We trace our roots back to 1908 in Hungary. Rerum Novarum,
the groundbreaking social encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, was the inspiration
for our ministry to the working poor. Sr. Margaret Slachta was a pioneer
in the field of social work. She also trained women for political action.
In 1920 she was elected the first woman member of the Hungarian Parliament,
where she actively promoted workers’ rights, stressing the well-being
of women, children and families.
Sister Margaret founded the Sisters of Social Service (SSS) in 1923.
The members of the Society made the social mission of the Church the
motivating thrust of their lives. They embraced Benedictine spirituality
and had a special devotion to the Holy Spirit. The Sisters dedicated
themselves to God by vows.
During the 1920s, the SSS spread from Hungary to neighboring Rumania
and Slovakia, as well as to Canada and the United States.
The Sisters provided charitable services to the poor; founded and maintained
a school to train social workers; organized and led Christian women’s
movements; worked on Christian formation; and served on city councils.
During World War II, under the leadership of Sr. Margaret, the Sisters
made heroic efforts to resist Nazism and to save the lives of persecuted
Jews. Sr. Sara Salkahazi was martyred for sheltering Jewish people.
After the war, Sr. Margaret was again elected to Parliament, and along
with Cardinal Mindszenty, was part of the resistance against Communism.
SSS - U.S. District (Buffalo, NY)
Some Sisters lived and worked in Buffalo, NY, in the 1920’s.
Another group of Sisters came to Buffalo from Hungary in 1947. They
laid the foundation here for a permanent SSS settlement. In 1949, Sr.
Margaret had to emigrate from Hungary for political reasons, and joined
the Sisters in Buffalo.
Religious orders were suppressed in the Communist countries of Eastern
Europe in 1950, and the Sisters were forced either to live out their
call underground or to leave their countries. Sr. Margaret moved the
administration of the Society to Buffalo. A year later, the SSS was
established in Cuba. After the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, a group
of novices made their way to Buffalo. In the following decades, several
more Sisters from Eastern Europe joined the U.S. District.
During the early years, the Sisters ministered to African-Americans,
Hispanics, and immigrant Hungarians. Later they staffed a home for emotionally
disturbed children in Syracuse, NY, and served for twelve years in Akron,
OH. Sisters worked in areas of child welfare, pastoral care, and other
ministries. In order to respond to the needs of Cuban immigrants, the
Sisters established a house in Miami, FL. A small group of Sisters was
also formed in Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Eastern Europe and Cuba
During four decades of Communism in Eastern Europe, several Sisters
spent time in prison because of religious persecution. In spite of the
difficulties during the forty years of illegality, God continued to
call young women to join our community. They entered secretly, often
without the knowledge of their own families. Because of the oppression,
Sisters could not live out their vocation openly, yet they spread the
spirit of prayer, spirituality, and love around them by their quiet
witness. Whatever secular jobs they had, they worked to alleviate suffering
and to build God’s reign.
The courage and faithfulness of the Sisters kept alive the flame of
our charism in Eastern Europe. They drew encouragement from Sr. Margaret's
words: "The loss of old forms or structure is of no importance.
What matters is that the spirit we kept alive. This will create new
Since 1990, the Sisters have been able to live out their vocation freely.
They serve God’s people in various ministries, according to the
pressing needs of their own countries.
The Federation of the Sisters of Social Service was established in
1972. It is comprised of three autonomous branches: SSS
of California, SSS
of Canada, and our SSS branch, headquartered in Budapest, Hungary.
Buffalo, NY is the hub of the U.S. district. Each group, while sharing
common roots and charism, operates independently and has its own general
government. Representatives of the three branches gather periodically
to support one another in our common vision.