It is certainly exceptional that a Trappist abbot, who, after having been a secular priest for many years, entered a Trappist monastery to prepare well for death, became the founder of a missionary congregation.
Precisely this was done by Abbot Franz Pfanner, at Mariannhill near Durban in South Africa. Since1882 he had established a flourishing Trappist mission there. However, without female helpers the work of evangelisation was too limited. To attract female helpers, to assist him in his various missionary endeavours, Abbot Francis published enthusiastic articles in German catholic magazines. He asked helpers to work side by side with the Zulu woman and girls, in a hot climate. Abbot Francis, a man of prayer and action, believed more in the effect of lived examples than of spoken words.
In response to his fervent appeals five young women set out by boat on the long and perilous journey to South Africa. This implied leaving their home country forever.
On 8 September 1885 they appeared in a common uniform, a red skirt, black bodice, apron and cape, and a white bonnet. The founder explained that the colour red was to remind them always of the blood of Christ. With the consent of the Abbot, the sisters had chosen their new name themselves. They were to be "Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood", and their new name was to be their mandate: to honour the Precious Blood in a special way and to make it fruitful through their apostolate (cf. Const.1).
The people loved the red colour, and the founder wanted the sisters to enter their huts in a happy and cheerful spirit and to bring them a religion of redemption, hope and joy.
Without sufficient knowledge of the language, the sisters began to instruct the girls the day after their clothing. When seven more mission helpers arrived just before Christmas 1885, there was great rejoicing everywhere. At that time there was no regular novitiate yet. Father Founder gave the first instructions himself.
At that time the strict canonical regulations regarding the novitiate were not in force yet for active congregations that newly developed at that time. Therefore the founder could admit to private vows those sisters he had instructed for two years already. One of them was Sister Paula. As token of their profession in 1887 they received a small brass cross, attached to a red ribbon. The new missionary congregation increased in number very quickly. At the end of 1888 there were 117 members. However, some found it very hard to adapt to totally different conditions of life and climate. Therefore the realization grew that a house of formation in Europe was necessary.
In the meantime Mother M. Natalia Weindl was appointed as the first General Superior, a post she held from 1894 up to 1907.
On 26 March 1889 the sisters began at Kirchherten in Germany. It was a difficult beginning. Because of the "Kulturkampf" in Germany, the difficulties became so numerous that on the advice of their founder the sisters moved to Helden-Panningen in the Netherlands. As the convent in Helden-Panningen became too small for the increasing number of postulants and novices, Abbot Wolpert bought a rural property at Aarle-Rixtel near Helmond, Netherlands. On 15 July 1903 the last sisters moved from Helden-Panningen to the new convent. The new convent became the name "Missieklooster Heilig Bloed". The coat of arms above the entrance shows the Lamb of God with the victorious flag and the chalice into which blood streams. On 2 October 1906 the Constitutions for the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood were approved by Pope Pius X. After the approbation of the Constitutions the first general chapter of the Congregation took place, in which Sr. M. Paula Emunds was unanimously elected first canonical superior general, to the great delight of the founder and the sisters.
The Motherhouse of the Congregation, until then in Mariannhill, was transferred to "Heilig Bloed" - Holy Blood - Convent in the Netherlands.