Our History, Our Heritage
A Brief History
Villa Maria College was founded in 1960 by Mother Mary Annette Guzowski and the Felician Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Province. The College was initially a teacher-training center for sisters in the education apostolate and was established as an affiliate of the Catholic University of America.
In 1961, a provisional charter was secured from the Board of Regents of the State of New York to grant Associate in Arts (A.A.) and Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) degrees to women religious.
- 1965 – A charter was extended to include laywomen who wished to pursue an associate degree.
- 1968 – The college was granted an Absolute Charter and was recognized as a co-educational institution.
- 1972 – The college became fully accredited with the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
- 1974 – The Associate in Science (A.S.) degree was added.
- 2005 – The Absolute Charter was amended to offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Interior Design.
- 2008 – New bachelor degree programs were added in Animation, Fashion Design and Merchandising,Music and Music Industry, and our accreditation was reaffirmed by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
- 2010 – Villa Maria College celebrated 50 years of providing quality education.
The Felician Sisters began as a community in 1855 in Poland under Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska. They profess vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience and follow the evangelical way set forth by Saint Francis of Assisi. The aim of the community is to cooperate with Christ in the spiritual renewal of the world by providing education, social service, and health care to the poor and needy.
In 1874, five Felician Sisters arrived in the United States and settled in Polonia, Wisconsin, where they staffed a parish school. The community grew and, in 1881, the sisters were sent to Buffalo where they ministered at Saint Stanislaus parish.
In 1900, Buffalo became the second province to be established in the United States and was known as Immaculate Heart of Mary Province. The sisters moved throughout the Diocese of Buffalo and beyond, staffing many schools, institutions and parishes.
Today there are nearly 2,000 sisters worldwide.
Sophia Camille Truszkowska (1825-1899) was born in Kalisz, Poland into a noble family. When Sophia was a young child, her parents instilled in her the virtues of piety, social justice and charity.
Over the years, Sophia developed a passion for working with the poor and eventually joined the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and became a lay member of the Franciscan Third Order. She, along with her cousin Clothilde, began to minister to the sick and destitute of Warsaw and eventually founded the Institute of Sophia Truszkowska.
On November 21,1855, Sophia, who took the name of Mary Angela together with her cousin Clothilde, forged a new religious community steeped in the values and ideals of St. Francis of Assisi. This community eventually became known as the Felician Sisters. Mary Angela would led the community until 1869 and spent the remaining years of her life in humble prayer and service.
Mary Angela was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 18, 1993, and given the title Blessed. To learn more about the Blessed Mary Angela and the Felician Sisters, visit feliciansisters.org.
Saint Felix of Cantalice, whose name the Felician Sisters adopted, was born in 1513 in Cantalice, a little village not far from Rome. He was a shepherd and a farm laborer before becoming a Capuchin lay brother at nearby Citta Ducale Monastery in Anticoli, and became noted for his austerities and piety.
In 1549 he was sent to Rome and with his joyful countenance and thankful “Deo Gratias” spoken to everyone he met, Felix the Questor became a familiar figure in Rome. He was known and revered by many for carrying his sack to receive donations for the order, and aiding the sick and the poor. To learn more about St. Felix of Cantalice, visit americancatholic.org.
We imitate the joy, simplicity, and “Deo Gratias” of Saint Felix of Cantalice whose name Divine Providence has chosen for our Congregation. His life exemplifies for us the gift of integrating the spirit of contemplation with our apostolic involvement. –“Response to love.”
Constitutions of the Felician Sisters
Francis was born into a family of well-to-do cloth merchants in Assisi, Italy, and enjoyed a position of privilege during his youth. However, serious illness led him to reevaluate his life and priorities.
A dramatic conversion then followed when he experienced the crucified Christ calling out to him to “rebuild his church.” Francis followed this call not only literally, but also figuratively. He renounced his materially driven life and reached out to the poor and outcasts of his world.
While reviled by many, Francis nonetheless led a life of prayer, simplicity, poverty, joy and service to those in need. He lived a radical life in total imitation of Jesus Christ. He attracted many followers and eventually wrote a rule of life to guide this new movement aimed at living the Gospel fully and completely.
To learn more about the life of Saint Francis, visit americancatholic.org.
Prayer of Saint Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
And where there is sadness, joy.
Lord, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.