Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Highlights from Jubilee 2015!

Our annual jubilee celebration was held the weekend from June 12-14 for sisters who were celebrating 50, 70, and 75 years of religious profession. In addition to time to relax, recall memories, and simply enjoy one another’s company, the jubilarians were treated to a festive dinner on Saturday evening. On Sunday morning, more than 200 sisters as well as a number of our Companions in Mission gathered in Our Lady of Angels Chapel in for the Eucharistic liturgy presided over by Fr. Cyprian Rosen, OFM Cap. These 27 Franciscan women represent 1,478 years of service throughout the United States as well as in other countries. Individual jubilarians are pictured on our website. Check them out at http://www.osfphila.org/about/2015_Jubilarians. And if you know any of them and would like to send a note of congratulations, send it via email to communications@osfphila.org or mail it to Communications Office, 609 S. Convent Rd., Aston, PA 19014. We'd be happy to see that the she gets your message!
Just a few of our jubilee photos to give you an idea of what our day was like!

Getting corsages before Mass.
Socializing while waiting for press release photos.
Heading outside to process to chapel
Sisters gather in chapel for liturgy.
Jubilarians proclaim the readings, share a reflection, and lead the Universal Prayer.
Jubilarians renew the vows they first professed 50, 70, and 75 years ago!
Leaving chapel and heading down to lunch--and time for more celebration!
Time for enjoying lunch, socializing, and receiving congratulations!




Monday, July 27, 2015

Lessons from Orion!

Each year our sisters make a week long retreat—the place and the type of retreat varying according to the sister’s need, preference, or schedule. Some years it may be a group retreat at an established retreat or a directed retreat one-on-one with a spiritual director. Other years a sister might choose to make a private retreat. Such was the case with my friend, Sr. Betty, this past year. A friend offered her the use of their home near Cape May for a week and Sr. Betty felt it would make the perfect place for a private retreat. She has been training a dog for Canine Partners. Orion is a yellow Labrador retriever and is slated to become a home companion dog. Knowing that her friend would not object, Sr. Betty took Orion with her for the week. When she returned, she shared with me this reflection that she had written during retreat—what she observed about life just from observing Orion.   

When one has a well-adjusted Labrador retriever as a retreat director, what lessons will unfold?
  •  Play hard.
  •  Enjoy the moment. 
  •  Relish your food. Even if it is the same thing given to you twice a day, get excited about it!
  •  Be grateful for every gift. 
  • Take a nap.
  • Play. 
  • Walk.
  • Sniff all the smells there are and all you are capable of smelling. 
  •  Be grateful and show gratitude. 
  •  Go to bed early—especially when you’re tired. 
  •  Live in the moment. 
  • Don’t let the rain keep you from having a good time. 
  •  Drink plenty of water. 
  •  Stretch. 
  • Listen. Be attentive. 
  •  Bark when necessary—let your voice be heard. 
  •  Every day and every moment is a gift. Enjoy it with love.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2015 Franciscan Federation Conference

Each year I usually write an article about the Franciscan Federation conference, using as my guide the schedule posted on the federation's website. This year, however, I had the privilege of being present for the entire conference in Indianapolis. We arrived at the hotel Friday afternoon and after checking in, looked for a place to get some lunch. What started out with a small group gradually grew to a bit of a reunion as more of our sisters found their way into the hotel restaurant.

Monday evening we gathered for the opening ritual--a reflective prayer and a beautiful interpretive dance performed by a group of children and teens. This prayer paved the way for the very beautiful and reflective prayer time we would experience throughout the week. Most of the hymns and prayers were projected on two large screens in an effort to be environmentally conscious.

Over the next three days, our speakers developed--both in individual presentations and in discussion--the conference theme, "Responding to God's Love: A Franciscan Moral Vision." On Saturday, Sister Mary Beth Ingham, CSJ, addressed the issue of "An Aesthetic Moral Vision" and was later joined by Fr. Thomas Nairn, OFM, and Fr. Joseph Chinnici, OFM, to discuss the issue. Similarly, the participants discussed the topic at their respective tables and shared their ideas and questions with the speakers.
(L-R) Fr. Tom Nairn, Fr. Joe Chinnici, Sr. Mary Beth Ingham

Saturday afternoon we heard a report from the "Dare to Dream" ad hoc committee on looking at the future of the Franciscan Federation and on ways to "widen the tent." This issue became a topic for a table discussion and an opportunity to share the outcome of those discussions with the committee.
A symbolic representation of "widening the tent"--expanding the membership and thrust of the Franciscan Federation.

Sunday morning the key speaker was Fr. Tom Nairn who addressed the topic, "The Human Spirit: Searching for Truth, Desiring the Good." His presentation developed the idea of the Franciscan moral vision from the stance of St. Bonaventure. Again we had time for both table discussion and for addressing questions and comments to the presenters.

Sunday afternoon was dedicated to meetings. We all gathered for the business meeting, an important part of which was the acceptance of the 2015 Statement of Resolution:
"Be it resolved that we, as persons of faith in relationship with all of Creation, and in a privileged position of faith leadership within our society as members of the Franciscan Federation, are called to personal and communal reflection that leads to action to sustain our one planet Earth, so that all creation may share in the generous gifts of Earth provided by our Creator and Sustainer God. Climate change, especially those changes caused by human ignorance, indifference, and greed, calls us to be prophets of change--to act in prophetic ways to halt human-induced abuse of Earth's resources that are given to be shared by all. As followers of St. Francis of Assisi, we are called to right relationship with our Sister Mother Earth, our home."

We also chose individually which of the three commission meetings we would attend: Commission of Elected Leadership, Commission of Regions, or Commission of Charism. I opted for the latter and found the discussions very enjoyable. There was a general discussion on the planned revision of the federation website and about the use of social media. I felt right at home! At our individual table, we discussed the ways in which we are or might be sharing our charism with our lay associates--our Companions in Mission.

Sunday evening we gathered in the ballroom for the annual banquet. Our congregation had two full tables of participants. During the prayer service, the various congregational honorees were acknowledged. As our names were called, our photos were flashed on the screen. We stood and the entire group prayed for us. Then everyone else stood, the honorees sat, and everyone sang the Blessing of St. Clare. "May you always be with God wherever you may be. And may God be with you always." It was truly a blessed, deeply touching moment for me--one that I'll never forget!
Srs. Sara Marks, Colette Gerry, and Kathy Dougherty blessing me.
Our whole group gathered for a photo after dinner. (Standing l-r) Srs. Anne Amati, Marie Lucey, Kathy Dougherty, Kathleen Moffatt, Colette Gerry, Jean Nisley, Ann Marie Slavin, Esther Anderson, Mary Farrell, Dominica LoBianco, Patricia Kane, Lynn Patrice Lavin; (Kneeling l-r) Srs. Betty Kane, Sara Marks, Patricia, Diane Tomkinson, Patricia Hutchison, Maria Orlandini 
When we left the banquet, our sisters gathered in the hotel lobby and continued the celebration.

Saturday--our last day! Our key presenter was Fr. Joe Chinnici who addressed the topic from the stance of "Political Economy from Within the Evangelical Life." His thoughts focused on the world in which we life today and the moral implications of the decisions we are called upon to make. As in the previous two days, the presentation was followed by table conversation and interaction with the three speakers. The conference closed with a commissioning prayer service--again beautifully planned and carried out.
The conference was, for me, a deeply moving experience. I feel that the presentations touch├ęd me deeply, putting into words a way of looking at situations, people, and life that has actually been part of  me as long as I can remember. And the support and love that I've experienced from my sisters has touched me deeply!


Monday, June 8, 2015

Celebrating 60 Years of Religious Life!

Sr. Thomasann Quinn has worked at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, for many years. Recently the school community surprised her with a special assembly acknowledging her 60 years as a Sister of St. Francis of Philadelphia. The second graders served as escorts to lead her into the auditorium. There she was surprise to see not only students, faculty, and staff, but also former teachers, a group of her friends, and Pennsylvania State Representative Marguerite Quinn. 

No party is complete without entertainment and this one was no exception. The program included presentations of homemade love songs performed by each class of OLC students--pre-k to 8th grade. “By this time I was totally engulfed in a blanket of God’s love flowing over me and the whole school community,” she wrote in a thank-you letter. “Truly it was one of the most love-filled moments of my life.”
Pre-k children
Grade 2
Grade 3
Grade 4
Current students, however, were not the only ones sharing their love for and appreciation of Sr. Thomasann for her long years of teaching and caring about the OLMC community. She received a basket of letters as well as a binder filled with emails from former students and their parents dating back to the 1980s—all expressing appreciation and sharing fond memories. Sr. Thomasann had planned a weekend retreat in one of our hermitages and she took the letters and emails with her. “It took me eight to  nine hours during my hermitage experience over this past weekend to read, pray, laugh, and cry over the memory writings of students and parents,” she explained.  

Sr. Thomasann, Queen for a Day and the Star of the Show, holds one of the many bouquets of flowers that she received. She later had them moved to the chapel "to honor Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and Francis."
Before the celebration ended, Sr. Thomasann learned of one more surprise. A statue of the Blessed Mother stands outside the entrance of OLMC School. Over the years Sr. Thomasann had often commented that she would have preferred a different statue of Mary. Before the 60th anniversary celebration ended, members of the Home and School Association announced that they would being replacing the current statue. “This was a dream come true for me,” said Sr. Thomasann as she thanked the group. “Over the past years, I have voiced the need for her [Mary] to be ‘reconditioned’ to a gentler mother.” 

Sr. Thomasann is greeted by State Representative Marguerite Quinn and one of the many friends who attended the celebration.

Looking back over this wonderful celebration, Sr. Thomasann concluded that “I don’t believe that any event that I meet along the journey in life can top the love and joy of last Wednesday! Thanks to each of you in our school community for letting me journey with you.”
Sr. Thomasann searched for words to thank all who were responsible and who contributed in any way to this wonderful celebration honoring her years in religious life--especially the portion of it spent at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School.



Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Meet Sr. Connie Davis!

I always enjoy introducing you to our sisters so that you can get some idea of the great work that each sister does now and what she has done over her years in the congregation as well as a little bit of her vocation story.

Monday morning—and Sr. Connie Davis is heading to Holy Cross School in Springfield, Pennsylvania, where for the past year she has volunteered two days a week. Her work there includes assisting the kindergarten teacher. For example, she helps students with letter recognition and assists them as needed with workbook assignments. At other times Sr. Connie is busy assisting students with art projects or helping out in the school office.    
Tuesday afternoons and evenings find Sr. Connie in the religious education program at St. John Fisher Parish in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania—a service she has rendered for the last three years. She assists the director with some of her ministry work, answers phones, and helps to get materials and memos out to the catechists. At the other end of the parish age spectrum, Sr.Connie tires to provide a presence to the more senior members, attending the bimonthly senior meeting as often of possible.  

Sr. Connie offers a suggestion to help this little boy with his work.
Sr. Connie is also a member of the religious education Fundraising Committee. Whether the committee is selling Yankee Candles or pretzels after Sunday Masses or tapping into percentage-based efforts at restaurants like Applebees or Wendys, the resultant profits are welcomed and put to good use. She also takes part in planning and preparing for the annual flea market. One of the main thrusts of this committee is to raise funds to support the parish’s summer Bible Camp. “It costs quite a bit to run the camp but as many as 80 children attend as well as volunteers ranging from grandparents to Confirmation candidates,” Sr. Connie explained. “By and large this is a great evangelization effort.”  

Sr. Connie spends time helping out in the parish office.
As part of the Fundraising Committee, Sr. Connie helps to provide resources for the parish religious education program.
Prior to high school, Sr. Connie had been taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph and had leaned toward entering their congregation. When it came time for high school, she was scheduled to attend Little Flower but lack of space found some of Connie’s class being assigned to Hallahan—Connie among them. It was there that she met the Sisters of St. Francis for the first time. “I admired their sense of humility and the fact that they worked so hard in the school,” she said, explaining her attraction to the congregation. “They had charge of the discipline at Hallahan but I didn’t find them very strict. In fact they were kind and caring of the students.” 

Such changes in plans and the resultant call to look at new possibilities have been part of Sr. Connie’s ministry experience as well—not all of which have been easy, especially changes necessitated by school and parish closures and/or mergers. “In this day of change, I have found closures challenging,” she explained. “In fact, in my short time here, we have experienced closures of both school and parish.” At the same time, Sr. Connie’s experience over the years in education, religious education, and social work—as well as the changes in community living necessitated by ministry changes have created what Connie refers to as part of her tapestry.  “I bring many experiences from all of this,” she explained, “and I try to share it with others.

Sr. Connie helps a student sound out a difficult word.

Sr. Connie is at hand if the children have a question about their workbook assignments.


Friday, May 29, 2015

The Wonder of Synchronicity!

One of the sisters I use to work with here at the motherhouse always talked about synchronicity--a word that was until then unknown to me. However, over the intervening years I've really come to be amazed and awed at the numerous instances of synchronicity. Some would simply brush it off as coincidence but it's something much broader, much deeper than mere coincidence. It's a coming together of idea, occurrences, ideas in such a way that, to me, it almost staggers the soul.

When I first came into work this morning, I check my email and took time to read the daily reflection I received from Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM. The reflections are always based on Franciscan spirituality and for the last few days have been focused on the fact that St. Francis called everything in creation his brother and sister. In talking about this "oneness" of all creation and about prayer, Fr. Rohr said, "I must know that I am, at least in part, the very thing I am seeking. In fact, that is what makes me seek it. But most do not know this good news yet. God cannot be found 'out there' until God is first found 'in here,' within ourselves."

This, in turn, reminded me of one of my favorite poems, Francis Thompson's "The Kingdom of God." I've always loved the way he explains that nature knows how to find what is important to it, what it is to do. We, on the other hand, are not always aware that the God we seek is already with us! So...I went hunting for Thompson's poem to share with you.

The Kingdom of God
O WORLD invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!

Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air--
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumor of thee there?

Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!--
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.

The angels keep their ancient places--
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
'Tis ye, 'tis your estrang├Ęd faces,
That miss the many-splendored thing.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry--and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob's ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry--clinging to Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water,
Not of Genesareth, but Thames!

And the final piece of this morning of synchronicity? I usually like to share a movie video from YouTube when I do a reflection. I had never heard this hymn before but when I found it, it pretty much took my breath away! The lyrics are not printed on the video and I wasn't able to find one that had them. However, they are very simple and I think fairly understandable. Enjoy it and be at peace!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

News from Nyumbani Children's Home

These are some of the most recent updates from Sr. Julie Mulvihill in Nyumbani Children's Home in Kenya. Sr. Julie works there with children whose parents have died from AIDS. During her years there some of the children have also died. The part about the termites pretty much freaked me out!This particular segment was just published the newsletter we send to our sisters. Then last night at dinner, I saw Sr. Julie who had just arrived from Kenya to celebrate her jubilee--50 years as a Sister of St. Francis.

 April 24, 2015
Everything at Nyumbani is beautifully green, our flowers are blooming and our avocados are growing bigger every day.  Most evenings this week we had heavy showers which sometimes bring out the flying termites that are attracted to any light they can find. I knew not to turn the lights on in my room until I had closed the curtains and stuffed something under the door.  This kept the termites outside which is usually good—unless  you are eating in an open air dining hall.  In that case, you turn off the overhead lights, place lamps near by where you are sitting but not too close to you so that the termites are drawn to the lights and not to you and your food. Keep all lids on your food except when you are putting food on your plate. Only use your flashlight to see what food you are putting on your plate and then turn it off so the termites are not drawn to your plate while you are eating!  

Our Holiday Program went well this week.  The high school students are enjoying their tutoring with the students from Kenyatta University.  Standards 7 and 8 are traveling down to Don Bosco for their program.   All seems to be going well with the computer, art and library classes. The wall painting is progressing well.  Our only problem is that the painting is going so well that Sr. Emily wants us to paint the wall in front of Paul Miki and Motinda is requesting that we paint the walls in front of each cottage.   Next week our Form 4 students will attend the 2nd part of their Self- Reliance Training.  They will be working on employment preparation, covering topics like career guidance, vocational discernment, preparing resumes, completing job applications, and sitting up job interviews.  

All the children are doing well.  We had a little boy admitted to respite care this week.  He is very frail looking but I got a beautiful smile from him when I gave him a couple of trucks to play with as well as a stuffed animal. Please pray that he responds well to the TLC he is receiving in respite. 

At our Holiday Program at Nyumbani this week we worked hard to get the paintings completed on the wall.  The kids did a pretty good job but did not get completely finished so John and Sam will put on the final touches next week.   I am so grateful to Donna, Deb, and Ben for getting us funding for this art project.  The children also enjoyed their times in the library and computer room.  We finished our program on Wednesday and then had a Dental Clinic on Thursday.  The doctors were able to see all of the children and any staff who wished to be examined.  I was down at Don Bosco on Thursday but I made sure that all the Form 4s got back for their dental checkups and then back to Don Bosco for the afternoon.   

Friday was Labor Day so the staff was off and the children at Nyumbani had a free morning to play while Form 4s and Standards 7 and 8 went down to Don Bosco for a Prayer Day.  In the afternoon the group from Don Bosco—about 80—came up to Nyumbani for community service.  They were mixed in with our children for an hour of cleaning and then they all played together. Fr. Benn from Don Bosco has tried hard to integrate our children with the neighborhood children who come in for his program each day.  I think it is good for ours to mingle with and get to know the children who live in the surrounding  area.  Hopefully, it will help to break down some of the stigma that our children face when they leave Nyumbani. 

Please pray for the college students who tutored our high school kids throughout the Holiday Program.  They really worked hard with the kids.  Also, pray that our high school students see some results from all their hard work.  Hopefully, some of those examination scores will go up.   

This week we got a new admission.  Her name is Tanya and she looks about six years old.  She is in Cottage H.  It was so nice to see the little ones in the cottage taking such good care of her.  They were leading her around the playground and showing her all the things she could play with.  When I went into Cottage H, they were so happy to introduce her to me.  They are trying to make her feel right at home.  This adjustment to a new home must be so hard for her. 

Next week all of our children will begin their second semester of school.  We will have a special blessing for all them at Mass on Sunday.  Please pray that each child will stay healthy and do their best in school this semester.   

May 8, 2015 
Last Friday I tried to cook about 280 hot dogs for the children, mums, and uncles for supper.  I had trouble with my little stove heating up such a big pot of hot dogs so Eric in the kitchen finished them for me and then I distributed them to everyone.   They were loved by all.  Thanks Donna for making this treat possible.  

On Saturday I was up early to get ready for the Nyumbani  Kenyan Olympics.  I gathered everything I needed—jump ropes, balloons, hats, balls, scooters, candy, Kenya airways medals, and Canadian pins for prizes.  I marked the basketball court for the Over/Under Ball Passing Game so each cottage could line up and for the Foul Shooting Contest. Uncle John and the high school kids helped with these  events.  I also marked the spot to kick the soccer ball and the soccer net.  Reagan was the goalie for this event.  I marked the starting and finish line for all of our track and field events.  We used the driveway behind the Noel House because the field in front of Paul Miki was recently seeded.  We has an over/under ball passing game, kick the soccer ball, track events where the kids just ran, jump rope races, a hat relay, and scooter races.  . With the encouragement of the kids, we also got the mums into a foot race. To be sure that everyone got something, there were times when I told Laura to give everyone balloons or candy.  I had to be a little stingy with the medals and pins because I did not have enough for all to get one. I'll have to go to the Dollar Store and purchase some when I'm home.  

At 10:30 AM the whistle blew and all of us, including Sister Mary, lined up around the Olympic Basketball Court to begin the Nyumbani Kenyan Olympics.  I introduced what the Olympics were all about, Sister Mary said a few words, and then we sang the Kenyan National Anthem. Next time we will have to get some type of Olympic Torch to light.  We just kept racing until the prizes ran out. An added contest for the teenagers was a Basketball Game and I refereed it.  All the kids stood and cheered.  During the game I got hit in the nose with the ball.  It cut my nose and caused a little nose bleed but it was okay. Sunday the kids all came to church in their school uniforms so Father can bless them and their new school semester.  On Monday morning I was out front  at 6:15 AM to wave goodbye as they left for school and by Thursday all the high school kids had returned to school.  At 8:30 AM the little ones were happy to go to Paul Miki for class because Teacher Margaret had returned from her leave and they were very happy to welcome her back. Please pray our kids work hard in school and keep improving in their studies. 

The first week of school has gone well.   I'll be heading down to Don Bosco for the Self-Reliance Training for our young adults.  The topic is Spiritual Care.  We want to encourage our young adults to get involved in churches after they leave Nyumbani.  This will not only help them to take care of their spirituality, but will also help them to reintegrate back into the community by getting involved in the young adult groups. It should help them to build relationships with people outside of Nyumbani and hopefully find friends who will not stigmatize them because of their status. Please pray all goes well. 

Love and prayers to all, Julie






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