On December 1, 1843, at the age of 25, the newly married teacher Johannes Höver took up a new position at the school for the poor in the parish of St. Peter in Aachen. Aachen, then a large industrial city with needle factories, weaving mills and iron smelting, had produced an industrial proletariat that provided workers and their families with the most undignified living conditions. Twelve-hour work for children in factories was not uncommon. In addition to exploitation, this led to mental, social, even physical neglect. Sometimes Höver would send the hungry girls and boys to his wife before school started, and she would prepare breakfast for them. Höver wanted to make children and young people strong through education and varied lessons. He tried to find apprenticeships for school leavers.
In 1846, Höver's wife Anna-Maria died as a result of a stroke. The 28-year-old widower was left alone with his two sons Richard and Ferdinand. At the same time, he was free to take on new tasks and challenges. With open eyes and an alerted heart, he practiced Christian charity. His special concern was for needy children and young people.
In order to be able to provide lasting help, he and three other men founded the religious order of the Brothers of the Poor of St. Francis on December 24, 1857. Johannes Höver and his companions recognized and served Christ in the marginalized and the weak. They wanted to live and love like Jesus. In poverty and fraternity, they imitated the spirituality of Francis of Assisi.
Johannes Höver suffered a stroke in 1862 from which he never recovered. He died on July 13, 1864.
The Brothers of the Poor of St. Francis continued to live and work in the spirit of the founder. Taught at the so-called school for the poor at St. Peter's. Visited prisoners, engaged in the community, accompanied the dying. For many decades they found their professional focus in children's and apprentices' homes, boarding schools and schools. Due to the Kulturkampf, they went to the neighboring Netherlands.
With holy boldness some Brothers went to the USA already in 1866. They wanted to share the life of the german migrants. Like the Sisters of the Schervier Order, whose founder, the energetic and also challenging Franziska Schervier, was on friendly terms with Höver, the Brothers founded several branches in Cincinnati (Ohio), from which a flourishing province grew.
In 1935, Brothers went to Brazil. The largest number of Brothers live there today. They take care for children and youth, families and drug addicts, and work in pastoral ministry.