Monday, November 23, 2015

Meet Sr. Justina Miller!

I always enjoy introducing our sisters to my blogger friends. Today I'm honored to introduce you to Sr. Justina Miller, OSF!

Sr. Justina Miller first met the Sisters of St. Francis when she entered first grade at St. Gertrude School in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. Throughout her years at the school, she was inspired by the kindness, simplicity, and teaching skills of the sisters. In fact, she recalled her high school principal commenting on how well the students from St. Gertrude’s were prepared for high school. Those early impressions seemed to have had a lasting impression on Sr. Justina herself. Most of her years in ministry have been dedicated to education—both as teacher and principal. Following a sabbatical, she began looking at ministry opportunities and knew that her heart was in teaching. Following an interview with Theresa Huke, director of Neumann University’s Academic Resource Center (ARC), Justina began volunteering in the ARC.
ARC director Theresa Huke and Sr. Justina check out resources available to students.
That was 11 years ago. Today she continues this volunteer work three days a week. Very often her assistance involves meeting with students to proof a writing assignment— often from an English, history, or religion class—usually focusing on spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. “Learning about the students’ background, their struggles to achieve an education, and their dreams of a successful career are great incentives for me to continue in this ministry,” Sr. Justina explained. 

Sr. Justina checks with secretary Sparkle Conyers to see which students have scheduled appointments.
Sr. Justina checks with secretary Sparkle Conyers to see which students have scheduled appointments.
As in any ministry, there are challenges as well. For Sr. Justina, the major challenge is dealing with students who make an appointment and fail to keep it. In most cases, however, poor grades usually serve as a reality check—and experience as a formidable reminder! “Often a teacher requires a student to request comments from me on a given assignment,” Sr. Justina added, “which is also an incentive to keep an appointment!” 

Looking back at Sr. Justina’s childhood experience with our sisters in Lebanon, the educational aspect wasn’t the only factor that seems to have left a lasting impression. One of her favorite memories was cleaning the convent kitchen and chapel. “It seems as though cleaning at home was a chore but cleaning the convent was a privilege,” she laughed. “And the milk and cookies also tasted better in the convent!” Like most busy people, Sr. Justina is still quick to offer her services in multiple areas. In addition to her work in the ARC, she also provides service in the university’s chapel—gathering up the altar linens each week and taking them home to be laundered.
 In her own parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Morton, she serves as a lector. When possible she makes weekly visits to the sisters in Assisi House and also sends get well cards to sisters and parishioners who are ill.  

Sr. Justina returns the altar linens that she had taken home and laundered.
Does Sr. Justina have any free time? Well, when she does, reading is one activity that she particularly enjoys—especially the daily paper and mystery books, and…cookbooks! “Strange as it may seem, I also enjoy perusing cookbooks looking for different ways to prepare meals,” she said. Recalling her childhood memory about milk and cookies at the convent, might this be one more example of the impact those earlier sisters had on Sr. Justina’s life and the many ways in which that influence continues to motivate her in serving others?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Celebrating 125 Years in Spokane Diocese

In October we celebrated a major anniversary for the congregation—the 125 years of service rendered by our sisters in the Diocese of Spokane. To commemorate the event, approximately 250 guests gathered to celebrate—remembering the past, rejoicing in the present. Thirty-one of our sisters were on hand for the celebration—some from the local area, others traveling from the east coast, western Washington, Portland, and eastern Oregon. Representatives from other religious congregations serving in the diocese were also present for the celebration.

There seemed to be an aura of “family” in its broadest sense about the celebration. Bishop Thomas Daly and diocesan priests who had attended St. Charles School where our sisters taught concelebrated the liturgy. Fr. Tyrone Schaff, the brother of Sr. Loretta Schaff, was the homilist. Both he and Loretta had attended St. Charles School, as had Sr. Joanne Clavel whose mother also served as parish secretary for many years. Sr. Elaine Thaden described Joanne as the “impetus and powerhouse behind the celebration.” Our faithful companions were also actively involved in the celebration, creating displays that illustrated both past and present ministries and compiling a book of memories from the sisters who had served in the diocese.
Sisters who traveled from east and west to attend the celebration.

Sr. Elaine Thaden welcomed the attendees, sharing in prayer the history of who and what the celebration was all about. One section of her welcome was particularly touching as Elaine listed just some of the many groups of individuals whom our sisters served and continue to serve. “We celebrate,” she proclaimed,
·       the hundreds of children who made mothers of us and the thousands of children who made educators of us,
·       the troubled parents, couples, families, individuals, and young unmarried mothers who made genuine big sisters and counselors of us,
·       the new-born babies and their ecstatic adoptive parents who brought us such joy,
·       the severely handicapped children who broke our hearts and taught us to let go,
·       the homeless women of Spokane who even now teach us compassion, mercy, and love as well as teaching us of our society’s desperate need for justice-making.

St. Joseph Children's Home
St. Ann's Baby Home
Following the liturgy, guests moved to the parish hall for a reception and to view the displays which further illustrated Elaine’s opening remarks. 

Be sure to keep an eye out for the Spring 2016 issue of Good News which will carry a feature article on both our sisters’ history in Spokane and this 125th celebration!


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Families and Vocations: What's The Connection

Sr. Elaine Thaden, one of our vocation directors, wrote the following article for our internal congregational newsletter. However, because its focus is really the family, I thought it appropriate to share it with you and your families! Hope you enjoy it and find the resources helpful! It seems to me that many of the suggestions are good ones for any family--whether or not someone in that family may be being called to religious life!

Considering Pope Francis’ messages during his visit to the U.S., the International Conference on the Family held in Philadelphia, and the recent synod on the family in Rome, it seems very timely to discuss the role of family in vocation promotion. The minds of Catholics are focusing on the family and the times are ripe to do more to create a culture of vocations among families and in parishes. To support this goal, the 2015 National Religious Vocation Conference/CARA recently released findings of a study on the “Role of the Family in Nurturing Vocations to Religious Life and Priesthood.” The survey focused on both men and women religious and diocesan priests and seminarians who entered religious life since 2000 as well as on their family members.  The complete study can be found at 

Check out Under the “Year of Consecrated Life” tab, you can find helpful resources such as “10 Suggestions for Fostering Happy and Holy Families—Essential for Nurturing Vocations”
  • Pray daily as a family in thanksgiving for guidance, for forgiveness.
  • Talk with your children about their worries and concerns, their hopes and dreams.
  • Share meals together as often as possible.
  • Tell stories about your family history—the good and the bad. Talk about how you became a family and the day your children were born.
  • Decide together your family goals and what your biggest do’s and don’ts are.
  • Be active in your parish and your community. Encourage your children to participate in the ministries of the parish.
  • Teach family members to fight fair and forgive easily.
  • Talk about your faith and the men and women, including sisters, brothers, and priests, who have had and important influence on you.
  • Work to reduce stress among all family members. Have fun and play together each day.
  • Encourage your children to be creative and compassionate and know that those are the greatest of God’s gifts.
Two Other Valuable Resources on the Site 
  • “An Evening of Prayer for Parents and Families” with an outline for the evening and a sample opening talk.
  • “A Parent Workshop on Helping Your Children Make Wise Decisions” with an outline for the gathering and a sample opening talk.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Latest Update from Nyumbani Village

Enjoy the latest updates from our Sr. Julie Mulvihill. She is so faithful keeping us updated on her work at the Nyumbani Children's Home in Kenya. I get a weekly email from her with all of the latest happenings. After a while I begin to feel that I know some of the people about whom she writes! In the photo to the right, Sr. Julie is with the students who completed the Self-Reliance Training Program, a program which our congregation sponsored to help these young adults to gain the business skills needed to get jobs or to establish their own businesses. To learn more about all of the Nyumbani programs--Nyumbani Children's Home, Nyumbani Village, Lea Toto, and the Nyumbani Laboratory, visit their website,

October 2, 2015
Saturday evening I went to the airport to pick up Sr. Jolaine who was coming from Canada. On Sunday she met Protus, the sisters, and our children at Mass and met our guests at tea after Mass.  She enjoyed having time in the afternoon to be with the children. Later I took her and Kara into Nakumatt to buy some needed food items. This week she visited the village and spent time getting to know the staff and children.  Next week she’ll visit our Lea Toto Program and will meet with Sr. Mary to discuss how she’ll use her professional skills as a clinical psychologist.

Sorry to say but prayers are still needed to end the school strike. The teachers defied the school order and did not return to school.  Yesterday the court reordered them to return to school and to  work at a solution over the next 90 days. Our children have been home now for five weeks and we are not sure if they will return next week. That idea of having our own school is sounding better and better each day. The children are really doing well but are not happy about being out of school.  With the help of the mums/uncles, they are working together helping one another in their standards and reviewing for their examinations.  I really do think we have some budding teachers.  The other day I watched through the window as Simon was teaching and writing on the blackboard in Cottage G.  I was wondering how he gotten. Then I saw that he was standing on a chair so he could reach the blackboard. It’s harder for the little ones so Mums Agnes and Mary have gotten textbooks from the library to help. Standards 1, 2, and 3 are happy working with Teacher Margaret and Sr.  Emily each afternoon while the others study or read in their cottages.  At 4 P.M. all enjoy milk and snack time plus time to play. Sr. Jolaine and I enjoy being with them.  She brought some kites and jump ropes that the kids like playing with and it gives her an opportunity to observe them at play.

Tomorrow we will finish the last class of our Self-Reliance Training that Protus, Helen, Wesonga, and I created and that I facilitated throughout the year with the help of Fr. Benn from Don Bosco. We’ll have training in the morning and the presentation of the certificates in the afternoon.  About 15 young adults from Nyumbani plus some of our area youth will receive certificates.  We were able to tell the priests at Don Bosco that they could invite other youth they knew to join our training program since it did not effect the cost of the program and would benefit other youth. Pray that they can apply what they have learned to the real world because we have shared with them the tools they need to apply for jobs or to start their own businesses. I’m  very grateful to my sisters—the Sisters of St. Francis—for sponsoring a grant to develop this program.

October 9, 2015
Happy belated St. Francis Day!  I thank God for my call to be a  Philadelphia Franciscan and for 50 years of lovingly striving to follow that call.

Sr.  Mary is home after her trip to the U.S.  She came to our staff meeting and shared stories of the people she had met, including the D’Agnostino family; the fundraising functions she had attended Washington, DC, California, and Illinois; and the many generous people she had spoken to and thanked for their generous support.

All of the children from high school, primary school, and St. Paul Miki were in school this week after a five-week strike that I do not believe benefited anyone. Our prayer now is that in the next 90 days that the government and the teachers’ unions can reach an agreement about the salary hike. Otherwise, we will have another strike the beginning of January.  

October 16, 2015
On Saturday Sr. Mary, Sr. Ann, and our laboratory staff hosted an Open Day—part of our marketing campaign to showcase the wonderful services we provide.  Everyone worked hard to be sure that we put our best foot forward.  Our staff did a very professional job of presenting all of the laboratory services that are available to service our doctors, our hospitals, and the people of our community.  Let us pray that through this program our laboratory services will continue to grow and prosper.

This week all of our Form 4 students started their KCSE examinations.  Ninety-five students from all three of our programs are taking the exam. Please pray that the Spirit of Wisdom will be with all of them so that they do well and get the placements they want in tertiary education.

Pray also for the 222 students from Standard 8 in all three of our programs who are preparing to take the KCPE examinations in November. They need to concentrate on their studies so that they can be well prepared to take the exam. The results of this exam determines their placement in high school.

This week two volunteers arrived—Jaime from Spain and Brian from Ireland.  Jaime will be sharing his talent as a photographer with us.  Brian, a retired educator, volunteers each year at this time to help in the polytechnic school in the village.  

I see the children off to school early each morning.  Then I attend Mass with the sisters and the little ones. The sisters have Mass each day in their convent chapel.  We are blessed with God’s presence in the Eucharist and in God's little gifts. 

This Sunday those who have completed the Self-Reliance Training course have been invited to attend 10 Mass. After Mass Sr. Mary will present them with their certificates.  Then we’ll have tea followed by lunch together in the dining hall. Hopefully most will attend. Please pray that they will apply the skills they have learned to seek employment or to create employment for themselves now or in the future. 

Please pray for us as we pray for you.
Sr. Julie








Friday, October 16, 2015

Bethesda Parish and School Honor the Sisters of St. Francis

On September 11 Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and School in Bethesda, Maryland, held a special celebration honoring our sisters who had taught at the school. The congregation received an invitation to attend the celebration and the parish graciously offered to provide transportation and even hotel accommodations to those who might need them.

Seven of our sisters traveled to Bethesda to be part of the festivities: Srs. Corda Marie Bergbauer, Anne McFadden, Constance Davis, and Christopher Marie Wagner had all taught at Our Lady of Lourdes School. Srs. Mary Farrell and Colette Gerry represented the leadership team and Sr. Helen Jacobson attended in her role as archivist.
(l-r) Srs. Christopher Marie Wagner, Helen Jacobson, Corda Marie Bergbauer, Mary Farrell, Anne McFadden, and Constance Davis, Colette Gerry. Behind the sculpture is the plaque bearing the names of the 92 sisters who ministered at Our Lady of Lourdes School.
The celebration began with Eucharistic liturgy in the parish church. One of the highlights of the day was the blessing and dedication of a beautiful bronze figure representing the Franciscan sisters and a plaque listing the names of the 92 Sisters of St. Francis who taught at the school.
The current students of Our Lady of Lourdes School, accompanied by their dedicated faculty, process to church. The school was recently named as one the country’s Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence.
Sister Corda Marie was missioned at Our Lady of Lourdes right after profession and shared both her memories of her days Bethesda and her thoughts on the celebration. When I went to Our Lady of Lourdes in 1949 to teach in the primary grades, I was mentored by Sr. Alma Francis who became my friend thereafter. When I was transferred to Bradshaw two years later, I truly left part of my heart at Our Lady of Lourdes—my first mission. When I went back for this celebration, I saw that our faith continues to grow there these 66 years later with the dedicated pastor and the beloved principal as well as with the parents and students. It was wonderful to be invited to the dedication of the bronze statue of a Sister of St. Francis of Philadelphia donated by a former student. It is placed outside between the church and the school. What a wonderful gift for this Year of Consecrated Life!

Sr. Cord Marie talks about her years at Our Lady of Lourdes School.
During the program John Ford, a former student of  Our Lady of Lourdes School and more recently a member of Neumann University’s board, did an enjoyable presentation called “A Room Full of Memories” recalling some of the sisters who had taught him
John Ford recalls his years as a student at Our Lady of Lourdes School.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Don't Miss It: Holiday Craft Fair!

I know it's not the Christmas season yet BUT our holiday craft fair is quickly approaching--and this year's promises to be bigger and better than ever! If you're going to be anywhere near the Aston, Pennsylvania area on November 13-14, you might want to make it a point to stop by!
Our Lady of Angels Convent
609 St. Convent Rd.,
Aston, PA 19084 
Friday, November 13 -- 10 A.M. - 7 P.M.
Saturday, November 14 -- 9 A.M. - 5 P.M.

There will be handcrafted items of all kinds--not only Christmas items and decorations, but also crocheted and knitted items of all kinds, hand-crafted cards, sweets and treats, lavender products, and much more. It's likely you just might find gift items to get you through the coming year!

First of all, a number of the sisters who live at our motherhouse are really gifted when it comes to knitting and crocheting and some of them have been busy over this past year preparing hand-crafted items for the holiday fair.

Sr. Rose Christopher, (right) shows Sr. Leonora Juliana the sweater she is making.
Srs. Geralda Meskill and Angela Mary O'Connell discuss the best way to put the finishing touches on this scarf.
 Sr. Margaret Oman is working on a large number of scarves, afghans, and baby blankets.
And then there are our retired sisters at Assisi House. While they do spend a good bit of time in prayer for the needs of people all over the world, their hands are also busy creating beautiful things for others. Sr. Francis Ann Harper, for example, uses her room as a workshop where she makes jewelry and crocheted articles. Sr. William Margaret Romen often works with her and together they make afghans, throws, and baby blankets. Recently they created Snoopy Blankies which carry the promise "Take me with you. I'll take care of you and always be your friend."
Sr. Francis busy making hand-crafted jewelry.
Sr.William Margaret displays some of her crocheted items.
Just a few of the items crafted by Srs. Francis Anne and William Margaret.
Sr. St. Joseph Brennion is an extremely artistic woman of many talents. For this year's Holiday Craft Fair, she is designing beautiful note cards adorned with sea oat leaves found on the motherhouse grounds.
Resident artist Sr. St. Joseph making note cards for the craft fair.
Sr. Alice Klein has been busy creating small kitchen towels which to sinks and cabinets. Right now she has hundreds of them ready for the craft fair. They're popular items, however, so you might want to get there early to get your supply!
Sr. Alice Klein displays her handcrafted kitchen towels--all available in a variety of colors and made with high quality material.
Not to be outdone by the sisters in the motherhouse and those in Assisi House, our sisters in other areas are also putting their talents to use and coming up with craft items for the fair as well. For example, Srs. Libby Pepe and Monica Bauer live on a farm in Maryland and are busy crafting any number of items. Sr. Libby, for example, is putting her culinary arts to work and is preparing any number of chocolate goodies and tempting baked goods. In addition, she's making sure we have a supply of Michele's Granola on sale again this year--including a new flavor, Apple Quinoa. So...if you come to the fair, you'll want to be sure to stop by the "Sweets and Treats" table!
Yum!! Just a quick peek at some of Sr. Libby's sweet treats!
Sr. Monica has been crafting up a storm--fabulous felt hats and knitted headbands, scarfs, and shawls from hand-spun and hand-dyed merino wool. She's also creating paper-folded Moravian stars and cotton crocheted snowflakes--both beautiful decorations. And then there are the cards she is creating decorated with quilling designs as well as cards with photos of hot air balloons and southwest scenery. In addition, Sr. Monica is working with her neighbor to create a variety of lavender-scented items.
Picture yourself decked out in one of Sr. Monica's handmade felt hats!
Then complete your stylish look with one of these hand-spun and hand-dyed merino wool scarves!
These hand-crafted Christmas decorations are just what you need--and don't forget to stock up on Sr. Monica's hand crafted cards! 
By now I'm sure you're tempted--and if you're lucky you'll be in the Aston area and able to come the this fabulous holiday craft fair! Don't forget--Friday, November 13 (10 A.M.-7 P.M.) and Saturday, November 14 (9 A.M. - 5 P.M.); Our Lady of Angels Covent, 607 S. Convent Rd., Aston, PA 19014. Hope to see you there!


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Our Lady of Angels Convent Welcomes Pope Francis!

When 4 P. M. came today, we rang the tower bells at our motherhouse, joining with parishes and congregations throughout the U.S. to welcome Pope Francis when his plane landed in the U.S. A number of us--sisters and staff--also gathered outside the motherhouse with hand bells to add to the welcome. One of the sisters--somehow--got hold of one of "larger than life" figures of Pope Francis so we took him outside with us.

Although we started ringing our hand bells right outside the front door of the convent, we quickly decided to move out to the road. It was at a perfect time because there was a good bit of traffic going by and we got lots of waves and beeps from the drivers.

Hope you enjoy some of our photos!


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