Sister Therese Fang, OSF, will celebrate her 100th birthday on November 27 at St. Francis Convent, Springfield. She is a member of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, Springfield, and she served at HSHS St. Francis Hospital from 1960 to 1996 in the x-ray department.
Bibiana Fang was born on November 27, 1920 in Shan Tung, Tung Ping, China. At the age of 13, she was told that she would soon be married to a boy from her village. Her mother insisted that she not marry until the age of 21 and so with the help of their parish priest, Bibiana traveled 100 miles to Jinan, China where she would continue her education and be employed. Her residence and employment would be at St. Joseph’s Hospital, founded by the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis in 1925, and she would work in the dining room reserved for doctors and priests. For the next 10 years, her work at the hospital evolved as she served with the Sisters in the operating room, x-ray, and lab along with serving as an organist. She began to consider the example of the Sisters and if it was something she would consider for her life. She made the decision to answer God’s call and entered religious life on March 25, 1944, was given the name Sister Therese in 1945, and professed First Vows on September 17, 1946. She believed that her religious life would be spent in service to the Chinese people.
It was during this time that tensions were increasing between the Japanese, the Communists, and the Chinese nationals and so it was decided that the Sisters should evacuate and be brought to safety in Springfield, IL. They sailed from Shanghai, China on the SS General Meigs on May 12, 1948 and after arriving in San Francisco, CA, they traveled on a train across the United States and arrived in Springfield on June 5. The plan was that they would stay in America for three years in hopes that the situation in China would improve for their return. Unfortunately, since the situation in China did not improve over the next few years, the decision was made that the Sisters would not return and it was during this time that they learned that their hospital was taken over by the government.
Now permanently in Springfield, the Chinese Sisters continued studies while learning the American way of life. Sister Therese attended St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing and later earned a certificate in 1956 from St. John’s Hospital School of X-ray. She became a registered radiological technician and she served at St. John’s Tuberculosis Sanitarium/Springfield, IL along with four of the Sisters’ hospitals: St. John’s Hospital/Springfield, IL; St. Nicholas Hospital/Sheboygan, WI; St. Joseph’s Hospital/Chippewa Falls, WI; and St. Francis Hospital/Litchfield, IL.
After 31 years of very limited contact with her family in China, Sister Therese and two other Chinese Sisters traveled to China in 1979. The Sisters were happy to be reunited with their families but saddened to hear of the suffering that was endured.
Reflecting on her ministry at St. Francis Hospital, Sister Therese said “I arrived in Litchfield in 1960 and worked in what now is known as the old St. Francis Hospital on Main Street. I worked all the shifts in x-ray and learned so much from Dr. James Foster, our radiologist who joined us in 1962 and served with us for nearly 30 years. We were excited as we moved into the new hospital on October 25, 1971. We had the most advanced equipment at that time and we Sisters we so grateful to the community for their support,” Sister Therese said.
“St. Francis Hospital is a family that fits with the community of Litchfield and I loved the people I worked with and the patients I cared for,” Sister Therese said.
There are two highlights from her time in Litchfield. First, she recalled that on August, 16, 1968, Lawrence Welk, American musician, accordionist, bandleader, and television personality who hosted the television program The Lawrence Welk Show from 1951 to 1982, came to St. Francis Hospital to visit Henry F. Henrichs, who was a patient. Henrich’s son, Garth, was a friend of Welk, and so the visit to the visit to the hospital included also greeting many visitors and fans, including the Sisters. Welk was traveling from St. Louis, MO and on his way to Springfield for a performance at The Illinois State Fair that night. Second, at the age of 51 she experienced watching a movie in a car as she and two Sisters attended a movie at a drive-in theatre in 1971.
Living in America has offered Sister Therese many opportunities including watching the St. Louis Cardinals and cheering for catcher Darrell Porter whom she met in 1982, the year he was named MVP of the World Series.
Her family has been blessed with religious vocations. She has seven priests in her family: one great-great uncle, two great uncles, and four cousins. In addition, two of her cousins are religious Sisters. “All of these people, and so many others, have prayed for and supported me over the years. Without them I might have left the convent and without them I would not have survived,” Sister Therese said.
When asked about achieving a long healthy life, she replied “I always was active in my life, even playing baseball, and eating chocolate never hurts.” “I also believe in the power of prayer and to have faith,” she added.
Anyone wishing to send a birthday card should use this address:
Sister Therese Fang, OSF
4849 LaVerna Road
Springfield, IL 62707
The Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is an international congregation of Franciscan Sisters founded in Germany on July 2 1844, and their Provinces include Germany, Poland, USA, Japan, and India. The American Province, based in Springfield, IL, was founded in 1875 when Sisters from Germany arrived and began a healthcare ministry. The American Province is the Founding Institute of Hospital Sisters Ministries which is the public juridic sponsor of Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) – a multi-institutional health care system in 14 communities in Illinois and Wisconsin with 15 hospitals, health centers and clinics, physician partners and colleagues – and Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach, a recovery and world-wide distribution of medical supplies and equipment. Chiara Center, a Franciscan Place of Spirituality for individuals and groups seeking a retreat and conference center, is a ministry of the Sisters at St. Francis Convent. For more information, visit www.hospitalsisters.org.