Sisters of the Precious Blood, Dayton, Ohio
Sisters of the Precious Blood
4000 Denlinger Rd.
Dayton, OH 45426-2399
Praying Hands -- Serving the Poor -- “Keeping Watch” -- Mother
Reckenkein is a small hamlet nestled among the Swiss Alps. Here, Adam Probst, a linen weaver, and his wife Elizabeth carved out a frugal but love-filled life for their family of three boys and two girls. When the older girl, Maria Anna, was born on October 1, 1764, little did her parents realize that the child was destined to be the foundress of a community dedicated to the Precious Blood of Christ.
A dutiful daughter, Maria Anna assisted her family in every possible way. As a young girl, possessing talent as a seamstress and proficient in household tasks, she entered the service of a wealthy landowner, Nicholas Brunner of Beibelberg. So efficient was she that upon the death of his wife, Mr. Brunner asked Maria Anna to take on the running of the entire estate. This she did for many years and gave such loving service that John, the eldest son, asked for her hand in
marriage. Maria Anna and John were blessed with six children. One daughter died as a young child.
Maria Anna led a busy life imbued with the depth of love for her God. Prayer was a part of the family’s day. She attended Mass daily whenever possible and received Holy Communion frequently, contrary to the custom of the times. Maria Anna also had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She made frequent pilgrimages to the many Marian shrines that dotted Switzerland’s landscape.
Maria Anna and John had been happily married for twenty years when John became very sick. In spite of his wife’s six-month’s constant care, he died on January 14, 1813, leaving Maria Anna so completely exhausted that she, too, became gravely ill. However, she recovered completely after praying to the Blessed Virgin under the title of Mary, Help of Christians. She was able to
resume her life and devote herself to her family. She saw her children mature into their adult lives; Anna Maria and Joseph married and settled in the area; Nicholas and Urs Joseph became priests and Maria Anna joined the Visitation Order.
Now that the children were settled in life, Maria Anna realized that she strongly desired to give herself more completely to prayer and contemplation. In order to ascertain God’s will, she made a pilgrimage to Mary’s Shrine at Einsiedeln in October 1832. Next, she traveled to the mountain shrine at Citailg to pray. Finally she went to Loewenberg where her oldest son, Nicholas, now Fr. Francis de Sales, had opened a school for boys in an old castle (Canton Grisons, Switzerland). Mother Brunner accepted his invitation to make her home in the castle, choosing a room near the chapel. Here she devoted herself completely to God, praying for hours in the chapel. When there was no priest to say Mass in the chapel, she walked down to St. Peter’s Church in Schleuis.
In December of 1832, Maria Anna accompanied her son, Fr. Francis de Sales, to Rome. There she visited the various churches, especially San Nicola in Carcere, where Frs. Gaspar del Bufalo and Francesco Albertini preached. Here she was enrolled in the Archconfraternity of the Precious Blood, thus deepening her devotion to the Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. She spent many
hours in prayer during the ninemonth’s stay in Rome.
Upon returning to Loewenberg Castle in September of 1833, Maria Anna devoted herself to adoration and service to others, especially the poor of the area, many of them orphans. She began by placing first things first—prayer before action, example before words. With good reason was she called “Mother,” not only by her own devoted six, but by the people of the village. She mothered the children of the poor for miles around, and they could be seen forming a breadline
at her door.
So loving and contagious was Mother Brunner’s example that two women, Clara Meisen and Salome Wasmer, who had been hired to work at the castle, asked to join her in her life of dedication to God. As their numbers grew from three to five and then to thirteen, the little community was able to extend its ministry to taking in several widows to live at the castle, teaching the children of the area, increasing their assistance to the poor while deepening their prayer life through the adoration of the Precious Blood in the Blessed Sacrament. They also kept
hours of adoration during the night as well as during the day. Through all this Mother Brunner arranged that the group would be able to lead a well-ordered life. Little did they realize that during 1834 their little group was becoming the nucleus of the future Sisters of the Precious Blood of Dayton, Ohio.
Beginning her final days on earth, Mother Brunner was forced to bed with a chill and high fever. Friday, January 15, 1836 was to be her last day on earth. After receiving Holy Communion, she slowly expressed her dying wish, “I do not regret leaving anything in this world; I wish only that before my death I could have assisted in causing the Sacred Heart and the Precious Blood of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament to be specially honored by perpetual adoration in a number of places. For this cause I would have given not only my last farthing, but also the last drop of my blood. If however, I shall find mercy before God, I hope to contribute toward this good work even in eternity.” While the sisters were praying with her, they asked if they should stop and she answered “No, just go on, I never grow tired of it.” Those were her last words. Shortly afterward,
she fell asleep in the Lord.
Mother Brunner’s body was interred in the sanctuary of St. Mary’s Church in Sagens. When her body was exhumed in 1933, her hands were found to be intact still clasped in prayer. This began the designation “praying hands” as an image that portrayed Mother Brunner. Her remains were brought to America and she is buried in the convent cemetery at Salem Heights, Dayton, Ohio.
--Not With Silver or Gold, Dayton, Ohio: Sisters of the Precious Blood, 1945
Prayer of the Sisters who follow Mother Brunner
the Precious Blood
of your Son Jesus
urges us to be a
presence in our
You instilled in our
Foundress Maria Anna Brunner
a deep love for the Precious Blood.
Your grace made her a
to the needy of her world.
May that same Precious Blood of Jesus
empower each one of us to be a healing
and life-giving presence in our world
today. We ask this through your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.