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Salesian Sisters called to educate young women of the archdiocese

April 17, 2015
Sister Debbie Walker, FMA
Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (Salesian Sisters)

Catholic San Francisco is featuring one religious congregation from the archdiocese in each installment of this periodic column marking the Vatican’s Year of Consecrated Life.

The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, commonly known as the Salesian Sisters, is the largest congregation of women religious, founded in 1872 by St. Mary Mazzarello and St. John Bosco for the education of young girls. The first missionary sisters came to America in 1908 to bring the Salesian charism to the eastern part of the United States. In 1950, the Salesian priests were already working in the parish of Sts. Peter and Paul in the North Beach section of San Francisco. North Beach had been settled largely by Italian immigrants at that time. They had built a spacious and beautiful parish church still today called the “Italian Cathedral.” The school was built above and around the church and could be reached by climbing more than 100 steps. Originally, the Presentation Sisters established the school and collaborated with the Salesians.

The pastor’s request for the Salesian Sisters was answered in August of 1950. Seven sisters made up the first community in North Beach, one of whom was Sister Anita Ferrari, the first vocation from the parish. The parishioners and parents of the students were very happy to have the Salesian Sisters in the school. Eventually, the Italians moved to the suburbs and the Chinese and Japanese immigrants moved into the area of North Beach. The conviction that evangelization is as important as keeping the faith has allowed our mission of educating the young to be alive and well to this day. For more than 30 years, the Salesian Sisters were also present in San Francisco’s Corpus Christi Catholic School. We are still present in the parish and coordinate the religious education program.

The education of youth is our primary focus in schools, parishes, clubs and wherever we encounter the young. We strive to collaborate with the laity in all of our ministries. Lisa Harris has been the lay principal of Sts. Peter and Paul Salesian School for the past 16 years. We work together as the administration of the school, Dr. Harris as the principal and a sister in the position of vice principal. We strive to promote the educational method of St. John Bosco which is based on reason, religion and loving kindness.

We are grateful for the opportunity to minister to the young in the San Francisco archdiocese. We pray that young women will be inspired by our lives of prayer, ministry and community. May they want to become a part of our Salesian family in order to pass on the faith to the youth of today.


The Salesians of Don Bosco

Full names of orders: Salesian Society of St. John Bosco (Salesian Fathers); Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (Salesian Sisters)

Dates founded: Salesian Fathers founded in 1859, in Italy, by St. John Bosco; Salesian Sisters founded in 1872, in Italy, by St. John Bosco and St. Maria Domenica Mazzarello

Arrived in San Francisco: Salesian Fathers in March 1897; Salesian Sisters in 1950

Original ministry: Schools and parishes

Current ministries: Schools, youth centers, parishes

Number of Salesians ministering in the archdiocese: 10 priests, one brother, eight sisters

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