Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Meet Sister Loretta Francis Mann!

Now I admit I'm a bit biased but I really thing our sisters are pretty amazing women. Take Sister Loretta Francis Mann, for example. For most of her years as a Sister of St. Francis, Sister Loretta ministered in education, both as teacher and principal. In 1978 she began working in the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, eventually becoming the assistant superintendent of schools for curriculum and staff development and director of elementary education, a position she held until her retirement a few years ago. Like many people, Sister Loretta found retirement an opportunity to share her gifts in a variety of other areas. Currently she serves as mission coordinator for education for the Holy Childhood Association in Hartford.

In May Sister Loretta Francis, 82, was one of 14 people who traveled to Haiti with Father Thomas Sievel from St. Vincent DePaul Parish. Their plan—to share their hands and hearts with the folks at the Haitian Health Foundation. (You can see her in the photo at the top/right--she's in the front row and is carrying a white purse.) The group landed in Port-au-Prince and boarded a small plane for the trip to Jèrèmie. The territory was rough; the clinic where the group stayed had only cold water. Entire families made the trek to the clinic. Sister Loretta’s duties included going into the mountains with the dentist, sterilizing instruments, accompanying patients to the nurse, and feeding the children. She also spent time caring for the babies at the Mother Teresa Orphanage and talking with mothers at the Center of Hope Clinic about the benefits of good health. When Sister Loretta’s eight days ended, she was reluctant to leave. One of the many aspects of the experience that touched her heart was the great respect she had for the Haitian women and her love for the Haitian children. In fact, the ties Sister Loretta forged with the Haitian people are so strong that she is already scheduled to return in February, an experience she looks forward to with eager expectation!

Ever the educator, Sister Loretta put together a PowerPoint presentation which she hopes will be used in the diocesan schools to share with the children of Hartford something of what life is like in Haiti. The following photos are just a sampling of the richness of that presentation.

The children of Jeremie playing
A scene from the village of Jeremie
Women and children waiting their turn at the Center of Hope.
Sister Loretta cuddling one of the babies at the Center of Hope.
This little one looks very comfortable snuggling up to Sr. Loretta.
Families traveled great distances to the outdoor dental clinic.
Patients being treated at the outdoor clinic
One of Sr. Loretta's jobs was to sterilize instruments.
Sr. Loretta visited the children at the St. Pierre School.
Admidst the squalor of Haiti, Sr. Loretta found and loved the beauty of the countryand its people.

The team leaving the small plane from Jeremie.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, August 30, 2010

Join Me In Praying For Peace

IMAG0084Image by thenazg via FlickrOver the weekend I listened as one news commentator after another announced the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq this coming week. And each announcement was coupled with the news of increased violence and bombings in Iraq. The words of Patrick Henry's famous speech kept echoing in my head: "Gentlemen may cry, 'Peace, Peace'-- but there is no peace." Actually I think those words go further back than Patrick Henry. In Jeremiah 8:11 we read, "They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, Saying, 'Peace, peace,' But there is no peace."

Strange, isn't it that over all of those centuries, the reality remains the same--We talk about peace--but there is no peace. For me it's a case of having to remind myself over and over and over that I can't just talk about it. I have to try to live it--and that's not always easy. It's a case of getting the message from my head to my hands and my heart--that I have to do something about it. Each of us, I think, has to begin to create the peace we want to share with others in whatever way God has provided for us as individuals to do that.

One obvious way is through prayer. I had an email this morning from the folks at Franciscan Action Network (FAN) about some of their latest endeavors. First of all, FAN is partnering with Odyssey Networks in the "Million Minutes for Peace Campaign." The aim is to collect one million pledges to pray for peace for one minute at noon on the U.N. International Day of Peace (September 21. You can learn more about this at http://www.amillionminutesforpeace.org/.

I'd also like to share two YouTube videos with you--two of my own favorite prayers for peace: "Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace" and "Let There Be Peace on Earth." the photos in each gave me a lot to think about and to pray about. I invite you to join me in prayer today and in the coming days to pray that our longing for peace in our world becomes a reality. Wouldn't it be a source of wonder and amazement if we lived to see the day when we can proclaim: "Peace, peace--we are a world at peace!"

Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, August 20, 2010

Off to Vacation!

Jersey ShoreImage by RESchroeder via FlickrI just wanted to let everyone know that I'll be away next week--and, believe me, I'm looking forward to vacation time! I'm going with two of our sisters--who also happen to be blood sisters--and a friend of theirs to Sea Isle City, New Jersey. We're very fortunate that our congregation has a house there that the sisters can use for a very nominal fee. What's interesting is that, although I've been there numerous time for weekends in either the fall or winter and even made a week-long private retreat there serveral times, I've never been there in the summer! I don't like sitting on the beach in the hot sun and I can't swim. I know--kind of strange! However, there is a long, beautiful, paved promenade along the beach (sort of like a board walk but without any commercial businesses). I love to walk along there or sit for a while on one of the many benches that line the promenade--probably in the evening when it's cooler.

I'm heading down with four books to read--no computer, no editing, no work--just time to relax, spend time with friends, relax, listen to music--and did I say "relax?"  I will probably do some writing, however. Sometimes a bit of quiet, reflective time stirs up the creative juices!

There is a lovely road that follows through many of the seaside towns in both directions along the Jersey shore--Ocean City, Avalon, Stone Harbor, Wildwood, Ventnor, Margate, Cape May--although that's probably not the right order. But it is a very nice ride and one that I always enjoy--regardless of the time of year.

I'll be back home the following week. Who knows--I may have dreamed up some really interesting posts!
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Religious Organizations Call for Investigation of Alleged Medical Experiments on Detainees

One of our sisters, Sr. Dominica, works closely with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture NRCAT). She asked if I would share some of this information with those of you who follow my blog. NRCAT and 20+ religious organizations of various faith traditions "are calling on Congress and President Obama to ensure a thorough investigation into allegations that the CIA engaged in illegal and unethical human subject research and experimentation on detainees after 9/11 and to make the findings public. The allegations were contained in a report released last month by the Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)." Apparently NRCAT and PHR initially filed the complaint with the Office of Human Research Protection (OHRP) in the Department of Health and Human Services. According to the press release from NRCAT, that original complaint was simply referred to the CIA. "The CIA has already publicly denied these allegations and declined to investigate, so it makes no sense to refer the complaint to them alone," said Rev. Richard L. Kollmer, Executive director of NRCAT. "The faith community will continue to ask the government to investigate these newest allegations of forced human experimentatin and to create a Commission of Inquiry to investigate all acts of torture committed by the U.S. government since 9/11. Both our national security and the soul of our nation depend on it."

For more information about the PHR Report, visit:  http://www.nrcat.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=451#report.  
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Retired Sisters—Always Open To Learning!

Our sisters at Assisi House in Aston might be retired but, believe me, they are very active! Recently a group of the sisters were able to travel over to Neumann University (just a short jaunt from Assisi House) to see the newly erected sculptures of St. John Neumann and Mother Francis Bachmann. Bishop Neumann was very instrumental in helping Mother Francis with the founding of our congregation. The sisters were quite impressed with the statues and enjoyed seeing the recently landscaped grounds of the university.

The sisters also had a visit from Adam Hill, education coordinator of Red Hill Farm. Adam arrived at Assisi laden down with buckets of fresh yellow, orange, and red tomatoes and a huge selection of wild flowers. The sisters were able to both see and taste the goodness that the CSA produces for its members. Creative women that they are, the sisters fashioned centerpieces from the wild flowers. The centerpieces were used for the monthly birthday/feast day party. Anxious to get every bit of enjoyment from their creations, once the party was over the sisters used the centerpieces to decorate the dining room tables.
As you can see from the photos below, the sisters are proud of their creations!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Creating Beauty in Stained Glass!

After nine years of meticulous work, Sister Christopher Marie Wagner completed her work of restoring the stained glass windows in our motherhouse chapel. The process included removing, disassembling, cleaning, repairing (and in some cases replacing), releading, and re-installing every window, regardless of size! Because the original enamels on the glass had, in many instances, deteriorated over the years, Sister Chris replaced about 40% of the windows—cutting new glass, applying new enamel, and firing each piece in the kiln to achieve the original colors. As you can see in the photo to the right, this involves detailed and often painstaking work.
This window is above the choir loft.

Work on most of the windows, especially the ones in the sanctuary and the choir loft, required working on scaffolding.

This huge window is in the sanctuary.

Windows like this one in the body of the chapel took about nine months each to do.

Sister Chris also designed and created new windows for both the sacristy and the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, as well as the chapel’s new sanctuary lamp--both impressive works of art!

Now that this massive restoration is completed, Sister Chris is pursuing her long-time interest in iconography. Using either egg tempera or acrylic, she is writing icons on various subjects, including the Holy Face, St. Mary Magdalene, the Trinity, the Tenderness Madonna, and Christ the Teacher.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Happy Feast of the Assumption of Mary!

Mother of Divine ProvidenceImage by Qfamily via FlickrOn this beautiful feast may your lives be blessed by the faithfulness and love of God that so characterized Mary's life!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Days of Joy and Hope!

This past weekend many of our sisters and companions came together in Aston for our annual Gathering Day--and this year it actually became a "pair of days." On Saturday we began our celebration in Our Lady of Angels Chapel at our motherhouse in Aston. During Mass Sr. Rose Mary Eve Holter renewed her vows making the liturgy even more special.

As Sr. Rose Mary renewed her vows, we prayed silently with her, each of us renewing in our hearts our own vows.

After Sr. Rose Mary renewed her vows, we sang the Blessing of St. Francis, our own special prayer!
After Mass, Sr. Rose Mary is greeted by Sr. Diane Tomkinson, our formation director, and Sr. Esther Anderson, our congregational minister.
If you've ever celebrated liturgy with us, you know that music is a very special part of who we are. Maybe it comes from being followers of St. Francis who called himself the troubadour of God or the herald of the great king! That joy was fully evident as we sang the closing hymn of the liturgy--"Raise the Gospel." We were not too far into the hymn when bodies started swaying and hands started clapping. Had you been there, you would probably have been caught up in the joy and momentum with us!

After Mass we moved to the Life Center at Neumann University--just across the campus from the motherhouse. The rest of the day was given to a great presentation by Br. Michael Laratonda, FMS. Br. Michael focus on the importance of balance in our life if we are to maintain and live out of a contemplative stance. Those of us who had attended previous retreats directed by Michael knew we would receive a wealth of material on which to reflect--and we were not disappointed.

During breaks and lunch, we had time to chat and to enjoy just being together. As you can see, we like one another's company!
Sr. Patty and her mom
On Sunday we had an even larger gathering for liturgy in our motherhouse chapel. The reason? Sr. Patricia Kerezsi professed her final vows! Joining our sisters and companions were Sr. Patty's family and friends, her coworkers from the Ministry of Caring, and her former coworkers from St. Francis DeSales Parish in Lenni. The liturgy was, of course, beautiful. Through each part of the Rite of Profession we responded with the refrain, "Thanks be to God. Alleluia. Amen," written by our own Sr. Andrea Likovich. When Sr. Patty professed her vows, the words, "all the days of my life," echoed in the heart of each sister who prays those words every day.
Sr. Patricia knelt on the altar step during the singing of the litany of the saints.
Sr. Patty and Sr. Esther were part of the entrance procession.

In professing her vows, Sr. Patricia promised to live according to the TOR Rule and the Constitutions of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia "all the days of my life."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Happy Feast of St. Clare!

Saint Clare and sisters of her order, San Dami...Image via Wikipedia
August 11 is always a very special day for all Franciscans as we celebrate the feast of St. Clare of Assisi, the founders of the Poor Clare Sisters. Clare DiFavarone was born to a well-to-do family in Assisi. It’s very likely that growing up she would have know who Francis was and most likely that she heard him preach. When I had the privilege of visiting the Cathedral of San Rufino in Assisi, we saw the area very near to the church where Clare most likely lived with her family.

Clare was very much taken up with the message of Francis and the life live by him and the early brothers who joined him. On Palm Sunday, 1210, she slipped away from her home and met with Francis and the brothers at the little Portiuncula chapel where the brothers lived. They first took Clare to a Benedictine monastery until they could make other arrangements. Eventually Clare and the women who followed her—including her sister and eventually her mother—went to live at the Church of San Damiano.

Clare’s name in Italian, Chiara, means light or brightness. Her writings, particularly those to Agnes of Prague, a member of the nobility who established and entered a monastery for the “Poor Ladies” in Prague, are frequently filled with images which reflect the idea of light. One image that she used frequently was the image of a mirror. For example, in one letter to Agnes, Clare wrote:
Place before your mind the mirror of eternity!
Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!
Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance and through contemplation, transform your entire being into the image of the Godhead Itself, so that you too may feel what friends feel in tasting the hidden sweetness that, from the beginning,
God Himself has reserved for his lovers.

In still another letter to Agnes, Clare once again used the mirror image:
Gaze upon that mirror each day,
O Queen and Spouse of Jesus Christ, and continually study your face in it, that you may adorn yourself completely within and without, covered and arrayed in needlework and similarly adorned with the flowers and garments of all the virtues, as is becoming the daughter and dearest bride of the Most High King.
Indeed, in that mirror, blessed poverty, holy humility, and inexpressible charity shine forth as, with the grace of God, you will be able to contemplate them throughout the entire mirror.

That same letter to Agnes of Prague uses the mirror image to reflect Clare’s deep desire to live a life of poverty. To Agnes she wrote:
Look, I say, at the border of this mirror, that is, the poverty of Him Who was placed in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes.
O marvelous humility!
O astonishing poverty!
The King of angels
The Lord of heaven and earth,
Is laid in a manger!

Clare was so convinced that a life of intense poverty was what God was asking of her that she repeatedly requested that she and her and her sisters be allowed to live what she called “the privilege of poverty.” Cardinal Hugolino, the “protector” of the Poor Ladies of San Damiano, felt that the life they chose to live was too austere. When Hugolino became Pope Gregory IX, he continued to oppose Clare’s request, believing the poverty she chose was too intense. However, Clare persisted, and her prayer—and persistence—prevailed and in 1227 Clare and her sisters were granted the “privilege of poverty.”

As we celebrate Clare’s feast today, I leave you with two of her blessings. The first is from one of her letters to Letter to Agnes of Prague. Clare wrote:
What you hold, may you always hold.
What you do, may you always do and never abandon.
But with swift pace, light step,
and unswerving feet,
so that even your steps stir up no dust,
go forward
securely, joyfully, and swiftly,
on the path of prudent happiness,
believing nothing,
agreeing with nothing
which would dissuade you from this resolution
or which would place a stumbling block for you on the way,
so that you may offer your vows to the Most High
in the pursuit of that perfection
to which the Spirit of the Lord has called you.

And shortly before her death, in her final blessing to all of her sisters, Clare prayed:
Always be lovers of your souls and those of all your sisters [and brothers]. And may you always be eager to observe what you have promised the Lord. May the Lord always be with you and may you always be with Him. Amen.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Favorite Prayers!

One new experience of the weekend--I got tagged! The tag came from Mary at "Life in a Small Town,"
http://mary-lifeinasmalltown.blogspot.com/, and invited me to share my three most favorite Catholic prayers.

For those I tag, the rules are as follows:
"Name your three most favorite Catholic devotional prayers, and explain why they're your favorites. Then tag five bloggers - give them a link, and then go and tell them they have been tagged. Finally, tell the person who tagged you that you've completed the meme. The Liturgy and the Sacraments are off limits here. I'm more interested in people's favorite devotional prayers."

Actually that was a rather difficult task! I pray the Office every day and meditate with either scripture or with music or occasionally with art. So this was a good opportunity for me to think about other prayers that have significant meaning to me. I guess it's not strange that most of my favorite prayers are Franciscan-based!

One prayer that I love is one that is probably one that is familiar to most people: "Make Me An Instrument of
Your Peace." The prayer is often attributed to St. Francis but whether or not Francis actually wrote it seems insignificant. It definitely embodies his spirit and the way in which he lived his life. The gifts or qualities mentioned in the prayer are ones that I prayer for.

A second prayer that I love is one that definitely comes from the writings of St. Francis: "The Praises of God." For me, to take these attributes of God--one at a time--and to just think about them and how any one of them might be reflected in me could be a lifetime of prayer! This is the portion of the prayer that I love most.

You are love, charity; You are wisdom, You are humility.
You are patience, You are beauty, You are meekness,
You are security, You are rest,
You are gladness and joy, You are our hope, You are justice,
You are moderation, You are all our riches to sufficiency.
You are beauty, You are meekness,
You are the protector, You are our custodian and defender,
You are strength, You are refreshment, You are our hope,
You are our faith, You are our charity,
You are all our sweetness, You are our eternal life:
Great and wonderful Lord, Almighty God, Merciful Savior.

The third prayer that I chose is Mary Stuart's Prayer (as in Mary, Queen of Scots). I first read this prayer when I was a novice and it's one that has stayed with me all these years. It seems to me to be asking for the grace to live everyday life in a way that is simply living the gospel.

"Keep us, Oh God, from pettiness; let us be large in thought, in word, in deed. Let us be done with fault-finding and leave off self-seeking. May we put away all pretense and meet each other, face to face, without self-pity and without prejudice. May we never be hasty in judgement and always generous. Let us take time for all things; make us to grow calm, serene, gentle. Teach us to put in action our better impulses - straight forward and unafraid. Grant that we may realize it is the little things of life that create difficulties; that in the big things of life we are as one. Oh, Lord, let us not forget to be kind."
And now for the five people I've tagged:


Please visit their blogs and enjoy, not only their prayer suggestions, but also their wonderful sharings on many topics. I read a lot of blogs by people who are so very spiritual so I would invite anyone else who wishes to share their favorite prayers do so also!
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Body Shop Petition To Help Trafficked Children

Human Trafficking (TV miniseries)Image via Wikipedia
 We just posted a request for our sisters asking them to sign a petition to protect the rights of and to raise funds for trafficked children around the world. The message comes from Carol Smolenski, Executive Director of ECPAT (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking). Through our office of corporate social responsibility, we have been working with hotels chains, airlines, and the tourist industry on this issue and have received a lot of support from ECPAT. Carol’s message is urging people to sign the Body Shop petition. What is really interesting to me is that yesterday—before we got this request—I had responded to a Twitter request to sign this same petition. Our congregation’s Corporate Stand on Human Trafficking challenges us to do all in our power to end all kinds of trafficking. We invite you to join us in this endeavor. To learn more about the work of ECPAT, visit www.ecpat.net.

The Body Shop, ECPAT USA, and the Somaly Mam Foundation Petition Drive Goes Live!

We are calling on our supporters to go to your local The Body Shop store online, www.thebodyshop.com/stop, to sign the petition calling for the passage of legislation to protect children from being arrested when they are trafficked for sexual exploitation. In the U.S. only a handful of states (New York, Connecticut, Washington, and soon Illinois) have passed laws to focus on arresting the perpetrators of these crimes, not the victims.

Every year at least 1.2 million children and young people are victimized by sexual exploitation and abuse, including in the U.S. Strong laws and enforcement at a state level are crucial to protect children and young people. We must make sure all 50 states protect kids.

In addition to raising awareness of the issue, the “Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People” campaign also seeks to help those requiring immediate support by raising vital funds. The Body Shop special edition Soft Hands Kind Heart Hand Cream is selling at a rate of one product globally every thirty seconds. The proceeds from the hand cream are being used to help change the lives of millions of children and young people through the work of ECPAT groups in countries around the world.

In the United States, ECPAT-USA has used the funds to help pass laws to protect sexually exploited youth and to pay for important health care services such as mental health counseling and tattoo removal. Funds raised from sales of The Body Shop Bag for Life and gift bags go to the Somaly Mam Foundation to support anti-trafficking activities and survivor rescue, shelter, recovery, and empowerment programs in Southeast Asia and around the world.

Sign the petition here: http://petition.thebodyshop-usa.com/sign-petition.php.  

Many thanks for helping us to eradicated this modern day form of slavery.

Related articles by Zemanta
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Positive Thoughts For The Day!

a drawing of a 4 piece jigsaw puzzleImage via Wikipedia
I found this reflection on YouTube and was really touched by some of the quotes--all taken from various lyrics. One, for example, began "Today is your day to start a new life..." The words echoed in me St. Francis' idea of ongoing conversion. That whole idea--so Franciscan in its roots--is one that always brings great comfort and hope to me. "Always new" and "Up to now we've done nothing...let us begin"! I love the idea that, no matter what I have been or done, I can start over!

Several of the quotes spoke of living life with passion and enthusiasm. I think there is a real message in that. I'm by no means a Pollyanna--in fact, I'm a bit of a worrier (my friends would laugh and tell you that I'm a "lot of a worrier). However, I think I'm also an idealist--although an idealist that age has tinted a bit with realism. And I guess it's that idealism that adds the passion and enthusiasm to my view of life.

A third quote that really struck me began with the statement, "The puzzle of life needs your piece in place." Pretty awesome thought--especially for those of us who sometimes think we don't have as much to give as others might. If you've done jigsaw puzzles, you know the frustration of having that one piece missing! It's comforting to know that my piece is one that will make the puzzle that is life beautifully whole!

Did any of the quotes resonate with you in a special way? Let us know.

And in the words of the final quote, I wish you all "peace, love, and joy"--and I'm grateful for the "masterpiece" that each of you share in sharing yourself!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, August 2, 2010

Feast of the Portiuncula--St. Francis' "Little Portion"

The Portiuncola Chapel, Santa Maria degli Ange...Image via Wikipedia
Today is a feast day special to all Franciscans--the Feast of the Portiuncula. St. Francis seemed to have a special attraction to old churches--particularly ones that were falling to ruin. When was struggling to determine what it was he was to do with his life, he prayed in the the little church of San Damiano. There he heard a voice saying to him, "Francis, rebuild my church which you see is falling into ruin." Taking that injunction very literally, Francis set about rebuilding the the little church--stone by stone. He did the same with other abandoned churches in the area. One of those was the little church of St. Mary of the Angels. Francis called it the "little portion," Portiuncula, and it became very special to him. It was there that he gained more a more concrete awareness of what God was asking of him. The Life of St. Francis by Thomas of Celano describes that event in Francis' life--the insights that helped to confirm his vocation:

"One day the gospel was being read in that church about how the Lord sent out his disciples to preach. The holy man of God, who was attending there, in order to understand the words of the gospel, humbly begged the priest after celebrating the solemnities of the Mass to explain the gospel to him. The priest explained it all to him thoroughly line by line. when e heard that Christ's disciples should not possess gold or silver or money, or carry on their journey a wallet or a sack, nor bread nor a staff, nor have shoes nor two tunics, but that they should preach the kingdom of God and penance, the holy man, Francis, immediately exulted in the spirit of God. "This is what I want," he said, "this is what I seek, this is what I desire with all my heart."

It was also to the Portiuncula that Francis asked to be taken when he knew that his death was near. Thomas of Celano also records those events. "...For he wanted to give back his soul to God in that place where, as noted above, he first came to know perfectly the way of truth....After he had rested a few days in that place he so longed for, knowing the time of his death was close at hand, he called to him two brothers, his special sons, and told them to sing The Praises of the Lord with a loud voice and joyful spirit, rejoicing at his approaching death, or rather at the life that was so near."

Today the little chapel of Portiuncula is housed within a huge basilica. I've had the privilege of visiting there many years ago. It was an awesome experience to sit within this little chapel that seemed dwarfed within the massive structure of the basilica and to know that I was there--at this spot--that was the cradle of the Franciscan order!
Enhanced by Zemanta


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...