Founder & History

Meet our founder, Father Al

Aloysius Schwartz was the founder of Sisters of Mary World Villages for Children and the Sisters of Mary. More affectionately called “Father Al” by those whose lives he touched, he was a Champion of the Poor and the spiritual father to countless children in our Villages for Children (our Girlstowns and Boystowns) throughout the world.

Father Al’s Life

A Saint in the Making

Aloysius Schwartz was born in Washington, D.C. on September 18, 1930. He grew up with the idea of becoming a priest and working as a missionary serving the poor.  In 1944, he entered St. Charles Seminary in Maryland, then finished his B.A. degree at Maryknoll College, and went on to study theology at The Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium.

As he spent his little free time helping at ragpickers’ camps in Europe, he was further inspired to dedicate his priesthood to the service of the poor. After visiting Banneux, where the Virgin of the Poor appeared, he was more inspired to dedicate his priesthood to the service of the poor in fulfillment of her message.

In 1957, Msgr. Schwartz was ordained as a diocesan priest. He was assigned to Busan, South Korea later that year. Shortly after, in 1961, he incorporated in the United States the dedicated not-for-profit organization that would raise the funds to support his projects – originally known as Korean Relief. Recognizing that he needed help to lead and grow his charitable mission, he founded the religious congregation of the Sisters of Mary to serve the poorest of the poor in 1964.

Thanks to the financial contributions of his friends and benefactors, Father Al built the first Villages for Children in South Korea. Within these Boystowns and Girlstowns, and together with the Sisters of Mary, he set on to take care of, educate, and give a bright future to those who needed it the most: orphans, abandoned children, and those coming from the poorest families. He also built hospitals and tuberculosis sanatoriums for very indigent patients as well as hospices for the homeless, handicapped elderly men, disabled children, and unwed mothers.

September 18, 1930 - Birth of Aloysius Schwartz

Father Al was born in Washington, D.C. He was the son of Louis F. Schwartz and Cedelia A. Bourassa.

June 29, 1957 - Ordination to Priesthood

Father Al was ordained a diocesan priest in St. Martin’s Church, Washington, D.C. by Bishop McNamara, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington.

December 8, 1957 - Father Al arrives in South Korea

Upon his arrival, Fr. Al was incardinated in the Diocese of Busan, South Korea.

August 15, 1964 - The Sisters of Mary are founded

Originally called the Mariahwe Sisters, a religious group now numbering over 370 Sisters working in South Korea, the Philippines, Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, and Honduras.

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Father Al diagnosed with ALS

During a visit to the US, Father Al is diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease).

March 16, 1992 - Father Al dies of ALS

Before he passed away, Father Al named Sister Michaela Kim of the Sisters of Mary as his successor.

December 10, 2003 - Cause for beatification & canonization is opened

The Archdiocesan Process for the Beatification and Canonization of Father Al was formally opened at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Manila Cathedral) Intramuros, Manila, Philippines.

January 22, 2015 - Father Al is named Venerable

Pope Francis authorized the Congregation of Saints to promulgate the decree of heroic virtue of Aloysius Schwartz, thus giving him the title of “Venerable”.

In 1985, his mission expanded into the Philippines. But in 1989, Father Al was diagnosed with the terminal illness Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He accepted the illness with joy and serenity as a gift from God. And in spite of his deteriorating health, he established the first Village for Children in Mexico in 1990.

With humility and unwavering faith, Father Al suffered and accepted many criticisms and pains in order to serve and love God through the poor. His illness made him immobile, but even in a wheelchair he continued to fulfill his duties with joy.

Father Al passed away at the Girlstown in Manila in 1992, and was buried in Silang, Cavite. He named Sister Michaela Kim of the Sisters of Mary as his successor.

Under the leadership of the Sisters of Mary, Father Al’s mission continued to expand – first into Guatemala, then Brazil, and Honduras, and most recently into Tanzania.

Monsignor Aloysius Schwartz is currently under consideration for Beatification and Canonization by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. As part of this process, he was declared a “Servant of God” in May of 2004 and more recently, on January 22, 2015, Pope Francis signed a decree confirming that he lived a life of heroic virtue and declared him “Venerable”.

They might be Saints: Fr. Al Schwartz

The remarkable life and canonization cause of Venerable Al Schwartz is explored as host Michael O’Neill looks at the founding of the religious orders Sisters of Mary of Banneux and the Brothers of Christ.

These communities continue to serve the charitable programs Fr. Al created which continue to give aid to tens of thousands of the poorest of the poor worldwide in the Philippines, Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Honduras and Tanzania.

Learn more about the children

The children at our schools come from the poorest of the poor. Each child has their own stories of what their life was before coming to our schools and how their lives are being transformed by the Sisters of Mary programs.  Read the moving stories of our children in their own words. 

Meet Our Graduates

There are 160,000+  graduates from the Sisters of Mary Schools. Many of our graduates went on to live prosperous lives, helping their families and local communities. Read the inspiring stories of our graduates in their own words. 

Life At Our Villages

Learn more about how we help children break free from a life of poverty.