Collaboration with Hope Restores grows
By Lynn Wegner, FSPA Life Enrichment Team
The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration are humbled to announce that they have been chosen to receive the 2023 Black Student Leaders “Black Excellence Award in the category of Community Leadership.” According to the organization, “The award is for the Franciscan Sisters and the relationship we have built with them. We have worked with Sister Karen Neuser and a few others. This award allows us to say thank you for all of your support. The sisters have allowed us to continue running many programs.”
Black Student Leaders, a program of Hope Restores, is a mentoring, activist, and support group. Black Student Leaders help African American students in Western Wisconsin feel comfortable being themselves by being able to express their culture and family values. Black Student Leaders believe all students have a right to a fair education that mirrors their culture and learning style. We hope to bridge the gap and educate our educators, peers and community on African American culture.
FSPA’s partnership with Hope Restores and Black Student Leaders began after the 2018 Mission Assembly which challenged us to examine our white privilege and work toward inclusion and equity for all. Sister Eileen McKenzie and then FSPA Justice Coordinator Pat Ruda met with the founders of these newly formed organizations to learn more about their mission and vision. As Sister Eileen describes, “The Spirit unveiled how we were to move forward with our Provocative Movement of Unity in Diversity. The Black Student Leaders were calling us into mission and they were doing it practically and concretely.”
Since those initial conversations, FSPA has supported Hope Restores and Black Student leaders in a multitude of ways. In November 2021, Sisters Helen Elsbernd, Sarah Hennessey, Eileen McKenzie, Laura Nettles, Karen Neuser, Michele Pettit, and Patricia Tekippe sponsored a Seeding a Legacy of Healing Grant for Hope Restores. Sister Karen Neuser has volunteered as a driver for their transportation program. Our sisters have participated in local protests organized by the Black Student Leaders. FSPA has sponsored the Cakewalk at their Juneteenth Celebration and has purchased meals from the Black Student Leaders fundraisers. Partners in mission and sisters at Villa St. Joseph sponsored six teens for Christmas 2022 through Black Student Leaders Adopt-a-Teen program. The sisters living at Villa St. Joseph made over 50 Valentine’s Cards and the Wildflowers Living Community at St. Rose decorated 50 treat bags which Black Students Leaders gave to their mothers and other female mentors for Valentine’s Day. A partner in mission personally provided the flowers to accompany those Valentine’s gifts (pictured above, Black Student Leaders deliver the cards, flowers and treat bags to the staff at the La Crosse Public Library; photo used with permission and courtesy of Black Student Leaders).
While FSPA is humbled to receive this award, we are excited to see how the Spirit continues to lead us in our work and partnership with both Black Student Leaders and Hope Restores. Representatives from FSPA attended the awards ceremony and dinner hosted by Hope Restores on Feb. 25.