Our Foundress Mother Bernarda

  • An extraordinary woman of the 19th Century
  • A woman between two poles: between Liberalism, Radicalism and Catholic Fundamentalism
  • A woman with Vision
  • A woman who experiences a lot of opposition and enmity because of her faithfulness to her commitment
  • A woman deeply anchored in faith
  • A woman who calls a new congregation into being in the midst of the "Klostersturm" (Storm against Convents)
  • A woman who in Central Switzerland dares to call a new form of religious life into being
  • A woman with a deep "inner life"
  • A pilgrim always on the way
  • A woman who does not shy away from the risk to reach her goal
  • A religious woman who, according to the opinions of some of her contemporaries, is no religious
  • A woman exactly for today

Biography of Mother Bernarda Heimgartner 1822 – 1863

182226 November, Maria Anna Heimgartner was born in Fislisbach, Canton Aargau
1829Elementary and continuing education in Fislisbach
1836Death of her father
1837End of her school-education
1838 - 1840Children’s nurse in Baden, Aargau
1840 - 1841Continuation of her education with the Capuchinesses in Baden
1841 - 1843Continuation of her education with the Ursulines in Freiburg, in Breisgau, Germany
1843 - 1844Candidate and novice with the Sisters of Divine Providence in Ribeauville, Alsace
184416 October First Religious Profession in Altdorf
17 October Arrival in Menzingen, Canton Zug
First superior of the community
186321 September Election of Sr Salesia Strickler as new superior of the institute


13 December, death of Mother Bernarda. 

Home and Family 

Maria Anna Heimgartner (the later Mother Bernarda) was a child like a thousand others. However, in her young years we discover experiences which are a clear preparation for her task of the future.


T he arguments between the liberal-radicals and the members of the conservative group were especially strong in Maria Anna’s home, the Canton Aargau. The rights of the Catholic Church were strongly limited by the Article of Baden. The eight convents in the Canton Aargau were dissolved in 1841. A large number of the population left the church and turned to the new teachings of salvation.

The parish priest of Fislisbach, the home-village of Maria Anna, refused to read out the Government proclamation of 1835 (Maria Anna was 13 years old). This proclamation attacked the church and bishops. He also refused to swear fidelity under oath which cost him a fine.


Maria Anna was born in Fislisbach on 26 November 1822. She grew up in a deeply religious family who actively participated in the life of the parish. The family was impoverished and dependent on the support of the local community. The register of the poor records about shoemaker Heimgartner: "diligent, good training of his children".

It was a great blow for the family when the father died at the age of 48 (Maria Anna was just 14 years old). Maria Anna helped to support the family by looking after children.

One year after the death of the father a teachers' training college was opened in Lenzburg. The mother asked the local community for a loan to enable her son to do the teachers' training. Mrs Heimgartner was not afraid of the hostile attitude towards the faith in this institution which was led by liberals. This was even more surprising since it was well known how hostile the catholic population was towards the tendencies of liberalism.