An undated movie of the Glenmary Sisters.
The Federation of Communities in Service was formed by forty-four nuns, whose bond with the Appalachian people became so strong, they would leave the Glenmary Order to continue personal, hands-on service. The organization was primarily dedicated to the regions of Appalachia and southern Ohio with the aim of assisting and aiding rural communities, but not evangelizing. This God-centered community became a source of hope and help to the Appalachian people they served.
In 1967, after much groundwork, planning and preparation, FOCIS became a non profit 501(c)(3) corporation. FOCIS defined their goal as "building a community of members who have the capacity to give themselves to a life of dedication, service, and integration."
In her book prospectus, "Changing Habits," Helen Lewis stated: "Instead of evangelizing people to Catholicism, they were evangelized by them. The sisters took sides with marginalized people in a marginalized region, seeking a way to survive, have some control over their lives and resist the destruction of their communities and their land."
First and foremost was to continue building relationships and earning the trust of the Appalachian people, which was no easy task. Interviews were conducted to learn about the Appalachian people, their faith and their culture. The idea was not to change the culture, but to work with the people and help them rebuild what had been destroyed by corporations who devastated the environment and a way of life.
The annual gathering of women for fellowship was just one means of building relationships. The gatherings were a safe place for the women to come to relax, refresh and rejuvenate. Scholarships were provided so that all who were interested could participate.