Immaculate Conception Fraternity
In the Fall of 1945, under the guidance of Father C. A. Guelzer, the new pastor at St. Joseph Church in Mishawaka, Indiana, a new Fraternity in the Secular Franciscan Order began meeting.
Magdelina Jacobs, Barbara Schumacher, Elizabeth Kunkel and Bernadette Lenhard were the first members of the new Fraternity.They had transferred from the St. Matthew Fraternity of South Bend, Indiana. Elizabeth Kunkel was the first prefect.
The Immaculate Conception Fraternity was canonically established on June 11, 1958 in Mishawaka, Indiana. From 1945 to 1963, membership grew until it reached 69 professed members. The Holy Spirit was indeed working. Alden Lenhard was prefect with Fr. Duane Stengel, OFM, serving as Spiritual Director. Members faithfully attended the Fraternity meetings for spiritual renewal. These meetings were held in church and started with Benediction, followed by a spiritual lesson by the Spiritual Director and ending with discussion.
The history of the Fraternity is intertwined with the history of the National Organization of the Third Order of St. Francis in the United States. With the approval of a new RULE OF LIFE in 1978, as elsewhere in the world, the fraternities were reorganized as an independent order. The National Fraternity of the United State was formed and divided into thirty regions. The fraternities in the northern half of the state of Indiana plus the Fraternity in Terre Haute formed the Regional Fraternity of Our Lady of Indiana.
After the Vatican Council of the 1960’s, prospective members, because interested in the cursillo and charismatic movements drifted into these groups. Membership dwindled, due to deaths and other causes.
Upon the death of Alden Lenhard in 1974, John Walker became prefect. In 1975, Bernadette Lenhard was elected prefect with Edith Bauerlein as secretary and Marie Arndt as treasurer. The Fraternity held together and met monthly at Mount Alverno, the motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration in Mishawaka. The Fraternity has enjoyed a very strong relationship with the Convent, with several of the sisters continuing to provide guidance in the role of Spiritual Assistant to the Fraternity.
In 1984, Fred Kagel became prefect and a renewal started. The Fraternity had healthy growth under his able direction. In 1991, he resigned due to health problems. Camy George became active prefect and in 1991 was elected to the office. During the last ten years, under that capable guidance of Cyndi Pilot, OFS, and Linda O’Neal, OFS, and their Councils, the Immaculate Conception Fraternity continues to grow. Members come from twenty some parishes in the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese and serve in various parish ministries as well as in various needs of the Michiana community. Our common apostolate is the monthly, Sunday morning provision of a warm and substantial breakfast for "Our Lady of the Road" where the homeless and others may come for a good meal and some sharing of the fraternal love an care of Fraternity members.