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, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to All

Everything there is to be said about Christmas was already in the many cards and letters exchanged this month. . . . or was it? Is there something else I would really like to have someone hear?
As we gather with a small group on Christmas eve, I want everyone in the whole world to hear how precious are the ordinary things we do with each other. Our community chatted about the past many years we have gathered to honor this event which marks the union of Divine and Human. The holiday's emphasis is on the Human, God's choice to live a human life. This is a day which proclaims that our ordinariness is very good. We decorate our plants in gratitude for what we already have. My prayer for you today is that you enjoy the gift of your everyday life. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 10, 2010

St. Cloud Franciscan Life Group

Our St. Cloud Franciscan Life Group has a new member: we are happy to welcome Jadzia Olson to this faith-sharing and study community of Franciscan Associates and Sisters. Jadzia has been an Associate for over 6 years and was active with the community in Morris, MN where she lived prior to coming to St. Cloud. She brings enthusiasm and a great love for community.
Present for our December meeting were S. Cordy Korkowski, Yvonne Warzecha, Geri Dietz, Kathie Pflueger, S. Janice Wiechman, and Bonnie Przybilla in back row. In front are S. Jan Kilian, S. Carol Virnig, and Jadzia Olson. Several other members were unable to be present this day. (Sorry, we took only one picture and so not all of us had time to open our eyes!)

Our St. Cloud group meets monthly and shares leadership responsibility for our gatherings. This year we have decided to not only study and reflect on some Franciscan readings but to also record some of our reflections for others to use some day. Murray Bodo's book, Francis - the Journey and the Dream, forms the basis of our current sharing. We find food for our spirits as we hear how these stories not only framed Francis' life in the 13th century but also provide a map for our 21st century lives. We find a great deal of joy as each of us shares her insights into current applications.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

O Rising Dawn

I welcome this season. It is filled with hope, beautiful scripture readings and symbols. The rising dawn is just one such soul-enhancing symbol. From a prayer space in my room I can see the sunrise. (Yes, I look out the window during prayer.) This sunrise on the first Sunday of Advent in 2010 spoke to me once more of the fidelity of God. I know I can count on both.

Advent calls me (you too?) to pay attention. God's work, like ours, is daily and never done. Advent (the Christian world's name for the weeks of preparation to celebrate the birth of Jesus) is a clarion call to us to give more of ourselves in response to God's consistent, "faithful as the dawn" presence. Hard as it can be, I must admit I need to be stripped of some damaged aspects of my life and redone in painstakingly small steps -- all this to be not simply restored but more so to be advanced in integrity to fully live the years to come.
I find it fitting to be residing in this farmhouse during Advent.
The process of its restoration is a loud and vivid image of God's call to conversion.

May your Advent, too, be rich in grace and confidence in God.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Threatened by Buckthorn?

Those pretty green bushes with the pretty red berries out in our woods? A threat to the forest and its natural habitats? Yes, says the DNR, "Buckthorn forms an impenetrable layer of vegetation and shades out other plants that would grow on the forest floor. Buckthorn degrades wildlife habitats and lacks natural controls such as insects or disease that would curb its growth."

Friends from Camp Friendship were the first to alert us to the invasive plants, which by now are well established along the Sacred Path leading to Sabbath Pond at Clare's Well. We would like to pass this alert on to you. If you also have these plants around the edges of your property, you might want to contact your department of natural resources to learn what you can do about it.

The first thing Clare's Well staff did about the buckthorn was to accept the offer of a local youth hockey team to come on a Saturday morning and spend their October community service hours with us. With the help of borrowed brush wrenches, 15 young hockey players rooted out a good number of the problem plants. Several adults including Richard Wagner and his chain saw assisted the boys. This is a huge task! As Sister Carolyn Law says, "If you pull 100 a day, you might be rid of them in 5 years." We intend to keep at it for the sake of our precious forest.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Worth Saying Again: CONGRATS,Earth Citizens!

October 10, 2010 was a significant day for all citizens of Earth. People gathered in 6,600 places in 188 countries on 10/10/10 to strengthen their resolve to address our human role in climate change. These gatherings prepare us for the United Nations Environmental Conference to be held in Cancun, Mexico beginning 11/29/10. We Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls (FSLF) marked the day with awards for 7 of our Associates, Employees and Sisters who motivate us to appreciate the gift of creation by their particularly bright examples. (See the post by Jeff Odendahl, Coordinator of our Franciscan Sisters JPIC Office http://www.fslf.org/pages/justice,peaceandintegrityofcreation/) Jennifer Basch, Jim Vogel and Sister Janice Wiechman were present to receive their awards. Four other recipients were not able to be present. See the JPIC website for full descriptions.

Geri Dietz, Coordinator for the Office for Franciscan Associates and Connie Lacher, another Franciscan Associate, were two members of the Earth Healers group who presented the awards on behalf of the Franciscan Community. Others Earth Healer group members include Jeff Odendahl, and Sisters Carolita Mauer,Bernice Rieland, Janice Welle and Carol Schmit.

In the names of the 7 recipients of the Earth Citizen award, a donation was made to Give Us Wings. Give us Wings was chosen for the donation because of work they do in Kenya and Uganda to bring potable water to people who are burdened with illnesses and deaths caused by lack of clean water. See http://www.giveuswings.org/

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Franciscan community members, Associates and vowed members of the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, MN are rekindling fires of enthusiasm to bring about what it is God wants of us in the future. Fifty-some men and women Associates and Sisters from the St. Cloud, MN region met recently for this purpose. We were successful in firing up enthusiasm. Sometimes it was hard to get a word in edgewise. That's a beginning step for a long road ahead.

Many religious communities find themselves in circumstances such as we find ourselves: we are no longer grounded in the familiar works of institutional health care and education for which the world needed us in times gone by. We are fewer members with more diverse ministries facing an unknown future. I am aware that I am not afraid for us, but I am challenged by the need to focus the multitude of ideas being expressed in our regional gatherings. When will our next steps be clear? I pray for wisdom and patience as we sort out all the many factors needing to be considered.
Should we divest ourselves of unused space sooner rather than later? Should we find new ways to maintain and use our currently unused space? Should we collaborate with others (and if so, with whom?) to expand some of our more unique services? What/who is it God is inviting us to be and do in today's world which is so different from the one we have known?

Sisters Bea Eichten, Rose Margaret Schneider, and Mary Hrosickoski served as facilitators to help our St. Cloud regional members articulate our hopes and dreams as we walk from yeasterday to tomorrow together.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


What's better to do with tomatoes, peppers and onions than to make fresh salsa? Sister Carol Schmit whips up a batch every chance she gets these August days.
The produce of our garden has been supplemented by friends who "thought you might be able to use a few tomatoes."
Who can refuse?
For Sister Carol's recipe, see page 145 of Clare's Well cookbook,
Nourishment for the Body
Memories for the Heart
Healing for the Soul

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Every Day Is A Bridge

I've been thinking about bridges. We have this bridge west of our farmhouse and hermitages. It goes over our creek and leads to the Sacred Path in the woods. This bridge can take you from our farmyard traffic to a place of shaded solitude. Bridges.

This month of July might be labeled summer; however, I see the leaves beginning to change from the fullness of green toward yellows and brown. Summer is a time all its own. I don't want to miss a day of it. Why do I feel one foot already stepping into fall? Are we always walking on a bridge from one time to another, one place to another? How do I just be here in one time, one place, one day?

In our Franciscan community, we are invested in the fullness of today's services in many parts of our world. At the same time, we look to our diminishing resources with eyes of humble servants. While we live fully today, we have an eye to the future. How are we to be good stewards for what was so necessary for us yesterday but apparently won't be needed tomorrow? We are on a bridge. I say, let's move onto and over our bridges with all the enthusiasm we can muster.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Franciscan Community Volunteers

The end of June 2010 saw four young men and women taking several days of retreat to review their 10 months of service with Franciscan Community Volunteers (FCV). During this time of quiet and shared reflection, these special people gleaned insights into how they had grown from their original goals through graced opportunities to places they hadn't dreamed possible in such a short time. Katie Janssen (FCV program manager) enjoyed the lunch break on the deck of Clare's Well Retreat Farm with the 2009-2010 volunteers: Caitie Tobin, Alicia Landale, Will Braun and Spencer Buchert. FCV Director, Sister Clara Stang, sent them off with gratitude for the commitment and energy each contributed to make this new ministry of the Franciscan Sisters such a huge success.
See www.fslf.org/franciscan_volunteers.html for more information.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Franciscans Return Home

We had an amazing week of sharing with our Franciscan Community. I'd say we had the deepest, best conversations ever about what it means to be about God's work in this world.
We from Clare's Well returned home to find our gardens (including weeds) excited about all the rain they had had while we were away. Several Sisters, including our newly professed Sisters Aurora and Isa, returned to their homes in Mexico. S. Joan and Associates from Ecuador returned to Ecuador.
Some whose home is with brothers and sisters who live on the streets in San Francisco paused for a week to do street retreats with a Universalist Unitarian minister, Franciscan Associates, Kay, Dene' and others in Minneapolis. The rest returned to their ministries wherever God took them stateside, remotivated to work for the reign of God.
Sister Carol's grandniece and grandnephew, Carmel and Owen, enjoyed the fence railings lining the garden east of our dining room during a visit from Ohio. Their presence reminds me these little people who follow after us need a healthy world, too.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Franciscan Associates came by the dozens

The first two days of our community meeting were filled with dynamic, caring energy. Joining our vowed members in St. Francis Hall (in Little Falls, MN) were forty plus of our lay Franciscan Associates. They came from Ecuador, Mexico and multiple states to nourish and be nourished as we revisit the vision which unites us.

Stay tuned . . . .

Thursday, June 10, 2010

When Sisters Meet

There will be a lot of sharing when all of our Franciscan Sisters gather at our Motherhouse in Little Falls, MN June 12 -18, 2010. Just as Sister Paula Pohlman and Sister Mary Obowa (pictured here) go to it heart to heart, so will the 160+ of us catch up on one another's journey during this annual June gathering. We will delve deeply together into the meaning of our Franciscan Community life for today. What is new in 2010 that is calling to us? We will pray, celebrate, laugh and cry together, and then we will return to our homes in the U.S., Mexico, and Ecuador recommited to read our world in the light of the Gospel and to respond with fresh faith in God and one another. Will you hold us in your prayer, please? Thank you.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Yesterday, 5/22/2010, was Clare's Well Spring workday. The forecast was for a perfect day to work outside -- so the heavy downpour of rain, with thunder and lightening, lasted from 9:00 a.m. til noon!! Some people blamed me for not praying right. Since when does God make things easy?
Rain-soaked Paul Soenneker and Chuck Pelzel finally brought the broken mailbox into the garage to fix it. Not everything was so portable.

Would you have continued to work outside in such weather? Ron Brown and Cory Tenor continued to plant the flowers from Ron's greenhouse into the hanging pots; the men bringing a new dock to the end of the Sacred Path continued to lug it on its way, and as the 1/2 inch of rain made mud in the yard, volunteers (about 60 in all) continued to come to the work-list posted on the garage door to see what else needed to be done. What do you think about commitment to task come rain or come shine?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Do Values Speak Louder Than Money?

In a recent discussion with Jeff Odendahl concerning how to impact attitudes toward immigrants, I was deeply moved by Jeff's conviction that we use arguments based on gospel values and not on financial economy. It is true that "immigration stimulates economic growth by creating new consumers, entrepeneurs and investors", as pointed out by Doris Meissner in her op-ed, Four Myths About Immigration, in the Mpls Tribune May 7, 2010(http://www.startribune.com/) This is fine. However, it is not a Franciscan reason for supporting a welcoming attitude toward immigrants. Though much of the current debate is based on popular myths, the most powerful supportive arguments are those flowing from deep-seated belief that we are profoundly connected to everyone else. What is done to any person, matters to all of humanity.

In about 2004 the government of Spain moved to legalize immigrants who were in Spain illegally. Some reasons for legalization were economic. I read at the time, however, that a large concern was what happened to Spanish citizens when they were bent on ridding their country of "those people." They were truly bent humans, bent out of shape, distorting God-made wholeness and dignity. I want to work with Jeff, who is putting his shoulder to the wheel to lead U. S. citizens to stand tall in the fullness of wisdom, faith and humility in regard to our place in sharing the God-given gift of Earth.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


May Day has been a day to remember workers. There are marches I'd like to be part of to show my support for laborers, and in the Catholic church we commemorate St. Joseph, the Worker. As I walk the ditches of our gravel road to clean up tossed garbage, I think of laborers who do what is sometimes called "stoop labor."

Slaves did stoop labor in the fields of our country at one time and some of those who do it today are treated no better than slaves. I think of our migrant workers -- you all know the stories. Today is a day to say thank you to them for much of the produce trucked to our grocery stores. Let's stop tolerating racism and to go out of our way to welcome new immigrants into the mainstream of our communities. No one stopped me to ask for my ID as I worked.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Strangers in Our Midst

This June I celebrate my 12th year at Clare's Well. That's the most years I've lived in the same place since I joined the Franciscans 50+ years ago. The familiarity of neighbors, people at church and downtown Annandale is wonderful after the stress I've often experienced moving to a new place, starting over, learning my way around and struggling to put the right name on people. Prior to coming here, I have moved for reasons of education, needs of other Sisters, and the general call of my Community every 3 to 5 years; I must say being able to feel at home in a receptive place is a real pleasure.

I think of this when I consider families who move, not just from place to place in the same country, but here from a foreign country. How much more difficult their experience than mine when the language, customs, and color of skin are different. New immigrants have become the subject of my prayers and study over the years. We are approaching May 1, a day to pray for all workers, including the many we sometimes reject. I'd like to share this prayer I have adapted from a website for the Interfaith Immigration Coalition:

Candle-Lighting Prayer

I will light a light in the name of the Son, the refugee, migrant, undocumented Christ, who stretched out his hand to all people of the world.

I will light a light in the name of God who lit the world and breathed the breath of life into all people.

I will light a light in the name of the Spirit who embraces the world and migrates with each and every one of us.

I will light a light in the name of every undocumented person living in the shadow praying for life and a way to sustain life.

I will light a light of hope that will shine in the darkness and illuminate the day when no one in this country will have to live in the shadows, when we will find the way to welcome strangers.

God, you have made yourself known in Jesus Christ, born as a migrant, exiled as a refugee, murdered by the rightous. Teach us to love the strangers in our land as we build communities rooted in your hospitality and justice. Teach us to love as we would have you love us. Give us the courage to befriend one another. Teach us the words we need to speak as we call for humane immigration legislation in our country. Amen.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Home for Easter

Sister Deb died Holy Saturday afternoon. She had the best Easter ever, and so did I. The Holy Saturday night liturgy was a celebration of her as well as of Jesus. Exuberant alleluias were the music of Deb dancing with Christ, also finished with death. Our church decked out in a garden of Easter flowers would bring a large smile to her face, just as they brought tears to my eyes considering how she would have seen them. Her brother brought a "garden of flowers" to Deb at Christmas - a dozen or more flowering plants - knowing she loved flowers and probably would not be planting another garden on earth. Happy, happy Easter, Sister.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Living/Dying Lesson in Holy Week

Some of the strongest words are from Jesus, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." During this Holy Week I watch for images of Jesus bearing pain and suffering with dignity and faith.

One power image of Jesus for me is my classmate, our Sister Deborah, who is dying with cancer and who awhile ago shared that her dying is truly an agonizing process. Her statement of pain was accompanied by another statement of her desire to go through this process with as much grace and peace as humanly possible. This is my first experience of hearing a dying person speak so articulately about what is going on for her. Deb and I have previously spoken of our impatience with process. We'd rather have projects of whatever stripe designed and expedited quickly and efficiently. "Process" takes time we could use for getting something "done." So it is with some humor that she tells me dying is a process.

Who of us doesn't want to be in control and to be able to make her or his own choices? Deb says when one has always been able to make sure her own soup was served hot, it is a stretch to have to eat lukewarm soup. In the simplest things, there is little that is more difficult than to trust one's physical care to others. Nobody can ever plump my pillow just right either. How will it be when I can't do it for myself? When one's hearing is so sharp she "can hear grass grow," how is it to be stuck in a room with noisy people-traffic just outside your door? What do you do while you are waiting in pain for the next dose of relief? What is the inner fruit when you patience grows with practice week after week, week after week? Mother/Father God, into your hands I commend my spirit.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Springtime Bonfire

Oh, the pleasure of a bonfire on a spring evening! Our firepit south of the Wellness Center hosts a few groups this time of the year. Our friendship group of women (called the Prudence Group) gathered there for the Spring Equinox this week. Another group we enjoy being with is our confirmation students from St. Ignatius parish in Annandale. These 10th-graders spend a little time in quiet (really!) solitude walks in the labyrinth and woods and then gather for faith sharing and snacks around the outside fire in hopes of kindling the fire of God's Spirit in their hearts. They do as much to re-kindle the fire in our hearts as we can ever do for them.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Gift of Years Together

When I was a Franciscan novice, 55 years ago, we were so many novices our director had to expand the usual realm of places for us to work. There weren't enough jobs within the walls of the convent for our large class. I was placed in the medical records department at nearby St. Gabriel's Hospital. It was there that I met Sister Mary Ellen Dinndorf, director of the Business Office, located next door to Medical Records. She, along with other hospital sisters, took me under her wing to teach this fledgling what it meant to be a Franciscan out "in the world." She continued to walk with me as Sister and Friend all these years until her death March 13, 2010.

Sister Mary Ellen was 13 years my senior. I suppose that was more significant for me in our early days together; in more recent years, we were the same age. We had walked together through deaths of each others parents and siblings and through multiple changes in our Franciscan community as well as in the world at large. When I consider the very large hole her absence leaves in my life, I am also aware of what she bequeathed to all of us:
  • a model of humble service - she accepted any task she was assigned, be it bookkeeping, administration, finance, or prayer from her room in hospice.
  • a model of fidelity to prayer, to community, to family and friends. She could be counted on to "be there."
  • a model of integrity, a woman of her word.
  • a model of balanced living, enjoying music, games, and visiting as well as work and prayer.
  • a model of a vowed religious. She clung to no material possession. She gave her all for our health care facilities when we had them and led us in letting go of them when the time was ripe to turn them over to others.
  • a model of foresight in developing the talents of lay co-workers. She was the first of our Sister hospital administrators to give that position over to a lay man.

We are honored to count her as one of our Sisters.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Just To Be A Friend

When your friend is hurting and there isn't anything you can do to take away the hurt, what can you do?
I remember times when I wasn't feeling well and our dog, Lacy, would come over and sit close to me. A child will do that sometimes, too. They seem to know enough not to try to "fix it" when such an effort on their part would only add to my discomfort. There are times when we need someone to simply be with us as a caring being whether or not they can do anything to make us feel better.
This week we have discovered that Lacy's vision is severely impaired. She walks into doorframes and furniture, appears confused and tentative in her movements, and there isn't anything our veterinarian knows of that can be done to change her condition. He recommends that we have Lacy examined by a canine eye specialist whom he knows. For now, I am thinking about what it means to befriend a possibly blind dog. If you know me, you know I want to protect her and keep her safe in ways that might only limit her more and not be helpful at all.

I have heard of several blind dogs this weekend, all of whom are healthy and adjusted to their limited eyesight. It seems that the weeks ahead will be a time of learning not only for Lacy, but for all of us. May St. Francis, dear friend of all of God's creatures, be with our sister Lacy and all of us who want to do what is best for her.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

When Sisters Die

I've had several occasions lately to consider the necessity of grieving. I do not do it well, sometimes not at all. When things are painful, I shift into low gear and keep going. Then, one fine morning I wake up feeling very tired and I wonder why.

We had a guest at Clare's Well recently who came for "time out." He shared that his wife is in the end stages of breast cancer. His grief was deep, buried in his effort to "be there for her."
It was the day after he left that I sat with myself and realized I felt very sad for him. The deluge of my tears, however, was out of proportion to my concern for him and his wife. I was startled as I journaled to see I hadn't connected with the fact that a few days earlir I'd visited two Sister friends in Little Falls who are dying. Sister Deb is my classmate and oftimes vacation companion. Sister Mary Ellen has been my mentor and friend from my first days in community over 50 years ago. Two who have been so significant in my own life's journey are about to die. How am I responding to this impending loss? I visited them and more or less "left them in Little Falls."

As Sister Sharon chided during a recent discussion on how we handle the deaths of so many of our Sisters (about ten a year), "We bury them and go back to work!" We are faced death and grief all around. I am as guilty as anyone of swallowing hard and "getting on with life." Once I realized that was exactly what I was doing now, I shared with Sisters Carol and Paula about how sad I feel for the inevitable deaths of Deb and Mary Ellen. I do better not trying to grieve alone. I see how debilitating it is to "stuff' sadness. Thanks to our guest who shared his grief with us and helped me get in touch with my own. I am still very sad, but I know I am and I have a little more bounce in my step, too.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Homemade Crackers

We Sisters enjoy making foods from scratch. However, making homemade crackers is a bit new for me. Here I am, making something called Flatbread which turns out to be delicious crackers. I serve them just for a snack or with a dip. (You can see by the picture, that I use quite a bit of flour (on my apron and on the counter) for rolling out this rather sticky dough.) Here is the recipe I got when I took a Community Ed class:
2 1/2 cups white flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup rye flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup soft butter
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Mix the dry ingredients with the butter as for piecrust. Add the buttermilk. Mix. Roll into a log, wrap in wax paper, and chill for a couple of hours.
Cut the log into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a thin round --about as thin as wax paper. (I find it works best to keep most of the pieces of the log in the refrigerator while rolling and baking one at a time so the dough doesn't get too sticky.)
Place rolled out piece on a pizza pan or cookie sheet. Score (cut) with a pizza cutter so results will be small crackers. Bake in 350 degree oven until lightly browned (about 10 - 12 minutes.) Cool on cooling rack. Enjoy.

This recipe makes nearly two ice cream pails of crackers. They keep very well for a long time. In February, we are still enjoying some from Christmas.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Reflection on Haiti’s suffering

By Sr. Carolyn Law

Two weeks have passed since the heart wrenching earthquake which devastated much of Haiti. The news is beginning to fade yet efforts to attend the wounded, the homeless, the grieving continue. Emergency aid continues to be needed for the near future. Then the important long term work of rebuilding will need to be sustained.

Bill Moyers essay on Haiti aired January 22, 2010 on his PBS program is worth watching and can be accessed at http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01222010/profile3.html. In his essay, he points out the callous idiocy of TV evangelist Pat Roberson assessment that this earthquake happened because Haiti had supposedly sold its soul to the devil in order to overthrow the French colonizers. The French had run Haiti as a slave colony to produce coffee, sugar and tobacco for Europeans. When the slaves revolted and drove out the French, Thomas Jefferson, U.S. president and author of the declaration of independence, refused to recognize the government of Haiti.

Moyers also criticizes the honorable David Brooks, political pundit of the New York Times, for assessing the Haitian nation as “progress resistant” among other disparaging remarks. Moyers then goes on to more accurately relate the history of exploitation and oppression by outside and inside forces in this small nation, the poorest in the hemisphere.

The theology that poverty, sickness, or misfortune is a punishment for one’s sin is a mistaken one. In contrast, the theology of liberation which sprung from reading the Gospel through the eyes of the poor preaches a theology of compassion on the part of God. God is the one who hears the cry of the poor and acts to right injustices, inequality and suffering.

In the daily prayer of the Church, we pray the hymn of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, because it is an accurate and poetic summary of the message and mission of Jesus, the Christ. This hymn of praise is found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1. It seems right to pray it now in the midst of the many crises in our country—the disorder in our banks and economy, the fight over healthcare, the vitriolic hyperbole of an election year. Place yourself in the shoes of someone who is poor or beaten down as you savor the message of Mary’s prayer.

My being proclaims your greatness,
And my spirit finds joy in you, God my Savior.
For you have looked upon me, your servant, in my lowliness;
All ages to come shall call me blessed.
God, you who are mighty, have done great things for me.
Holy is your name.
Your mercy is from age to age toward those who fear you.
You have shown might with your arm
And confused the proud in their inmost thoughts.
You have deposed the mighty from their thrones
And raised the lowly to high places.
The hungry you have given every good thing
While the rich you have sent away empty.
You have upheld Israel your servant, ever mindful of your mercy
Even as you promised our ancestors;
Promised Abraham, Sarah, and their descendents forever.
(Translation Psalms Anew)


Friday, January 15, 2010


by Sister Jan Kilian

My heart and prayer are with friends in Apawas, Nicaragua these days. Sisters Carol Schmit and Grace Skwira are working in this makeshift medical clinic with Dr. Ron and Kay Brown, dispensing love and support along with medicines. They and 18 other Minnesotans are led to this area each January by our Franciscan missionary friend, Father Ted Niehaus, who works with 75-plus scattered villages in remote areas of Nicaragua. Volunteers of all ages endure the rugged travel and meager living conditions to work with him and to build relationships with these Nicaraguan brothers and sisters. This year only 5 of the group of 20 are first-timers. (Photo:  L-R  Sister Carol Schmidt, Fr. Ted Niehaus, Sister Grace Skwira)

My companion, Sister Paula, and I are keeping the home-fires going and praying we don’t get any really big storm while Carol’s away. She is our best snow-removal person. I can operate the snow-blower, but I’ve been known to blow snow in the garage and on the farm-house porch . . . . As Franciscans, we are delighted to have some of our community bridging us with these dear people; however, Carol, we are quite ready for you to come back home to us!

Monday, January 11, 2010


by Sister Carolyn Law

I wish each of you blessings as we begin a new year. And may we know the blessings which we have already.

Last month I was able to travel to Arizona to visit Sr. Ange Mayers. I had visited her there some years ago and always wanted to return for another immersion into the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation in the heart of the Sonoran desert of Southwest USA. Sr. Ange will be leaving her ministry there soon and so I needed to go or forego the experience. Fortunately I had some frequent flyer miles to use up and so I made the time for this trip.

Sr. Ange has lived and ministered among the Tohono O’odham people for over 15 years. This is in addition to her previous ministry of ten years in Tucson with the Yaqui and Tohono O’odham. I have known Ange since we served together in Venezuela back in the late 1980’s. Still I was very impressed with her poise, presence and persistence in living with deep faith, love and patience amidst challenging circumstances.

Ange’s place of ministry lies 120 miles west of Tucson. So while there is much beauty in the desert and in the people, there is also harshness, solitude, and suffering. There is the beauty of the large saguaro cacti, the sunrise and sunsets, the quiet of the starlit nights, and the surprise of many birds in the arid landscape. There is the beauty of the native people who live close to the earth, with authenticity and simplicity. There is the harshness of poverty, the too often suicides or early deaths, and the scarcity of resources for jobs and education. She has walked with the people there ministering a religious promoter, facilitating leadership training for parish members, teaching faith formation for families, adapting sacramental preparation to the needs of the people, and promoting growth in mental health. Most of all she has been a Franciscan presence, being first of all a sister to her brothers and sisters living in this part of the earth. To read a more see Ange’s brief autobiography our web site under “Meet the Sisters” at www.fslf.org.

Visiting Ange was a blessing that I continue to treasure. There are many things and people for which to be grateful as well. I am grateful for family, friends, my Sisters in community. I am grateful my work in the healing ministry and for all of the gifted healers that work to heal the wounds of the earth and her people. I am grateful the sun, and the moon, the air, the earth and for fire. The following prayer is a little long for a blog but seems so appropriate to share at this moment. It is a prayer written by St. Francis toward the end of his life and demonstrates Francis’ mystical union with God and all God’s creation.

The Canticle of the Creatures

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord, Yours are the praises, the glory, and the honor, and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong, and no human is worthy to mention Your name.
Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures, especially Sir Brother Son, who is the day and through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor; and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind, and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather, through whom You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water, who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom You light the night, and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love, and bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace for by You, Most High, shall they be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whom no one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.