Sr Mary Alfred Maria Catherine “Mother Alfred” Moes

Sr Mary Alfred Maria Catherine “Mother Alfred” Moes

Remich, Canton de Remich, Grevenmacher, Luxembourg
Death 18 Dec 1899 (aged 71)
Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, USA
Burial Rochester, Olmsted County, Minnesota, USA
Plot Sec 20 Lot 6 1W Area A
Memorial ID 55319085 · View Source
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Mother Mary Alfred Moes (October 28, 1828– December 18, 1899) was instrumental in establishing the Sisters of Saint Francis of Rochester, Minnesota and in founding St. Mary's Hospital, Rochester, Minnesota.
Born as Maria Catherine Moes in Remich, Luxembourg, she emigrated to Illinois, where she founded the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate in Joliet, and she later settled in Minnesota. Following the 1883 Rochester tornado, which devastated the young city of Rochester, she proposed to Doctor William Worrall Mayo that her group of nuns would operate a hospital for the injured and sick if he and his sons would serve as its physicians. Today that hospital is a part of the Mayo Clinic.

Mother Alfred (Maria Catherine) Moes

If you have the opportunity to visit Remich, Luxembourg, take notice of the Church of St. Stephen. It was here that Maria Catherine, the youngest of ten children born to Gerard and Anna Marie Botzem Moes was baptized on the day she was born, October 28, 1828. Then, as now, you will meet townspeople who remember the Moes family, renowned for wrought ironworks and grape vineyards besides being leader of the city and protectors of the castle.

On one occasion, Bishop John Martin Henni from Milwaukee, Wisconsin preached of the great need for teachers in the United States, especially among the Native Americans. The Moes sisters, Maria Catherine and Catherine, were greatly inspired by Bishop Henni's plea. On September 27, 1851, they left behind a prosperous life and family in Luxembourg and set sail from LeHavre, France for New York City. The sisters were well educated both at home and at the convent school. Besides their unwritten Luxembourg language, they spoke and studied in French, German and English. Their knowledge of mathematics, music, art and architecture would serve them well as pioneers in their chosen land.

Josephine Moes, who with her sister Catherine left her home in Luxemburg about 1850 and came to America to help teach the American Indians. Traveling into the Middle West, the sisters at first worked alone, but soon recognized the need of organized assistance if their mission was to be successful. Preparatory to founding a religious con- gregation,theyenteredthenovitiateoftheHolyCrossSistersatNotreDame, Indiana. There followed a brief period in another Indiana community, and then the former Josephine Moes, now Mother Alfred, founded a new community of Sisters of Saint Francis in Joliet, Ilinois. The community grew in numbers and staffed many schools. In 1877, Mother Alfred led a group of her SisterstobeginsomenewmissionsinMinnesota.

From 1852 – 1863, the Moes sisters traveled in Wisconsin, eventually living with the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Milwaukee, then with the Marianites of the Holy Cross, South Bend, Indiana, where they were professed as Sister Alfred and Sister Barbara. When given the option to move on from Holy Cross, Sisters Alfred and Barbara Moes, Bernard Peacard and Alberta Stockhoff were accepted into the Franciscan Third Order Regular on June 1, 1863.

A few months later on November 4, 1863, Sister Alfred and her companions began teaching in St. John the Baptist School in Joliet, Illinois at the invitation of the pastor, Reverend Carl Kuemin, a diocesan priest from Chicago. They were the first Franciscan Sisters in the state of Illinois.

When lightning struck St. John the Baptist Church and killed Philomena Hartmann on July 31, 1864, John Hartmann turned to the new Sisters to raise his children. Care of orphans began as a very unexpected ministry for Mother Alfred and her Sisters – a ministry of care for children and women that continues still today. With very little living space, Mother Alfred and her pioneer group managed to care for the children, take in boarding students and begin training girls to become Sisters. The original rented house still stands in Joliet behind St. John the Baptist Church.

By March of 1864, Mother Alfred and her Sisters purchased a slightly larger house on Division Street in Joliet. Eventually this house would become St. Francis Academy, and then later the first St. Joseph Hospital under the auspices of the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Father Pamfilo da Magliano, a Franciscan Friar, called Mother Alfred and her first postulant to St. Bonaventure, in Allegany, New York. There on August 2, 1865, the Feast of Our Lady of Angels, (Portiuncula) he named Mother Alfred Moes as the first General Superior of the new congregation, the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate, in Joliet, Illinois. On that same day, Mary Ann Rosenberger, the first postulant, became Sister Angela. Sister Angela would eventually become Mother Angela in 1893.

Mother Alfred and her Sisters continued caring for the orphans and teaching the girls at St. John School. On October 2, 1869, St. Francis Academy opened, which attracted girls from age three through 20 from across the United States. Mother Alfred was willing to send Sisters wherever the need arose. Many pastors were begging especially for Sisters to teach in languages such as German, French, Czech, Slovak and Polish. Sister John Rooney was set to open the first Slovak Catholic School in Streator, Illinois. Within the eleven years of Mother Alfred's administration, she sent Sisters to 36 different locations: 17 in Illinois, 10 in Ohio, 5 in Missouri, 2 in Tennessee and 2 in Wisconsin.

Two well-known adventures of Mother Alfred include her visit in person to aid the victims of the Great Chicago fire in October 1871. The second took place in October 1873, when she traveled to Memphis, Tennessee at the time of the yellow fever epidemic. Mother Alfred arrived too late as the lives of two Sisters had already been claimed through the epidemic.

Mother Alfred's educational endeavors met with great success. She had planned an extensive new St. Francis Academy located in Joliet where Nowell Park is today. Bishop Foley did not approve of the plans and ordered the Sisters to vote for a new General Superior. Sister Alberta Stockhoff, an original companion of Mother Alfred, filled the office for one year. Mother Alberta commissioned Mother Alfred to build the Academy of Our Lady of Lourdes in Rochester, Minnesota, at the request of Bishop Grace. Shortly after this Academy opened Bishop Foley separated Mother Alfred from the Joliet Congregation. He also had Mother Francis Shanahan, the General Superior inform the Sisters of the separation. Within ten days, the Sisters had to decide whether to remain with the Joliet Congregation or join the new community in Rochester. Ninety-two Sisters continued as Joliet Franciscans; twenty-five became the nucleus of Mother Alfred's new foundation in Rochester.

Our Lady of Lourdes Academy and several other schools under Mother Alfred's direction were flourishing in Minnesota when on August 21, 1883, a tornado ravished the area. Mother Alfred and her Sisters opened their schools to the victims. After this experience, Mother Alfred recognized the great need for a hospital. She petitioned Dr. Mayo to plan and staff a hospital at the expense of the Sisters. Within a few years on September 30, 1889, Mother Alfred opened St. Mary Hospital, Rochester, Minnesota, which eventually became the renowned Mayo Clinic.


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Dave Weiss
  • Added: 22 Jul 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 55319085
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Sr Mary Alfred Maria Catherine “Mother Alfred” Moes (28 Oct 1828–18 Dec 1899), Find A Grave Memorial no. 55319085, citing Calvary Cemetery, Rochester, Olmsted County, Minnesota, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave (contributor 8) .