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, April 20, 2009

Sister Carmen's Jubilee Autobiography

(Part 3)

My candidacy in Little Falls was only 4 months long as they considered my living with our Sisters in Venezuela was like a candidacy. During my candidacy I was privileged to work with our elder Sisters in the infirmary and to help out in what was the Christian Development Center. Sr. Aggie Soenneker was my candidate director, and that was wonderful in that she too had ministered in Maracay, Venezuela. One of the churches I had worked in with Fr. Tony Kroll and the Sisters was the parish of Santa Inez (Saint Agnes) named after Aggie. She could understand when I shared of my experiences in Venezuela and my yearnings to work with the impoverished people in our world. It was Sr. Aggie who invited me to participate in my first act of Civil Disobedience as we protested Honeywell's making of cluster bombs that were killing and maiming our brothers and sisters in war-torn countries.

In August 1984 I entered the Novitiate and was part of the first group of novices to live in the Novitiate house in St. Paul and participate in the inter-novitiate program. Sr. Pat Forster together with the other Novice Directors from the various Religious Communities developed a very rich formation program. We studied theology, the vows and our Community Constitutions and Directives. We had desert prayer days every Friday, and volunteered in St. Stephen's Shelter in Minneapolis. Sr. Jean Schwieters and Sr. Caroline Torborg were the professed Sisters living with us and were anchors of wisdom for us "young sisters." We were members of Sacred Heart Parish and had a great relationship with the Franciscan Friars who lived and ministered in the parish. My most favorite memory of being in the Novitiate was spending time in a dark and damp little space with crumbling walls in the basement of the house. It was like a cave and we made it our chapel. It was a womb for me, a sacred place where I would sit in quiet. Sometimes I'd go there to wrestle with myself, wrestle with God, plunge into loneliness or celebrate being alive. I would sing often the prayer of Francis, "Most High and Glorious God, bring light to the darkness of my heart. Give me right faith, certain hope and perfect charity. God give me insight and wisdom so I might always discern your holy and true will."

I made final vows on August 9th, 1989, together with Sr. Nancy deMattos. I feel that my life as a Franciscan Sister is pure gift. I remember saying to Sr. Pat in the novitiate that at times I wanted to stand on the roof of the house and tell the world how wonderful it was to be a part of our community.

As a Temporary Professed I lived in Chicago for three years and shared community life with Srs. Bea Eichten, Mary Pat Burger, Mary Schmidt, Janice Weichman and Sharon Fitzpatrick. I ministered at Providence of God Church as a Pastoral Associate within a predominantly Hispanic Community. In 1990 I left Chicago and joined Srs. Carolyn Law and Joanne Klinnert in founding our mission in Nicaragua, a place that has become my second home. After seven years in Nicaragua where Srs. Ruth Lentner and Michelle L'Allier also came to minister, I found myself on the streets of the Tenderloin District of San Francisco, CA, where I met Rev. Kay Jorgensen and together we founded Faithful Fools Street Ministry. Every place and every person has a story all its own, and each experience has been the preparation for the next. I never really have known where I am going but I always have known I am in the right place when I get there.

At this time my worlds are wonderfully woven together. From San Francisco the streets lead back and forth to Nicaragua, as well as to MN. I have the privilege to be "Mom" to Alejandra Brown from Nicaragua as she studies in the U.S. and grows beautifully into adulthood. I am grateful to share my experiences and gifts with the larger Franciscan community as I serve on the Formation Advisory Council, One World Mission Grant Fund Committee, and help facilitate the Associate relationship within Latin America.

I am grateful for my life. I am grateful for my family that, as Alejandra says, "is really a family." I am grateful for all who have been my teachers. I am grateful for every experience, tough and beautiful, that has formed me. I am grateful to be a Franciscan Sister of Little Falls and for each Sister and Associate who is my Sister and Brother. I may have come into this world with barreling energy, but my prayer has always been to channel that energy creatively and with love and generosity into the world. May it always be so!

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