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“May the coming year be for all of us a year of grace in the truest sense of the word.” - Words of Mother Frances to Sister Vincentia Maubach, January, 1874
What an incredible year 2009 has been for us as a Congregation!
With God’s abiding grace, may we rekindle the flame of our healing charism and be peace for our world and one another.
The Closing Session of the Diocesan Inquiry for the Cause of Canonization of Blessed Frances Schervier was celebrated 242 days after the Opening Session with Solemn Vespers. As the Sisters, Tribunal, Brothers, Associates and friends gathered in St. Clare Convent Chapel there was an air of anticipation. Our faces reflected the deep joy that was contained in our hearts. We were grateful to be celebrating this event on the actual feast day of our Mother Frances.
After the procession with the Vigil Candle, Sr. Tiziana Merletti, Congregational Minister, welcomed each and every person. Her face glowed with the joy of this moment. She thanked the Tribunal for their conscientious work. She informed us that Sr. Mary Jacinta Doyle would be leaving on December 15th to take the sealed documents to the Vatican. She reminded us that during this season of Advent waiting that the next step would be to wait for the results -- and only God knew when the answer would come.
Gospel Letter from Blessed Frances
Brother William Anuszkiewicz, CFP, read Matthew 25:35-36, 40. This passage begins with “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink…” This was most appropriate since Mother Frances and the early Sisters ministered in a soup kitchen. It was also fitting since our Sisters in the Philippines opened a soup kitchen today. They served over 80 adults and children, some of whom were physically challenged.
Archbishop Pilarczyk reflected with us what this process of inquiry has taught us. He shared that from every act and experience we learn something. This process of inquiry taught us that it takes a long time and it never goes as you expect. Sometimes we had to slow the process down and other times speed it up. We do not know the results but the “Lord is in it somewhere. The Lord has to finish it.” So tonight we give thanks to God for coming this far.
Diocesan Inquiry Closing Session . . . Rich in Protocol and Ritual
There is a very precise protocol to follow, which has been outlined by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Becoming a saint is a very long and complicated process, which includes various phases of gathering evidence to prove a life of heroic sanctity. All candidates to sainthood go through the same process. As one who lived through this reality, Sr. Mary Jacinta remarked, “I never realized all of the details and protocols that needed to be followed in the process and in the documents! Through this process I have grown much more aware of the powerful presence of Mother Frances in our world, in our city and very specially, in my own life. I thank God and the Congregation for this great privilege – a labor of love.”
For the last 242 days the Tribunal and Dr. Paul Sweeney, Medical Expert, have labored to gather the data and to prepare the documents in the correct format. There are three sets of documents, which were signed and notarized. These documents were placed in three separate boxes and sealed. Two of the boxes will be carried by Sr. Jacinta to Rome. The third box will reside in the Archives of the Archdiocese.
Faithful Voices and Tender Moments
Our closing hymn was Alma Redemptoris Mater. Sr. Joanne Schuster, U.S. Area Councilor, presented San Damiano crucifixes to all the members of the Tribunal as a token of our appreciation for their efforts in this process. The Sisters concluded by singing the Blessing of St. Clare for them. As we left the chapel there was a special display of items from the Archives. Unique items included knee warmers, nightcap, knit undergarment and knit petticoat of Mother Frances. Mary Milburn, our Archivist, commented that this was a highlight of her career to be involved and engaged in supporting the process. Mary stated, “Mother Frances speaks to me. She made a difference. I identify with her charism of seeing Jesus in the poor.”
Mother Frances provided a “minor or many would say major miracle” by assuring that the reception would be held in the Centennial Barn. This was the first major event and the Barn looked magnificent with the Christmas tree, Manger and poinsettia plants. The level of joy was soaring to the rafters.
As I moved among the people present I asked the questions what was it like for you? How has Mother Frances impacted you?
Sr. Mary David Mulroy commented on the ceremony with great enthusiasm “I loved it. Felt like I was in heaven. Great! Solemn!”
Sr. Clarita Frericks was observed to be floating on ‘Cloud 9.’ She commented: “It was an awesome experience. I could feel the presence of all the Sisters who have gone before us and who are alive today. I felt the presence of our German sisters. Mother Frances is a model for me of love and generosity. She cared for all people….she was a living example and she inspires me to be a living example to others.”
Mr. Tom Siemers, who was miraculously cured through the intercession of Mother Frances, reported that the ceremony was fantastic. He feels blessed and is a “very fortunate guy.”
Associates Joan Steiner and Molly Johantgen were very excited and honored to be there. They noted that it was an historic event. “How often do we get to witness the process for the canonization of someone we know and love?”
Brother Joel Stern, CFP, commented that it was nice to be included. He spoke of his major health crisis earlier in the year, which occurred in Germany. Mother Frances was a strong presence and comfort to him.
Dr. Paul Sweeney commented that the process was a way for him to give back to the Church. “It was an interesting process and I learned a lot.” He found it significant that each person he interviewed had a different perspective on the miracle yet there was a consistency in the message that was received. When asked if he would go to Rome when the canonization occurs, he responded “YES!”
Rev. Christopher Armstrong, Episcopal Delegate, came to know Mother Frances more through this process. He commented that he had seen her photo and noted how the “eyes” follow you. He found the whole process fascinating.
Sr. Christine Edwards wrote a thoughtful response: “Mother Frances is great -- because of her littleness and complete surrender to God! Especially chosen, anointed and empowered by God, she followed the inspirations of the Holy Spirit fully. Her ardent love for Jesus found expression in her love for all -- including the prostitutes, the poor and the sick. As she is about to be canonized, it is my prayer that we as her spiritual daughters might likewise fully respond to her call to be saints.”
I, myself, recall Gertrude Frank’s words to Frances: “I was also shown a small tender virgin with a palm in her hand. Behind her followed a long line of virgins and I could not see the end of the line but all had palms in their hands.” I also recall Frances’ words to Gertrude: “So tell Him that I am his servant and that I am ready for anything that he asks of me.”
May we all be faithful in living our charism of healing…being a sign of hope for a broken and wounded world.
- Sister June Casterton, SFP
[In gratitude . . . Photos by Sr. Arlene McGowan, Sr. Mary Madonna Hoying, and Sr. Paula Huecker.]
Copyright 2009 Franciscan Sisters of the Poor