Following Faith: A History of Bachmann Building and its Founder

Every day hundreds of students at Neumann University go in and out of the Bachmann building to go to class, get food, go to the library, and go to mass. 

Most of these students, however, do not know who the namesake of the most popular building on campus belongs to or the history behind Bachmann. 

The Bachmann building is named after Mother Mary Francis Boll Bachmann, the founder and First Superior General of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia.  

Mother Francis was born on November 14, 1824, in Bavaria, Germany. She came to America in 1948 at 24 with her husband, Anton Bachmann.  

Her husband tragically passed away while working in a quarry in 1951, leaving Mother Francis to care for her four children with the help of her sister, Barbara, who took Mother Francis in after the death of her husband. 

Mother Francis and Barbara lived in a house on 253 Apple Street in Philadelphia, and after both felt the call for a religious vocation, turned their house into a store and hospice for working girls.  

Shortly after, Anna Dorn joined the two sisters in their mission and the three became the founding members of the Sisters of St. Francis. On April 9, 1855, they were invested by Bishop John Neumann and received the habit of St. Francis.  

This left Mother Francis’ two sons to be raised by one of her married sisters, one of whom died in the Civil War, and the other became a Catholic Priest. Her two daughters would go on to join the Sisters of St. Francis.  

Mother Francis passed away on June 30, 1863, at the age of 38, having only served 7 years as a sister of St. Francis. However, in that short period, Mother Francis led the congregation through the difficulties of the first few years. 

Mother Francis in her short time serving established the Glen Riddle apostolate, St. Mary’s Hospital in Philadelphia, and several schools. She also instituted care for orphans as well as the sick and aged in the Philadelphia area.  

Mother Francis was buried at St. Peter’s cemetery in Philadelphia next to her husband and was reinterred at Our Lady of Angels cemetery here at Neumann University in 1875.