Franciscan - Related Content
Statue of St. Francis overlooking San Damiano in Assisi, Italy
St. Francis of Assisi knew it was important for his brothers to routinely come together. He called these gatherings Chapter of Mats, because the brothers would literally bring mats to sleep on while they camped at San Damiano. San Damiano, a church in Assisi, Italy, was the first home of the Franciscan Order. It’s where Francis heard the call from God to “rebuild my church.”
San Damiano courtyard
Today, summer is a time when many people pack suitcases and travel to family reunions. Some unite immediate families—those we know well—and others are big extended-family events where nametags are necessary to identify aunts, uncles and cousins as members of the family. In the past 10 days I have had the opportunity to attend gatherings that identify as both.
Sisters by birth and vows of FSPA, Sisters Carolyn and Roselyn Heil, rejoice together during Community Days.
Inspired by the wisdom of St. Francis of Assisi, FSPAs from across the globe gathered at St. Rose Convent, our motherhouse in La Crosse, Wisconsin, for what we call Community Days. It was a time of inspiration as we shared stories of the people and places we serve, prayed before the Blessed Sacrament, discussed the ongoing call of ministry and celebrated each individual’s gifts as we were sent forth into mission. Spending time with one another strengthens our commitment to religious life and reminds us of the call we have each received from God to continue in the Franciscan tradition to rebuild the church today.
FSPA gathered for Community Days in St. Rose Convent's Mary of the Angels Chapel (photo by Sister Nina Shephard)
Sent forth in my own mission of vocations, of sharing the invitation to religious life with FSPA, I then attended a gathering of the Franciscan Federation. The Franciscan Federation is a larger group of the Franciscan family—religious brothers and sisters who follow the Third Order Rule of St. Francis. Members of the organization that promotes “the exploration and study of Franciscan Evangelical Life and its implications for these ties and for the world” come from different Franciscan religious congregations, span the United States, serve diverse ministries, and unite in a celebration much like an extended family reunion.
We all share the same tradition and the name Franciscan but each community looks a bit different. The nametags we wear and the stories we tell of our founders help us know what part of the family we come from. Gathered around tables were sisters and brothers, each bringing a depth of lived experience to the conversations. The Federation is celebrating 50 years of existence, born from a dream of collaboration. Today the organization continues to grapple with the challenges and gifts of collaborating across congregations, ideologies and busy calendars in a world that continues to grow in diversity. The work of the Gospel always calls for innovation to meet the needs of the times we live in and the coming together of family to achieve it.
As you explore your own discernment, consider the distinctive family traits of each community: Franciscans are known as peacemakers, Dominicans as preachers, Benedictines as hospitality givers. Is it in your nature to exude peace? Are you called to join a family of Franciscans working in service of the Gospel with joyful hearts, gathering regularly to work together on important needs and seeing all of creation as brothers and sisters?
We learn by asking questions…lots and lots of questions.
Recently, I was on an airplane across the aisle from a young child traveling with his parents. He was about four years old and bursting with questions. One after the other he would ask questions of his dad and, with great interest and patience, his dad would answer each of them.
At the end of the flight another passenger turned to the father and remarked how he enjoyed hearing his conversations with his child. Then the passenger turned to the child and said “I think your new name should be ‘Why,’ because you have a lot of ‘why’ questions.” The parents laughed and we all went our separate ways. I walked away impressed by how this four-year-old was already navigating the vast world around him, even at 30,000 feet!
The value of questions you have in discernment
When someone wants to learn more about membership with our congregation, we receive and answer some common questions time and again. Let’s take a look at the most common questions to arise during discernment of religious life.
What are the sisters’ ministries today?
I remember asking this question of congregations I wanted to research further, during my discernment of religious life. The goal was to see whether my interests and areas of expertise would fit within the congregation’s ministry. It was a way for me to prioritize potential congregations. My hope was to shrink the list from hundreds of congregations down to a few, so that I could research them in depth. It helped, but over time, I discovered there were other aspects to consider.
Now as the Director of Membership, the information I offer includes more about the congregation’s spirituality, mission, prayer life and community living. Many congregations have similar ministries, but each of these particular aspects affect how ministry is conducted. For example, Franciscans, Dominicans and Ursulines are rooted in education, yet how they teach is different. To see evidence of this, just ask former Catholic school students to describe the congregation of sisters who taught them. You will hear how the type of congregation influenced their education. Differences also arise in the celebration of patronal feast days and core values. Each congregation has its own “sub-culture” in the wider scope of religious life within the Catholic Church. If you have a relationship with a few congregations and they have similar ministries such as education, ask about the different ways they serve that field. Here are some examples.
How does this congregation define educational ministry?
As you discern religious life, you want to make sure you are aligned with the congregation’s philosophy of educational ministry.
Is it possible to observe or volunteer with a sister for a day, to witness ministerial life?
Spending a day with a sister is a valuable way to get a sense of what it is to be a member of that congregation.
High school students spend the day volunteering with Sister Lucy in the FSPA organic garden.
Do women religious in this congregation serve outside the U.S.?
If you are interested in a ministry abroad, you may want to seek out congregations with sisters who serve outside the U.S. If, however, you would prefer to stay stateside, this question enables you to hone in on communities that focus on serving in the U.S.
Do sisters from this congregation work in public or private school settings?
Perhaps you have a preference on what kind of schools you’d like to serve. This will allow you to find the appropriate fit for your personal calling.
Do these sisters work in bilingual classrooms?
If helping immigrants, refugees or other students who speak English as a second language, you may want to ask this question to find a community that works in bilingual classrooms.
Asking the right questions will help you find the right community for your religious life
Each answer will show how congregations differ. Consider how these nuances will play a role in your ministry. Is there room for your own growth over time? Can you transition to a different grade level or into a different ministry with education experience? Is there flexibility?
We should all be as curious and brave as that little boy on the airplane, asking questions of his father. Questions bring clarity to what, on paper, looks simple. You may be surprised to discover that a congregation you weren’t sure about is the better fit.
How will you know if a vocation to religious life is a call for you?
Reserve your complimentary copy of “Discernment of Signs Along the Way: Your Story of Service in the Catholic Church,” a 24-page reflection journal with guides, questions and connections. Email email@example.com or call 888-683-3772 for more information.
Photo credit: Flickr
This is the time of year that many people move into a new house or apartment. Winter has passed and spring is slowly giving way to summer. I have noticed the abundance of moving trucks on the roads. Each time I have moved into a new home I spend the first night aware of each bump, clang and creak as I am not yet familiar with the sounds in my new environment.
After a few weeks I become quite accustomed to the sounds and somehow block out what was once so startling. Only when guests arrive and mention some of the sounds do I realize how comfortable I have become.
Photo credit: Flickr
In discernment, sometimes the clangs and creaks we hear are distractions that easily lead us away from focusing on what is in front of us. It is a gift from God to be given the grace to listen for the guidance we need to lead us to the next steps on our discernment journey.
The passage 1 Kings 19: 1-18 has served as a touchstone for me in discernment. It is the story of Elijah listening for what he is to do next. Sometimes we have to wait in a state of contemplative silence to really know what it is that we are to do next. Rushing after something that makes a lot of noise? Remember, it may just be a big noise without substance.
As you walk in discernment this week, consider the noises in your life that lead you away from God. Are you chasing distractions?
They gathered, gloriously, around goodness. They weren’t classified as sisters, affiliates and guests but as equal discerners of goodness. They weren’t segregated as individual observers...
Image by Sister Amy Taylor
One of my favorite places to pray is in my recliner in my room at St. Rose Convent. It sits in front of a window from which I can see the Adoration Chapel behind a variety of trees. The chapel mirrors stability in my life, and the trees as well as the shifting seasons remind me of change. All are important, and God helps to remind me that I need both. The occasional bird flying from one place to the other helps me to see that connection.
Franciscan Way is a series featuring prayerful reflection by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.
Image courtesy morguefile.com
Amidst the world news articles online I recently came across the lighter read “50 Unique Words and Phrases From Each State That Only Locals Understand.” As an avid traveler, I was curious to see if I had encountered any of the words and phrases. I clicked through the first few slides, finding some familiar, but most were words I’d never heard before.
The article triggered a memory of experience I had while visiting La Crosse, Wisconsin, when I was first discerning religious life with FSPA. A few sisters took me down to Riverside Park, along the Mississippi River, just a few miles from St. Rose Convent. They pointed out the various attractions including the friendship garden, fountains and statues; where to buy tickets to ride on the big paddle boat. One sister pointed across the park and said “Over there is the bubbler.” All I saw was a drinking fountain. We both had a good laugh and “bubbler” was formally introduced to me as Wisconsin-ease for “drinking fountain.”
Evangelical councils: “These are the vows and practice of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They are evangelical because they were taught and practiced by Jesus Christ in the gospels.” At the end of the novitiate period and formal acceptance, women in the incorporation process first make temporary vows of poverty, consecrated chastity and obedience.
Charism: “Each religious community has a charism which is a purpose, mission, and spirit inspired by the community’s founder.” The charism of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration comes from distinct eucharistic reference and devotion, inherited from St. Francis and our founders.
Novice: “A novice is a person who is formally admitted to a religious institute to prepare for eventual religious profession.” For FSPA, the novitiate period is two years in length and incorporates learning about religious life, vows, theology, church documents, Franciscan studies and many more pertinent topics for this time of vow preparation.
Perpetual vows: “… the final vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience a person takes in a religious institute.” Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration who make perpetual vows do so during Mass — a public witness of consecration to God through their commitment of poverty, consecrated celibacy and obedience for life lived out in the context of FSPA community.
Further traversing into a specific religious dialect — like that of the Franciscan family — vocabulary expands with terms like
-- Transitus: an annual Franciscan celebration marking the passage of St. Francis of Assisi from life on Earth to a life with God;
-- Pax et Bonum: Peace and All Good; and
-- common good: choosing action based not only on your own preferences but also taking into account the whole group or groups that will be affected by the decision.
Religious life is full of its own unique words and phrases, its own social dynamics that you’ll encounter because, as I did, you are journeying into a new culture. Also present are the plethora of cultures that many members of the community may have been raised in or ministered in.
Diversity is a gift, especially when we are willing to be curious and try to refrain from quick judgements.
This week, ponder how discernment is leading you to the edges of new cultures.
What are some of your cultural influences?
How does understanding some common definitions in religious life help you in your discernment?
*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.
Often when I am looking for inspiration in my writing, I go to places that feed my soul. Recently, I was sitting in the back row of our adoration chapel, pondering what to share in my next blog, while the piano in the main chapel was being tuned. My thoughts were punctuated with the same note sounding over and over again. I could hear slight adjustments with each stroke of the key. Occasionally, a scale would plunk out.
The piano in Mary of the Angels Chapel undergoes the tuning process.
Curious, I went to investigate and had a short conversation with the man tuning the piano. I asked him a few questions about the process and was fascinated to learn that he begins by striking a tuning fork. He then plays one note on the piano, listening as he adjusts the tension on the piano wire to match the pitch, then tunes the entire piano by ear. He listens not only to the single pitch but also how it sounds in relationship all the other pitches too. He shared how the environment around the piano, like climate and season, also effects the process. There is never a perfect time to tune.
This resounding experience inspired me to ponder how discernment has similar elements. We are all influenced not only by our own gifts and talents but also where we find resonance with others. Often in discerning religious life, questions arise like “How will I know which congregation is best for me?” or “What if the congregations I’m interested in minister in similar ways?”
These are great questions. Even when connecting to congregations with like-minded missions, there are steps to take to learn more. Ask any of your friends or family members how they chose significant others. A list of characteristics does not tell the whole story. Two people could have the same job, live in the same city, look similar physically and enjoy the same hobbies, but there are thousands of idiosyncrasies that define differences when you get to know them more deeply. Sometimes there is more mystery than explanation but, at some level, these couples have found compatibility with one another.
It was the same way for me when I was exploring discernment. Each community carried individual tones and music of life. From all the possibilities, it took time to learn about the differences between apostolic, evangelical, monastic, cloistered and missionary congregations for women, not to mention the different rules of life each follows (like Franciscan, Dominican, Benedictine). Then throw in ministries similar, if not the same.
And so I visited different congregations, finding similarities and also distinctions. Some congregations I liked and others I was ready to leave almost as soon as I arrived; not because the congregation was unpleasant but because my gut instinct let me know immediately that our views of the world were too polar opposite.
There was a combination of factors as to why I chose to be a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration. The more time I spent with FSPA I found that my goals, philosophies and beliefs coincided with many of theirs, and the viewpoints that didn’t exactly align invited more exploration as to why or why not. FSPA engaged both my mind and heart. Although it was a mystery as to why a congregation several states away resonated more with me than those near to where I lived, I had to undertake my own pilgrimage of discernment.
It reminds me of Abraham, having to make a journey to find his own home as he does in Genesis 12. God called him to leave the land that he knew and as he traveled he learned more about who he was. St. Francis of Assisi, our congregation’s founding inspiration, had to learn about his own journey of faith by first pursuing glory and honor through seeking knighthood but, along the way, learning his true call was to rebuild the church and be a champion for peace. It took both Abraham and St. Francis their lifetimes to live into the depth of their call from God. But they also had to take a step towards their calling and learn as they went.
I can say that what first attracted me to my congregation is still present but what means more to me is the relationships I’ve been blessed with; the deepening of my own spiritual life, the ministry experiences that I never would have planned and the excitement that each new day brings. It was both exhilarating and daunting to take initiative that first visit but had I not my life would not be what it is — a completely, always surprising gift — today.
This week a few question for you to ponder …
In what ways are you discovering that your discernment is not a simple, quick decision but a pilgrimage?
How do you know when you resonate with someone or something?
*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.
"God will be with you each step of the journey to guide, to listen and to offer continual inspiration ..."
Icon of St. Francis of Assisi by Sister Maryam Gossling
Today’s Gospel acclamation, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart,” is timely as we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.
If you are familiar with the life of St. Francis of Assisi, you may recall that while he was out one day, roaming the countryside near Assisi, Italy, he stopped at a church to pray. Praying before the San Damiano Cross in a deteriorating church — Portiuncula — Francis heard God say to him “rebuild my church ...”
After hearing these words, Francis had to decide whether or not he was going to listen to the request. It took him a while to figure out what exactly those powerful words meant. He didn’t understand what God was asking of him. Thinking it was a literal task, he gathered stones to rebuild by hand the crumbling chapel. In time, Francis realized the call was much deeper. His search for clarity led to conversations with his family, friends, the bishop, the pope, the local mayor, and many others. Men saw his joy and flocked to join his way of life, a pathway that lead to the establishment of a new religious community with a new rule of life approved by the pope. It all began with a few words he heard in prayer, his inclination to trust God and to begin searching. Francis was by no means perfect: he made mistakes and learned throughout his life journey. Conversion is one of the values of Franciscan tradition!
Like Francis, you may receive inspiration or a call from God in prayer. Moving from the idea of discernment to actually living into it requires motivation to discover its true meaning. For example, feeling called to religious life offers much to explore throughout religious communities: evangelical, apostolic or monastic orders, Franciscan, Dominican, Benedictine spirituality (among others), geographical locations and ministerial opportunities. Simultaneously delving into your own gifts and talents helps to discover where you feel a connection. The opinions of family and friends also provide fodder for reflection. Each new discovery leads to next steps and bigger questions.
No matter where discernment takes you, carry today’s Gospel acclamation, Psalm 95:8, as you journey forth: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart.” God will be with you each step of the journey to guide, to listen and to offer continual inspiration, no matter where the exploration leads.
Are you willing to listen and explore?
Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.
Over the course of the last several weeks our congregation has celebrated the commitment of “yes” to God with the vow renewal of Sister Laurie Sullivan, profession of perpetual vows by Sister Kristin Peters, and Golden Jubilee celebration for Sisters Romana Klaubauf and Esther Leis. We all experienced religious life unfolding before our very eyes; witnessed what it means to walk on the Gospel-centered journey of life as a religious sister—all on different stepping stones marking the way.
Sister Karen Lueck (left) calls forth Laurie Sister Sullivan (right) to renew her vows.
Sister Laurie opened our season of celebration by renewing her vows for three years at Villa St. Joseph surrounded by FSPA community members, many of whom she ministered among during her early formation days volunteering in spiritual care. For her prayer service she chose a Gospel reading about love. Sister Laurie has shown love to others guided by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy by accompanying patients in hospital rooms, feeding the hungry at food pantries, visiting the elderly in their homes, and nurturing spirituality as the coordinator of youth in a parish—each new place and ministry a reflection of her deepening commitment to religious life and her “yes” to God. Sister Laurie is following in the footprints of Jesus and St. Francis, moving to serve where she is needed. For her the Franciscan Gospel life has been eyes and ears open for the call to where God invites; feet ready to move.
Sister Laurie, pictured here serving those in need at a food pantry.
From left to right, Sisters Laura Nettles, Eileen McKenzie, Katie Mitchell, Kristin Peters and Julia Walsh stand together on their Camino pilgrimage (photo courtesy of Sister Katie Mitchell).
The open road has also been a call to Sister Kristin Peters who just returned from a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. As on some legs of her journey she was accompanied by her FSPA companions and on others she hiked alone, she discovered that her Camino experience mirrored religious life: you may walk with others but you also have to walk your own journey. Each step reveals insight. No one can walk for you, live for you. Sister Kristin's “yes” to religious life over the past 10 years has taken her to discover diverse paths to serve those with substance addiction and mental illness; to deliver, in ministry, help and compassion. She has ministered to many who others step over, walk past. It is no surprise that the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd inspires her and is what she chose to guide her final vow liturgy. Sister Kristin listens and reflects the knowledge each person gains as they find their own way back into the sheepfold of our civic communities.
Sister Kristin receives her FSPA ring from Sister Blanche Klein.
Sister Romana Klaubauf receives her 50th Jubilee celebration corsage from Sister Karen Kappell.
A bit further down the road of religious life, Sisters Romana Klaubauf and Ester Leis shared their travel stories—their individual ministries—at a pre-jubilee pizza party. We watched a slide presentation of the sights they saw along their professions of 50 years, glimpsing decades of serving God's people and meeting new challenges in the changing landscapes of religious life. Mary of the Angels was filled to capacity as community members, family and friends gathered to witness their ongoing commitment. The readings they chose (Isaiah 43:1-10, Micah 6:8 and John 10) tell their stories of faithfulness to God.
Sister Esther Leis processes into Mass held in honor of her Golden Jubilee.
These three celebrations were each unique in time and experience yet all pointed to the goodness revealed through the faithfulness of “yes.” The song “I Say ‘Yes’ Lord/Digo ‘Sí’ Señor” by Donna Peña and Marty Haugen has been moving in my heart and mind as I ponder the blessing each of these celebrations have been. They are witnesses to our world of faithfulness and commitment in good times and challenges. We all walk terrain smooth and bumpy; mountainous and flat. God is with us in each step, and every breath of life.
This week as you consider your own location in discernment ask yourself ...
What are the celebrations marking my journey?
Is there a theme to my experience so far?
How am I relying on God?