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, March 30, 2009

Prayer of the HEART

by S. Carolyn Law

Ezekiel 11:19, 20b: I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will remove the stony heart from your bodies and replace it with a natural heart. Thus you shall be my people and I will be your God.

Last summer I picked up a book from our library entitled “The Heart’s Code: Tapping the Wisdom and Power of Our Heart Energy” by Paul Pearsall. The author writes about persons who have received a heart transplant. He found that 10% of heart transplant recipients experience a change in personality, vocabulary or tastes in food. He surmises that the heart has an intelligence and memory of its own.

Pearsall gives various examples. One is of a man who never liked spicy Mexican food, but now craves it. His donor was a young Mexican American. Another was a teenager who started to use the word copasetic, meaning all is well. His donor was a man who frequently used that word. Sometimes a recipient becomes more peaceful or more melancholy.

In the introduction to his book, Pearsall shares that he is from Hawaii and in his culture, at least in his home, his mother would invite the family to let their hearts pray. The prayer would be a simple sinking into silence, a silence of the heart to allow the heart to speak its prayer.

We have a lot to pray for. Our hearts long for greater peace in our strife torn world. Our hearts long for justice for those pushed to the edges of society. Our hearts long for healing for our brokenness. Our hearts long for equality in a racist, sexist, class-ist society. Our hearts long for reconciliation where there is estrangement. Our hearts long for understanding where there is rejection. Our heart long for….Please add your own longings.

Take a moment of silence and allow your heart to pray.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sister Carmen's Jubilee Autobiography

(Part 2)

I am a post Vatican II child. I have never seen a Baltimore Catechism book. I was nurtured in a relational theology that invited participation in the liturgy and parish life. Girls and boys, women and men were encouraged to be active participants. We learned of a God who lived among us and was present in the Assembly as well as in the bread and wine. We were taught that Jesus was our brother and he wanted us to live as he lived. God was Love. As I went on to study at the College of St. Catherine, the same spirit and theology continued to be nurtured. We were encouraged to trust our own "authority" and bring it into active dialogue with the external authorities. It was taking into account the fact that "conversation" and "conversion" come from the same root word. To converse together means we all have an opportunity to be changed.

It was while I was in college that I felt a kind of restlessness. I had gone to college thinking I would be a physical education teacher. I then thought I might try being an elementary school teacher, but that too didn't seem quite right either. I spent a lot of time participating in TEC (Teens Encounter Christ) as well as taking philosophy and theology courses, hoping my heart would find its way into the world. It was during my third year of college that I was talking with a friend and mentor, Mary Margaret Yaeger, who was a Franciscan Sister at the time. She knew I was studying Spanish and so she suggested I look at their Franciscan Lay Volunteer Program in Venezuela. That was the key that unlocked the door! I called Sr. Rita Barthel who was coordinating the program and she agreed to meet me at a restaurant in St. Paul for an interview. On the way to meeting Sr. Rita the song playing in my car was, "Take Lord, receive all I have and possess. Do with me according to your will..." I went into the interview open to whatever might happen. After our visit Sr. Rita enthusiastically welcomed me as a Lay Volunteer. Talk about being excited and scared! I think I was trembling a bit when I got back into the car. My life was on the move and all I had to do was keep up. When I started to drive home to campus, the song that played was, "Here I am Lord. It is I Lord. I have heard you calling in the night..." I sang in loud voice. It all felt so right, but now I had before me to tell my parents I was quitting college. Though they questioned me and wondered why I couldn't wait until I graduated, they never stood in the way. The next thing I knew they were helping me buy a ticket to go to Venezuela.

On June 23rd, 1983 I flew to Venezuela with Fr. Tony Kroll. It was my first time on a plane. I cried all the way from MN to Miami. When we landed in Miami Tony turned to me and asked if he could talk to me yet. No other leaving has been as dramatic as that moment in my life. It was a new beginning, a birthing of sorts. I was welcomed to Maracay, Venezuela by Sisters Maurita Bernet, Audrey Lohrer and Cheryl Beaver, the three Sisters with whom I lived and ministered. I soon felt very at home and set forth to learn more Spanish and work with youth and music in the parishes with the Sisters.

One weekend Sr. Cheryl invited me to go to a vocation retreat with some of the youth. My Spanish was still quite limited but I decided to go with her. I listened to some of the talks being given on the retreat and could pick up a little of what was being said, but eventually I went to my room to be by myself. I lay in my bed with the bedbugs biting me and wrote in my journal. As I reflected and wrote I realized then and there that I wanted to join the Franciscan Community. Whether in Spanish or English, my heart was being stirred once again. I knew I wanted to work with the poor and marginalized people of our world and I wanted to do it with a group of women who shared the same commitment. I didn't say anything to anyone that day, but on the ride home Sr. Cheryl was asking everyone in the car to share her experience of the retreat. When it was my turn I told Cheryl in English that I had decided I wanted to be a Franciscan Sister. She got so excited and asked if she could share it with the others, which she did.

The news brought an excitement and lots of conversation with the other Sisters. I decided to remain in Venezuela until my visa expired and also my parents were planning to come and visit me. My visa expired after 6 months so I returned to the U.S. and began the process of joining the Franciscan Sisters. Mary Margaret Yaeger was the vocation director at the time, and that had special meaning because she was the one who had originally suggested I look into going to Venezuela. Sr. Paula Pohlmann was the Community Minister. I remember meeting with Paula for coffee on one of my visits to Little Falls as a formality of joining the community. When we finished she said, "I think you would fit with this motley group." During that visit I was also put in the kitchen to peel potatoes with Sr. Barbara Heiling. After a bit she got up and headed out the kitchen door. I learned later that she went to Sr. Mary Margaret and said, "Dat one in der. She lookin' at us? She's a good one. Keep her." And they did. I was welcomed into the community on April Fool's Day, 1984, and my heart was happy.

Tune in next month for Part 3

(See February postings for Part 1 of S. Carmen's Autobiography.)

Friday, March 20, 2009

“Rebuilding the Church” Gathering

by Sister Cordy Korkowski

The first Monday of each month ushers into our Franciscan Welcoming House a group of Sisters and Associates who gather with a focus on our Franciscan Community commitment statement,
“Rebuilding the Church”. We are excited to come to this gathering each month because it includes prayer, sharing, catching up with each other, a guided presentation or discussion. It is planned to bring reflection on some dimension of our Franciscan heritage, life and spirit. There is always excitement in the air as each one arrives. Joanne Fleck said it well on Monday, March 2, “I do look forward to this gathering – like getting a candy bar for a child”.

On March 2, S. Jan Kilian led a discussion around the first three chapters of our Franciscan Rule. We discussed the deep meanings of Gospel living, simplicity, living in trust, helping each other, Franciscan identity, prayer and being reflections of God for one another. Each draws from the experience of their particular life in our discussions. Sometimes there are tears, as life experiences, health issues, family experiences bring pain, but the sharing does divide the sorrow. Encouragement and consolation are always ingredients of our time together. When we leave each other, we depart with new understandings, deepened convictions and renewed joy in being a part of the Franciscan family.

The picture includes the present group, with three members missing: Claire Stock, Yvonne Warzecha and Geri Dietz.

Front row: Bonnie Przybilla, Sister Jan Kilian, Sister Carol Virnig, Dee Hanisch,
Back row: Bea Monn,Kathie Pflueger, Sister Cordy Korkowski, Joanne Fleck, Rita Hacker, Sister Loretta Denfeld, Alda Thiessen

Monday, March 16, 2009

Penance / Conversion

by Sister Jean Schwieters

We Franciscans say we belong to an Order of Penance. Doesn’t that make you want to back away? Simply put, that means we strive for continuous conversion in our lives. Now if the word penance didn’t scare you, what about conversion? Not just conversion, but continuous conversion. That can make just about anyone shutter. Conversion, however, isn’t all that unfamiliar. We hear about it almost everyday. In fact, during the last presidential campaign conversion was the topic…only we called it CHANGE.

Conversion is about change. But why continuous change? Its because we are humans on a journey. We know from experience that no two days are exactly alike. What went smoothly one day creates a real problem the next day. We are creatures of habit and we too easily get into ruts. We don’t stop long enough to fix the problem when it first begins to surface and over time it becomes intolerable. We tend to avoid what we don’t like to admit is a flaw in our own character. Our reaction is to blame others for whatever doesn’t go well in a relationship. Or we grin and bear it because we don’t want to face what is our responsibility in the bigger picture.

The question is, “Will we ever get it just right?” And the answer is “NO!” So why try? Why keep attempting to become what we know we will never achieve? If you are like me, my idea of what is just right keeps changing, so how can I ever get to that point. And that’s the point. As long as we keep listening, keep responding, keep opening ourselves to making things better for myself and others we stay with what’s important. And that’s persevering LOVE.

Monday, March 9, 2009

God’s Vineyard

Sister Jan Kilian

Last month I wondered if the wine of religious life was running out; was God finished with this vineyard?
If not, why aren’t more women interested in joining us in religious life today?

Sitting with Sisters Carol and Paula here in Clare’s Well living room the other night, I shared a piece from Cardinal Roger Mahony, a name familiar to Paula who knew him in California. Cardinal Mahony said,

“What some refer to as a ‘vocation crisis’ is, rather, one of the many
fruits of the Second Vatican Council. It is a sign of God’s deep love for
the Church, and an invitation to a more creative and effective ordering of gifts
and energy in the Body of Christ. This is a time of great challenge and
opportunity in the Church, not least of all because the gifts of the lay
faithful have been flourishing in unprecedented numbers and in unforeseen ways.”

There was less incentive for lay ministers when priests and sisters were readily available. Now there seems to be less incentive for religious life.

Service is not the distinguishing call to religious life. Baptism, in which we all share, is the foundational sacrament of ministry. The foundation of a vocation to religious life is something else; it is not simply an invitation to perform works in God’s vineyard. I am brought back to square one to consider again, what is a vocation to religious life? If the ‘vocation crisis’ comes from God’s love and is an invitation to a more creative and effective ordering of gifts and energy in the Body of Christ, what are our distinguishing gifts? How do we cooperate with God to creatively and effectively order them? God seems to be successful with the laity. Refurbishing religious must take more work.

At the heart of the call to religious life is a desire to give oneself in love to God totally. Today’s Gospel (Lk 9 for Feb. 26th) contains this passage which motivated Francis of Assisi, “For what does it profit anyone to gain the whole world and then lose or forfeit the very self that one was created to be.” The essential call to religious life has to do with witness to the fullness of a life given freely back to God. This witness is through the vows lived in community.

Fidelis Tracy says it quite clearly for me: The vow of chastity, consecrated celibacy, witnesses to the possibility of loving without measure in response to a Beloved whose love is infinite. Living the vow of poverty witnesses to all people that we do not have an absolute right to accumulate things or to treat them as though they were not for the good of all. It expresses dependence on and trust in God. The vow of obedience acknowledges that all of us are called to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking through the circumstances of our lives. The vowed religious commits herself to listen to God speaking through community in a life of interdependence (as opposed to dependence or absolute independence.) We witness to the possibility of joy living a life of dependence on God’s Word. Each of the vows is rooted in a desire to give self totally to God and to witness to all people of the primacy of God. (Vocations: How Is God Calling Me? Fidelis Tracy, C.D.P. Catholic Update from St. Anthony Messenger Press 2001 )

Monday, March 2, 2009

What do you See?

By Sister Michelle L’Allier

Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not;
See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers.

Isaiah 43:18-19

Lent begins February 25th this year, opening a 40 day sacred journey which calls us to renewal and change of heart. My memories of this season as a child often centered on giving up sweets or a commitment to treat my brothers and sisters better. As an adult, I’ve come to appreciate the Lenten exhortation to re-form my live anew according to the Gospel, doing so as Christians across the world enter in the same process. I have found there is power in shared purpose, in doing something personally while held in the support and accountability of a collective commitment; this is one of the gifts of religious life or a faith community.

Turning anew to God embraces turning from what distracts and blocks being in right relationship with God, neighbor, or God’s gift of creation. This Lent I’m especially mindful of bringing closure to what is ‘unfinished’ in my life. I find it is hard to see or perceive what is new when my life is cluttered within or too busy without.

Scripture is filled with encouragement for this journey. For example, the psalmist in psalm 51:12 prays: A clean heart create for me, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit. I join in the psalmist’s intention of opening to God’s work of clearing or cleaning the heart, of strengthening in spirit. Perhaps Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of “The Little Prince”, knew of the importance of a clean heart when he wrote:
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Helped by the Spirit of God alive within and among us, let us turn from seeing and acting as usual, and turn toward seeing with a clear heart and perceiving with new eyes. Let us as individuals and collectively pay attention to the “something new” that God is doing in our midst. Let us take time this Lent in prayer opening ourselves to being changed in heart, to seeing more clearly, perceiving new life and tending to it in action. So may it be!