Sisters of St. Francis showcase short film about Mother Leonarda Hannappel

Jan. 20—LEWISTON — The Sisters of St. Francis are celebrating 150 years of the order's presence in the U.S. this year, starting with a short film showing how they arrived in this country.

Sisters Mary Serbacki and Diane Gianadda will show "Leonarda's Journey," focusing on the life of Mother Mary Leonarda Hannappel. The screening is presented by the Historical Association of Lewiston.

"It's appropriate that we show it to the Historical (Association)," Serbacki said.

The screening will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Lutheran Church of the Messiah Fellowship Hall, 915 Oneida St.

The film, completed in 2019, covers Hannappel's life from her childhood in Montebaur, Germany, to her journey to the U.S. in 1874, to help establish the order here.

Upon their arrival in Buffalo, the sisters served in the mainly German parishes of St. Ann's and St. Michael's, and their first motherhouse was downtown. When the need arose for a larger space, the order purchased the March estate in 1907 on the banks of the Niagara River in Lewiston. Today this is the site of Stella Niagara.

The school that would become Stella Niagara Education Park started classes in 1908 with an initial enrollment of four boys and two girls. It has offered preschool through grade 8 classes since 1971 and currently serves about 170 students.

Hannappel served as the Mother Superior of the order's North American mission from 1904 through 1922. She died the following year.

Serbacki said there are currently between 35 and 40 sisters in residence at Stella Niagara.

Other celebrations are planned throughout the year. The most prominent of them is a gathering of sisters in late June from other branches across the United States.

The sisters' other branches are located in Denver and Redwood City, California.

The event is free to the public with refreshments being served.