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, December 13, 2011

Preparing for Christmas

Sisters Carol and Paula have been at it: decorating Clare's Well living room. The new LED lights on our "tree" reflect in the windows and on the ceiling adding new dimensions of beauty for the corner of plants that we have traditionally grouped together to make up our tree the last twenty-some years. The mantel crib set is new this year. It is a gift Carol purchased from artistsans in Nicaragua when she was there on one of the mission trips she and a group make to Father Teddy Niehaus' parish down there each January.

I am touched by the extent of the world represented in Christmas each year. We not only have Bethlehem and Nicaragua but also friends and family from years and years of gifting in the ornaments on the tree. It is wonderful to remember persons like Julia Barkley who painted some of the bulbs, Connie Lacher who gave us bells from a Lorie Line concert, and beautiful 'antique' ornaments we received from our Sisters who had them many years ago at our school mission in Osakis and passed them on to us. We treasure items from Mary Kranz Odendahl who is no longer on earth. The list goes on and on.

I pray your Christmas decorations bring warm memories of treasured experiences, friends and family. Merry Christmas.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Call of the Cellar

We have used short meditative readings on the nature of the season of fall before our meals these days. The season's natural movement is from outer activities to inner reflection and renewal. I notice our trees -- how can I help but notice! Their leaves are very much underfoot all over our yard even though we've had one significant picking-up-leaves-day. Letting go of showy productions, tree energy retreats to rest. Walking out of doors today, I feel the trees calling me to follow their example.

As sunlight is lessened in our northern hemisphere, I pray to own my own and the Divine light within. I'm happy to let go of harvesting and canning -- filling the cellar shelves -- and to take hold of more time to be in my own inner cellar. I pray with growing gratitude and praise for the earthy quiet of this restful, waiting, trusting soul space.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Associate Franciscan Life Group Celebrated Francis

The feast of Francis of Assisi on October 4th brings out the spirit of celebration in us Franciscans. I was privileged to mark the feastday with two communities this year, the first one being the St. Cloud Franciscan Life group with 8 of our Franciscan Associates. We met on October 3rd at the Welcoming House in St. Cloud, where we shared a pot-luck lunch and an indepth sharing on a chapter in the life of our patron, St. Francis.

The story of Francis' painful separation from his earthly father was a point of discussion. Growth in inner freedom and spiritual maturity requires fidelity to God's call in difficult experiences. Francis found it necessary to turn his back on his father's wealth and the security of his business. Each of us could remember something in our own lives which, painful though it was, brought us to a new levels of relationship with God.

The second celebration was with Sisters Carol Schmit, Paula Pohlmann, and Janice Wiechman of the Clare's Well staff. We chose to spend the day traveling from neighbor to neighbor, spending some quality time with each, and sharing homemade cookies. I can't tell you what a pleasure it was for us to do this together. We ended with a picnic and a walk in a county park on a simply gorgeous day.

Friday, August 5, 2011


Welcome back! It has been a busy summer for me, as it probably has been for all of you. I want to go back to August 6th feast of the Transfiguration for this sharing. (The story of the Transfiguration of Jesus is recorded in Matthew 17:1-9.)

The scene is a mountain where Jesus frequently retreated. On this particular occasion the writer tells us that as he prayed Jesus heard the voice of God reminding him, "You are my loved son and I am pleased with you." (Put yourself there and allow God to say that to you -- son or daughter of God.)

I (and Sisters Bernice Rieland, Joanne Heim and Jeanne Schwieters - not pictured) were privileged to make a retreat in July with Jesuit priest, John Dear. This scripture which describes God's confirmation of Jesus' identity is one that John treasures. One of many books John has authored is titled Transfiguration. Early in his life, John Dear came to realize on a gut level that Jesus is his brother. He says a conscious awareness of this relationship fuels the demand that he give his life for peace and justice.

Awareness of his identity also demanded that Jesus choose to walk through the suffering he knew fidelity as a son of God required of him. One of the demands of this retreat was that we reclaim our own identity as intimately related to God, and thus to each other. Allowing ourselves to be conscious of this, we, too, will be compelled to make choices only for the common good no matter what the personal cost to us.

Father John Dear is a peace activist from the marrow in his bones. His faith that Jesus is his brother demands that he protest war no matter what ridicule and imprisonment his non-violent demonstrations against war, especially nuclear weapons, bring to him. On this day when we again contemplate the meaning of Jesus' Transfiguration, I pray for faith to know who I am and to live my live from that core identity.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Celebrating Franciscan Style

We had three celebrations at our Motherhouse in Little Falls the weekend of June 10 - 12, 2011. We blessed the 4 members of our outgoing leadership team with gratitude for their 5 years of selfless service; we welcomed the new foursome with lighted lamps on the feast of Pentecost. We laughed and cried with all 8 of these truly great and dear women.
The 3rd celebration was quite unique: 2011 marks the 25th anniversary of our Sisters and Associates relationship. Pictured above is one of our current Associate Ministers, Geri Dietz, giving out bouquets to 8 others who have served in Associate Leadership since the onset of this adventure in 1986. It was that year that S. Aggie Soenneker helped to open the door to lay men and women who wanted to live the gospel more fully in community with the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls. As Aggie said then, "We don't know what it will look like or where it will lead." No one could have imagined today's spirited partnership with 240-plus Associate members from coast to coast and in many states inbetween in the U.S. plus members in Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela and Nicaragua. See the Associates website under http://www.fslf.org/

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Is Rhubarb Franciscan?

It is rhubarb season in Minnesota! Recipes for rhubarb desserts are abundant in Franciscan cookbooks. Here is my favorite Rhubarb recipe (which I've prepared twice already this week.) This comes from a cookbook Sister Pat Zangs facilitated when she served as Administrator at St. Francis Hospital in Breckenridge, a hospital known for its excellent cooks. S. Pat is one of the reasons I love our Franciscan Community; Sisters Janice Wiechman and Paula Pohlmann are two other reasons: here they are preparing rhubarb from our garden. Here is the recipe by an anonymous baker:
CRUST: 1/2 cup butter, 2 cups sifted flour, 2 tablespoons sugar. Mix like pie crust. Pack in 9 x 13 or 10 x 14 pan and bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees.
5 cups chopped rhubarb
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 egg yolks
1 cup cream of evaporated milk
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups sugar (too much for me - use 1 2/3 or less)
Place rhubarb on hot crust. Mix other ingredients well with beater and pour over rhubarb.
Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
TOPPING: Beat 6 egg whites with 1/4 teaspoon salt until stiff. Slowly add 12 tablespoons (that is 3/4 cup) sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat well. Spread on top of baked filling and bake an additional 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I Knew This Would Happen Someday!

Here I am, following myself. I thought I was signing on to follow someone else who is following this blog, and it turns out, I'm following our own. I wonder if this is how a dog feels chasing her own tail? This is not a good trait for a Franciscan. . . though it does encourage humility and a reminder of the need to be watchful.

We are gathering this weekend to celebrate the 80th birthday of our Sister Rose Mae Rausch. Rose Mae is one of our community treasures - a leader in all things good and beautiful. What a pleasure to be associated with her. You don't see her running around in circles. Her eye is on the goal. I recommend her blog: franciscanthinplaces.blogspot.com

On the other end of the age spectrum, we have little friends who delight us when they come to see our chickens at Clare's Well Retreat Farm. Here they are, presenting the eggs they gathered in our barn. There is no pretense in how they feel about having their photo taken. Such unvarnished expressions! They share this with S. Rose Mae - not that she pouts - but you always know where she stands on matters of concern to her. She is a wonderfully transparent human being. Happy Birthday, Rose Mae!


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Transforming Tension, Choosing Love

This Living Franciscan post is written by Michelle L'Allier, OSF

Holy Week is filled with the unexpected: from the jubilation of Palm Sunday to the suffering and death of Jesus on Good Friday; from the darkness of waiting and uncertainty of Holy Saturday to the joy of Easter Resurrection. In Mathew’s Passion narrative, we hear Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus, fully human as well as fully divine, transformed his anguish into acceptance. Ronald Rolheiser speaks of Jesus purifying sin and tension by absorbing and transforming it…taking in hatred, holding it, transforming it, and giving back love…taking in fear, holding it, transforming it, and giving back freedom.

The Sacred Path
We as Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls are on our own journey of transformation. This blog post began long before Holy Week when I was walking on the Sacred Path at Clare’s Well (shown above), remembering the Legislative Session of our Delegate Assembly. This is once-every-five years gathering is a time when we come together as Franciscan Sisters to consider in a spirit of prayer God’s call and our response to the needs of the times. At our February Legislative Session we wrestled with the opportunities and challenges we face as we consider our limited resources, wide-ranging experiences and rich spiritual heritage. Blessed with faith and gifted companions for the journey, we vision and plan together for the future with hope. At our February meeting we also affirmed our call to continued conversation of community life in the 21st Century and to explore forms of governance that more fully reflect values of collegiality and shared responsibility.

Earlier this month we had the Election Session of our Delegate Assembly during which we elected a new Leadership Team. We listened to the movements of God’s Spirit in our midst and in our own hearts and chose a team of four Sisters who will be entrusted with leading us as a community for the next five years. Of this time, Jan described a metaphor of the kitchen  for our community, the hearth of the home is where we prepare food to nourish one another and others; it is where we sip from comforting and at times contentious cups of coffee, all the while staying at the table. It is a pertinent image for these times. Whether considering choices regarding the future of a community such as ours or perhaps significant personal and family decisions, or whether it means moving forward in the midst of a polarized political climate, the model of listening deeply and staying at the table until tension is transformed is an example of fidelity to love.

May we in this Holy Week follow Jesus as he shows us the way to absorb, purify and transform tension and sin rather than simply transmit them.

 Spring’s new life transforms remnants of fall and winter.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

How is it in your kitchen?

We Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls gathered April 8 - 10 to elect new leadership. Our choice of leaders for the next five years was grounded in understanding we have a lot of work to do at this time in the history of our world, church, and religious life.

As we met around tables discerning who God might be calling to lead us from 2011 - 2016, our facilitator, Sister Marie Chiodo, said we reminded her of a kitchen. A kitchen connotes warmth, nourishment, sharing everyday basics, looking out for each other, tending the farm, arguing over cups of coffee which keep us at the table through contention and through comfort. "Is that roast done yet?"

"Stay in the kitchen," Marie said. We must stay at the table together. We are at the time of "not done yet." Doing the master planning that we must do is only setting the table. For the main course, we need to continue to grapple with the deeper meaning of religious life -- the deeper meaning of obedience in mission and community together. The kitchen table holds our prayer, memories, struggles, doubts and hopes for the future. How is it in your kitchen?

Where is it that we gather with equal voice sharing in decisions? It is right here. Staying at the table, we will arrive one day over cups of coffee at a table now set, the elusive master plan having grown organically from who we are. Will that roast be ready to serve?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Thought of St. Francis Today

There is hardly a day goes by that I don't think of Francis -- living with Franciscan Sisters brings many reasons to remember him. Our shared prayer includes readings either from his writings or from someone writing about him. Living in the beauty of rural Minnesota is another way of connecting with this saint's unique appreciation of the natural and wild. Another attribute of Francis is his faithfulness. Once he turned his face toward God, he never turned back. Speaking of faithfulness, the return of spring speaks to me of fidelity - God's and Earth's. No matter how long winter is and how deep the snow, I know spring will come again. And, sure enough, it has. It's here! This gift of seasons cycling around with such predictability and refreshment brings a certain recovery of that spiritual ability to see and hear what Francis (and Clare) saw in their ecstacy when they considered the wonder of God incarnate on Earth. God is faithful. My heart feels more joy than it has since January. The trees are full of noisy off-key red-winged black birds and Francis is right there playing his two-stick violin with them.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hungry for Light?

I don't know if anyone has noticed, but this blog hasn't been updated for a long time. My excuse is low energy and some negative feelings about winter: this winter has been exceptionally dark. The lack of light, the many days in a row of overcast skies would put me in the poor house if my living depended on writing.

Have any of you also been hungry for light? You know how we sometimes say things are as different as night from day? Night's not so bad. Night is supposed to be dark. The lack of light in daytime is something else.

St. Francis sang a Canticle to the Creatures, beginning with gratitude for Brother Sun. He must have longed to see light even more than I do: he was blind when he wrote:

Be praised, my Lord, by all your creature world,
and first of all by Brother Sun,
who brings the day and light you give to us through him.
And beautiful he is, agleam with mighty splendor;
of you, Most High, he gives us indication!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Deep Bonds Help Navigate

Change is both exciting and terrifying. I experienced both feelings during our delegate assembly meetings in Little Falls last week. Our Franciscan Community forsees a future marked by fewer members and fewer material resources. We've been preparing for these changes; this meeting helps us continue to prepare for them. We understand being small and poor is not a bad outlook for Franciscans following Christ. The trust in the assembly room was tangible even though we don't have all the answers.

One resource I became more deeply aware of as I looked over the gathered congregation in our chapel is just how powerful is the gift of our relationship with each other: these women are as truly sister to me as are my own blood family members. We are siblings in the best sense of the word. Our history is filled with shared experiences of life, death and finding the way through previous large changes. I know we can count on our relationship with each other to help us faithfully navigate the changes yet to come.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Journey Into God

I was privileged to spend a week of solitude in retreat the end of January. An annual (at least) spiritual retreat is one of the perks of being a Franciscan Sister. For my guide and nourishment for prayer this year, I took notes and a book from a previous retreat I had made with Josepf Raischl and Andre Cirino, both of whom are Franciscan. Their book, The Journey into God, is based on St. Bonaventure's work, The Journey of the Human Person into God. Joseph and Andre provide reflections and exercises which are very helpful in unpacking the depth of wisdom Bonaventure shares.

The Journey takes the one desiring God from the signs of Goodness and Beauty in creation, through those mirrors of God found in our own memory, intellect and desires, and beyond through what we might know of Grace, Truth, Being in contemplation. I am grateful for the time to be with God in this way.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

F a i t h f u l Fools - S Carmen Barsody

There are times I wish Kay and I would have kept the newsprint that hung on the wall in her office in early 1998 out of which came forth our name, Faithful Fools Street Ministry, and our mission statement, (which S Jan published in her previous blog.)

After walking the streets of the Tenderloin each day and sharing stories of what brought us to this place and time, we'd head back up the hill to Kay's office at the Unitarian Universalist Church and make notes on newsprint of the people, places, poems, books, beliefs, observations and longings that had come to us as we walked and talked, and encountered people throughout the day. In a magical sort of way our name and our mission statement formed itself on the newspring.

We set out as a Unitarian Universalist Minister and a Catholic Franciscan Sister aspiring to be Faithful Fools. We had both come to a place in our lives where we longed to be faithful to a way of being and seeing in the world. Our many and varied experiences in life led us to one, simple truth - we are all human. No amount of wealth or education, nor any particulr place or religion protects us from suffering or assures us of joy. We have an unabashed belief that everyone has the potential to change and be changed and the work is for a lifetime.

Faithfulness is required for us to accompany a person through deep-seated and unimaginable pain. The patience and compassion we need must be in direct proportion to the amount we allot to ourselves through a lifetime of failed attempts to change our own unhealthy behaviors and ignorant ways of thinking.

To be faithful requires that I walk with a mirror ever before me and practice constant reflection. When judgments or frustrations arise I often say to myself, "you who have never sinned throw the first stone." I've discovered over time that it ultimately takes less energy to put down the stones than to repeatedly hurl them. It is a greater gift to someone to patiently stand still and be a witness rather than to throw stones toward something or someone I ultimately know little about.

Almost 13 years of walking the streets with many Faithful Fools may not have changed the world, but lives have been changed, including my own. Faithfulness has meant never giving up on anyone or anything. If I were to name one gift I have received it is that my mind and heart have been enlarged, and my love has increased so as to have room for the vastness of human experience, and for this I am grateful.
(reprinted from Fools Fables, Annual Edition 2010-2011 with permission)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fools Fables

I just read the latest edition of Fools Fables published by our friends, Faithful Fools. I was very moved to read the many reflections on faithfulness. Coming from them, this quality has depth and significance beyond the ordinary. Sister Carmen and Rev. Kay have been walking soul to soul with men and women of the tenderloin since 1998, at least. Sister Susan has been with them many years. Carmen reminded us of their mission statement:

We are called to a ministry of presence that

acknowledges each human's incredible worth.

Aware of our judgements, we seek to meet people where they are

through the arts, education, advocacy and accompaniment.

We participate in shattering the myths about those living in

poverty, seeing the light, courage, intelligence, strength and

creativity of the people we encounter.

We discover on the streets our common humanity,

through which celebration, community and healing occur.

For more about these folks, see http://www.faithfulfools.org/ Your spirit will be enriched.