Co-founder Mother Mary of the Apostles is beatified

Mother Olympia Heuel, SDS with Pope Paul VI

“The life and vocation of Blessed Mother Mary of the Apostles is marked by two qualities: the apostolate and missionary service. These are wonderfully blended in her person.”

Pope Paul VI offered this reflection on Mother Mary of the Apostles, SDS during her beatification at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. More than 600 Salvatorian Sisters came from around the world to witness her beatification ceremony.

Mother Mary of the Apostles was born Therese von Wüllenweber in Myllendonk Castle, near Gladbach in the Rhineland of western Germany in 1833. She entered Religious of the Sacred Heart convent at 24, while still questioning if a semi-cloistered religious vocation was right for her. She soon left and continued discerning her call to serve. Through many years, she maintained a belief that God would guide her to her destined work. In 1882, Providence led her to Father Francis Jordan.

Of Fr. Jordan, she wrote, “He gave me the impression of a humble, truly zealous apostle.” Together, they co-founded the Sisters of the Divine Savior on December 8, 1888 in Tivoli, Italy. The two worked to expand and strengthen the sisterhood. Finding her true calling, Mother Mary guided the Salvatorian Sisters until her death on Christmas Day in 1907.

Mother Mary’s beatification process began in 1943. Work at the diocesan level in Milwaukee included 40 interviews with sisters who knew her. In 1965, Pope Paul VI confirmed two miracles attributed to Mother Mary. The first occurred at Salvator Mundi Hospital in Rome, where Mother Mary appeared to a man in a dream. She told him he would not die from blood clots in his lungs. Early the next morning, the clots were gone.

Years later at St. Mary’s Nursing Home in Milwaukee, Wis., a woman suffering from a fatal skin disease prayed to Mother Mary at the urging of a Salvatorian Sister who also prayed. After the woman soaked her arms in water, nurses returned to find no signs of disease on her arms or in the water. Paintings of Mother Mary’s miracles and works were displayed around St. Peter’s and atop Bernini’s Altar of the Chair on the day of her beatification.

Painting of Mother Mary’s first miracle
Painting of Mother Mary’s second miracle

Sister Margaret Bosch, SDS is the last living sister of the North American Province who witnessed Mother Mary’s beatification.  She recalls arriving at St. Peter’s, and says, “It was a special joy to see the huge oil painting of (soon to be Blessed) Mary of the Apostles in heavenly glory.” Reflecting upon Blessed Mary’s life, Sr. Margaret says, “God has blessed our Province and our Congregation with good leaders who have brought us this far.”

Today, Sisters of the Divine Savior continue to commemorate the life and beatification of Blessed Mary of the Apostles. There is little doubt that without her, the female branch of Fr. Francis Jordan’s vision for the Salvatorian Family would not have become a reality. In 2018, we celebrated the Golden Jubilee of her beatification by recommitting ourselves to her mission. Together, we continue to pray for the same “strength and inspiration” Therese von Wüllenweber sought—and found—more than 135 years ago.

Our 125 Year Celebration

As we look back on our 125th anniversary of coming to the USA, we invite you to reminisce with us. We've launched all 5 time lines with historical milestones and stories that bring to life the experiences of our sisters who came before us.

Era 1: 1895-1920
Responding to Immigrant Needs

The missionary response of hearty immigrant women religious characterizes the first 25 years of Salvatorian Sisters’ presence in the United States ...

Era 2: 1920-1950
Expanding in an “American” Church

By 1920, life for a Salvatorian Sister in the USA was radically different than it had been 25 years earlier. World War I ....

Era 3: 1950-1970
Embracing Renewal

Bob Dylan’s 1964 classic, The Times They Are A Changing, captures the high energy of this era.  Change was afoot both outside and inside the Salvatorian convent walls...

Era 4: 1970-2000
Building Collaboration

Events of the mid-1960s renewed the collaborative energy that had always characterized Salvatorian life. Cloistered living ...

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

When the new millennium arrived on January 1, 2000, Salvatorian Sisters were already five years into our second century on USA soil.  Our ...