Become a Sister
Do you desire to live a life of prayer, community and service? Discern your call with us!
We are Catholic sisters. We are vowed Franciscan women centered in Eucharist. Our mission is to be loving presence through prayer, witness and service.
We are dedicated to sharing life in community, which centers us in prayer and deepens the meaning of our consecrated life– the vows of poverty, consecrated celibacy and obedience that we profess. Our most sacred tradition is perpetual adoration. Our devotion to Jesus Christ and the holy Gospel fuels our service to those on the margins. We are inspired to bring the love of Christ that we encounter in the chapel out to the world.
We are dedicated to responding to the needs of this time as we accompany all who face systemic inequities, provide a compassionate presence, and give witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our ministries are as varied as our talents and interests. We are educators, administrators, nurses, chaplains, spiritual directors, counselors, ecological advocates, retreat leaders, artists and more. We share our gifts for the common good seeking to actively promote the reign of God.
As Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, we commit ourselves to witness our love for God in service to others. We strive to bring new life, meaning and hope to a suffering and searching humanity. We seek to bring healing with compassion and forgiveness. We do this through ministries of spirituality, education, healthcare, justice, peace and integral ecology as well as church ministry.
Two of our early leaders, Mother Aemiliana Dirr and Mother Antonia Herb, were Franciscan women who worked to establish a community devoted to perpetual adoration and serving the needs of all.
Our spirituality is based on the teachings of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi. We emphasize simplicity, poverty and love for all creatures. As Franciscans, we strive to live in harmony with God’s creation and treat others with kindness and compassion.
As women religious, we seek to follow the universal call to holiness by our public profession of vows. As women in a Vatican II church, we wear contemporary clothes and live in small groups or individually, usually near our ministry sites. A community medal and ring are signs of our FSPA commitment.
We center our lives in prayer; adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is our most sacred tradition. Our prayer lives also include meditation, contemplation, Scripture reflection, liturgy of the Hours, and Mass. Shared prayer and faith are balanced with private and public prayer. We commit ourselves to witness our love for God in service to others. We strive to bring new life, meaning and hope to a suffering and searching humanity.
In our vocation as vowed women religious we are grounded in the observance of these vows:
Poverty: Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have vowed to live simply in the spirit of the Beatitudes. We reverence all of God's gifts and rejoice in the goodness of creation. We hold all things in common which allows us to devote our community resources to serving others.
Celibacy: Sisters also commit to living and sharing a community lifestyle within this vow. Community life frees us to cultivate and enjoy personal relationships-both within and outside the congregation.
Obedience: Members of the FSPA community find that we can accomplish great things when we are united in our efforts. Through this vow, we commit ourselves to the congregation's mission to serve God, the church and society. Listening to the voice of the Spirit in our community, ourselves and the world enables us to discern how our unique gifts foster our mission.
The vows free me for ...
Membership is open to women who:
- desire a deeper relationship with God and a life of Gospel service
- are generally 21-50 years old with at least one year of college or work experience
- are active members in the Catholic Church
- are free from marriage vows and responsibility for minor children
- wish to live in community and to minister according to the FSPA mission
Steps to FSPA Life
To begin your initial discernment, you may call or text the FSPA Minister of Discerners, Sister Julia, at 608-797-8345 or send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The discernment mailing address is Discernment Office, 912 Market Street, La Crosse, WI 54601.
When a woman seeks information and guidance from the FSPA Discernment Office or another FSPA in discerning her call to vowed life, she is a pre-candidate for FSPA. This informal time of discernment may extend as long as necessary to insure readiness for application to the Candidacy Phase in community.
Candidates continue developing personal spirituality, learn FSPA history and traditions and Franciscan spirituality and values while working within and experiencing community life.
Novitiate (two years)
Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in the novitiate experience two years of study and deep discernment. During the canonical year she learns more about the Church, the community's constitution, the vows of celibacy, obedience, and poverty and spends time integrating Franciscan values. The apostolic year is a time of continued study of the vows and integration into ministry.
Temporary Vows (typically six years)
After professing temporary vows, an FSPA lives her vows in community and grows in a Franciscan way of life. Careful attention is given to balancing ministry, prayer, community life, and personal enrichment and preparing for permanent commitment.
A sister publicly affirms her commitment for life. After professing her perpetual vows, she receives a ring, which identifies her as a full participant in the FSPA community for the rest of her life. She is committed to and guided in ongoing Franciscan formation.
Transferring to FSPA
For Catholic Sisters discerning transfer from another religious congregation, the first step is connecting with the FSPA president who invites the sister to a time of initial relationship. If you're a Catholic Sister looking for transfer information, visit our transfer resource page.
We follow in the life of St. Francis of Assisi. In Francis' footsteps, we live simply. This allows us to have a true and humble faith, to serve and work faithfully and conscientiously and to live with special dedication and joy.
FSPA minister throughout the United States and in Canada. Our Global Awareness Through Experience pilgrimage program takes us throughout Latin America and our partnership in Companions in Franciscan Solidarity connects us with Franciscan Sisters in Cameroon, West Africa, Bolivia, Brixen, Rome and Hull.
Since Aug. 1, 1878, we’ve prayed daily in our Adoration Chapel. Through perpetual eucharistic adoration, we offer God praise and thanksgiving before the Blessed Sacrament. Nurtured and strengthened by Jesus' presence, we live out this adoration in our daily lives as we strive to help those in need.
True to our Franciscan calling, we commit ourselves to building Christ's Kingdom of justice and peace. We continue our efforts to preserve and nurture God's creation, to increase social and global consciousness, to educate ourselves to political awareness, and to encourage action to effect change where necessary (Unity in Diversity #40).
Through sponsorship, we continue to influence our sponsored ministries in ways that further the mission of both FSPA and the institutions themselves. We sponsor three spirituality centers and Global Awareness Through Experience.
An important role of FSPA is to invite others to learn about and experience God's presence in nature. We steward our land resources, including our garden, to model sustainability practices and spirituality for others is a very significant way of continuing FSPA's long-standing tradition of education ministry.
Common myths about life as a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration debunked:
Myth: I will never see my family or friends again.
Fact: Women in the incorporation process as well as vowed members are encouraged to maintain healthy relationships with family and friends.
Myth: If I become a sister I will never have time off from ministry.
Fact: It is important to maintain a healthy balance of ministry and rest. Each year women in the incorporation process and vowed members through discernment make arrangements for a retreat, and vacation time to see family and friends.
Myth: Someone in community will assign me a ministry and I will have no choice.
Fact: Each person in community discerns her choice of ministry with community members. Factors such as qualifications, living arrangements and timing of a change are some of the topics for discussion prior to interviewing for a job opening.
Myth: I will not have the basic necessities of food, water, clothing and shelter because of preparing and eventually taking a vow of poverty.
Fact: By sharing resources with one another in community together we make sure that each person has the basic necessities of life.
Myth: I will lose my professional credentials because I will not be allowed to complete requirements for my career field.
Fact: Sisters are encouraged to maintain professional standards for any field in which they are actively ministering.
Myth: If I say yes and begin the process of incorporation to become a member of the congregation I will not be able to choose to leave.
Fact: Discernment is a mutual process and at any time in the incorporation process the candidate can chose to leave and the congregation also has the right to require the candidate to leave. There are also processes in place for someone in temporary vows or in perpetual vows to discern departure.
Myth: I will be stuck living and working at the same place my whole life.
Fact: We are Franciscans and by our very nature are iterant and in tune with the Holy Spirit. Changes in living and working experiences happen after discernment with community. Many sisters move and change ministries several times over the course of their lifetimes. Sometimes the change will also require further education to work in ministry.
Myth: I will lose my independence.
Fact: Not all decisions are discernments, you will have some autonomy. Moving from independence to interdependence and thinking about what is good for the community is done in steps as you make decisions through discernment.
Myth: I will not have access to use technology such as a cellphone or a computer.
Fact: Access to technology is available. Use is discerned and resources are shared. Community members have access to the tools they need for mission and ministry. In fact, be sure to meet our podcast host and bloggers! Sister Julia blogs and podcasts at Messy Jesus Business and Sister Meg blogs at Wanderings and Wonderings.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What does a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration do all day?
A: While sisters' days are varied, prayer, ministry, community and recreation are all necessary for a balanced, happy life. Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration are engaged in all - with days that begin and end with prayer, through ministries that are tailored to each sister's individual gifts, and through a community lifestyle that fosters close relationships, recreation and meaningful interaction with other sisters and lay people.
Q: Why do some sisters wear habits?
A: There are many symbols that women religious use to indicate their faith in God and commitment to Christianity. Some congregations choose a habit to be their sign. They believe it helps them live out their vows, and some say it is also a sign of penitence and a separate lifestyle.
Most FSPA opt to wear street clothes instead of habits, believing that it helps us build bridges of understanding with lay people and that it makes us more personally accessible to the people we serve. Although we wear a medal, either as a pendant or pin, and a ring as our FSPA symbol, we strive to make our Christian lifestyle the most obvious sign of our commitment.
Q: How do congregations or orders differ from one another?
A: Differences among religious communities are found in their emphasis on prayer and community life. In contemplative communities, for example, all members live at the motherhouse with their primary ministry being one of prayer. Their only other work is for the purpose of providing for their basic needs of life. Most members of monastic communities also tend to live and work together at the motherhouse, though they work in a variety of ministries. They gather together frequently for prayer, usually several times a day. FSPA is an evangelical community, where the sisters are united through prayer yet work among people wherever needed in the world and serve in various ministries.
Q: What ministries are FSPA involved in?
A: Our strength as Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration is found in our commitment to God and in the unique gifts of each sister. We are encouraged to use our diverse and unique talents as we strive to bring new life, meaning and hope to a world in need of compassion and healing. We minister as teachers, nurses, pastoral workers, spiritual directors, counselors and in many other capacities as directed by the Spirit, community needs and our own talents.
Q: How often do you pray?
A: As our name (perpetual adoration) suggests, prayer has a central role in our lives. As with any individuals working together for the same cause, we must stay in constant communication with God as we seek union with God and to spread God's love, and prayer is that communication. FSPA pray alone, in small groups and with the larger community. Our prayer takes different forms, including liturgy, Divine Office, reading and quiet meditation. We tend to pray more in the morning and the evening since our day usually is spent in ministry, but we carry prayer in our hearts at all times.
Q: Is prayer always easy for you?
A: Prayer is our way of communicating with God. Like any relationship, there are times when we need to act on motives deeper than feelings and trust in God's presence and unconditional love. In fact, Sister Sarah blogged about this! Read The transformative power of the spiritual practice of Eucharistic Adoration.
Q: Do sisters have free time, and if so, what do they do in their free time?
A: We have about the same amount of leisure time as most other adults and may spend that time as we choose. Some sisters enjoy sports and athletic activities, others enjoy the arts. We also spend our free time watching television or movies, reading, sharing with friends or visiting family. While the activities are as diverse as our members and this diversity is encouraged, we at all times and places remain true to our vows and commitment to Christian living.
Q: How often do you gather as a congregation?
A: We meet annually to make community decisions and to reconnect with one another in the midst of busy ministries.
Meet Our Sisters
The following profiles offer insight into some of our sister’s hometowns, vow ceremonies, educational backgrounds, community life, current and past ministries and much more. Click the names below to learn more.
Meet Sisters Marcia Baumert and Sharon Bongiorno
Sister Marcia Baumert, born in West Point, Nebraska, joined the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in 1988 and professed her first vows in 1991. Her career has included spiritual direction and chaplaincy. Most recently, she served as a staff chaplain and coordinator of Catholic ministries in Gundersen Health System's Spiritual Care Department. For the past six years, Sister Marcia has eased the suffering of many patients and their families. From providing spiritual care to terminally ill patients to simply being with them in their time of need, Sister Marcia embodied the selfless service that permeates FSPA's strong tradition in the healthcare ministry.
As a hospital chaplain, living Eucharistic presence for Sister Marcia included "walking with people who had cancer or other life-changing illnesses along with those who struggled with treatments and/or were dying." In her ministry, Sister Marcia served as a "loving and compassionate presence who helped others explore meaning in their lives." "Sometimes, the conversation led to talking about really hard decisions, providing a loving presence to a non-responsive patient or comforting loved ones at the time of death," said Sister Marcia. "I was honored to be there for others during such significant times in their lives." In July 2022, Sister Marcia was elected to the FSPA Leadership Team. She has since concluded her time at Gundersen as she'll assume her new role as mission councilor on Nov. 1, 2022.
Sister Sharon Bongiorno was born in Spokane, Washington, and began her life as a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration there in 1966, ministering as an elementary school teacher. Having attended a high school taught by FSPA, Sister Sharon felt called by God to "try" religious life. Many years later, she now serves the elderly in her parish, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in Spokane, Washington, as the visitation coordinator. As part of this ministry, she is in charge of coordinating parish homebound minister visits for those who are confined to their homes or care facilities. "Jesus is present to me not only in our little chapel that I pray in each morning," shares Sister Sharon, "but also in the faces of the homebound to whom I bring communion." She is also a member of the parish pastoral council, serving as pastoral staff and secretary.
When discussing what daily prayer and community life look like for her, Sister Sharon explains that she takes time for personal prayer every morning and again every evening, usually before bedtime. Sister Sharon lives with two other sisters, so the three of them also share time in prayer together every weekday evening. Since the FSPA community decided to no longer wear the habit, but rather clothing that is consistent with their way of life, Sister Sharon believes that as religious women, "we have to rely not on what we look like, but how our actions exemplify what being a Catholic sister really means in our Church today."
Meet Sisters Sister Helen Elsbernd and Roseyln Heil
Sister Helen Elsbernd professed her first vows as a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration in 1958 and has spent the last 64 years of her religious life providing service to the community through various roles. Sister Helen has ministered as a chemistry professor and academic dean of Viterbo University, elected leadership for our Franciscan congregation, director of Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center and board member of numerous organizations in the La Crosse area and beyond. Upon her “retirement” from Viterbo in 1989, she was honored with the creation of the Sister Helen Elsbernd Distinguished Service Award in recognition of her outstanding service. This award is given to recipients in recognition of significant achievements and contributions made to the development of the university. Having served as FSPA’s vice president for eight years, Sister Helen again put her administrative skills to use, playing a key role in the affiliation of Franciscan Health System and Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse.
In addition to serving as FSPA’s Congregational Treasurer, Sister Helen now spends much of her time volunteering at The Salvation Army and The Exchange Furniture Bank in La Crosse. Starting and ending every day in prayer, Sister Helen lives out Eucharistic presence by extending her weekly adoration hours into her everyday life. She strives to “be aware of God’s love and presence in all of creation” and wants to “be a sign of God's loving presence to others.” In her free time, she enjoys sewing, reading, gardening and spending time with her family and friends. Having answered the spirit’s call to live a life of personal holiness dedicated to God, Sister Helen is “deeply grateful for the blessings and opportunities” she has had that are way beyond her “wildest imagination.”
Sister Roselyn Heil grew up on a farm south of Marathon City, Wisconsin, along with her three brothers and eight sisters. In 1970, Roselyn and her twin sister, Carolyn, made their first vows with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. After nine years, Roselyn left the congregation but decided to return in 2004. Since graduating from Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin, with a bachelor's degree in social studies education and later a master's degree in culture and creation-centered spirituality, she has served in roles with Marywood Franciscan Spirituality Center, the Lac du Flambeau reservation and Bell Tower Residence Assisted Living. In early 2022, Sister Roselyn joined the Ashland area Catholic churches to serve as a Pastoral Associate at St. Mary's Parish on the Bad River Ojibwe Reservation in Odanah, Wisconsin. When talking about her new role, Sister Roselyn shared that she is glad to be back in the community where she completed her student teaching in 1975.
Living over four and a half hours away from the rest of her community, Sister Roselyn connects with her fellow sisters through daily prayer via Zoom. Sister Roselyn explains that her personal prayer is enriched through this connection and that the sharing of their life experiences are also woven into their scripture sharing. When asked what it means to be a Catholic Sister in this time in Church history, Sister Roselyn expressed that "As a sister, I am empowered to stay with the Church. I am holding God's excessive mercy and love way above our need for mercy. I strive to actualize Christ's healing presence in tiny ways, believing that holding hands together, we hold a part of hope to transformation in a way only God knows."
Meet Sisters Sarah Hennessey and Laura Nettles
Sister Sarah Hennessey, raised as a Quaker in the South, joined the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in 2002, professed her first vows in 2005 and renewed her commitment in 2008. On Sept. 24, 2011, we welcomed Sister Sarah into full membership during her vow ceremony at St. Rose Convent in La Crosse, Wisconsin. This ceremony culminated the nine-year process that Sister Sarah had to take to become fully incorporated into the FSPA congregation. Today she serves as a spiritual director for the Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse. She officially joined the staff in 2019, but her involvement with the center goes back several years. As a spiritual director, Sister Sarah uses her Bachelor of Arts in religious studies and her Master of Arts in theology from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, to companion others to find the holy in the ordinary.
"I am in love with Christ, and I love to have my whole life centered on Christ. Being an FSPA helps me be more 'Sarah,'" explained Sister Sarah when asked why she became an FSPA. She lives out Eucharistic presence by "listening to others that are hurting, playing with a friend in joy and gazing at a sunset in awe." During her free time, she enjoys singing, taking long walks in nature and making some of the best popcorn around! Sister Sarah has been teaching about prayer for many years and states "My prayer practices help me be who I am meant to be. Gazing on Christ, I see Christ gazing on me."
Sister Laura Nettles, a native of Los Alamos, New Mexico, celebrated her final profession of vows with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in May of 2013. Sister Laura currently ministers as an assistant professor of religious studies and serves as an executive director for Mission and Social Justice Chair at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin. As an assistant professor, she regularly teaches courses in introductory theology, Franciscan theology, Catholic Social Teaching and women's studies.
As St. Francis of Assisi explained in his response to St. Anthony of Padua's request to study and teach at a university, "I am pleased that you teach sacred theology [so long as it] does not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotion [charism]." Sister Laura takes St. Francis' response to mean that education (both learning and teaching) should be used in service of others, particularly those who are poor and marginalized. "This is how I have approached my own educational opportunities and how I teach my students," says Sister Laura. "Every day I have an opportunity to help students understand the Gospel vision of service to others, in both our classroom and through service-learning. I take pride in knowing that there are nurses, educators, business owners and others who focus on those in need because of their experiences at Viterbo." In addition to teaching, Sister Laura also spent much of her time last fall ministering to refugees at Fort McCoy, one of the main sites housing refugees awaiting resettlement in U.S. communities.
Meet Sisters Kristin Peters and Michele Pettit
Sister Kristin Peters (right) entered into the FSPA community in 2007 and, 10 years later, professed her final vows at St. Rose Convent in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Having earned a master's degree in mental health counseling and a certificate in addictions counseling from Viterbo University in La Crosse, she currently ministers as a counselor at St. James Cathedral Counseling Center in her hometown of Chicago, Illinois. In addition to being a counselor, Sister Kristin is an active member of FSPA's Anti-Racism and Truth and Healing teams. These teams meet on a regular basis with the hope of dismantling racism and white supremacy within themselves and other areas of influence.
Sister Kristin enjoys being rooted in the FSPA community and connected to the lives of those she accompanies as both a friend and counselor. She values building relationships with marginalized people and communities within our society and is passionate about land justice. She desires to be in right relationship with the Earth community and fulfills this desire through acts of activism, solidarity and stewardship such as composting, gardening, reusing plastics and redistributing food and flowers that would otherwise be thrown away – all ways in which she responds to the cries of the Earth and the cries of the poor. Sister Kristin also lives out Eucharistic presence by practicing contemplation (art and journaling), communal prayer and building strong relationships with fellow members of her FSPA community.
Sister Michele Pettit, a native of Edina, Missouri, professed her first vows as a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration on July 25, 2020, at Viterbo University's San Damiano Chapel in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Coming from a family of educators, Sister Michele has taught in the Public Health and Community Health Education program at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse since 2009. She joined FSPA as an associate in 2017 and was welcomed into the novitiate program a year later. As a novice, she prepared for her first vows by engaging in intense prayer and study and encountering Christ in others through her ministry at a soup kitchen, a food pantry, an afterschool program and a humanitarian respite center for refugees on the U.S.-Mexico border.
When asked why she became an FSPA, Sister Michele explained that there were a variety of reasons. "First and foremost, I had a desire for a stronger relationship with God. Second, the sisters were very welcoming, and I admired their commitment to social justice and Gospel living. Third, I had a desire to be less self-centered, to be part of something bigger than myself, to participate in service activities I wouldn't participate in on my own and to live counterculturally. Fourth, I have an appreciation for the Franciscan emphasis on peace, love and care for the Earth. And fifth, I felt at home in the FSPA Adoration Chapel." For Sister Michele, life as a Catholic sister includes "being exposed to diverse forms of prayer including meditation, praying with nature, praying with art and music and spending time with God in the Adoration Chapel. One of my regular practices involves praying while I exercise. I also enjoy praying with my living community on a daily basis. As one of my housemates put it, 'We pray and play together.'"
Meet Sisters Kathy Roberg and Laurie Sullivan
Sister Kathy Roberg, born in Spokane, Washington, joined the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration at the age of 18. She spent the first 20 years of her ministry teaching first grade before becoming an English as a second language teacher, parish minister and religious education coordinator to Hispanic communities in New Mexico and Washington. In 2014, Sister Kathy returned to Spokane where she now volunteers as an ESL teacher and justice advocate at the House of Charity. Sister Kathy also has a passion for helping refugees and addressing immigration concerns throughout the country.
When asked how she responds to the cries of the Earth and the cries of the poor, Sister Kathy explained that “they are both crying out in extreme pain, and if I am a life-giver, how can I close off my receptiveness?” Having obtained her reverence for Mother Earth from her peace- and justice-oriented father, she found a way to care for our planet while also caring for its most vulnerable inhabitants. In 2015, Sister Kathy began crocheting sleeping mats out of plastic shopping bags to give to those in need. Over the past eight years, she has made 327 mats that not only provide a moisture-resistant barrier to place beneath a sleeping bag or blanket but also help keep plastic bags out of the environment. Each mat is made from 350 bags and, once complete, is given to the homeless in Spokane. “To me, being a Catholic sister today calls me to be open to the voice of inner transformation and to be present to others who are lost in society. I hope I'm sharing an ounce of hope and purpose,” says Sister Kathy.
Sister Laurie Sullivan, born in Lake Linden, a small village located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, professed her final vows as a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration on Sept. 12, 2020, with her loving family and friends joining the celebration via Zoom. After living in Michigan for over 45 years, Sister Laurie thought that is where she would spend the rest of her life, but God had other plans for her. Holding a certificate in pastoral studies and a Bachelor of Science in business administration, Sister Laurie currently ministers as an office manager at Marywood Franciscan Spirituality Center in Arbor Vitae, Wisconsin.
Sister Laurie's Michigan upbringing now places her in harmony with her love of God and the beauty of Wisconsin's Northwoods. When asked how she responds to the cries of the Earth and the cries of the poor in her ministry, she expressed, "My spirit and heart have always been drawn to the marginalized and the poor, and they have both taught me a lot. I live simply so that both the Earth and the poor may live. I am conscious of how my day-to-day choices affect both, and I always try to do no harm." For Sister Laurie, being a Catholic sister during this time in Church history means "being a voice, as well as a presence, to those on the margins, even those to whom the church itself may have overlooked or ignored. As Catholic sisters, we assist people in learning to discern and accept the will of a loving and merciful God. Relying on God, Mary and our founders, we seek to follow Jesus' footsteps."