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.

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.