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.