Friday, August 28, 2009

Franciscan Sponsored Ministries

Good News From Two Sponsored Ministries!

The Catholic High School of Baltimore
The Catholic High School of Baltimore, one of our sponsored ministries, has another “first” among its achievements—the first Catholic high school in Baltimore to receive the Maryland Green School Designation from the Maryland Association for Environmental Outdoor Education. TCHS spent the past two years improving its gardens, planting trees, and participating in Baltimore City’s single-stream recycling program. The school revived its natural wetland as part of the Herring Run Watershed—including preserving a young weeping willow tree and cattails. The administration encouraged teachers to integrate Green School initiatives into the curriculum by having students write essays and complete environmentally related projects. In addition, the school invested in numerous “green” capital projects.

Mother Seton Academy
Students from Mother Seton Academy, one of the congregation’s cosponsored ministries in Baltimore, will begin the 2009-2010 school year in at new school. A capital campaign launched several years ago raised funds for renovating a building on Greenmount Avenue and in May the academy assumed ownership of the newly renovated building. Students returned to school to find new lockers; an art room; bright, cheerful classrooms; and—one of their favorites—a prayer room. The MSA family carries with it fond memories of their old school on Ann Street but looks forward to new and wonderful learning experiences in the new school.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Ark Sails Again--From New Jersey!

Ringwood Students Commended For "ARK" Project

Typical market in GuatemalaImage via Wikipedia

Noah had nothing on the students from St. Catherine of Bologna School in Ringwood, New Jersey. They quite literally filled an “ark” and sent it "sailing" to the people of Guatemala and depressed sections of the U.S. The project began two years ago when Sr. Mary Ann told the then-seventh graders about her experience in Guatemala. Her experiences touched the students and they to do some sort of outreach that would connect them with others outside their own world. They researched, discovered Heifer International, and decided on a project--one they hoped to completed by their 2009 graduation. The class far exceeded expectations. By means of a sponsoring a Mission Fair; doing chores and donating the proceeds; selling t-shirts, baked goods, and roses; and a variety of other fundraisers, the school raised $5,000. Using the imaged gleaned from the story of Noah, the Ringwood students filled their “ark” two by two—and sometimes six by six—with animals of all kinds:
...6 ducks,
...2 llamas,
...2 sheep,
...2 water buffalo,
...2 donkeys,
...2 cows,
...6 geese,
...6 guinea pigs,
,,,2 pigs
...2 goats,
...2 oxen,
...6 chicks,
...2 camels.

Sr. Theresa, principal of St. Catherine's, said that the organizers at Heifer International commended the students for completing in two years what would normally require five years. What a tribute to a great group of kids!

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Celebrating Women!

"Women's Canticle"--From Whence I Came!

Today I'd like to share a poem called "Women's Canticle." It's actually one I wrote some years ago when our peace and justice committee was publishing a little pocket calendar. The poem was "pieced" out through the various months. However, in light of the many media articles and newscasts about the Apostolic Visitation involving the many congregations of women religious in the United States, I thought I might use it to pay tribute to the women who have influenced my life. Probably most of them are women whom I've never met. Our roots go deep, far deeper than we usually take time to ponder. A few days ago I made a comment on Sr. Julie's blog,, saying, in reference to my own congregation, that I'm proud of who we have been, of who we are, and of who we will become. I'm grateful, not only for all of our sisters who have influenced my life directly but also of those sisters who went before, those whose trust in God's providence coupled with boundless energy and hard work, brought us to this day. I'm grateful also for--and proud of--the women in my own family, those Irish women of great faith and insight whose gifts I carry within me. All of us, I think, can sing with great conviction Joyce Johnson Rouse's song, "Standing On The Shoulders"!

Women’s Canticle

Women of yesterday,
I celebrate your echoes in my life,
And sing within my soul
The story and the power that is you . . .
Birthing the world of my
Breathing into me
Your blood of courage,
Your bone of strength,
Teaching me the secrets
Of your yesterday,
Of an Earth
That still was whole,
You who tilled the land,
Culling life from ancient soils
To nourish with its life
The life you bore,
Sinking roots deep, deep
Within the home of Earth,
That nurture in the darkness of the Past
The promise of a world to come.
Seeking worlds beyond the stars,
Sometimes blind . . .
For dreams that only daring
Can contain,
You who held within your gaze,
The hidden beauty of
Desolate desert sands
And wild and tangled
Jungle growth.
You who knew the clear, unfathomed
Waters of the world
And sang in celebration and in awe
Of the power that they held,
Sculpting from the fertile clay of earth
A people
And a world
In which your beauty
And your hope . . .
Your stillness
And your grace
Mirror forth the image
Of my strong and gentle
Mother God.
Laughing loud
With strong and stalwart hearts
Your wisdom
From the yesterday of
What has been . . .
Your joy
At what your world’s today might hold,
Your fearless facing
Of tomorrow’s unknown morn.

(Ann Marie Slavin, OSF)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Franciscan Action Network At Work!

♥Image by mbgrigby via Flickr

What's New At FAN?

Have you visited the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) lately? Even a quick glance at their homepage lets visitors know that they are right in the midst of all that's happening at home and around the globe.

Why not pay a visit to and check out their information on healthcare reform? Front and foremost they have a video clip on the current healthcare debate. You might also be interested in the article by Larry Janezic, OFM, on the Franciscan View of Health Care. You can also read FAN's Health Care Reform Policy Statement, a document that shows FAN's collaboration with the Catholic Health Association and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Another recent news item includes information on FAN's part in the Climate Equity Alliance, again working together with others to assist those who are poor through upcoming energy legislation.

I know that the feast of St. Clare is a few weeks in the past but I was taken with Peter Sloan's article "What Would Clare Say?" Using the familiar WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) theme, he develops his ideas on what Clare of Assisi would think and say about celebrating the Frnaicscan spirit in the 21st century. Seems like that's a popular idea these days, considering we just spent our own gathering day reflecting and discussing the importance of and need for the Franciscan spirit in today's world! Hmmm!
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Franciscan World: The World of Exchange

'CoverCover via Amazon

Living in the World of Exchange

As Franciscans, the idea of "living in the world of exchange" is very much a part of our everyday lives. No--it has nothing to do with the international exchange rates on currency or on money being slipped from one person to another. It flows from that "all good, totally good" exchange of a God who chose to come and live among us for no other reason that we are so loved! And--because Jesus is "the first born of all creatures," we are not only part of a world of exchange between ourselves and our God but we also live in a world of exchange with one another and with all of creation. Just think--when I share my gifts, my caring, with others, even in the simplest of ways, I am part of the world of exchange that began with the overflowing love of God!

So--what does this mean? How do we live in the world of exchange? Yesterday someone showed me an article in the America magazine. The article actually dealt with healthcare reform and discussed how the Catholic tradition can help to shape the debate. But what drew my attention was the large photo of our Sr. Bridget comforting an ER patient. I know that this photo reflects only one instance of the hundreds of times her calm presence quieted the fears of frightened and--in exchange, their patience and acceptance of suffering strengthened her in her role as patient advocate.

Just his morning I watched a video created by film students at St. Mary's Academy in Portland, Oregon. One of the segments, entitled "The Good Life," was a discussion on vocations. Sr. Patricia, one of our vocation directors, was one of four sisters who took part in the discussion. Each sister shared her own vocation story and what it has been like to be a member of a religious community. What each sister found extremely important in her life as a woman religious was the support she received from the other sisters with whom she shares community. Also part of the discussion were two young womenwho are considering religious life. Each of them shared what the call means to them and stressed the importance of listening to that call, that insistent little voice that keeps whispering that invitation.

We recently received a email from Adam, one of our companions. Adam and another companion and four of our sisters had recently returned from a pilgrimage to Assisi. Adam shared some of his experiences in Assisi, all of which spoke of the world of exchange to which he was so open. "Assisi proved to be a place of great beauty, comunity, and charm," he wrote. "Our leaders helped us open ourselves to the spirit of Assisi, the spirits of Francis and Clare who walked the streets so long ago and followed the tug of God on their hearts. The Piazza deSanta Chiara was a restful place of beauty to pray, view the valley and mountains in the distance, and watch children play while an impromptu women's vocal group accompanied."

And my final example of "living in the world of exchange" is about Sr. Patricia Mary's ministry with senior citizens. She was recently awarded the "Above and Beyond Volunteer Recognition Award" from the Main Line Mid-County Senior Services Chore Connection Program. Since 2006 Sr. Patricia has donated approximately 700 hours helping senior citizens in her local area: getting needed supplies, visiting, recruiting, and training other volunteers. As the director of Chore Connection said, "Sr. Pat shares her heart with everyone." And because she lives in the world of exchange, you can bet she receives as much as she shares!
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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tune In to Live Vocation Podcast!

For once, her clumpy mascara actually worked W...Image by Darwin Bell via Flickr

Podcast on New Study on Vocations and Religious Life

There's been a lot in the news lately about religious life. One thing you might have missed, however, is that there has been a study done recently on Catholic Vocations and Religious Life. You can tune in on the live broadcast today, September 18, at 1 P.M. CST. Just visit Sr. Julie's blog, ANun' for details. The podcast will feature Br. Paul Bednarczyk, CSC, Executive director of the National Relivious Vocation Conference, and Patrice Tuohy, Executive Editor of Vision Vocation Guide.
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Friday, August 14, 2009

Franciscan Evangelical Life

Celebrating Our History--Celebrating Our Life!

Gathering Day 2009 was truly a Spirit-filled day in so many ways. About 250 sisters and companions gathered in the Neumann University Life Center on Sunday morning to celebrate both the 800th Anniversary of the Franciscan Movement and our life together as Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia.

After a continental breakfast in the Great Hall, we moved into the theater for morning prayer. As part of our prayer ritual, we were graced by visits from St. Francis (Br. Bill Short, OFM), St. Patrick (Sr. Mary Kennedy), Chief Seattle (Sr. Rose Mary Holter), and our foundress Mother Francis Bachmann (Sr. Anne Amati). Although their lives spanned the centuries, each of these historical figures shared common threads in their spirituality, their faith, their belief in the sacredness of all creation, and their trust in God's providence and loving care.

The main presentation of the day, Franciscan Evangelical Life: A Twenty-First Century Dialogue, was delivered in the form of a conversation between Fr. Bill Short, OFM; Fr. Joe Chinnici, OFM; and Sr. Mary Beth Ingham, CSJ. Although the conversation came across as informal, the richness of their presentation provided all of us with a wealth of information to ponder.

I came away with a sense of pride in our Franciscan heritage and the unique gift of our charism--a gift not intended to be grasped tightly to ourselves but one to be shared with a world hungry for spirituality and hope. The gift of our Franciscan Evangelical Life is one that often goes unnoticed and unrecognized simply because it is different. As Franciscan, our charism, our way of life is neither monastic nor apostolic. It is evangelical. Our whole charism is about relationship and about living the Gospel. And it is out of that life lived in relationship with God, with one another, and with all creation that we serve others--and one another--in ministry. Our Third Order Rule is actually called "The Rule and Life..."

Our liturgy--joyful and vibrant--was celebrated in our motherhouse chapel. Srs. Patty Kerezsi and Rose Mary Holter renewed vows--another cause for joy and thanksgiving--and in prayer we promised them our love and our support.

Just as we were finishing dinner, a storm hit. The power went off, sisters were stuck in the elevator, and a leak from somewhere flooded part of the spiritual center offices. As soon as the rain slackened, those of us who were heading off to other convents left. For those living in the motherhouse, however, rescue came with the fire department. The sisters in the elevator were rescued and it was determined that the power outage and other problems were caused by a lightning. The sisters were evacuated until the damage could be assessed. Once the power came back on, the building was deemed safe and the sisters returned indoors. And, as a bit of a footnote, the evacuees might have been a bit unnerved, but that spirit of Franciscan hospitality never wavered. One of the sisters walked among the group serving cookies to those who waited to learn where they would spend the night. And that, my friends, is "Perfect Joy"!

Joe Chinnici, OFM; Mary Beth Ingham, CSJ; and Bill Short, OFM, discuss the impact that the spirituality that underlies Franciscan Evangelical Life can have on our 21st century.

Mother Francis (Sr. Anne Amati) tells Francis about the impact that Franciscan spirituality had on her own life and the history of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. Chief Seattle (Sr. Rose Mary Holter) compares Francis' Canticle of the Creatures to the belief of Native Americans about the sacredness of all creation.

St. Patrick (Sr. Mary Kennedy) and St. Francis (Br. Bill Short) share the similarities in the spiritual beliefs that underlie their lives.

Sr. Patricia Kerezsi and Sr. Rose Mary Holter renew their vows.


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