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, 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.