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Our U.S. History

Our U.S. History

Celebrating 150 Years of Grace Upon Grace

The Adorers were founded in Italy in 1834 by St. Maria de Mattias. Nearly 40 years later, in 1870, a group of Adorers came to the United States. In 2020, we are celebrating the rich history of 150 years since our founding in the United States. We are remembering the lives of those women on whose shoulders we stand and the gift they have been to those they served.

We are sharing the story of who we were, who we are, and the women who brought us here. Learn the stories of the women who came before us, share their experiences, and tell the history of our establishment as the U.S. Region.

Our History: Who We Were

Sisters pose before leaving for America in 1870.

In February 1870, a group of nine sisters from Germany traveled 12 days aboard the S.S. Hammonia, a French steamer. Anti-Catholic fervor forced sisters in Gurtweil, Germany into exile and a new home in the United States. American bishops offered opportunities for them to minister to newly arrived German immigrants.

From New York, they headed to Cincinnati, then traveled the Ohio River to present-day Piopolis (Belle Prairie), Illinois, arriving on February 28. Three other groups followed and by 1873, 79 sisters would establish the charism and mission of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ in this country. 

Mother Clementine Zerr, now considered the American foundress, led the last group of 46 sisters who arrived in St. Louis, Missouri on September 14, 1873. A ministry at St. Agatha’s parish in St. Louis awaited, but an overcrowded parish convent persuaded them to push on to Belle Prairie/Piopolis, Illinois.

S. Clementine Zerr and
S. Paulina Schneeberger

Framed against a background of demands from local bishops and priests who wanted to control the sisters, Clementine and a dozen followers broke from the sisters of O’Fallon, Missouri over their loyalty to the Italian Adorers. Ten professed sisters, three novices, and six candidates relocated to another remote site in Ruma, Illinois, a place that would eventually become the first U.S. motherhouse for the Adorers of the Blood of Christ.

Clementine began to send sisters to schools, hospitals, and orphanages. In 1902, sisters migrated to Kansas and established what would become the Wichita province motherhouse in 1929.

Mother Paulina Schneeberger led sisters from Bosnia to the United States in 1906. These sisters eventually settled in Columbia, Pennsylvania, which became the third U.S. province in 1929. The three U.S. provinces converged in October 2000 to form the United States Region of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ.

Who We Are

The three provinces established schools and hospitals and homes for the elderly and taught African American children in the South. They also launched missions in China, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Liberia, Bolivia, Korea, Vietnam, and Guatemala.

After the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, the Adorers engaged in civil rights, social justice, and parish work. Today, they work with immigrants, refugees and those seeking asylum.

Over the community’s history in the United States, ministries have changed, institutions have closed, and the sisters have continued to respond to ever-changing needs.

Our Calling 

“The United States Adorers of the Blood of Christ, rooted in the Gospel of Jesus, are ecclesial women, living in community, witnessing God’s love in Mission to empower others, foster oneness, celebrate life, form right relationships, and walk as compassionate companions.”

Adorers of the Blood of Christ Mission Statement

“Out of an awareness of our own brokenness and the wounds of the world, we Adorers choose life for ourselves and others by being a compassionate presence wherever need touches our hearts.”

2011 Assembly Statement

Amazing Women

Our congregation remains vibrant, joyful, and courageous, just like the sisters who went before us. We’d like you to meet some of them. 

They were teachers, nurses, social workers, missionaries, seamstresses, social activists, advocates for Earth, builders of institutions, and women with “no timid spirit, but…strong, loving and wise.” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Read their stories

We invite you to read their stories below. They are a rich history of our presence in the United States. We are grateful for our sisters’ dedication to God’s work among God’s people.

Our Important Dates