Hospital Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis

Sister Therese Fang, OSF

I was born on November 27, 1920, in Shan Tung, Tung Ping, China. When I was 13 years old, I was told that I would soon marry a boy from the village. I didn’t want to get married, and so I was happy when my mother insisted that I wait until I was 21 years old. My parish priest respected my mother’s wishes and encouraged me to work at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tsinanfu, 100 miles away, that had been sponsored by the American Province of the Hospital Sisters since 1925. It was here that I met the Sisters and assisted in the dining room for doctors and priests.

Shortly after, my mother gave birth to a second child, but she and the baby died, and a year later my father died. The family of the boy who intended to marry me learned of this and insisted that the marriage be scheduled immediately. They traveled to Tsinanfu to search for me, and so I needed a way so they wouldn’t find me. I cut my hair as a way to change my appearance, and, thankfully, it worked. I walked past them as I entered the church. Thankfully, I never heard from them again. I continued to live and work at St. Joseph’s Hospital and also finished high school. I decided to enter the Congregation in March 25, 1944 and professed First Vows on September 17, 1946.

At the same time, the fear of the Communists was increasing as they were invading nearby cities. Sister Clementia, our Superior, told us that we were going to America for three years where we would be safe at the Motherhouse in Springfield, Illinois. I, along with 23 Chinese Sisters, left very soon after, and so I didn’t have a chance to say good bye to my family. We arrived in Springfield on June 5, 1948, and we continued our religious formation and nursing education among our Sisters while wondering if any of our family had survived the invasion. The three years in America turned into more than 30 years, at which time we could return to China for a visit.

I am a graduate of St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing and St. John’s Hospital School of X-ray Technology, both in Springfield. As a registered radiological technician, my assignments took me briefly to our hospitals in Sheboygan, Wisconsin; Springfield, and Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. The majority of my years of service was at St. Francis Hospital, Litchfield, Illinois, where I served from September 1960 to May 1996 – almost 36 years.

My family has been blessed with many vocations to religious life. We had seven priests in the family: one great-great uncle, two great uncles and four cousins. In addition, two of my cousins are Sisters.

I am hopeful that those who read my story will be inspired to have faith for God is always with us.