The Nuns

History of The Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Divine Child in the Cattaraugus Area

From the Chronicles of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters

The Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Divine Child were invited by Msgr. James Navagh, the director of the Missionary Apostolate, to teach the Catholic children of Cattaraugus County, the Good News of God’s Love for them.

On October 2, 1948 we arrived at our mission in the Village of Cattaraugus, NY. The first convent, named Our Lady of Fatima was a small cottage on South Street next to the Briggs’ Funeral Home, which we rented from Mr. Briggs.

The first sisters to staff the Mission were Sisters Francis Marie Vallone, Margaret Mary Link, and Ignatius Craden. The very next day October 3, 1948, Bishop John O’Hara arrived to bless the little chapel.

The First SistersIn the beginning, the parishes ministered to each week were: St. Mary in Cattaraugus, St. Isidore in East Otto, St. Mary in Little Valley, St. Elizabeth in Cherry Creek, St. John Fisher in South Dayton, Holy Name of Mary in Ellicottville, and St. Patrick in Randolph. A very special part of our ministry was teaching at the Randolph Home for children. Bringing these children to our convent for a picnic was a delight for us and was appreciated by the staff and children.

St. Mary’s parish in Cattaraugus was released from the direction of the Missionary Apostolate and became an independent Parish in 1957. Rev. Francis Walker became the first pastor.

St. Mary’s in Little Valley also became an independent parish with the appointment of Rev. John Donnelly as pastor in the fall of 1960.

In September of 1961 the Sisters moved into the present convent at 171 South Street which had been purchased by the Dioceses. The Sisters had an open house and the people responded generously with gifts for our new home.

The Nuns HouseBy 1964 the Sisters realized that an additional bedroom and larger chapel were necessary. In May of that year Bishop McNulty dedicated the new St. Isidore Church in East Otto and also confirmed the children. The Bishop then came over to Cattaraugus and blessed our new convent chapel. He called it, “The Cathedral of the Hills.” Within a short time the Sisters endeavored to beautify the convent grounds by planting many flowers and twenty four trees which they had dug from the woods.

On May 9, 1973 the Altar and Rosary Society of Cattaraugus honored us with a special dinner at the Dudley Hotel in Salamanca, in appreciation for 25 years of service to the area. It was a wonderful occasion and deeply appreciated by us.

As time went on we added Holy Cross Parish in Salamanca and St. Anthony Parish in Farnham to our ministry of preparing young people for the reception of the Sacraments. By 1978 our teaching schedule increased when we decided to answer a request to teach grades 1 – 6 in Franklinville.

Sister Mary Damian held classes at our convent in Adult Education and Teacher Training for the very generous women who volunteered to help us with our classes.

During our amazing years in the Southern Tier we taught in public schools (Cattaraugus was one), churches, church halls, rectory basements, a school bus, vacant store front (East Otto), the Municipal Building, Congregational Church (Little Valley), the lodge at Red House and in the homes of a number of very generous parishioners, one being Martin and Betty Westfall.

In the 53 years we had taught over 4,335 students who received instructions in their faith and were prepared to receive the sacraments of Reconciliation, Eucharist, and Confirmation. It was a privilege and an honor to serve and minister to the adults and children of this beautiful area – “God Blessed Country.”

Between 1948 and 2000 there were many sisters who ministered to the children and their families in Cattaraugus, Little Valley, and East Otto. The Sisters who served the longest in this area were: Sister Mary Damian 31 years, Sister Rita Marie 30 years, and our dear Sister Rose Marie 25 years.

We have faced many fond and happy memories of the children, their parents, our religion teachers, and friends in Cattaraugus, Little Valley, and East Otto. We thank God for your generosity and love. It has been a blessed 53 years.

Your Sisters in Christ,
The Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Divine Child

The SistersService







The convent was closed in 2000. A beautiful Mass of Thanksgiving and Celebration and Retirement Mass for all the Sisters who had ministered in the area was held on June 10, 2001 at St. Mary’s Cattaraugus. A lovely reception followed in St. Mary’s Church Hall.

The Sisters

Franciscan Missionary Sisters who have ministered
to us from 1948 to 2001 

1970 - 2001
Sister Mary Damian Cookingham
1971 - 2001
Sister Rita Marie Nigro
1975 - 1978, 1980-2000 Sister Rose Marie Nigro
1948 - 1951, 1970 - 1973
Sister Francis Marie Vallone
1951 - 1956, 1969 - 1971
Sister Mary Veronica DelVecchio
1956 - 1957
Sister Nancy Walsh
1961 - 1962
Sister Rosemary Benson
1960 - 1970
Sister Mary Agnes Frawley
1969 - 1970
Sister Louise Alff
1953 - 1955
Sister Mary Assumpta Gentile
1973 - 1974, 1978 - 1979 Sister Regina Gertrude Aman
1967 - 1969
Sister Mary Vianney O'Loughlin
1983 - 1985
Sister Gregory Andrews
1949 - 1951 Sister Mary Clotilda Cahill
1961 - 1962
Sister Mary Echarista Lyng
1948 - 1951
Sister Mary Ingatious Craden
1962 - 1964
Sister Mary John Ruf
1951 - 1953 Sister Mary Kathleen Beecher
1962 - 1963
Sister Mary Lourdes Alexander
1948 - 1949, 1962 - 1963
Sister Margaret Mary Link
1958 - 1962
Sister Mary Michael Tobia
1964 - 1968
Sister Mary Monica Murray
1955 - 1956
Sister Mary Patricia Kerin
1966 - 1967
Sister Mary Paul Lynch
1965 - 1966
Sister Mary Regina Conrad
1957 - 1958
Sister Grace Kellaher



Thank You Sisters