Written by Sister Jan Kilian, this blog will give an understanding of what it’s like to be Franciscan. Living out the spirit of Saint Francis, we see all God’s creation as brother and sister. We, Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, are committed to building relationships and community, ministering wherever there is greatest need, promoting justice and healing Mother Earth’s wounds. My writings will give a glimpse of the compassion, spirituality, interconnectedness and goodness of living Franciscan.

Monday, December 29, 2008

TIDINGS OF GREAT JOY in a time of great sorrow

By Sister Michelle L'Allier

My heart is both happy and heavy. That both are true at once is a mystery to me, one I’m invited to embrace often. At Christmas we celebrate with joy, God born as a child into our world. Known as Emmanuel, God-with-us, Jesus lives still and is present in all of life through the power of the Holy Spirit—another mystery! Thankfully this is true in the midst of a global recession where suffering reaches into our hearts and homes with social, economic, and political consequences. Perhaps these paradoxes create an opening for us to re-evaluate our priorities as individuals and as communities.

Saint Francis, writing 800 years ago, wrote compellingly about the Incarnation, about God becoming human in and through us:

They are the spouses, brothers and sisters, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are his spouses when the faithful soul is united by the Holy Spirit with our Lord Jesus Christ. We are his brothers and sisters when we do the “will of the Father who is in heaven”. We are mothers when we bear him in our hearts and bodies with divine love and with pure and sincere consciences, and when we give birth to him through a holy life which should enlighten others because of our example. 1LtF:7-10

Amazing! Francis understood that many levels of relationship are true at the same time. This insight of Francis is one that rings true with my own experience of living the Gospel. Returning to our San Rafael, Mexico mission for the blessing of our new casa there, I witnessed such diversity of relationship. On December 13th the local Bishop, priests and families from the surrounding area joined the Sisters for a celebration of Mass, a house blessing, recognition of the builders and donors, song and dance, meal and conversation. Beautiful in its simplicity, the casa is practically laid out in hacienda style for Sisters, secondary students, volunteers and young women interested in our Franciscan way of life to live, pray, learn and serve together. The example of their shared life witnesses to our gracious and provident God.

May each of us give birth to Jesus through holy lives, giving example as Saint Francis exhorted to living as spouse, brother or sister, and mothers of Jesus. May God’s peace and joy be with each of us and with our world.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Water in the Faucet 24/7

by S. Carolyn Law

Every morning when I get up in Chicago there is water in my faucet, both hot and cold. I usually take a shower as part of my waking up ritual. I appreciate this gift of Sister Water. About 2 years ago there was a challenge to try to live on 5 gallons of water a day, the amount that many of the world’s people have to exist on. I knew right off that I could do it. For me, it would only mean postponing my shower, laundry, and dishes for the next day when I could lavishly use Sister Water again.

I didn’t try the experiment. Instead, I try to save 5 gallons a day. I added a pint jar filled with water to the tank of my toilet, an old model water guzzler, to reduce the amount in each flush. Over time the pint saved adds up. I also replaced the water generous showerhead with a reduced flow showerhead. I also almost always wash my car by hand using two buckets, one for soaping and one for rinsing.

Last month, November of 2008, I traveled to Nicaragua for a reunion with the people I worked with 16+ years ago. First I stayed three nights with my friend, Mariana, and her family in the city of Granada. Early on, one of their reports was that the previous weekend the water “left” for two days. They had completely run out of water and had to go looking for some.

Mariana was our neighbor in the barrio in Managua where I had lived for 2 years with Sisters Carmen Barsody and Joanne Klinnert. While she lived in the tiniest tin shack, she always managed to keep her kids healthy and well nourished. We have kept up our relationship over the years. It was good to see her in person and become reacquainted with her growing family. Now, the oldest, Yolainis, is 20 and graduating from high school and the youngest, Carolina J, is 16 and in her second year of high school. In all, there are 8 persons living in her household albeit a cement-block house with three bedrooms.

The water came back before my arrival, that is, until my last morning there, when the water left again. Fortunately, there was enough in the barrel for a splash bath before I left to join others in the barrio where the rest of the reunion was. Sisters Carmen Barsody and Michelle Lallier, Geri Dietz, minister of Associates, were there from the States along with Veronica Rivadeneira and Vilma Zambrano, associates from Ecuador. The occasion for this international meeting was the commitment ceremony of 6 new associates.

I was looking forward to being back in our house that we built there. Needless to say, the barrio had changed so much it was hardly recognizable, only the inside of the house looked familiar. I thought it might be a little cooler in Managua, but the water shortage was much worse. The immediate area where the “Sisters’” house stands, has had no water during the day for 3 years. Most nights the water “arrives” about 1 a.m. and dribbles in until 3 or 4 a.m. Someone has to be up to collect it and dump the small buckets from the spigot low to the ground into larger receptacles. The sound of Sister Water splashing at 2 a.m. was lovely.

But the second night before our departure the water never came. Sunday was a long hot day and we almost ran out of water. Of our group there were four of us joining the three regular inhabitants of the house, so our presence was a strain on the water reserve. Water is so important everywhere, especially in climates which are oppressively hot. Two or three showers a day are the norm. With the strain on the water supply, I gladly accepted, in the morning and the evening, the offer for a shower from one of our new associates who lives down the hill and has a better water supply. The feel of cool water was refreshing.

I give thanks to Sister Water, who as St. Francis prayed is “very useful and humble and precious and chaste.” Let us remember the many, many people - men, women and children -who live on 5 gallons a day. May our nations work toward water justice for everyone.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


by Sister Jean Schwieters

How many times have you heard the expression, “Good things come in little packages.” Do you believe that? In a society that keeps pushing for “bigger and bigger”, “more and more”when measuring the worth of something or someone it takes a stretch to believe that little packages have anything to do with something good. But “littleness” marked the teachings of Francis of Assisi who got the idea from Jesus. When Jesus, who was God (about as big as you can get) came to earth he came as a little child, a weak and poor child who needed others. He grew up in obscurity and hiddeness. When he did go public belittling remarks where made about him, such as, “What good can come from Nazareth?”,his home town. He preached a message that encouraged littleness. It was called humility, which really means living in truth. Truth has to do with living the facts. For Francis that meant recognizing the fact that who he was, what he had become, everything he had was given to him by God. He didn’t earn it. He didn’t acquire it on his own. He wasn’t entitled to it. Everything was given as a gift from an all loving God. Nothing was his own, except, as he often said, his sin. That alone he could claim because no one was responsible for that except himself.

What is there about littleness that makes it so important? For one, it takes us out of the realm of false power. Power, today, is often defined in terms of wealth, control, possessions, authority, force and these are examples of false power. While littleness is often defined in opposite terms, such as poverty, weakness, simplicity, service and witness it frequently holds the same amount of power, if not more. Francis of Assisi is one “powerful” example of this. After eight centuries he continues to hold an influential place in the lives of many. He lived in simplicity and humility. He chose poverty over riches. He lived out of his core, where truth resides. He identified with the minority, those despised by society. He lived the mandate of Jesus who stated that “Unless you become as little children, you cannot enter the kin-dom of God” –the home where God’s children reside for all eternity.

At Christmas time this year, let’s truly celebrate the birth of the Child-God, the “little package” sent to us from an All-Good God.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

COLLAGE: An assembly of diverse fragments

Sister Jan Kilian

I made myself a cup of tea, leaned back in the chair Sister Mary Pat trucked from the Motherhouse for me and tried to answer for myself what this Franciscan Living Blog is all about. After three months of writing, I took time to ponder what each one of us has written so far. “Living Franciscan” paints quite a stirring portrait of Little Falls, MN Franciscans. Knowing the other five women contributing to this Blog, I found myself saying, “Yeah, I see you (Michelle, Carmen, Carolyn, Cordy, Jean) in this piece! It is so you. What you say is you, but it is also me and, mysteriously, each one of us. There is nothing here I can’t identify with: Carolyn, no ordinary healer but one who delves into something magical like ‘holographic memory resolution’; Michelle, living your call to communion with heart; Carmen, living your primary values in active, expanding, compassionate heart; Cordy, praying with, listening to broken people, and being there so beautifully with your dying brother; Jean, peeling back the meaning of words we eat and breathe in Franciscan living, words and works of peace and thankfulness. Why do I know from deep within myself what each of you is talking about?

Sipping your words along with my tea, I am reminded of our annual Community Days, when all of us Sisters and Associates gather in Little Falls for some “us” time. Nearly every year, some one of us asks, “Who the dickens are we anyway?” We ask other unanswerable questions, have a good week together, and then go back to our world-wide ministries re-energized and reassured that answers aren’t the most important commodity where we are concerned. We are a rather indefinable collection of people in love with God, God’s creation, and each other: a collage of Divine composition.

Anyone reading this Blog* could be curious about what holds us together. Such curiosity has led some to come and see for themselves. We now have more Franciscan lay Associates than we ever dreamed possible, and two beautiful Mexican women have asked to join our vowed community. Aurora is a novice living with our sisters in Waite Park, MN and Isabel is a postulant, living with our sisters in San Rafael, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

So, this Blog, this collage is us, a work of art made of diverse fragments - visions, questions and experiences - held together with a common Franciscan attraction. Trying to make articulate statements of who we are as Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls is harder than clarifying who my Kilian family is: Kilians come to be Kilian by gift through birth or adoption , or choice, as in marriage. Franciscans come to be Franciscan through gift of an inner calling and through the choice to respond to that invitation. If my Kilian family ever sits together to try to define who we are as Kilians, the conversation gets pretty funny. We name ancestors and uncles and cousins and tell stories and say “Remember when”, and the inlaws say, “That’s a Kilian for you!” I think we Franciscans do our best defining work when we, too, use stories and memories which strengthen our relationships. It can be enlightening to notice when a friend or observer says, “That’s a Franciscan for you!” For reasons I don’t intellectually comprehend, I sit in this chair reading Jean, Cordy, Carolyn, Carmen, and Michelle and I can wholeheartedly say, “That’s a Franciscan for you!”

*I know at least one person, named Mike, is reading it- thank you for your comment, Mike.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


S. Cordy Korkowski

Bread baking has always been one of my favorite hobbies. It all started way back in elementary school when I belonged to our local 4H club in Brandon. At about ten years of age, I was scheduled to give a demonstration on bread baking in Alexandria as part of my 4H program. One day when my parents were scheduled to be gone for a few hours, I thought that this was my chance to do some practicing and independent bread baking. As soon as the dust settled on the road and my parent’s car was out of sight, I gathered my ingredients, my bowls and spoons and went to work. Strangely, my bread was not turning out like my mothers. I was very upset and disappointed. I decided I had best find a place to get rid of the mountain of stubborn dough before they returned home. I went out to the pasture with my huge bowl and a wooden spoon. I carefully scraped all the dough into a small dip in the pasture, hoping I would never see it again. I covered it with a bit of grass to camouflage it. Later that night I was feeling so guilty I needed to go out into the pasture. To my surprise three chickens were stuck in my dough.

Since those early years, I have learned a lot about bread baking. I have had many successes, a few failures and a lot of satisfied guests. Bread baking has great advantages. When one bakes, one stays at home for at least a four to five hour stretch. Of course, I like this. The Franciscan Welcoming House has a big kitchen and lots of elbow room to bake. I get a lot of thinking and praying time when I bake bread. And yes, sometimes reconciliation work takes place when I am kneading the dough and getting out some life frustrations. The temperature of the room, the age of the yeast and flour all make a difference to a baker. And when it comes to the actual end product, there is no fragrance like freshly baked bread. It can fill the house. During this holiday season, bread takes on every kind of twist, look and texture. It is used in gift giving, fine dining and in casual settings.

During this beautiful season of Advent, we remember the coming and birth of Jesus in history. This feast was very dear to Francis of Assisi so much so that he re-created the crib scene in Grecchio. During this Advent time, we remember also how Jesus said he would stay with us always in the breaking of the bread. May the gift of earthly and Heavenly Bread fill our hearts and souls this Advent.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


by Sister Michelle L’Allier

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m especially mindful of the precious gift of life. Earlier this month I was in Ecuador and Nicaragua as the liaison to our South and Central American region. We had our fall regional meeting in Duran, Ecuador, and received new Associates there as well as in Managua, Nicaragua.

In addition to enjoying the beauty of Sisters and Associates gathered together, we shared our individual and collective journeys of faith. I was inspired by the diverse expressions of a common heart that I saw reflected through the witness of each person’s life. Though it was eleven years ago that Sister Carmen Barsody and I returned to the U.S. from our community’s mission in Nicaragua, it felt like I had never left. In our visits to Ecuador and Nicaragua we could see the fruit of many seeds sown over the years as we celebrated and cried with the joys and sorrows of dear friends and companions drawn to live in the spirit of Saints Francis and Clare.

Among those we visited were Juan and his wife Norma who have worked with us over the years in receiving delegations from the States, serving with hospitality, translation and transportation. Juan was very ill with cancer when we arrived, and we spent time with him and Norma often during our week there. On our last evening in Managua we went with a group of neighbors and Associates to visit Juan and his family in their home. We blessed him with a Tau cross,
with song and with our goodbyes. By the time we arrived home in the United States, Juan had died. Upon hearing the news, I wept with gratitude and grief.

Life is indeed precious, and I am grateful that our long-planned visit back to Nicaragua gave us an opportunity to be with Juan and his family during this difficult time. As I re-enter life in Minnesota, I have a renewed awareness of the blessing of relationships with community, family, friends, and coworkers. As Saints Francis and Clare did in their time, so today I celebrate connections that span time and space, giving thanks for the gift of kinship in our broader human and creation family.

Let us give thanks!

Friday, November 21, 2008


by Sister Carmen Barsody

At Faithful Fools we make an annual 7-day retreat on the streets of the Tenderloin. From October 18th to 25th, we retreated in the streets with 9 other people, while others kept vigil through meditation at Faithful Fools in San Francisco. As part of our preparation we write a letter to family and friends, a circle of people whose encouragement, solidarity, prayers and generosity walk with us through the week.

This past July I was given the unimaginable gift of participating in a study pilgrimage in Assisi, Italy, the birthplace of Saints Francis and Clare. As I walked through the streets, churches and shrines, as lectures were given and time for prayer and reflection were integrated into each place, I would pay attention to what most resonated with my own heart. Where did I feel the life within me leap at the meeting of the spirits of Francis and Clare and their intentional ways of being in the world? Their commitments and lives were in response to what they were witnessing around them. It too is my commitment.

I am challenged and encouraged by the lives of Francis and Clare, and many others through the ages who knew as Ghandi did that, “we must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Each of them paid attention to what was going on in their city or town, and in the world, seeing wars based in religious beliefs; growing economic disparity for the majority of citizens; abuse of power by government, civic and religious leaders; lepers of the community considered dead and sent outside the city to live; etc.

It appears that times aren’t so different. The retreat in the streets is a time to look into the mirror of the world where I live and polish the mirror of my own heart, as well as strengthen and clarify our work as Faithful Fools and Franciscan Sisters. It is a focused time of allowing knowledge and sight to enter us from the ground (literally), up through our heart and into our conscious mind so as to be transformed into action. It is a form of fasting, fasting from that which fills us, confuses and distracts us other days of the year. I used the journal I used while on pilgrimage in Assisi, as it is one continuous pilgrimage of the heart.

I set out on the 7-day street retreat with my heart filled with the prayer intentions people had given me to walk with through the week. I prayed for… sisters who were not speaking to each other; for a man in serious condition after an accident; for someone’s sister with a serious heart condition; for vocations to our community; for a cousin who is battling cancer; for a husband, friend and cousin; for well being through eye surgery; for the unemployed who are feeling discouraged and desperate; for a young woman and her son who are in a difficult living situation; for a sale of a house; for good health; for a sister in-law who was dying of cancer; for people who suffer from mental illness; for a young man who had a court date for parole; for a whole family whose picture I carried with me. One friend sent a song she had written, “Be thou my feet and guide my walking. Be thou my eyes that I might see. Open my heart. Give me compassion. Hear my cry and answer me.” This song became the song we sang daily as we gathered for reflection.
It is a retreat. As the week goes the subtle inner shifting of our bodies and minds feels glacier-like. The heart enlarges with gratitude for all the generosity we experience. A Cambodian woman offered us each a sandwich and wanted us to know that Jesus loves us. On Tuesday nights a restaurant owner serves “Curry Without Worry” for “all hungry souls” in the plaza. He fasts through the day and cooks the meal. As volunteers serve the food, he moves through the plaza with an instrument, lifting hearts with music. After all are served he then serves the volunteers. After everyone has been fed, he eats. Housed and un-housed form the line, for in reality we are all hungry souls.

We were grateful once again for the institutions whose mission is to feed hot meals to thousands of people each day in their dining rooms and soup kitchens. The heart gets an extra jab when we see children eating their breakfast in a soup kitchen before school, or people in wheelchairs moving through the line, as well as youth and elders and all of us in-between. At the same time we experience once again what it is to be at the bottom where what reaches us are the old and dry pastries, bruised and spoiling fruit, processed foods and innumerable carbohydrates and sugar that fill up but don’t actually nourish.

As we sought a place to sleep we’d join the many others who would sign up for a shelter and then be told to sit in a chair and wait, forced to sit in front of a 6 foot blaring television. After four or five hours of sitting hopeful that a bed would be available someplace, we’d be told at 11:30 p.m. that there were no beds to be had and thus sent out into the street to begin looking for cardboard and search for a place to sleep on a concrete sidewalk or in a doorway. What surprised me the most was that no one seemed to make a special effort to find shelter for 75 or 80 year old women or people in wheelchairs who were missing limbs. One woman with a walker did get a bed in a shelter 2 miles away, but the van that takes people to shelters was not going to come that night. If she wanted it she had to get there on her own. She didn’t. She fell asleep in the chair and stayed there til they closed.

As the week went on our daily reflections deepened. The song, “Be Thou My Feet”, as well as our Mantra, “What holds me separate? What keeps me separated? As I walk the streets, what still connects me?” grew stronger. We all grew stronger in our commitment to bear witness to the joys and suffering in the universe and to bear what we witness, even though we might feel tired at times. The elders, children, physically challenged and just plain human beings living inhumane realities increased our longing to be the change we wish to see in the world.

We closed the retreat with the commitment to keep walking in ways that will keep us awake to human suffering and social injustice. It is an every day commitment. Some of us closed the retreat knowing that we will set out once again during Holy Week. I close this reflection with an invitation…Come walk the streets with us, or walk the streets wherever you are. Let your heart be opened to all there is for us to notice, within ourselves and around us. Together we will “discover on the street our common humanity.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

HEALING Mother Earth's wounds

by Sister Carolyn Law

One of our concerns as Franciscan Sisters is the state of the earth. Our commitment statement says that we work toward healing Mother Earth’s wounds. Practically ever day carries some news about global warming and efforts to reverse green house gasses.

Lately, I have begun taking a plastic bag with me on my almost daily walks. I then pick up what recyclable cans and bottles are on my path. Plastic bottles seem most abundant, beer cans are second and pop and juice cans come in third. I wonder about those who so carelessly discard so much garbage. We all need to live more consciously in relationship to dear Mother Earth.

Did you know that you can reduce your carbon footprint by recycling? Recycling one soda or beer can saves enough electricity to power your computer for four hours. I wonder how many bags I would need to collect to balance my carbon output to zero? I am sure I have a long ways to go. I try to keep extra lights off and power down my computer when I am not using them. Fortunately, since I live in a big city I can often use public transportation or walk for many errands. I live 3 blocks from the grocery store and 10 blocks from the parish.

Still, I know that I burn plenty of fossil fuels when I do drive, albeit in a hybrid car, and when I travel by air. Living near Lake Michigan I can get by without an air conditioner but my comfortably sized apartment also puts me in the hole for the heat it takes.

After reducing, reusing, and recycling the best that I can, I purchase carbon offsets to keep my part of carbon output neutral. Will you consider doing the same?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

ETERNITY in an hour

by Sister Jan Kilian

I experienced William Blake’s poem as my life flashed before my eyes when I received a ‘death sentence’ on October 1st.

"To see the world in a grain of sand
and to see heaven in a wild flower,
hold infinity in the palm of your hands,
and eternity in an hour."
The nuclear scan of my painful rib shows an area of possible bone metastases from previous breast cancer. Like Emily Dickinson:
"I felt a cleavage in my mind
As if my brain had split;
I tried to match it, seam by seam,
But could not make them fit.
The thought behind I strove to join
Unto the thought before,
But sequence raveled out of reach
Like balls upon a floor."

A door is closing in my face. My years are shortly numbered. The thought of dying from cancer is ominous; how will I handle the pain? I remember others who have gone through that agony: my aunt Marie, some Franciscan sisters – Cyrene, Ann, Rita and Johnelle. They made the journey gracefully, so, so can I, I say to myself. One step at a time. I know I’m in good hands, etc. etc. Although I mean these words, they don’t keep the lid on my anxiety.

My largest grief is for Clare’s Well, and for my family and friends! I can hardly bear to see the pain and concern in Carol and Paula’s faces. We haven’t fully healed from Aggie’s death less than a year ago. How can they bear this? And who will share their work load? I am more concerned about this than I am about my own future, because I can count on community to care for me. My personal care is more obvious than is staffing at Clare’s Well.

Each morning, Carol, Paula and I share prayer and whatever else is on our minds. I have an x-ray report, not a final diagnosis, they remind me. An upcoming biopsy could be benign. These compassionate women help me to think positively. They pray for me.

Ten days later, on October 10th, Carol accompanied me to receive my biopsy report: no evidence of malignancy, only rib damage from some forgotten fall! I am shedding tears of gratitude both for the good news and for Carol’s companionship: someone to experience this huge relief with me.

That night I awoke too excited to sleep. I have my life back with a healthy body, a future, Clare’s Well community, and a greatly enhanced enthusiasm for all of the above. An inner door has broken open with blinders of over-familiarity and taking-life-for-granted stripped away. I see what I value, and I don’t have to leave just yet.

This was not a totally terrible experience, not that I’d ask to go through it again. Pain and facing death do teach lessons not available in any other school.

If I am allowed to know I am dying when my days end, I now believe I will be able to go forward with greater grace, trusting death as a normal part of life. These ten days were a rehearsal. I passed the preliminary exam without crashing. I feel encouraged that I will be able to pass the final test.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


by Sister Jean Schwieters

As we near the end of another year our attention begins to focus on what we have accomplished, what we have gained and where we stand at its conclusion. Much of our reflection rests on material possessions, perhaps because their tangibility bring us a sense of well being and pride. We tell ourselves that so much is due to our own hard work and commitments. As we gather with family and friends on Thanksgiving Day to acknowledge our blessings we know in our hearts that we, alone, cannot take all the credit.

For Francis of Assisi THANKSGIVING was more than an annual event. It was a way of life. No amount of material possessions could add to his deep awareness that all he had was given to him. All that he had become rested on his ability to let go. On the day he stripped himself of his elegant robes in the piazza near the front of the Bishop’s residence he gave public witness to an emerging belief that it was not riches that created or gave importance to a person. This was a radical declaration that not even Francis comprehended. Over years of observing the madness that drove his father to accumulate more and more he knew in his heart that material wealth was not the answer to what he was looking for. As of yet, his heart did not grasp what it was that would fill the void he felt inside. Over time he would grapple with the paradox that wouldn’t let go… the struggle between self-emptying and fulfillment.

It was not a practice of Francis to praise and thank God only for what many would perceive to be gifts and blessings. He readily acknowledged God’s goodness in every aspect of life - trials and sufferings included. He saw the possibility for conversion and growth in his relationship with God in every event in his life. For Francis it was God who gave him life. For Francis it was God who called him to a new way of living. For Francis it was God who taught him the values found in the Gospel and in the lives of the poor. It was God who invited him into the circle of Creation where he learned the true meaning of brotherhood and sisterhood. God truly became his ALL. And his response was a never-ending Thanksgiving and Praise, the prayer formula that shaped his entire life.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Death of my Brother

by Sister Cordy Korkowski

Some memories stay with us a long time. How will I ever forget my last day with my brother Gerald. On September 12, 2008 I drove down to Brooklyn Park, the home of Jerry and Patty. How excited I was to be spending the weekend with him. His three year journey with cancer was long…and we could never spend too much time with him. It was a bumpy road…some days with so much pain and other days with energy to go salmon fishing, hunting, creating remarkable woodcraft items, attending family gatherings and enjoying golf, the casino and many other events with brothers, sisters, friends and extended family.

Today was different. As I was welcomed into their house, Patty, his wife of six years, met me and my sister Faye at the door and noticed the tears in my eyes. She said, “Oh, you know!”. We had received a phone call enroute to their home that Jerry was critically ill. Patty continued, “ Jerry said that today was the day he would die”. Oh, how hard to hear those words…yet so mysterious. How did he know? I wanted to drink in every moment of life that was left with Gerald. How pained I felt, yet there were waves of relief that he would not have to suffer anymore. He gave us, in his 59 years, so much love, goodness, friendship and joy. This should be enough.

As it turned out, September 12 was a day of great pain for him. I have never seen anyone suffer in the way that he did on September 12. Luckily for me, I brought Eucharist with me and he was happy I did…and I could only imagine that tonight the mystery of Eucharist became totally fulfilled. Now, he would meet Jesus face to face. As I shared the Eucharist, I was deeply touched by his faith and openness to enter into this last day on earth. Gerald was a person of deep faith.

All day long, Patty, Jody, his daughter and Hailey, his granddaughter and our family ministered to him. My family spent the entire day with him and into the evening. At about 10:30 p.m., Patty asked if I would lead a prayer that I brought with me that is used for someone near death. Gerald became very still when we began the prayer, listening, being present to the Mystery of God so real for him at this time. The prayer began, “We will bring you to the door of your new Eternal home… At the close of the prayer, he began breathing more and more slowly until he graciously left us for his New Dwelling at 11:05 p.m. How many emotions swept through each of us. We had just been witnesses to a great passing over to eternity. There was so much to say , but silence held all of our feelings just then. We loved him so much and he loved us. Now, as we celebrate the feast of All Saints, November 1, 2008, I believe my brother Gerald enjoys the radiance of God’s light and new life.

I felt very proud to welcome the Franciscan Sisters to the wake service for my brother. He had requested that memorial gifts be shared with the Franciscan Sisters. This was a surprise to me, but another confirmation of the connection between his heart and mine.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Un sueño hecho realidad -- A dream made manifest

by Sister Michelle L'Allier

Liminal space...I am musing about dreams while flying in-between two worlds, traveling from Monterrey, Mexico back to Minneapolis, Minnesota. I can still hear the resonance of English and Spanish morning and evening prayers at our Mexico Mission in San Rafael, bringing together teenage students, seasoned Sisters and inquiring young adults. Sisters Carolyn Law, Mary Obowa and I were blessed to join our Sisters who live and minister in San Rafael when Isabel Berrones Morales was received as a postulant in our community.

Isabel lives with Sisters Mary Dumonceaux, Pat Forster, Colette Toenies, and Janice Wiechman as she continues to discern her call to religious life. Together these women attend to parish pastoral work and walk with 14 young women from outlying rural villages who live with the Sisters so they can complete their middle and senior high studies. These young people receive spiritual and leadership formation as well as support for their studies. Both Sister Aurora Tovar, now a novice, and Isabel, our new postulant, joined our Sisters initially as lay missioners who wanted to serve. They followed their hearts and were drawn to further explore a possible call to be a Franciscan Sister.

How has this all happened? Two years ago it was but a dream to be able to provide adequate housing in San Rafael for Sisters, students and women discerning religious life. The small convent at the parish was overcrowded, and now thanks to many donors and collaborators, our new casa is nearing completion. Seeing the dream become manifest leads me to ponder anew: what is it that brings dreams to reality?

Whether the youth desiring to study, Sister Aurora and Isabel responding to yearnings deep within, or our Sisters in San Rafael seeking to respond to unmet needs--all listened to their heart's desires, all trusted in God's providence and had the courage to step out in faith. The convent doors are now open, a home for dreams to continue to unfold!

May each of us listen deeply to the dreams we are called to birth, responding to bring into being God's Big Dream of Peace and Good for all!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

AN ANGEL on a late summer day

by Sister Cordy Korkowski

In late summer, a staff person came to my office and said, “Sister Cordy, do you have time to go into church. There is a young woman there, weeping!” I went immediately to the area where she was kneeling and inquired about what was happening. She explained that, “Everything is going wrong. I saw this church and decided that I would go inside and ask God to help me!” After a prolonged silence, she started to tell me her story. It was heartbreaking. There was not one ray of hope in her story. I felt helpless, not knowing how to make any comforting response.

Then, I remembered. All I need to do is simply be present! This is what I teach in BeFriender training. Care about the person by uninterrupted listening. Also, refrain from judgment. Offer empathy, understanding and acceptance through body language, eye contact and open ended questions.

After a long while of listening, her tears stopped flowing. She appeared calmer. In addition to the listening, I thought of the importance of on occasion balancing the 95 percent listening with 5 percent direction when needed. I ended the time together with some advice and referrals for ongoing care. She thanked me graciously and repeatedly. As she left the church and walked through the Gathering Place, I watched her disappear back into her world.

When I retired that evening, I reviewed my day. I thanked God for allowing me to hear her story, to receive her trust and to experience her faith in God. I was visited by an angel on that late summer day. I felt God’s presence in this ‘sister of mine’. I will always remember her.

Did you have an unexpected visitor this summer?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


by Sister Jean Schwieters

Peace is a word tossed around quite a bit today. What, exactly, do we have in mind when we mention it? In our everyday lives it is often thought of as an absence of conflict or a state of serenity and calm. But, such definitions do not get at the heart of what Peace is. Such definitions ignore the strength and integrity it takes to live in peace and harmony with others, or even with oneself for that matter. To dedicate oneself to a life of enduring relationships involves discipline, courage and a willingness to risk. In our world today power is obtained or maintained most often through violence and hostility. And that’s where we seek the wisdom of Francis of Assisi as our mentor. He saw Peace as integral to any sense of wholeness or completeness; the necessary “piece” in life’s puzzle. He refused to wedge his vision in on others when it didn’t fit or to eliminate, figuratively speaking, those who disagreed with him. Instead he actively went out of his way to make room for others’ views and refused to go to battle on any scale, personal or otherwise, when differences arose. Respect for the other was always a “must” in his approach to conflict. If power was to be gained it was, likewise, to be shared. To everyone he met –friend or foe- his greeting was the same. “The Lord give you PEACE!”

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Learning about FORGIVENESS.

by Sister Carolyn Law

As I mentioned in my first blog, September 9- 19th I participated in a 10 day training in Brain Integration Technique with Susan McCrossin who developed this protocol. She based it on her studies in neuroscience, psychology and her training is applied physiology with Richard Utt. I got interested in it when I realized that it would help my clients not only with processing academic information but emotional issues as well. I have already begun the protocol with several clients.

On another subject, I participate in my parish’s Pax Christi group. For the last year we have sponsored showing a film on some topic of peace and justice. We call this activity “Conscientious Projector.” We borrowed this name from a protestant church that has a similar program.

Our September movie was THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS. This movie came out last year after the killing of 5 Amish children in Nickle Mines, PA. The movie is not solely about the Amish by any means. It is packed full of inspirational stories that include examples of forgiveness from Northern Ireland, California, and interviews with professors and spiritual teachers such as Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh and Elie Wiesel, holocaust survivor.

In Northern Ireland, where Protestants and Catholic have hated each other for years, there is a project to introduce forgiveness education in grade schools. In California, two men work together to bring the witness of power of forgiveness to youth. The two men are related in that one is the grandfather of a boy who killed the other man’s son.

One very interesting comment in the movie was that today 18 year olds have lived the last 7 years in an atmosphere of fear and revenge for what happened on September 11, 2001, the attack on the World Trade Center in NYC. The forgiveness of those who have harmed us is not easy. But its power is so needed in a world and especially our country that so easily turns to revenge. The Amish who live the words of Jesus to forgive 7 times 70 went to the killer’s widow to assure her that they forgave him. I doubt that I could so easily or quickly do so.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


by Sister Jan Kilian

"My Life as a Franciscan Sister?" In a page or so? You’ve got to be kidding! I’ve been at this for 53 years now. Where do I start?

I’ll start with the "Sister" part, beginning on November 27, 1957. That was the day my 57 year old father died. Dad, George Kilian, a farmer in St. Augusta, Minnesota, came home from his creamery route mid day on the day after Thanksgiving, having just collected the large milk cans of fresh milk from neighboring farmers and delivered the milk to the creamery. Mom said Dad came into the house with chest pain, collapsed and died while she was on the phone for the doctor. Just like that. Dad was gone and Mom was alone on the farm.

I had last seen my father on a visit home after my first profession of vows that August. I can still see him running from the farmhouse, arms scooping me up and saying, "Who’s this nun!?" I had just completed several months as a candidate and two more or less cloistered years as a Franciscan novice. We didn’t leave the convent grounds during my formation years. So this was my first time home in almost three years. I was no longer the school girl my family bid farewell in 1955, but rather a young woman who had just made vows to "live poverty, chastity and obedience according to the Constitutions of the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls." Dad couldn’t have been more proud. He walked me around the farm pointing out his beautiful grain fields and making sure I was really happy in the convent. He and Mom invited relatives and neighbors for an afternoon to celebrate my homecoming. My brothers and sisters couldn’t talk fast enough for me to catch up on their lives.

Our lives are different now. Today our Novices take time out from fully active lives to study and reflect, but they are not isolated from family as we were. We were so separated that I had not been to a funeral in three years. I was not prepared for how my Franciscan Sisters would respond to the death of my father.

My father’s wake was held in St. Cloud, a town which is only 30 miles from our Motherhouse in Little Falls, and back then was well populated with Sisters who taught in schools and worked at the St. Cloud Childrens’ Home. There are no words to describe the bonding that took place between me and these women at the time of my father’s death. I was held in the arms of dozens of Sisters at the wake and of many more before, during and after the funeral. I knew our Sisters to be women of compassion, but I did not know they made such efforts to be there for each other at the time of a family member’s death. I could not have dreamed how significant it would be for me to have them comfort me and my family. This experience sealed my awareness that I was definitely one of their own and that they would be there for me whenever I needed them.

The depth of this support has continued to grow all during my Franciscan life. When I am ill, or when I have something to celebrate; when it’s just an ordinary day, I am supported and strengthened by women who are sister, mother, friend for life. I was reminded of this last night when Sister Paula and I drove two hours to attend the wake for Sister Cordy’s brother, Jerry Korkowski. Sister Clara traveled further to lead the wake service and Sister Jean even further to lead the music. Dozens of Sisters showed up to sing a blessing over Cordy and her family. Today Sister Carol made the same trip for the funeral. Be there for each other. This is what Sisters do.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Immigration Struggles

by Sister Cordy Korkowski

On Thursday, August 14, 2008 I came home from work at St. Francis Xavier, Sartell as usual. However, shortly after I caught my breath, I went to the foyer of the Franciscan Welcoming House in St. Cloud, MN to answer the doorbell and to await Hispanic guests who would arrive for sharing on the immigration struggles.

There has been an ongoing study of Franciscan Sisters and Associates and Benedictines Sisters who are intensely interested in this topic. But this night was special. As part of the evening gathering, we would meet beautiful Hispanic people who would share their personal struggles regarding immigration into the United States.

Along with adults, there was a young boy, about 10 years old, who had a Harry Potter look, bright-eyed, articulate, and engaging. He accompanied his mother and sister to the gathering. As we were standing in the entrance of my home, he asked me what I do for work. I said, “I visit the sick and dying, people in the hospital and those w ho are hurting”. He asked among other questions, “Do you sign their heart with a cross when you visit them?” I was touched by his inquiry. This young boy had a very caring and compassionate way of speaking. Later he said, You know, when I went to school in my other town, I had lots of friends, but now when I am here in St. Cloud, I haven’t made any friends yet. I’m kinda lonesome”. I thought to myself. I hope some lucky students will see your inner beauty and become your friend real soon.

Later, this young lad, whom I will call Pedro, came to the living room where his mother, whom I will name Anita for this story and five others were gathered. Pedro was playing an interactive game, but was completed tuned in to the conversation and his mother’s story to the small group of Franciscans, Benedictines and friends. She, being a Hispanic woman spoke through an interpreter, Sister Adela Gross. It was an unspeakable account of family and personal pain. The six of us around the table were stunned and shocked by Anita’s words. Her flowing tears showed the depth of pain of abuse, neglect, aloneness, abandonment, total despair and not knowing where to turn. It was real. This was not an article I read in the paper. This was a story told in my living room. My heart was breaking.

In the midst of this, one of the group went over to Pedro and asked him to come and stand by his mother to comfort her. He lovingly did so, kissing her hair and embracing her tenderly.

When I went to bed on August 14, I felt that I had been visited by a young angel…a beautiful Hispanic child, filled with love and compassion. On this night, I learned more about the heartache surrounding the injustice in our immigration laws and how it is affecting our brothers and sisters in the world.

When Pedro ate his evening meal, sitting across from me, he enjoyed especially his ice cream and cookies. Joy and sorrow intermingled that night for me. How grateful I am that the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls are committed to the issue of immigration reform.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Living with HEART

I am Sister Michelle L'Allier, a Franciscan Sister of Little Falls since 1987. This is one of God’s great surprises, because when I was growing up on a farm becoming a Sister wasn’t what I’d envisioned for my future! True to the saying that God writes straight with crooked lines, I’ve learned that “Living Franciscan” is a call to communion beyond what I could have imagined as a child in rural Minnesota. Currently I serve as part of our community’s leadership team, a life-giving and creative facet of attending to our mission. Recently, I enjoyed a restful week of vacation and returned energized anew to live with heart.

The heart is a leisurely muscle…It does not get tired, because there is a phase of rest built into every single heartbeat. Our physical heart works leisurely. And when we speak of heart in the wider sense, the idea that life-giving leisure lies at the very center is implied.
Brother David Steindl-Rast, in Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer

While on vacation, Sisters Aurora, Maureen, and I visited Glendalough State Park. We walked through wetland paths with cattails and reeds to our right, lush green grass under our feet, and large leafy trees to our left with branches that reached over our heads. Aurora, who is from the desert of Mesquite in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, exclaimed: “We are in a house of green! It is like paradise!” Her spontaneous awe of our green ‘home’ touched me deeply, and I realized how I can take such beauty for granted. Aurora, seeing with her fresh eyes, taught me to look again as if for the first time.

Back in the Twin Cities, Sisters Louise, Maureen and I went to the Minnesota State Fair. Our first stop was the Miracle of Birth Center where we were delighted to witness the birth of a calf, and then enchanted by a wide-eyed two year old girl. She was reaching her hand between the bars of a sheep stall, seeking to touch one of the day-old triplet kids. Her face was radiant with wonder, and time stood still in that precious encounter of life meeting life. I was reminded of the Scripture that we must become as little children; what does it mean to see with the eyes of a child?

Walking through Glendalough and visiting the Miracle of Birth Center were significant moments while on vacation last month. Now in this season of fall, I commit myself anew to honor the rhythm of rest in the midst of the fullness of daily life, to contemplative seeing with ‘new eyes.’ Thank you, Aurora! And, thanks be to God for the Miracle of Birth each and every day!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

the word PEACE

by Sister Jean Schwieters

Words are like jewels. They give something dull a brilliant appearance if placed in the right setting. If you’ve ever tried to explain something to another who has never seen or has no idea about what it is you want to describe, you realize how much you can struggle to find the very word or words that will create an accurate image in the imagination of that person. You can’t use just any word. It has to be the exact word. And you know deep inside you that when you discover it, its right. No other word will do. The word may sound quite ordinary and it may have many different meanings to a lot of other people. But for you, it fits! Why is that? Because words take on different meanings in different contexts. They fit a specific milieu. In fact, they can even be contradictory in different settings. So, what am I getting at? What is my point?

Those of us who belong to the Franciscan tradition find special meaning in words that, for many people, are quite common. Take for instance the word PEACE. You hear that word spoken a lot these days. Living in a climate of war, as we do at the present, it’s a word that awakens all kinds of feelings within us – hope, longing, conviction, to mention a few. But if I were to talk to a group of people, each one could come up with his or her explanation of its meaning for them. So, in the next couple of months I would like to open up and explore the meanings of words as they fit into the Franciscan tradition. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sister Carolyn Law

Let me introduce myself….My name is Carolyn Law and I have been a Franciscan for 28 years. I have experience in pastoral ministry, teaching, and missionary work. Currently, I live and minister in Chicago as a counselor and energy healer.

I came to Chicago in 1994 to train in bioenergetic analysis, a body-based approach to psychotherapy. I also completed a Masters in Counseling Psychology from Loyola University. Last year, I completed a certification in Holographic Memory Resolution and this year I am studying Brain Integration Technique.

These later two approaches build on the foundation of my therapeutic approach. I love bringing healing to those who are hurting from life’s wounds and from trauma. Francis and Clare were healers and a cornerstone of their beginnings was their ministering to lepers. I bring Franciscan joy and hope to those I serve. I also have a certain niche because given my values and the support of my community, I am able to offer lower fees than many therapists require.

I am very excited about the Brain Integration training. In March 2008 I took the introduction and have already spent many hours practicing the initial technique. In September 2008 I will participate in a two week training to acquire the rest of the protocol. I became interested in it when I realized that the technique not only helps people with learning disabilities but will also greatly help those who have trouble processing emotional information.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sister Carmen Barsody

I am entering my 25th year as a Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN. What I am most grateful for are the many personal experiences that have allowed me to see life from many points of view. I grew up in the small town of Elk River, MN where I was surrounded by extended family, and most everyone in our home church of St. Andrew knew each other. I was still of a generation where we had to use our imagination to play, we could stay out after dark and one pair of Stride Rite shoes was what we got for the school year. I went to college at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, a big city for a country girl. My first roommate was from Cuba, and I began to study Spanish. Women were leaders in education and taught us to think at St. Catherine’s. Faith was valued and integrated in our campus life, and interfaith relationships and respect were natural.

I left college after 3 years and went to Maracay, Venezuela as a Lay Volunteer with the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, MN. I was in search of a path for my heart, something deeper than a career path to accumulate personal wealth. It was in Venezuela that I knew I was heading toward a “home” for my heart and my gifts. I returned to the U.S. after 6 months and entered the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls on April Fools Day, 1984. Little did I know that 14 years later I would co-found a street ministry named Faithful Fools in San Francisco, California, an educational and charitable organization (

Somehow I knew that the Franciscan communal relationship would most nurture, guide and share my passionate love with the earth and its people. The first 14 years of my religious life included my initial formation in St. Paul, MN where volunteering in a homeless shelter was a significant part of our communal life; a position as Pastoral Associate in a predominantly Hispanic Parish in the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago; and then 7 years in Nicaragua. All this was preparation to be a Faithful Franciscan Fool in the world where the primary value is to live with an active, compassionate and ever expanding heart and mind.

The most important attitude we live with at Faithful Fools is, we are always learning. I believe that the learning we receive through personal experiences forever changes and informs us as we live and make choices in our lives. I am interested in creating ways for people to have personal experiences, most especially with people whom we as a church and society marginalize, or as a world consider disposable.

What I am most grateful for at this time is that I have a visceral understanding of Franciscan Joy, a joy of the heart that comes with feeling fully alive. What I pray for every day is to be faithful.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"Don't you ever get into a good fight?"
by Sister Jan Kilian

I’m Sister Jan Kilian. I’ve lived Franciscan community life for 10 years here at Clare’s Well (our Franciscan Retreat Farm). Three of us Sisters live and work about as closely together as can be. Our daily lives are in the same house and we share the day-in, day-out ministries of hospitality, meal prep, gardening, care of the farm, etc. Retreat guests sometimes confront us with astute observations regarding how we three get along. Recently a guest put down her fork at lunch, crossed her arms over her chest, sat back and skewered me with the question, "How do you handle arguments in your house? What do you do when you’re really mad?"

I’m disappointed with my glib answer. What I said was true: "That doesn’t happen." We don’t get into big arguments and we don’t fight. Over the years, we’ve all smoothed off our sharp edges; we have common backgrounds; shared values help to mellow us; we trust in God’s presence with us. But . . . . you know very well there’s more to it than all that! I missed a significant invitation to share the deeper reality of how I have learned to live happily with others.

There are moments of frustration when I ask myself, "What’s going on here?" If I’m upset, I’m probably exaggerating the significance of something I won’t even remember two days from now. Even very large differences of opinion can be let go of for the sake of a greater good when I accept the truth of who I am.

I just finished listening to Anne Dillard’s book, The Mayberry’s, a story in which Lu Mayberry’s husband leaves her very unexpectedly for her dear friend. Lu suffered alone for months. I could identify with the words of her neighbor who’d had enough of the negative vibes Lu wallowed in and said to Lu, "I wish you’d stop poisoning yourself!" Lu took those words to heart and began to take daily walks to a special place where she explicitly pulled herself out of her mire and practiced letting go of her self-pity and anger, at first for just one minute at a time, until she was once again a peaceful woman.

Not being married, I’ve not suffered the awful pain of an unfaithful spouse. My pains are very much less though still significant in my call to let go of ego and grow in what is essential. I especially remember two life-changing confrontations. The first was years ago, when a black man, Professor James, listened to me complain that members of our psychology class were dumping all their negative experiences of nuns on me! "Unfair", I said, "They should see me for who I am. I’m not responsible for the bad actions of other nuns." Professor James looked me in the eye with not one ounce of sympathy and said, "Jan, you should wake up black someday."

In the second example, my indignation over someone not recognizing my self-defined importance shriveled when a teacher said, "Jan, stop escalating." Lights came on. I saw what I was doing, and if I was doing it, I could stop it. I’ve been "stopping it" ever since. Peaceful community living requires working with the difference between ego and essence. In the former, I need self-defense. Tuned into the latter, no defense is required: I am who I am and that’s all there’s to it.

So, yes, my ego is alive and well, but she isn’t in charge. We three Franciscan women continue to grow in a deep affection for each other. We get in one another’s face sometimes but, with God’s grace, forgiveness and understanding are within easy reach. I can’t imagine living with two more transparent and honest people than Sisters Carol and Paula. I fight a lot less when I know I’m safe no matter what a mess I make.