Meet Our New Affiliates
We are excited to introduce you to FSPA's new affiliates and their lives of prayer, ministry and community.
Cindy Dunn, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a retired teacher, spiritual director and hospital chaplain, is a new FSPA affiliate companioned by Mary Ellen Dunford, FSPA affiliate.
Prayer: “I want to honor the voice of my soul," shares Cindy. "To live each moment with intention, connection, self-care, and loving awareness . . .” Prayer is both an internal conversation and outward form of love for Cindy. She has a daily devotional practice and also recognizes the sacred, whether that be through walking the labyrinth or sitting atop her paddleboard on the calm waters of a lake.
Ministry: Through her work as a volunteer chaplain at Unity Point Health - St. Luke's Hospital - Cedar Rapids, and through her devotion to hospice care (serving as both an educator and spiritual director), Cindy ministers to those who are in search of a calming presence while facing major transitions in their own lives. Cindy sees her ministry as an extension of the Franciscan values of presence and hospitality.
Community: One of the reasons behind Cindy’s decision to pursue affiliation is her experiences of community that she has already encountered as a graduate of the Spiritual Direction Preparation Program at the Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and during retreats, events, and spiritual direction at Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center in Hiawatha, Iowa. Cindy welcomes the opportunity to more intentionally participate in a companion community that will connect her with others called to a similar way of life.
Andrea Fluegel, of Eagle River, Wisconsin, is an ELCA Pastor and volunteer police chaplain, and is companioned by Grant Van Lishout, FSPA affiliate.
Prayer: For Andrea, prayer has always led to moments of encuentro. God’s word can and must be found in the people. In her autobiography, Andrea shares, “For me, times of prayer help me to process the experiences I have had engaging with the world. When I encounter other people different than myself, I see God at work.” Andrea also experiences prayer through being active in the environment while out hiking or kayaking, making prayer beads or writing.
Ministry: A pastor at Andrea’s church writes, “I’ve never known a person who more profoundly represents the Franciscan values of peace, compassion, and care for all God’s creation than Pastor Andrea. Her love for others, regardless of religious affiliation, is underscored by her personal actions and leadership roles within the Eagle River community.” This has led Andrea to be active in issues of food insecurity within the local school system, while also serving as a bridge between the school district and faith communities on issues such as racism and LGBTQ+ awareness and advocacy. Andrea has committed herself to community engagement and radical hospitality as forms of ministry.
Community: Throughout Andrea’s discernment, she has participated in many FSPA-sponsored programs and events. She has been active in programming at Marywood Franciscan Spirituality Center in Arbor Vitae, Wisconsin, and cultivated deep relationships and conversations with Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration Marla Lang and Anita Beskar. While attending FSPA Mission Assembly 2023, “A Revolution Through Encuentro: Our Journey Into Oneness,” Andrea wrote that “I had a sense of belonging and passion,” very much rooted in the FSPA Provocative Movements of Relationship, Gospel Living and Unity in Diversity, and their call within her own life. Andrea has also been attending the FSPA Earth Pilgrims Companion Community and is currently enrolled in the Spiritual Direction Preparation Program at the Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Alice Holstein, a resident of La Crosse, Wisconsin, is an author, spiritual director and active community member, companioned by Dee Paque, FSPA affiliate.
Prayer: Alice has found a balance between solitary prayer (mediation, inner-journey/reflection and understanding her own story in relationship with others) and communal prayer (through active participation in faith communities that call forth the sacred). Alice seeks to accompany others in prayer through deep listening and calling forth each person’s authentic self.
Ministry: Alice uses her gift of writing to share her own story of mental health challenges with others. She is active in accompanying others who are experiencing crisis and has surrounded herself with a community able to support her. Alice uses her gifts of clarity and wisdom to speak to groups and also to write editorial columns where she addresses social issues.
Community: Alice has long felt connected to the FSPA community, and her journey has remained woven with the sisters and affiliates for over 20 years – a relationship which she is writing about in a story titled “They Loved Me Back to Life.” Alice is a graduate of the Spiritual Direction Preparation Program at the Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and is looking forward to enhancing her sense of community and contribution to it through participation in a companion community.
Marla J. Kaufmann, of La Crosse, Wisconsin, is a retired registered nurse companioned by Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Rose Elsbernd.
Prayer: Marla is a member of Blessed Sacrament Parish and participates in both Lectio Divina and Eucharistic Adoration. Marla is said to have “a sincerity and desire for deeper prayer.” In Sept. 2023, Marla will be walking the Camino with her two sisters — a prayerful experience that she has been planning to do ever since her retirement. Marla is also an avid reader, seeking out any books to deepen her prayer life. She shares that the FSPA story documented in “A Chapter of Franciscan History” was one book in particular that captivated her and gave her a renewed appreciation for the FSPA.
Ministry: Marla has continued to volunteer for Catholic Charities, and when the Franciscan Hospitality House was open, she devoted her time there as well. Marla volunteers in both the Catholic Charities office and out in the community, particularly in those ministries focused on alleviating hunger and poverty. A friend wrote of Marla that “after all her years as a psychiatric nurse, she is unafraid to be among the people on the margins.”
Community: In her application for affiliation, Marla shared that she has “been drawn to the Franciscan community for years,” first, as a nursing student at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in the 70s, in spiritual direction and, more recently, through programs at the Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Marla yearns for connections with people who care deeply about serving the world, and she desires to be actively involved in a companion community to connect with others who share similar desires of service.
Gina Pignatello, a resident of Las Vegas, Nevada, is the business manager of Christ the King Church companioned by Rita Marie Phillips, FSPA affiliate.
Prayer: Many have shared how important prayer and a faith community have been to Gina’s life. She mentions that after many years of feeling overwhelmed by work and the stressors of life, she now begins each morning with daily mediation in the chapel. “I love this time spent in deep prayer and quiet as a way to start my day.”
Ministry: For over 30 years, Gina has worked at the same parish in a wide variety of roles and advancing to business manager. She has done all of this while raising six children as a single mother. A friend says of Gina that “Her own simplistic lifestyle reflects the Franciscan values of peace, compassion and care for all of creation.” Her struggles to support her family on a very limited income have influenced her own sense of compassion and readiness to provide help through outreach at the parish. Gina is willing to step in and volunteer for whatever role is needed. Her ministry work is an extension of her love for her family and others.
Community: For Gina, an influence that stands out above all others was Sister Lorraine Forester, who passed away in July of 2023. Gina first met Sister Lorraine in 1990, writing that “she has walked with me ever since.” Gina shared in her autobiography that “becoming an affiliate has been on my mind and heart for many years.” It is only now though, after her youngest child recently turned 18, that she feels she can take the time to pursue opportunities, long on her mind, that affirm her own spiritual journey.
Steve Smart, of Waukesha, Wisconsin, is an ELCA seminarian and American Sign Language interpreter companioned by Mike Schnitzius, FSPA affiliate.
Prayer: Many people who know Steve talk about his compassion, kindness and people-centered approach to life. They also share that even before Steve began to pursue seminary studies, his approach to business and relationships was rooted in deep-listening, a calming presence and Gospel love. Steve has structured his day around prayer and contemplation while alone, with his family and as a member of a church community.
Ministry: Prior to entering into the seminary, Steve owned a company that provided American Sign Language interpretation services to communities in Wisconsin. In reading through his references, it was readily apparent that his former employees saw Steve as an engaged boss who was very supportive in creating opportunities for their own development and potential. Steve shares that “Franciscan living is seeing life through a spiritual lens that reveals a sacredness and interconnectedness of all things, propelling one forward to encounter and serve God’s diverse and beautiful creation.” This insight has led Steve to follow his own calling as a seminarian in order to lead a more fulfilling and integrated life.
Community: Steve previously encountered the FSPA and was introduced to Franciscan spirituality while an undergraduate and graduate student at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin. He is currently completing his third year in the Spiritual Direction Preparation Program through the Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse. Steve’s desire for becoming an affiliate is to “go deeper into the Franciscan way of life so that I can learn more about living out the Franciscan values in my own life and in my ministry.”