"Do the best you can and God knows our good will."
-from a letter to a Sister, April 7, 1870
Who was this faith-filled and courageous woman? Born Anne Marie Hazotte in 1847 in Buffalo, New York, she was the youngest child of Christoph and Mary Ann Hazotte. This family emigrated from France just in time to escape the Revolution of 1848. Although her family was a very close and happy one, her early life in America was shaped by tragedy caused by illness and death, and by the time she was fifteen she lost her mother, father, two sisters and a brother. These early trials profoundly shaped the heart and spirit of this future leader and woman of determination, faith and compassion.
During the time of Anne Marie's childhood, important events were occurring in the frontier territory of Wisconsin. A missionary priest from Austria, Father Caspar Rehrl, gathered a group of women he called the Society of St. Agnes and located them in the village of Barton near West Bend. Father Rehrl wanted the Sisters to help him teach faith and academics to pioneer families and their children. One of the members of this Society was a friend of the Hazotte family, and she invited Anne Marie to join. Not one to pass up an adventure or a challenge, she accepted the invitation.
On a cold January day in 1862, fifteen-year-old Anne Marie and Father Rehrl met. His first words to her were: "You are a child of destiny; your name will be Agnes." Those were indeed prophetic words. Just two years later, in 1864, Sister Agnes was elected the first Superior General of the Congregation at the age of 17. Mother Agnes, as she would then be known, would serve in that capacity for the next 40 years until her death on March 6, 1905.