Mother Mary Adelaide Sandusky, Foundress of the Sylvania Franciscans
Mother M. Adelaide was born Anne Sandusky, on October 10, 1874, in Cincinnati, Ohio. After the death of her father, her mother moved the family to Minnesota to be close to other relatives. At the age of 18, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Francis, Rochester, Minnesota and professed her final vows in July, 1902. She received a Bachelor’s Degree from the College of St. Teresa, in Winona, Minnesota and a Master’s Degree from Columbia University in New York. A student of the classics and an accomplished artist, she seemed to have a solid future in education when she was appointed the directress of the College of St. Teresa.
Here life took a dramatic turn, however, when Bishop Schrembs of the Diocese of Toledo requested that the Sisters in Rochester send members to the Toledo area to work with the children of the Polish immigrants. Sister Adelaide, soon to be known as Mother Adelaide, and 22 other Sisters established a home in Toledo and began teaching in area schools. For 48 years Mother Adelaide was the Mother General and spiritual leader of the Sylvania Franciscan community. An outstanding educator, architect and artist, she saw the Sylvania Franciscans grow to more than 500 Sisters teaching in more than 30 educational institutions throughout the United States and ministering to health care needs in 10 hospitals in five states.
Mother Adelaide modeled her life after St. Francis of Assisi, whom she admired for his strength, faith and crusading spirit. She lived with enthusiasm, a characteristic joyfulness, and amazing courage. From the early days when the Sisters lived in army barracks-style housing and grew strawberries to support themselves, until her death in 1964, Mother Adelaide’s patience and determination helped the community to grow both physically and spiritually. With her vision and creativity, she directed and nurtured the talents of her Sisters. Together they developed the 89-acre Motherhouse grounds into a place of beauty that would witness to God’s goodness and love.
When Mother Adelaide died on July 4, 1964, the Sylvania grounds had grown to include Lourdes Junior College (now Lourdes University), more than two dozen shrines and grottos, a prayer garden, the Portiuncula Chapel (modeled after the tiny church in Assisi that served as a home base for St. Francis and his early companions) and numerous buildings for Sisters, Novices and Postulants. The distinctive California mission style architecture and the lush greenery make the campus a living testament to the unselfish and warm-hearted dedication of its foundress and pioneer sisters.