Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Latest News from the Nyumbani Journal

Enjoy some of the most recent updates from Sr. Julie Mulvihill about her ministry at Nyumbani Children's Home in Kenya. To learn more about all of the Nyumbani programs---Leo Toto, Nyumbani Village (where Lawson High School is located), and Nyumbani Laboratory---visit their website, www.nyumbani.org.

July 31, 2015
We have several volunteers right now. Pepe, who comes each August, and Kara, who is is part of the Princeton in Africa Program, are both volunteering in the village. This week we had a volunteer come for the village. Richelle has been volunteering at the village for the past two  months left to continue  her studies in Ireland. 

I spent a lot of time this week helping to prepare our 21 children to go to Ireland. Sr. Emily and I worked to get all their bags packed and Protus spoke with them about their passports and travel.   Before dinner on Thursday, the children met with Protus, Helen, and myself for a final review and then with Sr. Mary for their final blessing.  After dinner we boarded the bus and arrived at the airport at 7 P.M.  Sr. Emily, Mungai, and I watched from outside as they got through the ticket line and checked their baggage.  By 8 P.M. all was done and we thought they were ready to go but the British Airline (BA) person said she needed to check to see if they needed transit visas to go through the London airport.  At 9:30 P.M. she confirmed that they did and they since didn’t have them, they couldn’t fly to London. BA could do nothing to help since it was UK law. We couldn’t believe it since Protus had checked early in the week and had been told they did not. I’d already notified Protus and he was on his way to see what he could do. In the meantime, we got the children back on the bus so they could sleep and Helen, Knight, and I waited outside the terminal for Protus.  He arrived, worked for hours, and was able—by hard work and some kind of miracle—to get the visas. However, the gates were closed so the children couldn’t get on the plane.  They were very disappointed but we prayed when we got on the bus to go home and knew that they would go eventually—just didn’t know when.  To cheer the kids up, Protus gave me money to get food on the way home.  We stopped at Pizza Inn for pizza and soda.  There was a 250 shilling special and we just had enough money to cover the kids. They woke up to the smell of individual chicken and beef pizzas and loved them. We arrived home at 1:30 AM.  The next day Protus went to BA to see about the tickets and we are now waiting to see when they can fly to Ireland. 

August 10, 2015
Terrific news!  After a lot of hard work, we were able to get our children off to Ireland.  The first group of 12 led by Helen and Knight left on Sunday evening and the second group of 12 led by Peter and Brigit left on Monday. Say a special prayer for Geraldine, Dermot, and all those who made this trip possible.  The children will return home on August 20.

On Friday night the Adoration Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament had the children pray for  me and on Saturday morning they had Mass celebrated for my intention. Saturday evening Srs. Ann, Little, Emily, Teresa, and Elizabeth--who is closely associated with the sisters--had a special jubilee dinner for me.  Sr. Mary and Protus also joined in the celebration. The sisters decorated, prepared lots of good food, baked a delicious cake, and gave me a beautifully wrapped present and a bouquet of roses. What more could anyone want! They are so sisterly towards me.  I deeply appreciated all they did to make this such a great celebration. I loved being able to celebrate with my Nyumbani family.  I am still working on two more jubilee celebrations—one with the Nyumbani children and one with the staff! 

Sr. Julie celebrated her 50th jubilee with the sisters with whom she works.
Sr. Julie shows off the gift and flowers she received from the sisters.
Our primary school children finished school today and our high school students are returning home. The kids will be free to relax this weekend. Our Holiday Program will begin on Monday. This should also be a relaxing time for them. They will have library, computer, and art classes, a little time for service, and time to play outdoor games.  Pray that the weather gets a little bit warmer.  It is winter here and it has been pretty chilly most of the week.

I took Mungai to Dr. Serah to check out how well he is hearing with his CI. That young man knows everything he needs to know about how to program it. He clearly answered any question the audiologist asked him. I’m so proud of him and I am sure Tomi and Jeff would be too. The only sad news is that since his CI is so old we might not be able to get replacement rechargeable batteries. The rechargeable ones are expensive but they actually save us a lot of money. Let’s hope Doctor Serah comes up with some good news.
August 14, 2015
Week 1 of our Holiday Program ended with an Olympic Basketball Team Game in the afternoon. We had two teams: Blue and Green.  Collins and Paulo, two of our Kenyan University students, got our teams together. Thomas captained the Blue Team and Christine G the Green Team. Sr. Mary was our head cheerleader. Aoife from Ireland was our score keeper. The Blue Team won and got their medals and candy and the Green Team got their Olympic rings and candy. There was some complaining about the officiating but I thought I did a great job! On Friday we will have our Nyumbani's Got Talent Show! I’ll let you know how it goes.

John and Sam are working on shading with the art group.  Some of our students, like Canary and Nicholas, have real artistic talent.  Ivan is introducing some new information on computers and is testing the class. The students keep telling me about the percentage they got right. They love learning new things about the computers. In the library we have been working on reading and learning how to write brief book reports. We have also done a little work on letter writing and some grammar. Jackie and her friends are doing well with the high school students, especially Form 4s. The teenagers seem anxious to learn and to get help with the assignments they need to complete while on break. In Self-Reliance Training the topic is preparing budgets.  It’s is an important topic, not just in helping to set up a business but also in budgeting for their daily lives.    

This week Laura P. will be traveling to Switzerland to meet her relatives. Her father was Swiss and she’s excited about meeting her family. Our former volunteer and long-time friend Alex helped to arrange this and will travel with her.

 Before they left for Switzerland, Laura (right) and Alex attended the Swiss National Day Celebration and Laura meet people who knew her father.
Please continue to pray for us as we pray for you!
Sr. Julie


Sr. Ronnie Grier Receives Harriet Tubman Award

Our Sr. Ronnie Grier received the Harriet Tubman Award at the annual National Black Sisters’ Conference (NBSC) which was held in Charleston, South Carolina, in July. Since 1984, members of the NBSC have nominated and voted for one of its members to receive the Harriet Tubman Award. In addition to other criteria, the recipient must exemplify the spirit, courage, and charisma of Harriet Tubman who was called to be a Moses to her people and must have affected the development of Black People.

Before the award was presented, Sr. Kathy Dougherty was invited to address the attendees. Then Sr. Callista Robinson, OSF, president of NBSC, presented the award, explaining that Ronnie, through her ministry, has, indeed, served as a Moses to her people. Jennie Cook Trotter, a friend of Sister Ronnie since their days at St. Benedict School in Brooklyn, also shared the impact that Ronnie has had on her life over the years. In an acceptance speech that combined both eloquence and simplicity and which seemed to reflect the very reasons why she had been chosen to receive the award, Ronnie spoke of the importance of making children aware of their importance and their inherent dignity.

Sr. Kathy addresses the conference prior to the awarding of the Harriet Tubman Award.
Sr. Ronnie accepts the Harriet Tubman Award from Sr. Callista Robinson.
Sr. Ronnie Grier (right) and Jennie Cook Trotter display the Harriet Tubman Award plaque.
In her acceptance speech, Sr. Ronnie stressed the importance of helping children to understand and believe in their inherent dignity.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Congregational Gathering Day 2015

On August 8 sisters from east and west, companions, and former members gathered at the Neumann University Life Center in Aston for our 2015 Gathering Day.  

After a continental breakfast, the program began with prayer and a welcome by Sr. Kathy Dougherty, our congregational minister.
The morning focused on the “joy of the gospel,” a theme developed by Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation. Each of our four presenters explained how he or she experiences the “joy of the gospel” as a lived reality.  Our speakers were Joan DeGregorio, a former member; Kathy Joyce, one of our companions; Sr. Nora Nash, our director of corporate social responsibility; and John Kruse, an employee of Neumann University.
Joan DeGregorio, former member

Sr. Nora Nash
Companion Kathy Joyce
John Kruse, professor at Neumann University
A midmorning break and lunch allowed time for socializing—always an important part of our gatherings!
Srs. Helen Jacobson and Ruth Bernadette O'Connor chat with former member Linda Vonderschmidt-LaStella (center).
Sr. Florence Hee (right) welcomed Companion Joy Wallace who traveled from Portland, Oregon, for the weekend. 
Following lunch we spent time in quiet reflection and sharing insights on the morning’s presentations.

(Front) Srs. Jean Margaret McDevitt and Kathleen Shadell; (at table) Srs. Kathleen Halpin, Ronnie Grier, and Corinne Wright share reflections and insights about the morning's presentations.
The afternoon program offered several options: tours of the motherhouse, presentations on both our new volunteer program and Young Franciscans, and—more time to socialize!

(Above) Sr. Sara Marks and (Below) Sr. Christa Marie Thompson both did PowerPoint presentations. Sr. Sara talked about the new volunteer program, Franciscan Volunteers: No Risk, No Gain. Sr. Christa explained the evolution and current status of the Young Franciscans program.
At 4 P.M. we moved to the motherhouse for our Eucharistic liturgy during which Srs. Sara Marks and Kathy Flood renewed their vows and our companions renewed their annual commitment.
Sr. Sara Marks (above) and Sr. Kathy Flood (below) both renewed their vows as Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. They will continue to do this yearly as they continue their discernment.

Many members of our Franciscan Companions in Mission were present for the day and during the liturgy renewed their commitment to our values and mission.
The sisters sang the Blessing of St. Francis to affirm both the vowel renewal by Srs. Kathy and Sara and the recommitment by our companions.
We concluded our day with a delicious dinner served by our always gracious food services staff.

 (Above) Srs. Maria Orlandini, Ursula Tisdall, Joan Koliss, and Eleanor Peck. (Below) Srs. Kathleen Donovan, Doris Johnson, Jean Rupertus, and Marie Lucey.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Highlights from Jubilee 2015!

Our annual jubilee celebration was held the weekend from June 12-14 for sisters who were celebrating 50, 70, and 75 years of religious profession. In addition to time to relax, recall memories, and simply enjoy one another’s company, the jubilarians were treated to a festive dinner on Saturday evening. On Sunday morning, more than 200 sisters as well as a number of our Companions in Mission gathered in Our Lady of Angels Chapel in for the Eucharistic liturgy presided over by Fr. Cyprian Rosen, OFM Cap. These 27 Franciscan women represent 1,478 years of service throughout the United States as well as in other countries. Individual jubilarians are pictured on our website. Check them out at http://www.osfphila.org/about/2015_Jubilarians. And if you know any of them and would like to send a note of congratulations, send it via email to communications@osfphila.org or mail it to Communications Office, 609 S. Convent Rd., Aston, PA 19014. We'd be happy to see that the she gets your message!
Just a few of our jubilee photos to give you an idea of what our day was like!

Getting corsages before Mass.
Socializing while waiting for press release photos.
Heading outside to process to chapel
Sisters gather in chapel for liturgy.
Jubilarians proclaim the readings, share a reflection, and lead the Universal Prayer.
Jubilarians renew the vows they first professed 50, 70, and 75 years ago!
Leaving chapel and heading down to lunch--and time for more celebration!
Time for enjoying lunch, socializing, and receiving congratulations!




Monday, July 27, 2015

Lessons from Orion!

Each year our sisters make a week long retreat—the place and the type of retreat varying according to the sister’s need, preference, or schedule. Some years it may be a group retreat at an established retreat or a directed retreat one-on-one with a spiritual director. Other years a sister might choose to make a private retreat. Such was the case with my friend, Sr. Betty, this past year. A friend offered her the use of their home near Cape May for a week and Sr. Betty felt it would make the perfect place for a private retreat. She has been training a dog for Canine Partners. Orion is a yellow Labrador retriever and is slated to become a home companion dog. Knowing that her friend would not object, Sr. Betty took Orion with her for the week. When she returned, she shared with me this reflection that she had written during retreat—what she observed about life just from observing Orion.   

When one has a well-adjusted Labrador retriever as a retreat director, what lessons will unfold?
  •  Play hard.
  •  Enjoy the moment. 
  •  Relish your food. Even if it is the same thing given to you twice a day, get excited about it!
  •  Be grateful for every gift. 
  • Take a nap.
  • Play. 
  • Walk.
  • Sniff all the smells there are and all you are capable of smelling. 
  •  Be grateful and show gratitude. 
  •  Go to bed early—especially when you’re tired. 
  •  Live in the moment. 
  • Don’t let the rain keep you from having a good time. 
  •  Drink plenty of water. 
  •  Stretch. 
  • Listen. Be attentive. 
  •  Bark when necessary—let your voice be heard. 
  • Focus. For Orion that means to focus on a ball. For me, it's to focus on Jesus and the Incarnate Word in all creation.
  •  Every day and every moment is a gift. Enjoy it with love.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2015 Franciscan Federation Conference

Each year I usually write an article about the Franciscan Federation conference, using as my guide the schedule posted on the federation's website. This year, however, I had the privilege of being present for the entire conference in Indianapolis. We arrived at the hotel Friday afternoon and after checking in, looked for a place to get some lunch. What started out with a small group gradually grew to a bit of a reunion as more of our sisters found their way into the hotel restaurant.

Monday evening we gathered for the opening ritual--a reflective prayer and a beautiful interpretive dance performed by a group of children and teens. This prayer paved the way for the very beautiful and reflective prayer time we would experience throughout the week. Most of the hymns and prayers were projected on two large screens in an effort to be environmentally conscious.

Over the next three days, our speakers developed--both in individual presentations and in discussion--the conference theme, "Responding to God's Love: A Franciscan Moral Vision." On Saturday, Sister Mary Beth Ingham, CSJ, addressed the issue of "An Aesthetic Moral Vision" and was later joined by Fr. Thomas Nairn, OFM, and Fr. Joseph Chinnici, OFM, to discuss the issue. Similarly, the participants discussed the topic at their respective tables and shared their ideas and questions with the speakers.
(L-R) Fr. Tom Nairn, Fr. Joe Chinnici, Sr. Mary Beth Ingham

Saturday afternoon we heard a report from the "Dare to Dream" ad hoc committee on looking at the future of the Franciscan Federation and on ways to "widen the tent." This issue became a topic for a table discussion and an opportunity to share the outcome of those discussions with the committee.
A symbolic representation of "widening the tent"--expanding the membership and thrust of the Franciscan Federation.

Sunday morning the key speaker was Fr. Tom Nairn who addressed the topic, "The Human Spirit: Searching for Truth, Desiring the Good." His presentation developed the idea of the Franciscan moral vision from the stance of St. Bonaventure. Again we had time for both table discussion and for addressing questions and comments to the presenters.

Sunday afternoon was dedicated to meetings. We all gathered for the business meeting, an important part of which was the acceptance of the 2015 Statement of Resolution:
"Be it resolved that we, as persons of faith in relationship with all of Creation, and in a privileged position of faith leadership within our society as members of the Franciscan Federation, are called to personal and communal reflection that leads to action to sustain our one planet Earth, so that all creation may share in the generous gifts of Earth provided by our Creator and Sustainer God. Climate change, especially those changes caused by human ignorance, indifference, and greed, calls us to be prophets of change--to act in prophetic ways to halt human-induced abuse of Earth's resources that are given to be shared by all. As followers of St. Francis of Assisi, we are called to right relationship with our Sister Mother Earth, our home."

We also chose individually which of the three commission meetings we would attend: Commission of Elected Leadership, Commission of Regions, or Commission of Charism. I opted for the latter and found the discussions very enjoyable. There was a general discussion on the planned revision of the federation website and about the use of social media. I felt right at home! At our individual table, we discussed the ways in which we are or might be sharing our charism with our lay associates--our Companions in Mission.

Sunday evening we gathered in the ballroom for the annual banquet. Our congregation had two full tables of participants. During the prayer service, the various congregational honorees were acknowledged. As our names were called, our photos were flashed on the screen. We stood and the entire group prayed for us. Then everyone else stood, the honorees sat, and everyone sang the Blessing of St. Clare. "May you always be with God wherever you may be. And may God be with you always." It was truly a blessed, deeply touching moment for me--one that I'll never forget!
Srs. Sara Marks, Colette Gerry, and Kathy Dougherty blessing me.
Our whole group gathered for a photo after dinner. (Standing l-r) Srs. Anne Amati, Marie Lucey, Kathy Dougherty, Kathleen Moffatt, Colette Gerry, Jean Nisley, Ann Marie Slavin, Esther Anderson, Mary Farrell, Dominica LoBianco, Patricia Kane, Lynn Patrice Lavin; (Kneeling l-r) Srs. Betty Kane, Sara Marks, Patricia, Diane Tomkinson, Patricia Hutchison, Maria Orlandini 
When we left the banquet, our sisters gathered in the hotel lobby and continued the celebration.

Saturday--our last day! Our key presenter was Fr. Joe Chinnici who addressed the topic from the stance of "Political Economy from Within the Evangelical Life." His thoughts focused on the world in which we life today and the moral implications of the decisions we are called upon to make. As in the previous two days, the presentation was followed by table conversation and interaction with the three speakers. The conference closed with a commissioning prayer service--again beautifully planned and carried out.
The conference was, for me, a deeply moving experience. I feel that the presentations touch├ęd me deeply, putting into words a way of looking at situations, people, and life that has actually been part of  me as long as I can remember. And the support and love that I've experienced from my sisters has touched me deeply!


Monday, June 8, 2015

Celebrating 60 Years of Religious Life!

Sr. Thomasann Quinn has worked at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, for many years. Recently the school community surprised her with a special assembly acknowledging her 60 years as a Sister of St. Francis of Philadelphia. The second graders served as escorts to lead her into the auditorium. There she was surprise to see not only students, faculty, and staff, but also former teachers, a group of her friends, and Pennsylvania State Representative Marguerite Quinn. 

No party is complete without entertainment and this one was no exception. The program included presentations of homemade love songs performed by each class of OLC students--pre-k to 8th grade. “By this time I was totally engulfed in a blanket of God’s love flowing over me and the whole school community,” she wrote in a thank-you letter. “Truly it was one of the most love-filled moments of my life.”
Pre-k children
Grade 2
Grade 3
Grade 4
Current students, however, were not the only ones sharing their love for and appreciation of Sr. Thomasann for her long years of teaching and caring about the OLMC community. She received a basket of letters as well as a binder filled with emails from former students and their parents dating back to the 1980s—all expressing appreciation and sharing fond memories. Sr. Thomasann had planned a weekend retreat in one of our hermitages and she took the letters and emails with her. “It took me eight to  nine hours during my hermitage experience over this past weekend to read, pray, laugh, and cry over the memory writings of students and parents,” she explained.  

Sr. Thomasann, Queen for a Day and the Star of the Show, holds one of the many bouquets of flowers that she received. She later had them moved to the chapel "to honor Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and Francis."
Before the celebration ended, Sr. Thomasann learned of one more surprise. A statue of the Blessed Mother stands outside the entrance of OLMC School. Over the years Sr. Thomasann had often commented that she would have preferred a different statue of Mary. Before the 60th anniversary celebration ended, members of the Home and School Association announced that they would being replacing the current statue. “This was a dream come true for me,” said Sr. Thomasann as she thanked the group. “Over the past years, I have voiced the need for her [Mary] to be ‘reconditioned’ to a gentler mother.” 

Sr. Thomasann is greeted by State Representative Marguerite Quinn and one of the many friends who attended the celebration.

Looking back over this wonderful celebration, Sr. Thomasann concluded that “I don’t believe that any event that I meet along the journey in life can top the love and joy of last Wednesday! Thanks to each of you in our school community for letting me journey with you.”
Sr. Thomasann searched for words to thank all who were responsible and who contributed in any way to this wonderful celebration honoring her years in religious life--especially the portion of it spent at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School.




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