when she was just 19. Adèle and Chaminade were kindred spirits, both dedicated to the mission of Mary in bringing others to Christ.

The Castle of Trenquelléon, birthplace of Adèle.

The Castle of Trenquelléon, birthplace of Adèle.

With the support of Fr. Chaminade, and in the company of a small group of women, Adèle established the Filles de Marie Immaculée – the Daughters of Mary Immaculate – on May 25, 1816, in Agen.

The work of the sisters continued the ministries Adèle had begun as a young teen: aiding the poor, tending the sick, and providing basic education and religious instruction. Over the decades, the Filles grew in number and spread to Spain and Italy, and eventually, across oceans.

Mother Adèle died in 1828, at the young age of 38. She was named “venerable” by Pope John Paul II in 1986.

The Marianist Sisters came to the United States in 1948, when three Spanish sisters arrived in Dayton, Ohio, to study English and the American education system. They were welcomed by Marianist brothers and priests, who put them in contact with young women who wished to enter the order.

In 1949, two of the visiting sisters continued to Japan according to their original plans, while the third accompanied three American women to France, where they made their novitiate.

Sr. Estella Ibarra with first graders at St. James School in San Antonio in 1966. Sr. Estella currently serves in provincial administration for the Marianist Sisters.

Sr. Estella Ibarra, FMI, with first graders at St. James School in San Antonio in 1966.

Later that same year, three Spanish Marianist Sisters arrived in Somerset, Texas, to operate a school at St. Mary’s Mission Church. By 1952, the sisters opened a second school in Devine, Texas.

In 1957, a third school, St. James in San Antonio, was put under their direction. They staffed St. James School until 1979, and operated Our Lady of the Pillar Retreat Center from 1958-1995.

Over the decades, Marianist Sisters often have served alongside members of the Society of Mary – Marianist brothers and priests.

These two religious communities share the bond of a common Marianist charism; the charism of Adèle and Chaminade.

Among many other ministries, the Marianist Sisters have had long connections with St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and the University of Dayton in Ohio, both Marianist schools. They have served as teachers, campus ministers, residence hall directors and board members.

Today, Marianist Sisters minister in 14 countries across the globe. They serve in education, pastoral ministry, retreat leadership and social justice.

Learn more about the Marianist Sisters.

See an infographic about the Marianist Family.