Page 1


A Day in the LIFE of a


A Publication of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities

q Sisters Veronica Wood and Cristina Florez welcome final professed Sister Reyna Jesusa OntĂłn Ă‘ahui to the congregation.

4 VOLUME 5.1 • WINTER 2017


3 From the General Minister 4 Feature A Day in the Life of a Franciscan Sister 14 Servant Leadership: Serving Others with God’s Help 15 Sisters Deliver Small Treats with Great Love 16 Religious Life Offers Women a Purpose-Filled Life 18 Head of the Class 20 From the Congregational Archives The Mystery in the Archives



23 Reflection Prayer Leads to Serving Others 24 Sister Coleman Conroy: A Pioneer in Christian Housing 26 Mission Advancement Give Us this Day

Gift Planning We Give Thanks and Remember Patrick Meehan

30 Welcome, Father Leising 31 In Prayerful Memory 32 What Our Readers Are Saying 33 Upcoming Events


WINTER 20 17 1



Rochelle A. Cassella CONTRIBUTORS

Cheryl Aughton Michelle Basista Rochelle A. Cassella Sister Marianne Ferguson Charlene Martin Sister Marcella Nachreiner Roxanne Sopchak James Wudarczyk GRAPHIC DESIGN


Cheryl Aughton Rochelle A. Cassella Gerianne Dobmeier Nathan Hokama Sister Anne Marie Saphara Chris Sheridan CIRCULATION


The goal of Franciscan Spirit is to reflect what it means to live the Gospel as Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities in our everyday lives. The spirit of Franciscan life is best described as: a joyful attitude, simplicity of heart, giving praise and thanks and greeting all with peace. Our hope is that concepts like these will come alive in the people you meet in this publication we call Franciscan Spirit, and that you will be inspired to partner with us in our mission.

Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities 960 James St., 2nd Floor Syracuse, NY 13203

2014 National Catholic Press Award: first place, general excellence, religious order magazines from the Catholic Press Association of the U.S. and Canada 2012 best in show, and best publication with a gift envelope awards from the National Catholic Development Conference

ON THE COVER Sister Mary Anne Maceda helps children grow in faith at St. Teresa of Avila Church in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

If there is a change that needs to be made, we want to do so. Please return your correct address to us, or contact Jodi Hagan by email at or phone 315.634.7015. In addition, let us know if we have misspelled your name, sent you more than one news magazine or if you want your name removed from our mailing list.

Franciscan Spirit is published three times a year. Printed on recycled paper using soy-based inks.


Rooted in the Gospel and energized by the Spirit of St. Francis and St. Clare, we seek to be women of vision living in right relationship with God, one another and with all creation. 2004 Founding Chapter

MISSION STATEMENT Rooted in the Gospel we are sisters to all, serving with reverence, justice and compassion.


Sister Caryn Crook, 315.751.6819 EDITORIAL OFFICE


CONGREGATIONAL MISSION ADVANCEMENT TEAM Central New York and East Coast Regional Mission Advancement Director Roxanne Sopchak 315.634.7026 Franciscan Villa 6900 Buckley Rd. Syracuse, NY 13212 Western New York Regional Mission Advancement Director Cynthia Munschauer 716.632.2155, ext. 687 St. Mary of the Angels 201 Reist St. Williamsville, NY 14221 Western Pennsylvania Regional Mission Advancement Director/ Grants and Foundation Relations Michelle Basista 412.821.2200, ext. 276 Mount Alvernia 146 Hawthorne Rd. Pittsburgh, PA 15209-1916 Sister Liaison for Mission Advancement Sister Catherine Noecker 352.530.2687 25734 Alicia Dr. Leesburg, FL 34748

From the General Minister

Dear Friends, “What do sisters do all day?” someone asked. Well, before Vatican II, the answer would have been easy — follow a set schedule with other sisters and together serve in the same ministries such as teaching or nursing. Today, however, the answer to that question is very different. Since Vatican II, the life of religious sisters has changed dramatically. Some resulted from changes in the Church. Others came about because of the decline in the number of U.S. sisters; still more change is due to the increased ages of sisters. All together, these changes have thrust sisters into new ministries and ways of living out our mission “Rooted in the gospel we are sisters to all, serving with reverence, justice and compassion.” Amid these changes, one thing has been a constant, and that is prayer. Regardless of age, health or ministry, prayer – both communal and private prayer – is a must each day. Prayer is the foundation for all we do. It is the foundation of our day and life. Ministries take up a large part of each day. For some it is internal ministry such as driving, answering the phone in large convents or regional houses, or helping to care for the sisters. Some sisters are in external ministries which means they fulfill the mission by teaching, nursing, social work, pastoral care, administration, home care, hospice care and other services. Another priority of our sisters’ daily life is community life. Together we share meals, prayer and laughter. This is the glue that holds our shared life together. Each day we find new ways to serve and make changes based on health changes and identified needs. It is what we are about. God calls and we answer by saying “yes!”

Sister Barbara Jean Donovan, General Minister and the Leadership Team

WINTER 20 17 3


A Day in the LIFE


What is a typical day in the life of a Franciscan sister? There is no simple answer to this question. Each sister receives her own call from God and answers it in a unique ministry. From the outside, looking in, some may envision religious life as orderly and unchanging. And while there may be ongoing customs and practices, in reality a day in the life of a Franciscan sister can be quite varied. Among the common elements we share daily are a deep prayer life, the support of one another in community and helping people in need. As Franciscans, our lives are rooted in the Gospel. We embrace the life, dignity and rights of every human as we live the words of our mission statement of being sisters to all, serving with reverence, justice and compassion. We pray, support and participate in activities of peace. We seek to raise awareness of social issues such as violence, climate change, and human trafficking and take steps to bring about justice.

u Sister Mary Anne Maceda shares in conversation with Sona Ayora and her daughter Arianna at St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Sleepy Hollow, New York.


Some religious orders were formed primarily to care for the sick, or to educate children. As Franciscans, we are called to serve wherever the need is the greatest. Our ministries range from holding the suffering of the world in deep prayer, to providing life-saving medical care to the sick and disabled, or offering legal assistance to those in need. Sisters work in health clinics, hospitals, schools and even at a national park. In an email to a woman interested in Franciscan religious life, Sister Caryn Crook describes her days as “wonderful ... filled with prayer, love, joy and service to people in need – those in poverty, who are sick and who have lost their spirit.” As you read about the everyday lives of our sisters in the pages of this magazine, we invite you to listen to God’s call in your own life and join us in making God’s plan for the world real.

of a

SISTER Seeing God’s Grace in the Daily


s a Catholic sister and director of religious education at St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Sleepy Hollow, New York, Sister Mary Anne Maceda expects the unexpected. “When my door opens or the phone rings, I never know what exactly will be needed,” she says. The parish includes a diverse Hispanic immigrant community with countless needs, so Sister Mary Anne is called on to do much more than educate parishioners; instead, she helps them with all facets of their lives. “I get involved in everything that is going on in the parish,” she says and explains, “Many of our families are under a lot of stress. I try to provide a listening ear, or counseling, or pray with them.” continued on page 6

u Often times after Mass, parishioners like Maria Akour request special prayers from Sister Mary Anne.

WINTER 20 17 5


p Sister Mary Anne begins her day by attending Mass at St. Teresa’s.

p Sister Mary Anne leads a formation course in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for catechists from across the Archdiocese of New York.

Her caring actions extend beyond the church walls. Two days a week, Sister Mary Anne walks to the nearby school where she meets a group of children and accompanies them back to the parish so they can attend faith formation classes. She prays with the sick in hospitals and enjoys visiting with parishioners in their homes. “Although I don’t speak Spanish, I know the people so well that we can get our messages across just fine,” she says. Sister Mary Anne also teaches 7 graders and those preparing for Holy Communion. She says she notices that her daily presence at the parish is making a difference. “When the children see me they’re happy, and if that inspires them to attend Mass, that’s a good thing,” she says. th

This immersion in the Hispanic culture has transformed Sister Mary Anne, helping her to appreciate the unpredictability of life as well as the beauty of God in all people. “Our parishioners are very affectionate, warm, loving with a deep faith and I contribute my happiness to just being part of that whole culture,” she says with a smile. “I love parish life. It’s so important and it’s the microcosm of the church.” As if all she does at St. Theresa of Avila isn’t enough, Sister Mary Anne’s ministry doesn’t end there. 6 FRANCISCAN SPIRIT

Each month, she instructs parish catechists from the Archdiocese of New York in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a hands-on method of faith formation based on the Montessori learning method. “I believe the catechesis provides a method and an environment that helps the child fall in love with Jesus on his or her own,” she says. “It allows the inner teacher to work in the child.” For more than 35 years, Sister Mary Anne has attended prayer vigils with 40 Days for Life, the largest internationally coordinated pro-life movement. “If one child is saved, we are grateful,” she says. Her dedication to the movement includes traveling with the parish youth group to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. “When you’re down there with all of those young people there’s an incredible energy,” she says. “It’s something they won’t forget.” Sister Mary Anne and five Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities live in community with 20 Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Peekskill, New York. “It is wonderful,” she says. “I feel we’ve been able to partake with them as Franciscans and feel included. It’s a very good relationship.”

To keep her busy lifestyle in balance, Sister Mary Anne finds peace in God and her sisters in community, with whom she attends Mass and eats breakfast each morning. “I enjoy being with the sisters,” she says. “It gives me support, and the fact that several of them come and help me teach at the parish is supportive as well.” Late at night, when she returns home from work, she also spends time with God in the chapel.

Although each day brings something new and unplanned, Sister Mary Anne is assured of one very important thing. “I see God’s grace in all of this. I wouldn’t be able to do it myself.” And what keeps her going? “Love … I rely heavily on God’s providence, really,” she says. “I am grateful for every day I have to work for the Lord.”

An Answered Prayer


ister Wilma Holler prayed for others her entire life. She prayed for people she knew and for strangers. She prayed in thanksgiving and she prayed for help and healing. She prayed for her sisters in community and for all who do God’s work throughout the world. She was devoted to prayer, a full-time ministry for many of our sisters. When her health began to fail in 2013, Sister Wilma wanted to ensure that her ministry would continue. Naturally, she turned to prayer to ask for a replacement. She prayed until the moment God called her home in May 2013. God answered her prayers when Sister Rosemary Benson, 85, of Williamsville, New York, moved to St. Mary of the Angels and agreed to continue Sister Wilma’s prayer ministry. “God called me,” she explains.

The opportunity to converse with God through intense prayer is a blessing not familiar to many. “I love to pray. It is such a beautiful thing,” Sister Rosemary says. “I am filled with such peace, love and gratitude when I come to the chapel and pray before the Blessed Sacrament.” She believes it is important to ask God to take care of people, if it is his will. For Sister Rosemary, daily devotional time means spending four to five hours praying a variety of special prayers. With her black rosary in hand — a gift from her father when she entered the congregation in 1947 — Sister Rosemary begins by praying for the intentions of the Blessed Mother. These include praying for peace in the world, for Pope Francis, for mercy on those who will die on that particular day, and to St. Faustina for the conversion of sinners. On most days, Sister Rosemary is joined in the chapel by several other sisters. “We pray for the world, for the conversion of sinners, and for

t Sister Rosemary Benson prays in the chapel at St. Mary of the Angels in Williamsville, New York.

continued on page 8

WINTER 20 17 7


HOW TO HAVE A DAILY DEVOTIONAL TIME • Begin your devotional time by quieting yourself. Take a few deep breaths and become still. Some people light a candle or say a simple prayer such as, “O God, open my heart to hear your message to me in the words I read.” • Then read a short passage in the Bible and some additional reflective reading. • At the end of your reading time, be silent and wait to see what words, feelings, or images rise in your heart or tug at your thoughts. Notice what situations or people come to mind. • Consider how the words or images connect with your life; then pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you to see what God may be saying to you through what you have read, thought, and felt. • Say a prayer, asking God to help you follow the guidance you have received and to be with the people who came to mind during your reading and reflection. Information courtesy of


those who have requested our prayers,” she says. “People depend upon our prayers.” Prayer requests from the public come from near and far, arriving by phone, letter, email, website and social media. “We keep all those people and their intentions in our prayers,” she says. Sister Rosemary enhances her meditations by using different rosaries. For example, she uses a blue rosary when she prays the Litany of the Blessed Mother because blue reminds her of Mary. She reads meditations and inspirational books in search of prayers or inspiration to deepen her prayer life. She recently finished reading “33 Days to Merciful Love,” by Michael Gaitley, MIC, a do-it-yourself retreat that journeys with St. Therese of Lisieux. “The meditations are so beautiful, so that is a nice change,” she notes. Prayer has always been the cornerstone of Sister Rosemary’s life as a Franciscan sister in ministry. For more than 40 years, she brought hundreds of children to God as a religion teacher in rural parishes of Allegany County, New York. From Belmont to Belfast and Batavia “We would take our ‘school bag,’ film projector and big screen from town to town,” she explains. “I think all of our sisters loved traveling to the different places.” Whether teaching faith to children, or connecting with God through prayer ministry, Sister Rosemary joyfully serves as a conduit between God and his people on earth. “I am so grateful to our Lord for blessing me with the opportunity to connect with him so deeply,” she says. “It’s just a grace.”

Keeping Her Congregation Connected


ister Marcella “Marcie” Nachreiner’s first taste of the communications field was as a desktop editor for Western New York Catholic, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Buffalo. Little did she know that it would eventually lead her to her current ministry as head of all computers, software and hardware for the nearly 400 sisters and five regions that make up the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. “Yes, it’s a big jump,” she admits with a laugh. It came when the sisters in western New York were building St. Mary of the Angels region house in Williamsville, near Buffalo in the late 1990s. “One of the things I learned is that once you build a building, an important piece is technology,” she recalls. “I remember the day the builders came in and put a set of blueprints on my table and said, ‘where do you want all the outlets to be?’ And then they said, ‘where do you want all the computers to be?’” No one in the congregation had any kind of IT background — “including me!” Sister Marcie readily concedes. But because she “had dabbled a bit in it” and showed an interest, she took on the responsibility. Working with the crews who installed the building’s technology infrastructure served as her on the job training. “They were very helpful and were willing to let me stand over their shoulder and ask questions,” she says. Today she easily speaks the language of the IT world — switchers and servers, networks and veeam (software to back up data) and drives, email and ‘in the cloud.’ Yet she is humble about her skill. “As IT manager, there’s a misconception that you know everything there is to know about the world of IT,” she says.

p Sister Marcie is delighted to see the progress Sister Myra Richards is making with her computer skills.

“You have to have a degree of technical expertise, but the big role I play is being able to pull together the resources of the individuals that can make it all happen. It’s not that I am the person to actually do it.” Sister Marcie actually does a great deal, however; everything from purchasing computers and tablets to helping sisters access their emails. She believes that working with sisters in groups or oneon-one to ensure that they can use technology to communicate is a vital aspect of her ministry. “We are in a changing world, not only from a world of changing technology but even how we work within the church,” she says. “My sense is that if we are going to be the catalysts for keeping people in the faith, we need to be where the people are. And that’s where people are these days — they’re on computer and Facebook and continued on page 10

WINTER 20 17 9


Instagram and Twitter, so we need to be there as well.” She adds: “The Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities have always been on the cutting edge of being there to meet people’s needs. Technology is just another way for us to do that.”

How does the IT manager for the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities spend her time away from work? Offline, of course! “I like to crochet,” she says. “I make prayer shawls for the residents in the nursing homes where one of our sisters ministers.” She also plays the numbers game Sudoku and is an avid reader — preferably books with pages, though there are times when an electronic reader like a Nook or Kindle comes in handy. “There actually is an app for the daily Office that we pray,” she says. “In the morning, I’ll pick up the e-reader and use that, rather than my book which is in another room. And I can listen to it — it’s really cool!”


Cookies, Conversation and Connecting with Christ


t a stage in life when most people her age have eased into retirement, Sister Jovita Agustin shows no signs of slowing down.

Nearly six decades after answering the call to religious life, Sister Jovita, 75, is still going strong, ministering to a large population of senior adults who live in the Honolulu, Hawaii region of Oahu. As a member of the spiritual care team at St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii, Sister Jovita brings Christ to those whom she serves, whether they are Christian or nonChristian. “By my simple presence I know I am bringing the presence of the Lord to them,” she says. Having previously worked as a teacher and librarian for 40 years in schools in the Dioceses of Syracuse and Honolulu, Sister Jovita embraced the opportunity to serve a new, growing senior population at Hawaii’s only Catholic healthcare system. “I find that they (senior adults) have so much to offer from their life experiences and wisdom,” she says. Waking at 5 a.m. each day, Sister Jovita attends Mass at 7 a.m. Then it’s “breakfast, coffee, I check the email and we’re off,” she says. Sister Jovita ministers at three healthcare system locations. On Mondays and Wednesdays she travels to St. Francis Hospice inpatient facility in Nuuana where she lovingly bakes dozens of delicious cookies for residents, their guests and the staff. As they bake in the oven, their aroma fills the house, bringing smiles and warm memories of the past to the hearts and minds of everyone inside. Their fragrance draws many residents to the kitchen where they share in conversation with Sister Jovita. “Everyone looks forward to her cookies

IP CO O KI ES PO TA TO CH ter Jov ita Ag ust in! Cen ter - Kin dn ess of Sis

Rec ipe fro m Ste lla Ma ris

1 cup bu tte r 1 cup ole o

Ret rea t

1 cup sug ar 3 ½ cup flo ur

2 tsp . van illa ps 1 (3 ½ oz. ) ba g pot ato chi

o wi th su ga r. 1. Cre am bu tte r an d ole ur. 2. Sti r in va nil la an d flo * ba g an d ad d to mi xtu re. in ips ch 3. Cru sh po ta to . eet gr ea sed coo kie sh 4. Dro p by tea sp oon on mi nu tes . 0 ht ly br ow ne d – ab ou t 12 5. Ba ke at 35 0 un til lig few mi nu tes sta le, pu t in ove n for a e ar ips ch to ta po If * No te: ed wi th ste p 3. to cri sp th em , th en pr oce

and the smell of them baking in the oven,” says Sister Patricia Schofield, chaplain at St. Francis Healthcare System. Sister Jovita says she likes to “spice up” her cookie recipes, several of which she acquired from Sisters Tharsilla and John Olivia when she ministered with them at Stella Maris Retreat Center in Skaneateles, New York. She does this by adding a variety of dried fruits and nuts. “Oatmeal raisin cookies are their favorite,” she says. “They’re gone in a day.” On Tuesdays and Thursdays Sister Jovita greets visitors in the lobby of the St. Francis Healthcare System in Liliha. She also brings Communion to patients in the skilled nursing facility at St. Francis Villas. “She has a very gentle way of helping people,” says Sister Patricia. Often times Sister Jovita will meet a family from her homeland in the Philippines and they will share in conversation. On Fridays, she leads a communion service and cares for clients at the Franciscan Adult Day Care Center in Manoa, where she is known as “Sister Amazing Grace,” a title given to her by a client whose favorite hymn is “Amazing Grace.”

p Sister Jovita Agustin

No matter where she is, her bright smile brings the light of Christ to others. “She always has a friendly smile and the appropriate words for those with whom she is interacting,” says Sister Michele McQueeney, chaplain at the St. Francis Healthcare System. Her life sets an example for those with whom she ministers. “She is approachable, thoughtful in her words and actions and we can feel her love for God’s people,” says Patty Martin, vice president of mission and organizational effectiveness at St. Francis. When the time comes to relax, Sister Jovita enjoys watching Hallmark Channel movies with her sisters at the region house in Manoa or visiting with her family on Oahu. On Sundays, she visits the graves of her parents and other relatives, offering prayers and leaving a bouquet of flowers.

WINTER 20 17 11


Sister Maria Salerno: Living Life to the Fullest


ince joining the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities in 1964, Sister Maria Salerno has always had a full and active life as a nurse, primary care nurse practitioner, nursing professor and former member of the congregation’s leadership team.

Two years ago, she celebrated the 50th anniversary of joining the community. And as is obvious in these photos of her working, volunteering, praying and sharing time with her sisters in community, Sister Maria shows no signs of slowing down from a schedule that would leave many exhausted.



“I learned to cook from my Italian father and Polish mother. I like making new recipes and watching people eat and enjoy what I have cooked,” Sister Maria says of the duties she shares with her sisterhousemates. Last Easter, she sculpted butter into the shape of lambs, though she claims “one looked more like a poodle!”

Sister Maria shares a house with Sisters Norise Kaiser and Anne Marie Saphara. They begin each day in prayer together before heading off to their jobs at the congregational offices. “I love praying with the sisters I live with,” says Sister Maria. “I always find a new spiritual message in the readings.”

WORKING the Even though her time is at a premium, Election Day in November 2016 found Sister Maria volunteering at the polls. “It is important for me to be part of the civic community,” she says. “I meet many new people and enjoy helping first time voters. It’s really exciting to see new citizens voting for the first time.”



Several years ago, Sister Maria completed course work in museums and archives and digital preservation at American Public University. She now serves as the congregation’s assistant archivist, reviewing documents and preserving stories of the many contributions the Sisters of St. Francis have made over the past 150 years. “I have always loved history. It’s very rewarding learning about the sisters who went before us. Every day presents another mystery to be solved.”



VOLUNTEERING She volunteers at the Poverello Clinic for the poor and uninsured that the sisters manage in partnership with the Franciscan Church of the Assumption on Syracuse’s north side. “I believe that I was called by God to become a sister who would minister and serve the sick and dying as well as the indigent and needy,” says Sister Maria. “We see people from West Africa, South America, Central America, Afghanistan — the city’s immigrants. The patients give me more than I give them.”

ONLINE Technology makes it possible for Sister Maria to continue her work as an adjunct faculty member with The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She teaches a graduate level course for as many as 20 students from all across the country. “It’s more time-consuming than teaching a course on campus. The students have reading assignments and I prepare PowerPoint presentations with a voiceover that I record for some sessions. They have online discussion groups and I monitor those and respond to any questions that come up. And I conduct virtual office hours where we are face-to-face via Skype,” she says.


WINTER 20 17 13

SERVANT LEADERSHIP: Serving Others with God’s Help


hen Sister Barbara Jean Donovan and five other sisters were installed last September as the new Leadership team for the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, they chose the theme of “servant leadership” to guide their four year term of office.

That phrase was first advanced in 1970 by Robert K. Greenleaf, a longtime director of management development at AT&T. He defined a servant leader as someone who feels naturally p At her installation as general minister of inclined to serve the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, Sister Barbara Jean Donovan others and does so poured water into a bowl to symbolize that she will be a servant leader to the from a leadership congregation. position. While it originated in the secular world, the concept of servant leadership resonates well with Christian teaching — Jesus was a servant leader who washed the feet of his disciples, and St. Francis referred to himself as a servant as well. “We don’t hear about it as much as we do other forms of management,” admits Sister Barbara Jean, general minister for the congregation. “For me,


what it means is that we should think of others, not ourselves and that we should do as Jesus did on Holy Thursday — wash others’ feet and take care of their needs.” As practiced by the present team, servant leadership does involve soliciting input from those most directly impacted by the decisions to be made — the sister-members of the congregation. But it’s far from abdicating all authority to decision-making by popular vote. Neither is it a ‘my way or the highway’ management style. “It’s a matter of listening to other people express their needs rather than seeing the situation through my own needs or wants,” says Sister Barbara Jean. “It’s very difficult and very inappropriate to try and know all the answers.” The foundation of the process is prayer. The leadership team asks God for the wisdom needed to balance what they have heard from the individual sisters with the well-being of the entire community. “Because it is true that as a community, we are very diverse in age, rank and serial number, as I say,” Sister Barbara Jean notes. “We come from different kinds of spirituality, even though we are all Franciscans. We come from different backgrounds and all of this has an impact on us in our decision making. So what the six of us (leadership team members) try to do is put together the best of what we have to offer after listening to community and then hope for the best with God’s help.” Sister Barbara Jean calls the servant leadership model “awesome” because it requires followers to be both generous and humble. “The self that often gets in the way of the words we use and the actions we take goes to the background. We are out there in front for others. That’s what it’s all about.”

Sisters Deliver Small Treats with Great Love


hen Sisters Patricia Fogle, a former school teacher, superintendent and hospital chief executive officer and Alice Halterlein, a former teacher and social worker visit Starbucks in Pittsburgh’s Ross Park Mall twice weekly, they aren’t there to order a pumpkin spice latte or an iced tea. They are there on a mission — to pick up unsold baked goods. They never know what they’ll find there; it could be cranberry orange scones, pumpkin bread, or chocolate chip cookies. What they do know is that when they deliver those treats to local food pantries, homeless shelters, the Evergreen Assisted Living Center in Millvale and the Millvale Library, they bring a little sweetness into the lives of people in need. “Their faces just light up each time we walk in with the pastries,” says Sister Patricia. “It really makes their day.” In addition to the baked goods, Sisters Patricia and Alice share their Franciscan hospitality with all whom they meet.

p Sisters Alice Halterlein and Patricia Fogle

u Sister Alice Halterlein with Denise Baker, an employee at Evergreen Assisted Living Center in Millvale.

WINTER 20 17 15


n the two years since she was appointed vocations minister for the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, Sister Caryn Crook has been contacted by 612 women who requested information about joining the community. Those contacts and the outreach that she and vocation team members conduct have given her considerable insight into what women considering religious life are looking for — as well as what doesn’t worry them.

RELIGIOUS Offers Women a Purpose-Filled Life “I hear a lot of talk that women won’t want to come into a community where most of the sisters are elderly; that we don’t have large ministries for them to become involved with and that financial concerns will discourage them,” she says. “But women considering joining a religious order see something totally different than what we see when we look at our community. They see the peace in our sisters, the wisdom of our senior sisters and they want to tap into that peace and wisdom.”

p Sister Caryn Crook

She tells of a young woman, JoJo who is halfway through her application process. JoJo visited with sisters in Hawaii; the Wartburg, an assisted living facility in Mount Vernon, New York and the regional house in western New York. In each of these houses many of the sisters are past age 70. “She loved being with the older sisters,” says Sister Caryn. “The women talking to us want to serve God and God’s people. And they believe that any issues will work out because they trust that God will lead them to life and joy,” Sister Caryn notes. Sister Caryn relates to women like JoJo because of her own vocation. A wildlife biologist working with New York State, she owned a home and was active in her church — but felt something missing. As she explored life with the Sisters of St. Francis, sisters told her that they generally don’t retire.



LIFE p General Minister Sister Barbara Jean Donovan (r) signs the book that records Sister Reyna’s final profession in the congregation’s history.

“I didn’t plan on retiring anyway, so that wouldn’t stop me from entering,” she recalls. “I just put myself in God’s hands that all would be as it should be.” Sister Caryn estimates that 10 percent of the 612 contacts are viable candidates for our community. Some have fulltime jobs, others part-time employment. “They are women who are not called to married life,” she says. “Some have been married and they’ve had their marriages annulled or are widows. Others have dated and find that is not what they want in their lives.” What they do want, Sister Caryn is discovering, is a community that has life and hope. “They want a life of purpose filled with light, joy and prayer.” And that, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities can offer.

In 2012, Sister Reyna Jesusa Ontón Ñahui left Peru to spend six months getting to know the Sisters of St. Francis in western New York. She returned in December 2016 to become the first sister since 2009 to profess her perpetual vows in the chapel at St. Mary of the Angels region house in Williamsville. In a clear voice she professed the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for life. She then signed her name to the congregation’s book and stood as her sisters blessed her in song. A native of Apurimac, Peru, Sister Reyna is one of eight children in her family. She entered the congregation in 2009 from Lord of Tintay Parish in Tintay, Peru. With a passion for serving the poor and a commitment to protecting the environment, Reyna looks forward to a future filled with hope. “I have no doubt that the grace of God has been my strength on this path of my vocation,” she says. “I feel that God has always been with me, encouraging me and showing me his mercy. God never disappoints.” Sister Reyna will return to Lima to continue her ministries as a certified physical therapy technician working with children who have disabilities and serving as youth minister at the San Miguel Archangel Church in Lima’s San Miguel district. WINTER 20 17 17


he Gingerbread House Preschool and Day Care Center, a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, has earned several accolades in recent months. It was named Syracuse, New York’s “Best Preschool Program” in an annual contest sponsored by the New Times, a weekly Syracuse newspaper. The publication’s readers suggest nominees and select the winners. In addition, Gingerbread was almost flawless in its most recent relicensing review conducted by the New York State Department of Health. The only issue found was minor and had nothing to do with direct services to the infants and toddlers who spend their day at Gingerbread. Gingerbread is also a prime example of how well a ministry can maintain the legacy of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities long after the sisters have turned over operations to lay staff. Early childhood education was a new trend in education in the 1980s when Sister Jane Bourne was teaching preschool in Syracuse and earning 18 FRANCISCAN SPIRIT

her master’s degree in the early childhood field from Scranton University. When she asked if the congregation would be interested in sponsoring a preschool, the sister serving as general superior showed her two houses the community owned and told her to use one or both for the program. “When I looked at the houses, they looked to me like Gingerbread houses. Thus, the name,” Sister Jane says. Since then, the center has grown in size and has moved several times. Lay staff rather than sisters now manage the program and work with the children, but the mission the sisters established remains — encouraging knowledge and understanding through an age appropriate curriculum. That means incorporating counting lessons when putting stars on the Christmas tree or developing motor skills with a game of freeze tag. A state-certified elementary physical education teacher oversees activities. Staff and administration exhibit Franciscan values with children, parents and each other. David Cole, who took over operations as executive director in 2002, advocates for preschool workers and stresses a sense of family among everyone involved with the center. He encourages staff to see themselves

p Through a series of activities directed by Partners in Franciscan Ministries’ board member Dominic Robinson, Gingerbread staff are led to realize that they are the embodiment of the mission and values of both the Gingerbread House and the Sisters of St. Francis.

p At recent awards luncheon, Bobbie Betts, Chris Boysen, Linda Schug and Linda Russo were among the service awardees who were honored by Dave Cole, Gingerbread House director, for their dedication and inspiring care of children. Each has been with Gingerbread House for more than 25 years.

as the embodiment of the center’s core values – excellence, integrity, inclusion and collaboration. In a field where the average annual staff turnover rate is 30 percent according to, four teachers have been with Gingerbread for more than 25 years and another eight have served for more than 20 years. “This is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had because I see that it makes a difference,” said one teacher during a recent in-service day. “Caring for

the infants is life-giving,” said another. “To see them smile, grow and do the simplest things.” Everyone involved with Gingerbread isn’t willing to rest on the recent laurels. Working with Partners In Franciscan Ministries, the organization that ensures that the sisters’ Franciscan values remain in the ministries they founded, Gingerbread’s staff and board of directors recently completed a strategic plan. They also are considering several options for expanding the program.



Is God calling you? We’re here to help you discern.

Sister Caryn Crook, Vocation Minister, 315.751.6819 SERVE GOD | PRAY DEEPLY LIVE IN A SUPPORTIVE COMMUNITY

From the Congregational Archives



he primary role of an archivist is to review documents past and present and determine which need preserving so that the story of a person, organization or religious order can be accurately told. Occasionally, that means the archivist has to play detective and track down the origin of a record or photo. Such was the case for Archivist Charlene Martin and Sister Maria Salerno, assistant archivist for the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. The photo at the right had remained for decades in the archives office, undated and indexed only as “groups of sisters.” Scribbles on the photograph identified the sisters as Sister Norberta, Sister Fulgentia, Sister Christina, Mother Bernardina, Sister Alphonsa, and the two daughters of Mother Mary Francis Bachmann. To re-index the photo by more specific criteria, the archivists needed to solve the mystery of when and why did these sisters gather together? It must have been a momentous occasion, Charlene reasoned, but when, where and what was it? Because most of the sisters in the photo came from the congregation’s western New York region, Charlene turned to Sister Mary Dolores Cook, the western New York region archivist. Sister Mary Dolores provided ministry lists for each of the sisters named in the photo. Charlene looked to see if the sisters shared a ministry location at a certain date. While she didn’t find a common link, Sister Maria did come across a clue – a notation in Sister Robertine Bachmann’s biography that on March 19, 1902, the son of one of our community’s founders, Mother Mary Francis Bachmann, celebrated the first Mass at St. Francis Home in Gardenville, New York (now West Seneca). Reverend Alphonse Bachmann’s sisters, Sisters Robertine and Mary Francis Bachmann, sang the High Mass and Mother Bernardina Dorn, another of our congregation’s three foundresses, traveled from Syracuse to attend. Charlene and Sister Maria wondered –


p From left, standing, Sister Norberta, Sister Robertine (daughter of Mother M. Francis Bachmann), Sister Fulgentia and Sister Christina. From left, seated, Sister Mary Francis (daughter of Mother M. Francis Bachmann), Mother Bernardina and Sister Alphonsa [Gardenville, New York, circa 1901-1902]

could this be the occasion that the photograph captured? A letter in the archives of the Syracuse community seemed to confirm her theory – “Your visit, though it was short, we will not forget,” Sister Maria Laurentia of Gardenville wrote to Mother Bernardina on Sept. 20, 1902. As for the other sisters in the photo, Charlene and Sister Maria believe that Sisters Fulgentia and Alphonsa were Mother Bernardina’s travel companions and that Sisters Christina and Norberta accompanied the Bachmann sisters. “These sisters lived by the instructions of the 1855 Rule, that whenever out on business, they traveled two by two, continued on page 22

WINTER 20 17 21

From the Congregational Archives

u St. Francis Home for the Aged and Infirm at Gardenville, Erie County, New York.

never alone,” Charlene said. “And while we don’t have definitive genealogical evidence, there is a letter to Mother Bernardina from Sister Norberta which she signs, ‘I remain in Christ Your affectionate cousin.’” Sister Maria noted that Sister Fran Gangloff supplied corroborating evidence of the family relationship between Mother Bernardina and Sister Norberta — a house history that states “…Sister Norberta, a cousin of Mother Bernardina traveled to Syracuse (for Mother Bernardina’s funeral in 1908).” “While it was fun to unravel, mysteries like these can be avoided,” Charlene said. “When donating your photos to the congregational archives, just include some information such as who, when, where and why.” She doesn’t recommend writing on the back of the photo, however, as ink or pressure from the pen or pencil damages the photo. “We’re always very grateful for thinking of us when you consider a permanent home for any materials you have that are related to the Sisters of St. Francis,” she says.

To learn more about how you can donate items, contact Charlene Martin at

Special thanks to Sister Dolores Cook for generously sharing her time and resources from the Williamsville Archive, to Sister Fran Gangloff for her assistance and the informative “Canticle of Welcome,” and for Archival Assistant Sister Maria Salerno’s tireless efforts in researching a hunch.


PRAYER LEADS to SERVING OTHERS A Reflection by Sister Marianne Ferguson

P p Sister Reyna Ontón Ñahui is surrounded by the love of God and her sisters in community during a December 2016 liturgy celebrating her profession of perpetual vows. By praying together, sisters strengthen their bonds with one another and their devotion to building the Kingdom of God here on earth.

As they continued their journey, Jesus and His disciples entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister, named Mary, who sat beside the Lord at His feet, listening to Him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do all the serving? Tell her to help me. The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need for only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” Luke 10:38-42

icture a living room, filled with people all sitting on the floor in the stance of disciples, listening to a man who is speaking and explaining the Word of God. Martha is missing out on this great opportunity because she is busy preparing a meal for the guests while her sister Mary sits at the feet of Jesus. Perhaps we have had a similar experience when the one on whom we counted to help us would rather stay with the company to enjoy their conversation. Jesus calls her by name twice, which indicates a person is in a close relationship with God, for example Simon, Simon, Nathan, Nathan. The focus of Luke’s entire gospel is on the spread of the Kingdom of God and he used these two women to show how it could be accomplished. This story is located at the central climax of his gospel with the Good Samaritan story of the man who saved the life of the victim of robbers coming before it, followed by Jesus teaching the disciples how to pray the Our Father. One stressed service and the other prayer. Martha and Mary are the models of the way to further the Kingdom of God. One would expect the natural outcome of prayer, which is an expression of our relation to God, to overflow into service of others. It is sometimes helpful for us to know that we have the assistance of the supernatural when trying to accomplish difficult tasks. Prayer also helps us to grow in self knowledge when we try to discern the motives for our actions. So let us remember the example of Martha and Mary as we pray and try to engage in selfless service to others.

WINTER 20 17 23

SISTER COLEMAN CONROY: A Pioneer in Christian Housing


ifty years ago, Sisters Coleman Conroy and Veronica Marie Phillips, along with Rev. Paul Kuppe, OFM Cap, dreamt of providing affordable housing to Pittsburgh’s senior adults who could no longer afford to keep their homes. Far more than a place where the elderly could eat and sleep, they envisioned an apartment complex where seniors could enjoy an independent lifestyle in a safe and family environment; a community within a building that would keep people in their neighborhoods, offer internal support groups and still allow residents the privacy of their own apartments. It was an innovative concept.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Saint Augustine Plaza in the Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, an enduring testament to the Franciscan commitment to helping the poor. This high-rise at 36th Street was the first of two dozen to come from Christian Housing Inc., the non-profit organization that Sisters Coleman and Veronica Marie, Father Paul and laymen Frank and Edward Schneider formed in 1972 to bring their bold model to life. p Sisters Coleman Conroy and Veronica Marie Phillips at St. Augustine Plaza in Lawrenceville.

The project stemmed from information that Sister Coleman and several other women religious gathered during a census of Lawrenceville. It showed that services for the elderly were woefully inadequate — many seniors were incapacitated, trapped in multi-story houses with upstairs bedrooms and first-floor bathrooms and without the financial means to maintain the homes. Then Sister Coleman, accompanied by Sister Veronica Marie, spent a month at a public housing facility in Colorado. They returned determined to include balconies, a recreational facility and an on-site manager in any housing they were able to develop. 24 FRANCISCAN SPIRIT

p Pittsburgh Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney and KDKA-TV Sports Anchor Bob Pompeani present the John McGrady Award to Sister Coleman Conroy on behalf of The Catholic Youth Association of Pittsburgh (CYA). Sister Coleman was honored by CYA in 2007 for her more than 30 years of leadership with Christian Housing.

Sisters Coleman and Veronica Marie continued to teach at Lawrenceville Catholic High School during the early stages of the project. Frank Schneider provided seed money; Father Paul wrote a successful grant for $100,000 from the state. The Capuchins donated land for the building. By the time it was completed, St. Augustine Plaza cost $2.2 million. Sister Coleman took over operations when Father Paul was transferred to Baltimore. With her understanding of business, Father Paul said she was a capable administrator, perfectly complemented by Sister Veronica Marie’s social management skills. Their hands-on management style built a sense of community among the residents, whose every need was addressed by the sisters. Father Paul John Bates, an attorney with Christian Housing at its start, credits Sister Coleman as the head and brains of Christian Housing, the individual who ran the housing operation almost from its conception.

p Sister Coleman Conroy, top photo, and then-Pittsburgh Mayor Pete Flaherty, bottom photo, participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for St. Augustine Plaza in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood, circa 1977.

Over the years, Saint Augustine Plaza was joined by more than two dozen other housing apartments for the elderly; thousands of seniors have called these apartments home, thanks to the dedication of Sister Coleman Conroy, truly “the pioneer of Christian Housing, Inc.”

WINTER 20 17 25

Mission Advancement

GIVE US this DAY Dear Friends, When Sister Joanne Gangloff speaks about the orphans and destitute families she serves daily at the Timau Catholic Mission in Kenya, her passion for her ministry is palpable. The same is true of Sister Margaret Patrick Fay, who spearheads Camp Alverna day camps for inner city youth in Syracuse, New York. Or Sister Ann Helene Koenig, a pastoral care minister in nursing homes throughout western New York. Or Sisters Elisa Bonano and Ann Bremmer, pastoral associates in Pittsburgh area Catholic parishes. Or Sister Theresa Ruth who, at age 90, dedicates herself to prayer for all those in need. The same passion is evident in each and every one of our sisters who, according to their current abilities and talents, seek to make a difference each day. Frankly, the same is true of our wonderful donors. I am always amazed at the generosity of spirit exhibited by the many friends and benefactors of our community. I am struck by the love that I hear in their voices when they speak of how our sisters have impacted their lives – as teachers, nurses, trusted friends, or through the power of prayer. Every day brings examples of the impact your gifts make in the lives of our sisters and the people they serve through our ministries. It can be seen in gifts large and small that enable us to care for our aged and infirm sisters with dignity. Or grants that fund special needs projects, such as the installation of a nurse call system in our Mount Alvernia health care area. It’s in the kindness of those who make the sisters a beneficiary in their wills, so there will be funds in the future for the sisters to carry forward our Franciscan spirit. We are humbled and grateful to friends and supporters like you who support our mission. Without you and God’s providence, we would not be able to do the work we do. Each day, like you, we pray the Lord to “give us this day our daily bread.” Your ongoing kindness and support is manna from heaven. And in our prayers, we give thanks for your goodness and generosity. Blessings,

Sister Donna Zwigart 26 FRANCISCAN SPIRIT


Honor Their Legacy with One of Your Own


ift planning is an opportunity to meet your charitable goals through your estate — while helping ensure that the sisters can meet opportunities and challenges of the future. You can make a gift from your estate through your will or trust. You can also use life insurance or gifts from your retirement plan during your lifetime and take advantage of income tax benefits. JOIN THE LEGACY CIRCLE When you remember the sisters through your gift of estate or retirement assets, you will be recognized as a member of the sisters’ Legacy Circle. Members receive a certificate honoring their commitment and are recognized at special events held throughout the year.

of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities will honor their legacy of service while securing its bright future. By establishing your own personal legacy, you can make possible vital support for any number of priorities and initiatives — such as vocations, retirement care, program and mission support. HOW DO I BECOME A MEMBER? Every gift — large or small — is important. You don’t have to be wealthy to make a significant gift. Thoughtful gift planning offers many types of charitable gift arrangements that can benefit you, your family, and our sisters. Virtually all assets can be given, including cash and securities. You can also designate a specific dollar amount or percentage of your overall estate. Regardless of the method you choose, you can rest assured that your generosity will be felt for years to come.

If our sisters have ever touched your life, you know their impact. And your planned gift to the Sisters

For more information about gift planning, please visit

WINTER 20 17 27

Mission Advancement

t Sister Coleman Conroy, Patrick Meehan, Eileen Drake, Sisters Patricia O’Donnell and Bernadette Schaad

We Give Thanks And Remember PATRICK MEEHAN 1936 - 2016


atrick F. Meehan’s connection to the Sisters of St. Francis as donor, sponsor and friend can be traced to his childhood as a student of our sisters at Corpus Christi School in Pittsburgh’s east end. Pat’s former teachers include Sister Marie Therese Imhoff and our late Sister Norbertine, his favorite teacher because of how much she encouraged him in school. Pat’s career also linked him to our sisters; he worked at Heppenstall Steel Mill in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh with both Sister Coleman Conroy’s and Sister Kathleen Adamski’s fathers. Growing up, Sister Kathleen knew the Meehans quite well. Her family never had a car, and Pat drove her dad to work if they were on the same shift. Pat fondly remembered that Sister Kathleen was a good ball player when she was younger. A ball player himself, Pat often played with Sister Caroline Glatz’s brothers.


Pat recognized how much the sisters gave to their students and their communities, and how much they still continue to give. It was this dedication to service that motivated Pat’s giving. He sponsored our annual golf tournament fundraisers and the galas that raised funds for our Change A Heart Franciscan Volunteer Program. His generous support helped the sisters install a new elevator at their Mount Alvernia home in Millvale. Pat also helped to support the care of our retired sisters who have given their lives in service to others. And he supported our sisters because he knew how much the sisters appreciated his support. To show their gratitude, the sisters hosted a thank you dinner for Pat and his dear friend Eileen Drake earlier this year. Pat remarked afterwards, “Just wanted to tell you how wonderful the dinner was. Everything was great beginning with opening prayer. I am so happy to be able to help and know how much it is appreciated. Love to all.”

p Patrick Meehan, center, with George Soilis and Tim Conboy at the Sisters of St. Francis 2016 golf tournament.

Sister Patricia O’Donnell, regional minister for the Sisters of St. Francis, met Pat Meehan at the golf tournament, just days before he passed away. “I believe that Pat Meehan who was so generous, not only to the sisters, but to so many others as well, had to be truly a thankful person,” she says. “He came across as being humble, he spoke simply, was easy to be around and was gracious. On the occasions he was here with us, one couldn’t help but admire his simplicity, his quiet way of sharing – so much so, that one was inspired to be just as generous with whatever gifts, talents, or even wealth that one had.” Thank you, Pat. May you rest in God’s peace.


Our Adopt A Sister program is a unique personalized response to those who hunger to have someone praying for them as they go through a divorce, endure a battle with disease, or are in the midst of a trying situation. It connects you with a specific sister who remains in a prayerful relationship with you. For more information, visit

WINTER 20 17 29

Become a

Franciscan Associate The Franciscan Associate program is an engaging way for women and men to pray, grow, serve and share in the mission and charism of the Sisters of St. Francis while maintaining their individual lifestyles. Learn more and apply at become-an-associate


t Sister Jean Thompsan and Father John Leising share in conversation.




ranciscan Associates of the Sisters of St. Francis come from all walks of life — single and married, women and men, employed and retired. Now the congregation has been doubly blessed by having a diocesan priest as an associate. Rev. John Leising presently serves as chaplain for our sisters at St. Mary of the Angels, the western New York regional house, and has a long history with our sisters. He fondly remembers as a child visiting his two aunts, Sisters Regina and Lucille Marie Leising. When he was a seminarian he also visited Sister Beatrice Leising, his sister. Through the years he has ministered in parishes where our sisters ministered as teachers. Father John felt called to explore the possibility of becoming an associate after talking with some good friends from Kentucky who had become associates of the Clinton Franciscans. Their wonderful experiences led him to ask his sister about the associate program of the Sisters of St. Francis. Always fond of St. Francis’ message of peace and care for the earth, Father John read through the associate brochure and soon applied as a candidate. He and two other applicants faithfully attended monthly classes, fulfilled the requirements and made their commitment to live their lives with a Franciscan spirit. As an associate, Father John feels that he has deepened his spirituality and knowledge of Francis and the Franciscan order. He beams with joy now that he can say to the sisters “We Franciscans” praise God for the beauty of creation.

In Prayerful Memory

Sister Barbara Kardos

Sister Rosita Wellinger

October 21, 1921 – August 26, 2016

February 23, 1925 – November 10, 2016

Teacher, principal, congregational ministry

Teacher, hospital administrator Millvale, Pennsylvania

Syracuse, New York

Sister Catherine Thomson

Sister M. Bernadine Scott

April 13, 1913 – September 12, 2016

February 8, 1937 – November 19, 2016


Administrative assistant

Millvale, Pennsylvania

Peekskill, New York

Sister Gwendolyn Larkins

Sister Marie Patrice Murphy

November 10, 1926 – October 5, 2016

September 10, 1921 - November 29, 2016

Teacher, hospitality minister

Teacher, librarian, retreat director

Syracuse, New York

Mount Vernon, New York

To read the full text celebrating the life and legacy of a particular sister, please visit If you do not have Internet access, send your request with a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the editorial office.

WINTER 20 17 31

WHAT OUR READERS ARE SAYING Have you been inspired by one of our stories? We invite you to share that experience with us.

n c is c a n Dear Fra

Franciscan VOLUME 5 • FALL 2016

Guides on the

Path of Change A PublicAtion of the SiSterS of St. frAnciS of the neumAnn communitieS

t Sister Anne Marie Saphara shares her artistic skills with the congregation as a graphic designer and her personal experience as a volunteer.

p A crew from the Syracuse, New York Rescue Mission packs up some of the donated items.

most memorable experiences , one that took place during the estate sale at Stella Maris. “The elevator had stopped working and I was trapped there. Of all the things that could have been with me, I was there with a life-size statue of Jesus. It didn’t seem to be a coincidence! I looked at the statue and thought, ‘What are you trying to tell me?’” When the elevator door opened, Martha says she felt that the message was to “let go and let God.” “I’d like to think this was a sign of God’s blessing on this particular transition,” Martha says.


eparation and divorce are among life’s most stressful transitioning events. Not only do they affect the individuals in the marriage, they also impact children, extended family and friends and often, personal finances. Sister Anne Marie Saphara

knows that firsthand.

Before becoming a Sister of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, she had been married, divorced, raised her son on her own and then had her marriage annulled in preparation for entering the community. In looking for a ministry to supplement her work as a graphic designer for the congregatio n, she contacted Deacon Dean Brainard, director of the separation and divorce program for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, New York. “In my email I said that I had no background in sociology or psychology or counseling, but that I wanted to help in any way I could,” Sister Anne Marie relates. That email was an answer to Deacon Dean’s prayers — literally. A staffing change had left Dean in need of additional support. “I was at Alverna Heights, (spiritual retreat center operated by the sisters in Fayetteville , New York) walking through the woods there and praying that I could get some help.” The next morning, Dean said he received Sister Anne Marie’s email. “Sister Anne Marie came to us through divine intervention. She’s truly a gift,” he says.


Sister’s Own Experience

helPs those in marriage transition In addition to using her graphic talent and marketing skills to help spread the word about the diocesan programs to help people deal with the pain of ending a marriage, Sister Anne Marie serves on the committee that plans an annual retreat weekend. Sessions deal with a range of issues such as finances, grief, single parenting and exploring annulment. Her real gift, however, may be in her understanding of the transitions that group members face. “Her experience with separation and divorce gives her a sensitivity to what these people are going through. She’s compassion ate, more present because she can relate directly to their pain, their confusion and their grief. And she does so without judgment because she’s also walked that path,” says Deacon Dean, who also has first-hand knowledge of divorce.

aff, S p ir it S t

S p ir it r a n c is c a n F r u o y w the in g a r n in g h o yed read le jo ; n s e r a e e v y rful I ha the past y wonde n r a e m v o in e m a g a z in hed out r t u n it y has reac the oppo y e it k n a u t m e in o t com struck m wanted t o a ls h a t I le . ic ways r an art k you fo n a h t o t al way. a person was an t e d it io n s e t and her la e in t h Saphara d ie e r d a lu c M n e I a m e ly is t e r A n n s it io n s , n S n a r y b t e le g a r t ic h m a r r ia rced e n t w it a n d d iv o d e t ware a r in v o lv e m a was una or sep f I y , r c t li is o d Cath t h e m in and am a d iv o r c e s A . s c m in is t r y li o is h t Cath d a h o r t u n it y is a n o p p e church e r e h t that th e x p lo r e at h o li c s t o o see th t t a l C u f d e e t c or r t ic le gra h. The a o t h e r d iv c r d u n h a c e e for m h in t h in g . is s u e s w it h it a f r e n li g h t e n u o d n a l u y h e lp f w h ic h was ver w a y s in e h t g in ll . ar out to a ou for sh h y c a k e n r a h o A g a in t t in u e s t n it y c o n u m m o c the h, a n d f a it n io t ia c e In appr r lo c k ney-She e e K a ic Mon

“People are surprised when they learn that I’m a sister, but then they become very comfortable with me,” she says, noting that they have no problem calling her sister even as they talk about her divorce. At the annual fall retreat, Sister Anne Marie will share with the group all the details of her story. “Everyone’s story is unique to their situation but everyone feels the pain and grief,” she says. And she will share with them perhaps the hardest lesson she learned during this one of her many life transitions. “A lot of people feel guilty about their divorces. The hardest thing for me after my divorce was to forgive myself,” she says. “I tell everyone what I had to learn. You have to forgive yourself.”

As a woman religious, Sister Anne Marie also shows people that there is still a place in the Catholic Church for people who are separated and divorced.

FALL 2016 17

Visit to read this or any previous issues of Franciscan Spirit.


Upcoming Events



17 – 18 Flea Market

15 ­ Burgers, Brews & Blues

Scotus Hall at Mount Alvernia Millvale, Pennsylvania

St. Mary of the Angels Williamsville, New York

9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

5 – 9 p.m.

Proceeds benefit Mount Alvernia Day Care and Learning Center, a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.

Contact: Sister Karen Krebs 412.821.4302

Enjoy a lively social hour and BBQ dinner, followed by the acclaimed music of Buffalo Hall of Fame jazz & blues vocalist Janice Mitchell, accompanied by the Jim Beishline Trio.

Tickets $50 per person.

Contact: Cynthia Munschauer 716.632.2155, ext. 687


Food & Wine Tasting

9 15th Annual Food & Wine Tasting

St. Mary of the Angels Williamsville, New York

5 – 7 p.m.

This 15 annual event includes the ever popular “Nun-better” Bake Sale, silent and live auctions, entertainment and more.


26 “Eat Drink Pray” Food & Wine Tasting Celebration

Franciscan Villa Syracuse, New York

6 – 8 p.m.

Join the Sisters of St. Francis for an evening of culinary delights and fine wines. You’ll also enjoy live entertainment and a bountiful silent auction featuring gift baskets, restaurant certificates, collectibles, and other great goodies.

Tickets: $50 per person

Contact: Roxanne Sopchak 315.634.7026


Tickets: $50 per person

Contact: Cynthia Munschauer 716.632.2155, ext. 687


SEPTEMBER 18 ­ Fairway to Heaven Golf Tournament

Cavalry Club Manlius, New York

Enjoy a day of good golf, good times and good deeds – all in support of the retirement needs and community care of our sisters.

Contact: Roxanne Sopchak 315.634.7026

12 Sisters of St. Francis Golf Tournament

Longue Vue Club Verona, Pennsylvania

Your day on the links benefits the mission and ministries of our sisters.

Contact: Michelle Basista 412.821.2200, ext. 276

WINTER 20 17 33

CONNECT WITH US ON SOCIAL MEDIA Pope Francis reminds us that social networks are “a gift from God.” Through the use of these networks, we’ve had a wonderful opportunity to deepen our relationships with so many, and we’ve also been blessed with many new friendships.

WE INVITE YOU TO CONNECT WITH US ONLINE. SOSFNeumannCommunities @OSF_sisters SOSFNC sisters_of_saint_francis SOSFNC

Here are a few comments from our posts about Sister Reyna Jesusa Ontón Ñahui’s final profession.

“ ” “ ” “




Franciscan Spirit - A Day in the Life of a Franciscan Sister, Vol. 5.1  

On the cover: Sister Mary Anne Maceda helps children grow in faith at St. Teresa of Avila Church in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you