Passion for Mission

125 Years in the USA: 1895-2020

Era 5: 2000-2020 | Searching for New Footing in a Changing World

Searching for new footing amid the pandemic, Salvatorian Sisters find inspiration from pioneer Sister Walburga Sieghart who braved a whole new world 125 years ago.

When the new millennium arrived on January 1, 2000, Salvatorian Sisters were already five years into our second century on USA soil.  Our lives were radically different from those of our three pioneer sisters who landed at Ellis Island in 1895.  Still, the apostolic fervor that compels Salvatorian Sisters forward in this millennium vibrates with the same zeal that fueled those pioneers. Though separated by more than 100 years, we share their vision to be apostles for the new times that are emerging before us. 

By 2000, the Salvatorian Sisters Congregation had become a “global village”.  Sisters from the United States now work side-by-side with Salvatorians from countries once known as mission lands.  Together we incarnate the goodness and kindness of the Savior who urges us forward to live out our mission through diverse ministries inspired by ever-changing needs. 

Today, Salvatorian Sisters are being challenged to serve in new ways.  At times that means letting go of traditional ministries full of heartfelt memories.  Era 5 is bracketed by the 2001 closure of St. Mary’s Nursing Home in Milwaukee and the 2020 transfer of ownership of Divine Savior Healthcare in Portage to Aspirus Health.  Painful as letting go of St. Mary’s and Divine Savior Healthcare may be, the Sisters continue to forge ahead and take on new commitments. Our twenty first century missionary work now includes ministries such as serving on the board of the non-governmental organization (NGO) UNANIMA; teaching in a tribal school of the Lakota people of South Dakota; and walking with survivors of human trafficking.  Yes, times and circumstances have radically changed where and how we serve but the apostolic fire that drives our Salvatorian presence remains the same.

In 2000, the North American Province leaders created a Sponsorship Corporation of adept lay persons to guide our Sponsorship Coordinators in overseeing and long-range planning for our institutional ministries.  Since then, lay employees entrusted with the Salvatorian mission are breaking new ground, as they creatively direct these ministries into an often unmapped future.

The world is changing and Salvatorian religious life in the United States is changing with it.  As this era and our 125th Anniversary draw to a close, we sisters continue to be shaped by the “Refiner’s fire” (Malachi 3:2+).  Our passion for mission continues to burn within us. Its flame illumines our path forward.  As it does, we trust that Divine Providence will lovingly shape the future and point to our presence in it.

Sister Carol Thresher, SDS

If you’re viewing our anniversary timeline for the very first time, click on Era 1 to read how our sisters first came to the USA in 1895 in response to immigrant needs.

Our “Family Business” Takes a Giant Step by Creating a Sponsorship Board

July 1, 2000

For nearly 100 years, our sisters’ institutional ministries operated like family businesses. The Sisters of the Divine Savior built, owned, operated and financed a number of hospitals and nursing homes, as well as a nursing school and all-girls high school. For many years, the SDS Provincial Team made all important institutional decisions, and with a…

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From seed of an idea, Woman of Faith Award becomes tradition

September 20, 2001

Call it coincidence that our 125th anniversary of coming to the USA coincides with the 20th Annual Woman of Faith Award this year. Back in 2001, then-Provincial Leader Sister Sheila Novak started the award to shine a light on exemplary servant leadership by women in the greater Milwaukee area. The award recognizes women whose faith-inspired…

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Decision to close St. Mary’s Nursing Home hasn’t shut out fond memories

November 29, 2001

St. Mary’s Convent stood proud and mighty at the corner of 35th and Center Streets for almost 100 years. Its eastern-most section was built in 1900 using Milwaukee’s distinctive cream city brick, and it became a much-needed replacement for the crowded convent on 2nd Street. St. Mary’s Convent sheltered novices, young sisters, aging sisters and…

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The Salvatorian Mission is Alive at St. Anne’s Salvatorian Campus

July 31, 2006

In 1992, the Little Sisters of the Poor transferred religious sponsorship of the oldest Catholic elder care facility in the Milwaukee Archdiocese to the Sisters of the Divine Savior. On completing the transfer, we established Salvatorian Sisters Residence (SSR) adjacent to St. Anne’s to provide assisted living services for our elder sisters. In anticipation of…

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Education initiative opens doors in Africa

May 15, 2009

My father was a fisherman and my mother was caring for our family. My father died in 1993 due to malaria. I completed primary school in 1994 so it was difficult for me to go to secondary school due to the death of my father. I decided to help my mom at home. The realities…

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Lay professionals reinforce “footing” for Salvatorian Mission in New Millennium

October 10, 2011

For many years our Salvatorian Sisters seemingly did it all. We helmed our sponsored institutions, controlled financial decisions, engaged new members, raised funds and managed communications for the congregation. From an outsider’s perspective, everything ran like a well-oiled machine. Internally, however, we came to realize we could no longer go it alone. Gradually, the successful…

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Salvatorians approve family charter to fulfill Fr. Jordan’s vision

October 12, 2012

In October 2012, members from all three branches of the Salvatorian Family gathered in formal assembly from locations near and far via state-of-the-art technology at the time. Our purpose: to approve the Salvatorian Family Charter. The approved document spells out attributes we all share related to our Salvatorian life, charism, spirituality, community and mission. In…

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The Kateri Initiative renews Salvatorian presence among First Nations people

August 10, 2015

When Sisters Irene DeMarrias, Rita Faust and Mildred Lotzer left Sisseton, South Dakota in the mid-1990s, our religious community thought our time was up in this small, rural community. For more than 70 years, Salvatorian Sisters had ministered on the Lake Traverse Reservation of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate in schools, hospitals, nursing homes and parishes. Sisters…

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Reflecting on our time sponsoring Divine Savior Healthcare

February 3, 2020

In an earlier time line story, we shared the history of Divine Savior Healthcare (DSH) in Portage, Wis., and how our sisters instilled our core values through religious sponsorship. Sisters of the Divine Savior sponsored DSH for more than 100 years, until the official transfer of sponsorship to Aspirus Health Care in January 2020. We…

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Salvatorian sponsorship’s impact on Divine Savior Holy Angels High School

September 14, 2020

The Sisters of the Divine Savior serve as religious sponsor for three Milwaukee institutions, including Divine Savior Holy Angels High School (DSHA). DSHA brought together two Catholic, all-girl high schools founded across town from one another. In 1970, Divine Savior High School and Holy Angels Academy forged an affiliation on the belief they would become…

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We acknowledge contributions of the late Sister Margaret Shekleton, SDS, who chronicled the first 90 years of our North American Province in her book Bending in Season ©1985.

Special thanks to Provincial Archivist Sister Mary Jo Stoffel, SDS for her research assistance.