In addition to activities throughout the year, we celebrated with prayerful reflections compiled from the thoughts and memories of our Sisters, Associates, and Sojourners.
"The obligation of spreading the faith
is imposed on every disciple of Christ. Chapter 2 (21}
(Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium,).
November 21, 1964
"The faithful, therefore, must learn the deepest meaning and the value of all creation, as well as its role in the harmonious praise of God. They must assist each other to live holier lives even in their daily occupations. In this way the world may be permeated by the spirit of Christ and it may more effectively fulfill its purpose in justice, charity and peace. Dogmatic Constitution -Chapter 4
"The religious state clearly manifests that the Kingdom of God and its needs, in a very special way, are raised above all earthly considerations. Finally it clearly shows all people both the unsurpassed breadth of the strength of Christ the King and the infinite power of the Holy Spirit marvelously working in the Church. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Chapter 6
What a breath of fresh air to have the Church have a new direction to be more pastoral in ministering with people. There was a new emphasis to build the Kingdom of God, which challenges us to be "kin to one another. Parishes try to be a community of disciples of Jesus.
My experiences of Chapters, regional meetings for the Clinton, Iowa Franciscans, have inspired me to live out the Gospel of Jesus among other companions on the journey in a parish. I have been gifted to share Franciscan spirituality with facilitating adult formation by doing sessions for Exploring Scripture and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
How can we continue to be present in parishes?
How can we invite people to know Jesus and our loving creator?
- Mary Lou Carlson, OSF
I Hail My Teachers
"Teach only love. For that is what you are. Course in Miracles
My life has been a mirror of the things I learned from the Clinton Franciscans. As a teacher, a parent, a musician, and a Sojourner, I have learned much. The patience of my music teachers, particularly of Sisters Hilary Mullany and Kathleen Ann, was exemplary especially since I didnt really practice except for the day before my lesson. Later on Sister Kathleen Burns told me to practice three hours a day and an hour on technique or get a "D. I practiced and learned to love the discipline. Due to my music education at Mount St. Clare I have been able to teach music and have students learn to love practicing. Any appreciation of liturgy, art, music, I can easily trace back to the gentle and firm discipline of these loving women. So I hail my teachers and educators: Sister Martin who showed me I had a voice and whose teaching style I adopted, my student teaching supervisors, and Sister Marie Therese who encouraged me though my style was different.
Best of all, due to my education, I have experienced the joy of questioning and an openness to ideas, languages, and cultures very different from the usual and I can build bridges for peace. Thus my motto is: "To teach is to give oneself in a unique way. To be as the candle to light with ones life.
How do you share your candle light?
- Ellen Zethmayr-Lolakos, Sojourner
July: Reaching Out
Our Work with Persons with AIDS
When Sister Luke and I began to work with persons with AIDS in 1991, the situation was bleak. AZT was the only medication available, and life expectancy was short.
Our first death was Alan, who had won the Penn-Hemingway Award for his first novel.Then there was Tony, an international journalist, Buddhist by preference.I offered to phone his mother but he declined; "She didnt want me when I was healthy, why would she want me now? He died with his roommate praying "Hail Marys over him.
They were too young to die! As death approaches, each of us must deal with our unfulfilled dreams, unfinished business, our broken relationships, our sins, and our God. Most of us dont have to do that until we are old. But people with AIDS, or any life-threatening illness, must squeeze these tasks into a few short months. And they do!
About a third of our AIDS clients were gay men, a third were drug abusers, and a third were women and children. All were beautiful and loved by God.
Can we all live together as brothers and sisters?
- Rosalie Noder, OSF
Valuing Persons Over Things, LArche Community
When our LArche community gathered for liturgy on the Feast of St. Joseph, the presiding priest asked if anyone knew who St. Joseph was. Ernie, one of the core members, waved his hand enthusiastically and said, "He was the one who taught God how to be a man.
My heart thrilled at the profound simplicity of his answer, and, once again, I realized how blessed I was to be living with these special persons whom society considered to be of no account.
Our Sisters had always ministered to those in need, but when the LArche community opened in 1974, I lived a ministry like none before, since now I was living with the persons to whom I was ministering. Of even greater importance, as I was assisting the "challenged members with tasks of daily living, such as shaving, dressing, and preparing simple meals, they were helping to heal my own "challenges with their extraordinary gifts of living in the present moment and valuing persons over things.
Each evening as we sat around the candle on the living room floor, I absolutely knew that Jesus was there in the circle with us, and I experienced how much He loved these persons whom society had marginalized. It was as He had promised: "What you do for those considered the least, you do to me.
In what person(s) has Jesus shown himself to you when you least expected him?
- Marjorie Wisor, OSF
June : Foreign Ministries
Working in the Bahamas
I went to the Bahamas with the Sisters who were there at Mary Star of the Sea School in July of 1967 and stayed there until August 1979. I went to replace Sister Regina and to help Sister Lois Ann with health ministry. Before they purchased a small station wagon, my first challenge was driving a car with the steering wheel on the right side. It was my duty to load the wagon with lots of medical supplies, baby formula, and even had such things as penicillin to administer if I felt it necessary. It was quite an adventure to go to the far side of the island to get supplies and then head to the mission areas. The mission areas were little settlements that were found along the sea shore. There were no clinics, one just set up shop with a table and basin and the people came for help. All of my help was free. People paid whatever they could. Doctors only visited the mission settlements once a month or every six weeks.
I loved to care for the people; however, after seven years the government decided it wanted mostly native doctors working there. My work changed to driving for Sister Mary Alice Gantley who was principal of Mary Star of the Sea School.
Have you ever found yourself in an unfamiliar place?
What gave you courage?
Are you still willing to try new challenging endeavors?
Why or why not?
How easy is it for you to let go of things you love?
- Marie de Lourdes Davenport, OSF
Called to Serve in Peru
In 1961 Pope John XXIII called for a massive missionary initiative in Latin America. He wanted all Catholic religious orders in the United States to send ten percent of their personnel to Latin America. The Holy Father was concerned that the faith throughout Latin America was weakening and could be lost without the work of dedicated clergy and religious.
Mother Leona Griffin, a woman of deep faith and Superior General in 1961, gladly answered the call of the Universal Church. The call came to us by way of a personal visit to Mount St. Clare in December of 1964 from the newly-appointed Bishop of Chulucanas, Peru: John McNabb, OSA.
Mother Leona immediately sent out a call to the Sisters inviting us to volunteer for this new ministry of education for the poorest of Gods children.As a community we responded to the challenge: many of the Sisters offered to go to Chulucanas to staff the new parochial school being founded by Augustinian priests from Mexico. By 1965, four of our sisters arrived in Chulucanas to begin. We once more responded to the call to serve the poorest and neediest of Gods children in an area where even primary education was the exception.
What is the most urgent unmet need of our Church and world today?
How are we responding?
- Phyllis Morris, OSF
May : Renewal
What to expect from Vatican II
"See, I make all things new!" Rev.: 21:5
In 1959 when Vatican II was announced, it had been one hundred years since Vatican I. It washard to know quite what to expect. What to expect cleared up during the three years (1962-1965)the Council was happening. For me, what was happening was more than a "breath of fresh air, the expressed intention of Pope John XXIII in opening the Council. It made me think of what Jesus was trying to do for Judaism in his time, that is to make it relevant for the present, and to create a growing, open dynamic of relating to others, Jews and non-Jews. Think of the Good Samaritan story.
After Vatican II, there were real changes, for example, Mass and prayers were in the vernacular, ecumenism was encouraged, we were called to relate, openly and amiably, with non-Christians. Adaptation to modern times and renewal of religious life was begun, interfaith marriage was no longer scorned. Many changes to be more in tune with modern times were begun,yet in the fifty years since then, there has been much approval and disapproval of the Council's direction.
Reflection . . .
Are we prepared, now, fifty years later, to follow the lead of Pope Francis as he calls us to engage the directions of Vatican II, as he calls us to emphasize social justice over controversial moral teachings?
Are we moved to examine our priorities when we learn that Pope Francis asked,"How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?"
-Paschal Hocum, OSF
As women whom the Spirit continues to stretch and challenge, we share the gospel in word and deed until the Creators vision of love, justice, freedom, and peace is incarnated everywhere. Constitutions of the Sisters of St. Francis, Chapter One
Although in the 150 years of our congregation, we have had only three official versions of the Constitutions that were promulgated in Rome, there were a couple other tentative ones according to Sister Eileen Smiths Chronicle. In the first one in 1866, she mentions was "a constitutions of sorts, dealing mostly with rules concerning the dismissal of a member or of members who left of their own volition. The terms were very harsh.
In 1923, papal approbation was given to the first official constitutions and in 1938 the revised constitutions received papal approbation.
Again, according to Sister Eileen Smiths Chronicle, "the Chapter of 1967 recognized the Vatican II directive to update the Constitutions and Directives. A tentative document was written at that time but the real work began after the 1981 Chapter with the appointment of a committee of five Sisters and facilitated by a Rochester Franciscan canon lawyer, Sister Margaret Modde.
In 1986, our present Constitutions and Directives received papal approbation. As we reflect on our 150 year history, it is important to appreciate the brave women who endured so much to live the Franciscan rule and to safeguard our Constitutions over the years.
Reflection . . .
Recall a story about our beginnings or one of the elders in our congregation and ask yourself, "What was their guiding force to keep them faithful?
How do the Constitutions inspire you today? When in your life do you rely on mercy and love from others?
-Martinelle Bonnell, OSF
April: Speech and Hearing
Mount St. Clare Speech and Hearing
In 1945, speech therapy services were just in an infancy stage in Iowa as well as all over the country. Although there were classes being offered at some universities and colleges, there were virtually no outpatient facilities for persons in need in the general community.
Sister Edward Smith was teaching college courses in public speaking and theater and directing most of the plays at Mount St. Clare College. One day a farm family came to visit her, saying that their dad had suffered a stroke and asked if she could help him learn to speak again.
Answering the need of the moment and being aware of how critical the ability to communicate is, Sister Edward took him and worked with him. Soon others came to ask for her help with their disabled family members. Seeing the growing need, she decided to go back to school and actually learn how to help these people. As a middle-aged Sister she returned to Marquette University and earned a Masters degree in speech pathology. With that, the Mount St. Clare Speech and Hearing Center began, and continued to serve the families of the Clinton and Fulton areas until 2012.
Reflection . . .
Jesus welcomed everyone. When we meet
severely disabled persons whether physically or mentally,
do we first approach and respond to them
as persons, and only then as disabled persons?
- Marcella Marie Narlock, OSF
Free Those Whose Minds and Voices Are Caged
The vocation to be a speech pathologist with its inherent ministry to free those whose minds and voices are caged and locked within their bodies is a gift I received from the Holy Spirit.How crucially important it is that Gods Word be spoken and communicated to us human beings in Jesus, the Christ!
Ordinarily I saw clients on an individual, one-on-one basis. One day, however, it happened that I took two children for speech therapy together.One was a girl, age 5, whose mother had died suddenly about 2 months earlier; the other, a boy, age 4, whose father had died of suicide about a month prior.As the children were working on their speech skills the girl said, "My mama died.The boy looked at her and said, "My daddy died, too! All I could do was to place my hands on their hands in silence.The intensity of that impact is still with me to this very day. "Out of the mouths of babes you have fashioned praise.Mt 21:16
I know that the words exchanged between those two children that day were a touch of healing love and peace for Gods little ones.
Reflection . . .
How do you bring healing through touch and
communication with others?
- Jeanne d'Arc Untz, OSF
March: Health care
Do Not Cast Me Off
Do not cast me off in the time of old age. Do not forsake me when my strength fails. Psalm 71:9
My first experience with the Sisters of St. Francis was at Mercy Hospital in Burlington, Iowa, in the late 1950s. While I was working with the Sisters as a nurses aide, an elderly patient shared with me her loneliness. I spent time with her daily. A few days before her death, she told me that since she had been sick, I was the one person who had made a difference in her life.I later learned that she had contemplated suicide.This incident greatly impacted my life and made me realize the value of listening and being compassionate.It reinforced my passion for working with the elderly.
I have learned from the elderly that they have a unique set of life experiences.It is important to bring joy, laughter, and companionship to them; build relationships with them and know that every person needs to be accepted and respected for who she/he is; listen and validate feelings; help them feel successful, worthwhile, and empowered even if its for the moment; use a gentle touch to soothe sorrow, to calm anxiety, or to give a feeling of closeness.
Reflection . . .
When in your life do you rely on mercy and love from others?
How can you make the elderly feel accepted and valued?
-Deborah Schneider, OSF
My Ministry as a Nurse
My ministry as a nurse began and ended with the elderly. In the novitiate, I spent time in the summers at "Mount A, while the nursing sisters were on retreat or vacation. The last 27 years of my full-time ministry were at The Alverno Health Care Facility.
"Mount A, Mount Alverno Home for the Aged, began providing housing with services (residential care), nursing care for the ill, and comfort care at the end of life in 1914. As health care changed over the years, the Clinton Franciscans continued to provide care that was up-to-date or evidence-based.
A need to increase safety and to provide additional services to its residents led to the construction of The Alverno Health Care Facility which opened in 1971.
Sisters needing nursing care were always cared for at Mount Alverno or at The Alverno. From 1914 to 1977 all sister employees also lived in the buildings with the residents. Sister employees and sister residents were committed to providing a home-like environment and developing community with all of the residents. The need to accommodate additional residents led the sister employees to move to Mount St. Clare convent. The ministry of Franciscan community presence was and iscarried out by the resident sisters.
Reflection . . .
What gifts do I bring to help develop community?
How do I offer presence to those with whom I live?
How do I offer presence to family, friends, and visitors?
- Ruth Cox, OSF
The Convent Door
Our primary ministry (at Mercy Hospital, Burlington, Iowa) was to patients, family, and staff. However, there were men referred to as hobos, by definition not homeless, who sought work in towns along railroad lines. On different occasions, one or more would approach the convent door for a meal. He or they would depart after the meal. Most we saw and served once.
Reflection . . .
When did I last practice a Corporal Work of Mercy?
When did I see you hungry?
When did I see You thirsty? . . . and act upon your need.
- Dorothy Donovan, Associate
Mount St. Clare Academy
Let the sisters and brothers . . . show themselves joyful, cheerful, and consistently gracious in the Lord. (Francis, "The Earlier Rule)
Arriving at Mount St. Clare Academy in 1952, that spirit of joy made me feel welcomed.One of the most joyful celebrations was the Christmas banquets.The dining room was transformed into an elegant, candlelit banquet hall.Each boarder got dressed up in her Sunday best and headed for the dining room with her $1 gift for the exchange! In the center of the dining room was a large, decorated table on which we placed our gifts. The tables were covered with white linen table cloths and Christmas decorations.
We were greeted by our Franciscan teachers in their fancy aprons to protect their habits. We were allowed to sit with friends and the Sisters served us a delicious meal complete with a specially decorated salad and scrumptious desserts.That was special but the next part brought me the greatest joy: the entertainment was a personal verse about each one of us. Sisters Cortona and Francis Clare wrote verses for the college boarders while Sister Audrianne penned verses for the academy.These Sisters knew us so well that they could find a good quality about each one of us to highlight. We were then called to take a gift.What a great feeling to be complimented by our teachers and mentors in the presence of our friends.
In my life as an educator, I tried to find occasions to compliment and affirm others. I believe this practice grew from those Christmas verses in the academy. With so many headlines and news topics carrying tragic stories, it is important for us to keep Franciscan joy alive and well in our world.
Reflection . . .
Did you affirm anyone this week?
Are you looking for acts of kindness that you can affirm?
- Martinelle Bonnell, OSF
In My Years as a Sister
Then said a rich man to the Prophet speak to us of giving. And he answered: You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
In my years as a Clinton Franciscan Sister, I was blessed by true giving many times. My ministry in education began at St. Geralds School in Oak Lawn, Illinois. Sisters Mary Aquin Leonard and Callista Brisley mentored my teaching of second grade. Sister Eleanor Dunnings artistic gifts made my classroom beautiful. Then I went to Fonda, Iowa and Sister Baptist Fitzgerald was there to guide my transition to teaching two grades.
In Hawarden, Iowa, I was assigned grades one through four. From Sister Corinne Brown I learned, over many cups of tea and many laughs, how to combine classes and to use student tutors.
To California and a predominantly Mexican-American student enrollment, gentle Sister Angela Daley helped me to love these dear children as she did. And Sister Thomasine OReilly possessed boundless energy and a huge repertoire of playground games she was eager to share.
Thank you, bless you, dear Sisters. You have left a legacy of giving without counting the cost.
Reflection . . .
How shall we continue to give freely to a world that cries out for love?
Who most needs my giving today?
- Eleanore Kilcoyne, Associate
January: Our Kentucky Beginnings
All Is Gift
We have just celebrated a time of giving during the beautiful season of Christmas. My Christmas gifts were a bit meager this year, but all the more precious because they were few. Someone truly thought about me and took time and trouble to show me through a choice gift that I might enjoy.
It led me to wonder at the gift we have all receivedlife and opportunity for love and happiness. What makes one worthy of this mighty gift? What do I owe back to my loving God in return?
Read Brother Antons remarks in 2001, the 135th Anniversary celebration, and see if we, like our founding Mothers, might match our dreams to their mighty efforts, something worthy of our great God.
"They were on a journey. Not a personal journey, but a community journey. They must have had deep convictions and vivid dreams. They dreamt something worthy of God, something worthy of the Catholic religion, something worthy of investing their lives in. They dreamt of serving Christs poor as Sisters of St. Francis. They were few, they were very poor, but their hearts were the hearts of great women.
Reflection . . .
Think of the dreams of the founding ladies
and how they persevered through many struggles.
Think of their journey, their call, their acceptance
of the Franciscan habit.
- Hilary Mullany, OSF
Our Beginning: A Promise Fulfilled
The Trappist monastery near Bardstown, Kentucky, was started in 1852. The farmers assisted in building the monastery at Gethsemani. In exchange for their work, Abbot Proust promised their children free schooling. The boys school opened in 1855; the monks erected a girls school in 1861.
In 1863, Mrs. Caroline Warren, a Civil War widow, was recommended to head the girls school. Her two sons, Floyd, age 18, and Robert, age 14, were students at the boys school. There is no documentation where her daughter Sallie, age 12, attended. Having helped the monks with sewing and other tasks, she was no stranger to them. Miss Lizzie Lillis was hired as a teacher, and Sally Walker, Mrs. Warrens niece, assisted them.
On January 21, 1866, Bishop Lavialle and Father Anslem, OFM, travelled from Louisville to Gethsemani to invest the three women as Franciscan Tertiaries: Sisters Elizabeth (Caroline), Angela (Lizzie), and Margaret (Sally). The school and community home was named Mt. Olivet.
Sister Elizabeth Warren was appointed the Superior of this new community. The new community was growing, as five women joined. Abbot Benedict sent them to the Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg, Indiana, for the novitiate.
Our beginnings were on holy grounds by women who had a desire to respond to the unmet needs of the day. I personally like these humble beginnings. Mrs. Warren, Lizzie Lillis, and Sally Walker remind me to be ready to say yes to the needs of my brothers and sisters. May I always eagerly fulfill my public promise to live the Gospel values.
"...I am with you always, until the end of the age. -Matt 28:20
Reflection . . .
Reflect on how you are living your promise to serve God.
Given our Franciscan and Kentucky roots,
what is God asking of us as we
celebrate our 150th anniversary?
- Marilyn Huegerich, OSF