Monday, July 15, 2013

Celebrating the Death--and the Life--of Mother Francis Bachmann

On Sunday, June 30, we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the death of our founder, Mother Francis Bachmann—an anniversary for which we had been preparing for the past year with prayer and reflection activities. But it was also a day for celebrating life—the life of this young woman—wife, mother, founder of a religious congregation that still exists and whose members minister throughout the U.S. as well as in Ireland, Africa, and Haiti. Our chapel was crowded with our sisters, companions, and guests. 

We gathered in chapel for liturgy--our sisters, our companions, and our guests.

As the liturgy began, the opening hymn—Cary Landry’s “Women of the Church”—set the tone for both the celebration of the day and for history of our congregation. Both our regular chaplain, Fr. Cyprian Rosen, OFM Cap., and Fr. Alfred Bradley, CSSR, pastor of St. Peter Church in Philadelphia, presided over the liturgy. We were pleased that Fr. Bradley was able to celebrate with us because he represents the Redemptorist connection which was so much a part of our history, because St. Peter’s was actually Mother Francis’ parish after she and her family moved to Philadelphia from Bavaria, and because it served as the earliest parish with which the fledgling congregation was connected.

Our presiders--Fr. Cyprian Rosen, OFM Cap., and Fr. Alfred Bradley, CSSR

Sr. Anne Amati shared a beautiful reflection on Mother Francis—retelling the story of the young widow kneeling at the bedside of her dying husband and of her decision to consecrate herself to God. Sr. Anne also reminded us that Mother Francis died at 10:30 A.M. on June 30, 1863—a somewhat eerie reminder because at that moment in 2013 it was precisely 10:35
Sr. Anne Amati shared a reflection on Mother Francis.

Sr. Anne also portrayed the poverty of Mother Francis’ life—a poverty that also characterized her death. “She was buried simply in a coffin lined with a flimsy material,” Sr. Anne told us. “Her head rested on wood shavings covered with a piece of muslin and there were neither shoes nor stockings on her feet. The sisters grieved around her bier yet those dearest to her—her two daughters, her two sons, her two sisters, and her two cofoundresses—did not receive word in time to attend her funeral.”

As the liturgy ended, Fr. Bradley conveyed the greetings from the Redemptorist community. He also presented Sr. Esther Anderson with a portrait of St. John Neumann who had been so instrumental in helping Mother Francis and her cofounders establish the congregation.
 Fr. Bradley brought greetings from the Redemptorists and also shared his own connections with our sisters.

Sr. Esther Anderson shared the beautiful portrait of St. John Neumann that was a gift from the Redemptorist community.

Following liturgy we enjoyed a delicious luncheon prepared by our ever-faithful food services staff. 
Enjoying both lunch and one another's company.

The original plan was that we would gather at Mother Francis’ gravesite at 2 P.M. for a prayer ritual. The weather, however, had a different idea. After a morning of threatening clouds, the rain finally came as 1 P.M. was approaching. The word spread through both dining rooms that we would instead gather in the main dining room for the prayer ritual. Adaptable creatures that we are, we did exactly that—and the service was just beautiful! We heard accounts of Mother Francis’ death from the writings of the sisters who were with her at the time. 
Two of our sisters from Assisi House alternated reading excerpts from Mother Francis' Admonitions.

We listened prayerfully as excerpts from Mother Francis’ Admonitions were read—words that touched our own hearts as they must have touched the hearts of those early sisters for whom she wrote them. And we closed the day as we began it—joining in prayer and singing “We Are Women of the Church.”  


Angela and Melinda said...

Sr. Anne is a wonderful speaker! This sounds like a very moving ceremony that makes me want to delve more deeply into Mother Francis's life. I also like seeing some of "our" (Assisi House) sisters (e.g., Sr. Helen Veronica, such a delightful person).

Carol Z said...

What a beautiful and spiritual day. Thanks for sharing it.

Chatty Crone said...

It was nice hearing your story and from you again - I hadn't heard from you in a long time! sandie


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