Transitus: the passing of St. Francis, harmonizing of sisters and affiliates
“Because I couldn’t do it alone.” On Oct. 3, 2012, this was Sister Charlotte Seubert’s response when a member of her parish asked the question,“Why haven’t we done this before?” The conversation took place just minutes after she’d led Christ the King’s first-ever Transitus celebration—something Sister Charlotte had dreamed of doing for several years.
And Sister Charlotte didn’t do it alone. She’d collaborated then with affiliates Margie Bleuer and Judy Crompton. This year, on Oct. 3, 2013, they were joined by affiliate Laurie Brown and affiliates-in-process Gayla Rummans and Anna Catour. Sister Charlotte, Margie, Judy, Laurie, Gayla and Anna all live in the Moline, Ill., area, are all members of the companion community Son Beams and are all committed to sharing intentional ministries like the Transitus celebration.
Together, “It’s important for us to be a Franciscan presence here.” Of her affiliate companions Sister Charlotte says, “They are a special group, very interested in keeping our Franciscan traditions alive and committed to do everything they can to make this possible, right down to making a lard light. We work well together.” And together, Sister Charlotte says, they transformed Transitus into a “beautiful prayer service and learning experience for Christ the King Parish.” Sister Charlotte makes mention of Father Donald Levitt who is “very supportive in letting us do this for the parish.”
Together, the Son Beams have given much reflection, not just of the Transitus experience they shared but also of the ministries they will celebrate together with FSPA.
Presence: How have you participated in the celebration of Transitus?
Judy: Sister Charlotte provided us with copy from a ceremony she had attended several years ago. From that, as a group, we read through it, changing it to make it our own. We all shared in making the programs, decorating the church, baking cookies and setting up a small reception after the ceremony. We each had speaking parts. During the ceremony, we lit candles, rang bells and broke bread to pass out.
Gayla: As a parish member, I attended the first service in 2012. It was then that I knew it was time to move on from my passive longing for a deeper spiritual life to actually taking a step toward making that happen. Shortly thereafter, I applied to begin the process of affiliation with FSPA. This year, as an affiliate-in-process, I had the pleasure of being involved in the planning of and helping during the service. It was a wonderful experience.
Presence: What compels you to be involved?
Margie: Because Son Beams is a newly-formed community we wanted to celebrate our coming alive in affiliation. Sharing the FSPA tradition with other communities was an important connection for our group.
Judy: The Transitus is such a big part of being Franciscan ... Learning about and being a part of FSPA traditions is so important to me. All these traditions, past and present, make the FSPA who they are today.
Laurie: As an affiliate and a member of the Son Beams, celebrating the Transitus together has been a wonderful opportunity to bond through the re-telling of St. Francis’ life and death.
Gayla: It certainly helps one appreciate more fully all those who cross our paths on a daily basis, reminding me that one day we will all be at that threshold of Transitus.
Presence: How does this event impact your faith life within your parish?
Judy: I felt great joy and pride ... I’m proud to share the spirit of FSPA in my church community.
Margie: I am not a member of the parish where the prayer service has taken place but the welcome and outpouring of gratitude to all of us from those members is very moving.
Presence: How does this event impact your life within FSPA as an affiliate?
Margie: It’s exciting to be part of this Franciscan teaching and sharing moment as an affiliate.
Judy: Being a part of Transitus helped me be more aware of my role as an affiliate. It also creates an unspoken bond with all affiliates who share the same Franciscan values.
Laurie: Celebrating Transitus reminds me why I answered the call to become an affiliate: shared faith, love of Francis and love of God.
Gayla: I see affiliates as extensions of the FSPA: lay women and men from all walks of life being able to introduce the Franciscan values and the traditions of FSPA in our homes and where we work, worship and pray.
Anna: I see it getting stronger and growing with more people involved.
Presence: Transitus is just one facet of companioning with other affiliates and Sister Charlotte. Where else do you feel and appreciate Sister Charlotte’s presence in your life?
Margie: She and I have been part of a local companion community since 1993. I respect our relationship which has always been more of a spiritual journey and friendship rather than a joint sister/affiliate ministry.
Judy: Sister Charlotte has been my teacher, mentor, spiritual guide and greatest cheerleader. She’s stretched me far beyond what I ever thought I was capable of doing in my life, ministry, faith journey and events like Transitus.
Laurie: Sister Charlotte and all the Son Beams have become sisters of my heart, and companions in my faith journey. We laugh, share, pray and praise God together, creating a completeness within me.
Gayla: Her story, all of it, from entering the convent, ministering in El Salvador, re-immersing into this society, battling cancer numerous times and carrying out all her years of faithful service—up to this present day—is remarkable. You can’t help but want to be involved where she serves.
Anna: Sister Charlotte and I share the ministry of RCIA. I am blessed to be a facilitator along with my husband.
Presence: What is your favorite part of the celebration?
Margie: Sharing with others this tradition and knowing that we are praying and remembering with the rest of the FSPA community and other followers of Francis and Clare on this night is just a special time for me.
Judy: My favorite part was working with my companion affiliates Margie, Gayla, Anna and Laurie as we so anxiously and happily prepared for this event.
Laurie: My favorite part of the celebration is when Francis joyfully welcomes Sister Death, for in that moment heaven is within reach—a coming home.
Gayla: I like praying for those who have gone before us. As the singing bowl is struck, the lingering sound resonates and prayers are offered. The last group honored was most impactful to me as a living person: “… for the next one to die from our midst.”
Anna: For me, the lighting of the lard light sets the tone for the beautiful life of St. Francis, and reminds me of Canticle of the Sun.Anytime we can learn where Christ has led others such as St. Francis; I feel we can grow in our own faith journey.