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.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Surprises in Sickness and in Health

By Sister Michelle L’Allier

With confidence let them make known their needs to one another so that each can
find and offer to the other that which is necessary. Blessed are those who
love the others when they are sick and unable to serve, as much as when they are
healthy and of service to them. Whether in sickness or in health, they
should only want what God wishes for them. For all that happens to them
let them give thanks to our Creator.
—The Rule and Life of the Brothers and Sisters
of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis, 23.

It’s been quite a summer! In the heat of late July I had an unexpected immersion into the unfamiliar. Several days into my visit with the Sisters in Mexico, I began coughing. Each day got worse, and I went to the doctor upon my return to Minnesota. To my surprise, I learned I had a serious case of no, not H1N1, but bronchitis!

Increasingly exhausted from the bronchospasms (a new word for me!) that seemed to consume me; I moved gingerly trying to minimize the consequent pain. Most surprising, however, was how distressing it was when I had coughing spells and couldn’t breathe, followed immediately by a struggle to get oxygen back into my lungs.

Suddenly it felt as if I were in another dimension of life…the range of what I could deal with was limited to getting from breath to breath and all else faded into the background. Generally I’ve been blessed with good health and lots of energy. After two rounds of antibiotics and two types of inhalers, the debilitating coughs had lessened, and a troubling side effect presented itself: I lost my voice! Anyone who knows me knows that this was significant…I love conversations!

What to do with the increasing disconnect? I was feeling better due to medication, rest and so many peoples’ kindnesses to me. While grateful for others concern and prayers, I also felt an increasing anxiety about the extended loss of my voice. My fear was: what if it was permanent? After three weeks of hoarseness, I was considering going back to a doctor when I woke up from sleep with a persistent question: what if the hoarseness was caused by the very medication I was on? The antibiotics were done, and I felt better; could it be the inhalers I was still using for the “left-over cough”? After consultation I discontinued the one that contained steroids and day by day my voice strengthened…May I never take the gift of voice for granted again!

Why do I share this story? After several ups and downs in the recovery process, I now have more energy and feel healthier than I have in two months. I have learned once again how easy it is to take the precious gift of life and health for granted. In my next post I’ll explore some of my reflections ranging from health care to the ever-changing landscape of what is good or not for us (discernment of right timing and placement). Stay tuned!


Monday, October 19, 2009

Celebrating my 25th Jubilee in My Home Parish

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.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Peace! Salaam! Shalom!

by Sister Carolyn Law

Peace to Afghanistan!

My little peace group, a chapter of Pax Christi, decided to take a 3 month incubation period to study and reflect. We felt a need to regroup and refocus our efforts in raising consciousness about peace issues. For this we chose to read about Afghanistan in order to go beyond sound bite journalism and try to understand the larger context of the war in Afghanistan.

I find the subject of Afghanistan a difficult subject…a far away land, confusing terms, confusing characters, and confusing reports. We end up with more questions than answers. There are two things so far that I find disturbing. One is the reports of the terrible treatment of women by the Taliban.

Ah, but who are the Taliban? The Talibs are religious students that come out of the ultra-conservative Islamic religious schools called madrassas. When the Taliban came into power, they enforced a variety of rules including those that restrict the freedom of women. These restrictions include not working outside the home, being completely covered by the burqa when in public, never leaving the house without being chaperoned by a male relative. They are not allowed to attend school. Violation of any of these rules may result in a beating or even death.

In Kabul, the capital, 70 percent of the teachers were women. Forty percent of the doctors were women. Half of the university students were women. Afghan women held jobs as lawyers, judges, engineers and nurses.

The other thing that disturbs me is how the Taliban came to power in the early 1990’s. After 10 years of war that destroyed their country and its infrastructure, the war left a power vacuum. Those 10 years of war were in a significant way financed by our country. In fact, the financing and arms flow from our country helped the Taliban get established in the first place. This part of the history is often brushed over. We are complicit in the creation of this tragedy. Does this disturb you?

Continued militarization of our nation’s involvement in Afghanistan is not the answer. Time to find peaceful solutions to conflicts. Otherwise, bigger messes are created. Of course, the “how” leaves us with more questions than answers. I am drawn to prayer this prayer:

Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth,
From despair to hope, from fear to trust.
Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace.
Let peace fill our hearts.
Let peace fill our world,
Let peace fill our universe.
World Peace Prayer

Peace be to Afghanistan, to her people, to her women and children.


Monday, October 5, 2009


by S. Jan Kilian

“There are two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
Albert Einstein

“Miracle: a divinely natural occurrence that must be learned humanly.”
I chose this definition of miracle because it speaks of learning, learning to notice (and perhaps comprehend) the extraordinary in what has become too familiar to be of interest. It doesn’t take an Einstein to know there are very many ‘miracles’ in what we call ordinary, every-day days.

September 2009 was a month of apples, tomatoes and wonder-working friends who helped move produce from yard and garden, through the kitchen, on to shelves of sealed jars of future meals.
What were the miracles?
There were no murders,
not even harsh words,
when we felt overwhelmed by extraordinary crops
in the midst of needing to provide hospitality
for extraordinary numbers of guests
while one or another of us was on retreat or vacation.
Isn’t it a miracle that neighbors and family
still come to help like they did when I was
a kid on the farm?
I am so glad I noticed these gifts:
overly-generous trees and gardens
accompanied by
sisters and friends who came
and worked
through sweat and aching backs.
Thank you for September miracles.