Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ice Cream Social 2014: Mr. Softee Visits the Motherhouse!

On Tuesday we had our annual ice cream social at work--a tradition that  started a number of years ago and has become a favorite among our staff. Our leadership team has the Mr. Softee truck come to the motherhouse grounds around 1:30 and all of our employees gather out on our grounds to select whatever of the Mr. Softee products best suits their fancy--and their appetite! The party runs from 1:30 to 3 and provides an enjoyable--and delicious--break on a hot summer day!

Below are some of the photos from this years social.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Psalm 86: A Little Help In Being Slow to Anger!

This past Sunday I went to Mass at our retirement residence and, after visiting for a while with one of our sisters, headed to chapel about 15 minutes before Mass began. Since I had a little time, I opened my Mass booklet and spent a few minutes looking over the reflection which happened to be on the responsorial psalm--a section of Psalm 86.
You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
R: Lord, you are good and forgiving.
Hearken, O Lord, to my prayer and attend to the sound of my pleading.
All the nations you have made shall come and worship you, O Lord, and glorify your name.
R: Lord, you are good and forgiving.
For you are great and you do wondrous deeds; you alone are God.
R: Lord, you are good and forgiving.
You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity.
Turn toward me and have pity on me; give your strength to your servant.
R: Lord, you are good and forgiving.

The reflection--written by Fr. James McKarns--was a very short one but one that had quite an effect on me.  Fr. McKarns focused on the words that described God as being "slow to anger." Apparently something in these words touched some special chord in him and he felt called to try to focus on being "slow to anger" for one day. To remind himself during the day, he put a rubber band on his wrist and when he felt himself being annoyed or angered by any situation that day, he simply snapped the rubber band as a reminder. Apparently this little reminder had a positive effect because Fr. McKarns said that at the end of the day he felt a sense of calmness and decided to continue the practice--although he didn't say how long he continued it.

I thought about this both before and during Mass--especially when we sang one of my favorite hymns--"Loving and Forgiving"!  I had to admit that an increased sense of impatience--and even some anger--have been disturbing to me over the last few years. Well, I thought, rubber bands are relatively easy to come by so maybe I'll give it a try. Maybe a visible reminder might help. So...for the last two days I've been wearing a rubber band on my wrist. Do I get impatient and annoyed? Yes! But that visible reminder does help--at some of the strangest times! Will people begin to wonder why I periodically snap the rubber band on my wrist? Maybe--but they'll probably think I'm just distracted or fidgety! (Of course, if they read this they might wonder if they're making me impatient!)

So...what about you? Do you sometimes need something to remind you that God is loving and forgiving? Do you need to remind yourself that to be more like your God you might need to work on being slow to anger and rich in kindness?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Update from Haiti!

This was Sr. Vicky’s last article before she returned home for the summer. She will soon be returning to Ferrier for another year. As she indicates in this post, Sylvania Franciscan  Sr. Fidelis will not be returning to Haiti but Sr. Vicky will continue working with Sr. Jo.

April 30, 201
This afternoon our KPA leadership team, our medical team, our house staff, and the sisters had a going away party for Sr. Fidelis Rubbo.  Sr. Fidelis is the one who started this mission. The party had its sad moments accompanied by tears.  It had its touching moments when our KPA members, our medical staff, and Sr. Jo shared warm memories and grateful hearts.  However, true to the spirit of Haiti and the Franciscan spirit, our party ended with singing and dancing, eating and laughing, and praising God.
Gerald, a member of the KPA, expressed the gratitude of the group to Sr. Fidelis.
May 4, 2014
This morning our parish of St. Rose de Lima had a special liturgy during which we celebrated two very important events.  Today eight of our adult parishioners and three of our children, received their First Holy Communion.  The girls and most of the women wore their prettiest dresses and lovely little veils which Sr. Fidelis found for them. The men had on their white shirts and ties and black dress pants.  They all looked very nice, and we were so proud of each of them. They spent many hours preparing for this very special day with their teachers and their hearts were ready to receive the Lord.

 Marisia, one of the young women of the parish, made her First Communion.
Our eldest communicant--age 90!
Fr. Parnell left a special meeting to be with us for this liturgy.  As always, he was full of enthusiasm, and expressed sincere gratitude to Sr. Fidelis for all that she has done for our people since she arrived almost 13 years ago.  After the Mass, others expressed thanks on the part of the community.  Then there were songs—personalized in her honor—gifts, dancing, food, drinks, and lots of tears.  It was truly a loving tribute!
Sr. Fidelis displays one of her farewell gifts!
Sr. Fidelis came to Haiti over 12 years ago, and began ministering among the people on the Gran Caymete Island.  Eventually she moved onto the mainland, and ended up in Ferrier.  She had the little blue house built.  She then formed our KPA Leadership group because her main goal was to help the Haitian people to help themselves.  With the help of KPA, she has built a clinic and many cisterns for water, started an agricultural group and a sewing center, helped to send many people for emergency care, and provided financial support for education.  Most recently, she became the director of our chapel, forming a pastoral council among the parishioners.  Last year she finished the construction of our visitors’ house called “Zanmi Ayiti” (Friends of Haiti House).  The visitors’ house is used for a variety of purposes such as teaching English, holding meetings, and prayer celebrations.  However, the main purpose of the house is to give a respite  to visitors who come to minister among the Haitian people in the city of Pestel and its surrounding villages.

You can imagine that after all this work, Sr. Fidelis is pretty worn out and it’s time for a new beginning for her   She doesn’t know yet what the Lord has in mind but she’s ready and willing to follow his lead.  The people of this area will be forever grateful to her for all the loving service God has provided through her.  Sr. Fidelis, Bondye beni ou toujou!  (God bless you always!)
If you haven't read the full-length article on the work of the sisters in Haiti, visit our website,, and check out the latest issue of our Good News magazine.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Highlights from Our Congregational Chapter

Our congregational chapter this summer was a time of prayer, communal discernment, and faith-filled sharing. Our goal was two-fold: to set directives for the next six years and to elect a new leadership team who would journey with us in living out those directives.

Although the chapter itself lasted only six days, a great deal of preparatory work had taken place over the 18 months prior to the chapter as we worked in small groups to discern where it was God was leading us as a congregation. During these many meetings, using a process of communal discernment, we arrived--not at a list of "how-tos" but at a single question that would be the focus of the chapter discussions.
Provident God whose life-giving Spirit urges us forward, where are you challenging us as Franciscan women today to risk rebirthing our charism into an unknown future?
We began with a beautiful opening prayer ritual during which Sacred Scripture was carried in procession into the chapter room.  
Sr. Frances Cassidy carries the Book of the Gospel into the chapter room. 
Individual sisters carry bibles to their base tables. As they process through the chapter room, they pass beneath one of the canopies (below).

 At the base tables the sisters reverence the bible which then remains as the table's centerpiece for the remainder of chapter.
The chapter was facilitated by Sr. Barbara Valuckas, SSND, who explained that we would be working in both base groups and concensus groups. Each morning would begin with approximately an hour of prayer and faithsharing--one day in base groups and the next in concensus groups. This sense of prayer and prayerfulness pervaded the chapter room throughout the week.
Sr. Barbara Valuckas, SSND
During the first few days of chapter, delegates worked with the "question" and through a process of communal discernment arrived at a direction statement which will guide us during the upcoming six years. Note that it is not a "how-to" statement--simply a statement of direction. I love it because it says so much about who we are as a congregation and contains such hope for the future!
Trusting in our Provident God, whose life-giving Spirit urges us forward, we challenge ourselves as Franciscan women to risk rebirthing our charism, offering it as gift to all. Rooted in contemplative consciousness and committed to the primacy of relationship, we choose to be a prophetic and transformative presence in our Church and world. 
Filled with hope, we step into the unknown future, calling ourselves to…
  • Explore our evolving identity as women in the Church.
  • Expand options for membership and other forms of association.
  • Foster dynamic engagement in every stage of our lives.
  • Exercise responsible stewardship and intensify efforts to care for Earth.
  • Heighten intercultural and intergenerational consciousness and create opportunities for engagement. 
Delegates working in groups to discern both our directional statement and which of our nominees would best work as a team to enflesh that directional statement.
The last few days of chapter were given to the election of a new leadership team. And the result!

Sr. Kathy Dougherty (center) was elected congregational minister. Members of the leadership team are (l-r) Srs. Pat Smith, Ruth Bernadette O'Connor, Mary Farrell, and Marie Colette Gerry.

When Congregtional Chapter 2014 was declared closed, the newly elected team processed through the chapter room caring the Book of the Gospels. All of us who were attendance--both delegates and participant observers processed under the varied colored canopies and headed for the motherhouse for our closing liturgy and dinner.

During the closing liturgy, Sr. Esther Anderson, our current congregational minister blessed and anointed the hands and heads of each of the newly elected council members and all of us in attendance blessed them by singing the Blessing of St. Francis.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Highlights of Jubilee 2014

Our congregational jubilee  was--as always--a joy-filled and beautiful celebration.
mMre than 300 sisters gathered in Our Lady of Angels Chapel to honor the 28 jubilarians celebrating 75, 70, 50, and 25 years as Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia—1605 collective years of service. The jubilarians processed around the outside of the motherhouse, their joyous voices singing Rufino Zaragoza’s “Praise and Glory.” As the jubilarians entered the chapel, the choir and congregants began the entrance hymn—Dan Shutte’s “Gather the People,” beginning the Eucharistic liturgy presided over by Fr. Cyprian Rosen, OFM, Cap. Following the liturgy, the jubilarians and their guests enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared by our wonderful--and ever-gracious--food service staff. Enjoy just a few of the many photos that helped to capture the celebration. Unfortunately no photo can ever fully capture the spirit of the day! 

 Jubilarians gathered before Mass to have group photos taken as well as photos to be sent with press releases.
 Group photo of silver, golden, and diamond jubilarians.
 Outdoor processional before Mass
(above and below) Srs. Noreen Buttimer and Natalie proclaim the first and second readings from scripture

Lighting of the jubilarians' candles prior to their renewal of vows
(Above and below) Jubilarians renew the vows they made for the first time 75, 70, 50, and 25 years ago.

The closing hymn of the liturgy was one of my favorites: "Give Thanks to the Lord" by Dan Schutte. Both the lyrics and the melody sing of the joy and the love of God that exists in all of life. When we sing that hymn, we automatically end of clapping in time with the rhythm of the song. This time was no exception and both jubilarians and congregants were filled with that joyful sense of music and rhythm and love of God!

Of course, it goes without saying that at our celebrations, we break bread together and simply enjoy one another's company--and our food services staff, as usual, provided us with a delicious lunch. And a meal provides nourishment for the spirit as well as for the body--we really enjoy one another's company and time to catch up on what's been happening in our lives!


Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Busy Week And A Request For Prayers!

This coming week will be a very busy one--and an extremely important one--for our Franciscan congregation. Sunday is our annual celebration for our jubilarians--those sisters celebrating 25, 50, 70, 75, or 80 years as Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. This is always a special day for us. The jubilarians actually spend the weekend at the motherhouse. They have a special dinner together on Saturday evening and during the weekend enjoy time visiting, reminiscing, and recalling special memories. On Sunday morning there is a beautiful liturgy for the jubilarians and many of our sisters from the surrounding states join them for this special occasion. Following Mass, the jubilarians and the other sisters share a special luncheon.

This year, however, the numbers will be greatly swelled because sisters will be coming from across the U.S. and beyond for our general chapter which begins on Monday and continues throughout the following week.

The general chapter which is held every six years is a very important time for us. During this week we look at where we have been, what we have done, and where we are going. Basically we will be setting our direction for the next six years. In the final days of chapter, we elect a new leadership team--a congregational minister and five council members--that we feel will best accompany us on this journey. The entire process--both the direction-setting and the election--is a very contemplative and Spirit-filled experience. Each day also contains time for prayer and liturgy. And lest you think that this is too much to accomplish in six days, know that preparations and small group discussions have been ongoing for well over a year! The chapter ends on Saturday afternoon--June 28--with a special liturgy, installation of the new leadership team, and dinner.

I do ask for your prayers during these special days--both in thanksgiving for the gift that our jubilarians are to us and to those they have served over the years and also for the blessing and guidance of the Holy Spirit as we discern where and what and how God is calling our sisters to serve into the future.

When I get back to work after chapter, I'll be sharing some of the highlights of our jubilee celebration!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Memories of My Dad

I had planned this for Father's Day but was pretty much "out of commission" for the weekend. However, I didn't want to miss the opportunity to honor my father's memory!

These are just a few of my memories (in no particular order):
  • living in a boarding house in Coatesville for 10 years and traveling home to Wilmington by bus twice a week so that we wouldn't have to be uprooted
  • going out and buying a dress for my little sister--a dress that my mom admired but didn't buy because she felt it was too expensive
  • using his free train passes to take us to Philadelphia for a day's "vacation"
  • coming home and surprising me with three red plastic children's records (mostly cowboy songs) for "no special reason"
  • agreeing to let us choose a supper of donuts and coke because he knew that we were upset that my mom went to the hospital for surgery two days after my grandmother's surgery
  • in later years--letting me witness his vulnerability when my mother had surgery
  • teaching me to sing the first two songs I remember learning--"Let Me Call You Sweetheart" and "Show Me the Way to Go Home"--and walking down the street singing them with me
  • proudly pinning up my "shoe poem" in the Reading Yard Office
  • always welcoming my friends
  • good naturedly taking our teasing about "Daddy's Wednesdayitis"
  • letting me play catch with him and Paul even though I wasn't very good at it
  • telling me a wildly exaggerated version of the story of Mom putting pancakes in his lunch
  • writing me a letter when I was a postulant because Mom wasn't feeling well and he knew she wrote to me every week
  • walking down the street whistling like he hadn't a care in the world
  • getting us a big box of sand for the back yard so we could pretend we were at the beach
  • taking Paul and me fishing in the Brandywine--even though we didn't catch anything
  • bringing home cattails and showing us how to light them
  • taking me to the playground to play on the swings
  • sitting on the front steps on a summer evening--and MAYBE giving us money to buy ice cream


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