by Sister Carmen Barsody
Did I know when I was a student at St. Andrew's School being taught by Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, that I would one day join them? No.
Did I know when I left college to be a lay volunteer in Maracay, Venezuela, when my restless heart was searching for more meaning than would come from a degree alone, that I would discover not only how I wanted to be in the world, but with whom I wanted to be in the world - inspiring, visionary dedicated and Faithful Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls? No
Do I know that my heart is grateful for the 25 years of being a Franciscan Sister of Little Falls? Yes.
St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi were young people in a world where war and greed were causing greater despair and unrest. To read the stories of their lives compels us as Christians and Franciscans 800 plus years later. When some wanted him to model his life after the more enclosed monastic form, Francis proclaimed, "the world is my cloister!" The Franciscan way is an itinerant way of life; the brothers were sent two by two into the world to give witness to the Gospel by serving others.
In the gospel today the rich man goes away sad when Jesus tells him he had to sell all to follow him. When I read the gospel I was drawn to the word "sad". It was the man's sadness that revealed how attached he was to his wealth. For Francis and his followers the act of relinquishing their wealth in order to be free to serve brought deep joy. It is not what we have that is the problem. It is when we are so attached to what we have, and place our wealth and comfort as our highest value, that we are no longer free to be generous with our lives and resources. The words of Jesus to the rich man were challenging in their clarity. You must let go of that to which you are most attached in order to attach yourself to God and neighbor.
The gift of Francis and Clare to our world is that their fervor to live the mandates of the Gospel - to bring good news to the poor, proclaim sight to the blind and free the oppressed; to love God with one's whole heart, mind and soul - ignited the hearts of people from all walks of life. For Francis religious men and women, priests and deacons were not the only ones called to live Gospel-centered lives. When those who were married or had commitments to family responsibilities became ignited by his spirit and challenged by his message, he encouraged them to be faithful and serve where they were, and wrote a rule of life for the Secular Franciscans. You have Secular Franciscans here at St. Andrew's, people whose desire is to make the Gospel their highest Rule of Life, and to do it with the support of a community of people, a fraternity of sisters and brothers. Francis and Clare longed for all of us, men, women, youth, children, sultans and kings, priests and religious, wealthy and poor, to discern every action with our hearts on fire with the Gospel. Francis would say, let your body be your tongue.
I have lived, served and traveled to many places in my 25 years, including the streets, soup kitchens and shelters in Minneapolis. I will be honest, most of the time the commitment to follow Jesus in the footprints of Francis and Clare wrenches the heart – being amidst people living in extreme impoverished conditions, living amidst gangs and drugs, addiction, greed and indifference, homelessness, attempted suicide and prison, hopelessness and hopefulness all intertwined in the streets and homes of our world. It wrenches the heart and that wrenching enlarges my heart and makes me even more passionate to invite others to walk with us as Franciscan Sisters, as Secular Franciscans, as Lay Associates and Franciscan Community Volunteers, as Priests and Deacons, as Christians in this world.
With all the passion I can muster I say to you, to the youth, children and adults, be generous with your lives and your resources 24 hours a day, with your family, with your parish, with your neighbor, with your co-workers, with your God.
When you come to church, know that this time of communion and worship is to nurture and inspire us so that we may all do what is ours to do, from the tiniest kind greeting and embrace of another, to major acts of necessity and kindness.
I truly am celebrating my 25 years as a Franciscan Sister of Little Falls and there is great meaning in being able to celebrate here in my home parish. It is where I was nurtured and formed in familial and communal love. You, my relatives, classmates, church community and Franciscan Sisters have supported me all my life, and most explicitly supported my ministries from the first huge step to Venezuela, to the churches, streets and homes of Chicago, Nicaragua and San Francisco. Your generosity has touched many lives and made many things possible together with the labor and commitment of the people who live and serve in those areas.
My Franciscan Sisters are here. The Secular Franciscans and Lay Associates with our community are here. Sr. Karen is here at St. Andrew's School, a teacher and a witness to God's creativity and love, most especially with the children. Your own parish ministers and leaders are here. In the words of St. Francis I say, "Desire one thing alone, the spirit of God at work within you." And to any women out there who have considered religious life, come join us. We are teachers, pastoral workers, foster moms, justice workers, missionaries all. We are alive with the spirit and our love and joy in God and one another is great.
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.