Abbot Francis Pfanner
Founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood
The beginning of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood (CPS) was both unconventional and risky.
When the Trappist Francis (Wendelin) Pfanner of Vorarlberg, Austria, founded the Trappist monastery of Mariannhill in 1882 in South Africa, he saw the immense social problems of the area, which needed a combined effort of both men and women. Very soon he realized that the local women also needed to be reached in social and religious matters. He was convinced that he had to help them establish solid Christian families. To achieve this he needed the help of women volunteers.
Abbot Francis was a very zealous missionary. And so in all difficulties and necessary actions his driving force and motivation was, as he put it, “If only Christ is proclaimed!”
In 1885 five young women from German speaking regions of Europe caught fire through his original missionary zeal and decided to join Abbot Francis in his African mission. The 08th of September, the feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, became thus the birthday of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood. Women with all different trainings and talents were accepted – the only precondition was their love of God and of the people.
Among the third group that joined the community in 1886 was Maria Josefa Emunds, 21 years old, a woman with great missionary zeal, wisdom and a deep trust in God. She was instrumental in shaping the spirit of the young community. She is known as “Mother Paula” and is rightly considered as co–foundress. In 1908 she wrote a treaty on the spirituality of the CPS: “The Inner Spirit and Virtues of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood”. Her role was such that she was able to give the vision of Abbot Francis a female face and touch.
Soon it was said that the “Red Sisters” had made only one mistake: there were too few of them, even though by 1888 they counted 177 members already. Today some 900 Sisters are working in 20 countries worldwide. And as in the beginning, they are still too few to look after all the physical and spiritual needs of the people they serve.