The experience has not always been so positive.
In the early morning of August 18, 1852, five tired Daughters of Charity arrived at their new home in San Francisco. They had just completed their journey from the East Coast, including a march across the Isthmus of Panama, where they had lost two of their own. Their leader, Sister Frances McEnnis, reflected on their new beginnings: “This is a strange place, a real bad place, immorality seems to be the favorite virtue here. God pity us, we need prayers and good fervent ones, for we see nothing good in this miserable place….”
The experience of Sister Frances and the Daughters of Charity was shared by the many women religious who came to California—they found themselves in a strange land, filled with challenges, promises, and work commensurate to their faith. Here on the frontier’s edge, they struggled mightily to plant the Church and her institutions in “this barbarous soil.”