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Celebrating the Feast of St. Francis And the Commitment/Devotional Recommitment
of the Associates of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago
October 7th, 2018 - by Mary Mosser

On October 7st, we came together for Mass to celebrate the Commitment of a new Associate and the Devotional Recommitment of the Associates of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago. Mass was celebrated in the Sacred Heart Chapel at the Motherhouse of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago. Our celebrant was Fr. Paul Sims, CR.

The first reading at Mass was from Genesis 2: 18 -24. In this reading we heard how God didn’t want Adam to be alone so He set out to make a suitable companion for Adam. First, God created animals and birds, but none of them made a good partner for Adam. Then, God put Adam into a deep sleep, took out one of his ribs and formed the rib into a woman. In Eve, Adam found his mate.

We all need other people in our lives. This reading reminded me of the community I found in the Associates of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago. The Associates meet monthly during the year to listen to a speaker or to have a day of reflection. We grow together in faith as a community.

Following Fr. Paul's homily, our new Associate was called to the front of chapel and made his commitment as an Associate of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago. His pin was blessed and presented to him and he signed his Associate agreement. The current Associates were then called to the front of chapel where we renewed our commitment as a group. Afterw
ards, the Sisters promised the support of their prayers and community to all of the Associates.

After Mass, we joined the Sisters for lunch in Marian Hall. We received a gift from the Sisters in honor of the feast of St. Francis. Our gift was a statue of a bird perched on top of a small group of flowers. There were four Sisters and three other Associates at my table in Marian Hall. Each Associate at my table received a different bird statue.

When one of the other Associates saw her gift, it reminded her of a bird she had when she was little and she shared a story with us. Now, when I look at my bird, I remember recommitment day and her story. The joy of that day comes back to me and I am reminded how blessed I am to belong to this community of faith as an Associate of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago.

Commitment as Faithfulness - Associate Day of Reflection
August 25, 2018 - Presenter: Sister Janice Keenan, OSF

After Mass, we met in Marian Hall for our Associate Day of Reflection. Our day started with an opening prayer thanking God for the gifts of life, love and each other. We prayed that we would recognize His presence in each person gathered for our reflection day. We also prayed that we would share our gifts with them as we reflected on what commitment meant to us.

We listened to two readings that spoke about God’s faithfulness. The first was a reading from Lamentations 3:21-26 which speaks about how God is faithful to us through His steadfast love and His endless mercies.

The second reading was to prepare us for our exercise. It was adapted from The Breath of Love by Michel Quoist. We were to listen carefully to that reading and think how we could draw a picture showing God’s faithfulness in our lives and our faithfulness to Him. There were several images we could use from the reading, including a garment, a voyage, a mountain or a river.

One image that caught my attention from the reading spoke about faithfulness being a series of responses. Faithfulness is not a one-time choice. Faithfulness comes from each time we say “yes” to loving God or loving our neighbor.

I started drawing a road with the intent of showing events where I had answered major questions in my life. After I had a portion of my road drawn, people who helped me to answer those questions popped into my thoughts. At that point, I wrote on the corner of my paper - God sends people to guide - and continued drawing my road. I don’t remember asking for God’s help when I was looking for answers. However, God was faithful as He helped me along my journey. He always sent someone to guide me or something to connect me to the next step.

There were several parts of our reflection day that spoke about our faithfulness to God. The Gospel reading we listened to was a familiar one from Mark 12: 28-34 where one of the Scribes asked Jesus which of God’s commandments is the most important. In this Gospel, Jesus tells us that nothing is more important than loving God and loving our neighbors.

Commitment is faithfulness to love. In the responses after the reading from Lamentations, we listened to the ways God shows His love to us and also how we are called to do our part. Some of the responses are below:

Only God gives love - but we are called to care for each other.
Only God can bring happiness - but we are invited to be joyful.
Only God makes miracles happen - but we must offer our loaves and fishes.
Only God can do the impossible - but it’s up to us to do what is possible.

Sr. Janice gave us a handout with some thoughts on how we can respond knowing there could be negative results. Even though there may be undesirable consequences attached to our words and actions, we can show our faithfulness to God by being kind, loving and forgiving to the people around us.

The title on this part of the handout was "Do It Anyway". The version we read was found written on the wall of Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta. Several of the thoughts from the handout are below:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

This Day of Reflection prepares us to renew our commitment as Associates of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago in October. One way we show faithfulness to this commitment is by our presence at Associate group days. There are many ways we see God’s faithfulness in our daily lives. The more difficult question for me was - how am I faithful to God? How can I show my commitment to faithfulness in my love of God and neighbor? Thanks to Sr. Janice’s presentation, I have some ideas for reflection.

FSC Associate Group Day - Beyond Assisi

Sr. Joanne Schatzlein, OSF - Saturday June 23, 2018

After Mass, we met in Marian Hall for our Associate group day. Beyond Assisi is an actual pilgrimage where the pilgrims visit seldom seen Franciscan sites. This pilgrimage was created in 2011 by Andre Cirino, OFM and Murray Bodo, OFM. It is the response to alumni pilgrims asking for "more" of Saints Francis and Clare. Sr. Joanne is one of the pilgrim leaders for this trip in May 2019.

Our group of Associates is probably not going to make it to Italy next year. However, we got a taste of what the pilgrims see on their journey through the wonders of modern technology in Sr. Joanne’s Power Point presentation. Many of the pilgrimage sites and stories from Sr. Joanne’s presentation remained in my thoughts from our group day. Several of my favorite sites are below.

Tagliacozzo: Thomas of Celano was the first biographer of Francis. The remains of Blessed Thomas of Celano are at the Church of St. Francis in Tagliacozzo. People come to pray by Thomas’ remains because they want to be close to their Saint.

Poggio Bustone: One thing that stood out from Poggio Bustone was that St. Francis of Assisi greeted villagers by saying "buon giorno buona gente" (good morning good people). Francis recognized that the body is good and it is a vessel of grace. Prior to Francis, people were taught to believe that only the soul is good.

Greccio: At Greccio, Francis invited people into church for Mass. Previously, the people stood outside of the church where they could hear Mass and maybe see the Consecration through a window or other opening.

At Greccio, the first re-enactment of the Nativity by Francis brought the story of Jesus' birth to life. In Italy, Christmas Day is celebrated by visiting créches. These créches include the village around the manager scene. It is understood from these créches that God is always with us and He comes to where we live.

La Verna: Francis composed The Praises of God on Mount La Verna. At Mount La Verna, Brother Leo was cold and depressed. The Praises of God were written on a parchment which also contains the blessing that Francis gave to Brother Leo when he realized what Leo was going through.

A Blessing for Brother Leo
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May He show His face to you and be merciful to you.
May He turn His countenance to you and give you peace.
May the Lord bless you, Brother Leo.

Looking at the Praises of God, it seems possible that Brother Leo was in Francis’ thoughts when he wrote them. Several of the Praises of God are about comfort and help.

...You are strong.
... You are security. You are rest.
...You are the protector.
...You are strength. You are refreshment. You are our hope.

Gubbio: A well-known stories about St. Francis is when he tamed the wolf that was terrorizing the people of Gubbio. While Francis was staying in Gubbio, he learned of a wolf that had not only killed animals, but had killed people as well. The villagers were afraid to leave the city walls.

Francis went out to meet the wolf. Francis told the wolf that he was in a lot of trouble for his actions. Francis learned that the wolf has hungry and was killing to keep himself fed. Francis got the wolf to promise that if he were fed, he wouldn’t bother the people of Gubbio or their animals again. The people of Gubbio promised that the wolf would not go hungry. The people and the wolf kept their promises and the wolf was able to move about Gubbio freely without being harmed.

At one point during the presentation, Sr. Joanne asked the question - how do we take this home? The stories that caught my attention from Sr. Joanne’s presentation were stories about relationship with God and with the world around us. From Poggio Bustone, Francis’ greeting reminds me that we need to see ourselves and others as good people. That same sentiment is echoed in Greccio where Francis invited the people into the church for Mass. At La Verna, Francis teaches that even when there is suffering in our lives, we can praise God. At Gubbio, Francis made time to understand both sides of the story and found a peaceful solution for the wolf and the villagers.

FSC Associate Group Day - Saturday May 19th
Prayer: Being in Relationship with the Divine

Presenter: Sr. Mary Barbara Hassler OSF
By Mary Mosser, FSC Associate

After Mass, we met in Marian Hall for our Associate group day. To begin the presentation, Sr. Mary Barbara asked a couple of questions. The first question was - What is prayer? The answer that came to mind was that prayer is communication between us and God. Something I learned from Sister’s presentation was that the inspiration to pray comes from God. Since God is always with us, we pray to bring Him into relationship with us.

The next question was - Who is God to me? The answer that popped into my head was “Father”. One of the responses from a fellow Associate remained in my thoughts. She sees God as a “tough love” type of Father. God loves us and forgives us even when we make the same mistake over and over, but reminds us that we know how to follow His commandments.

As with all relationships, we need to put effort into our prayer life. Making time for daily prayer is essential. Sr. Mary Barbara recommended turning off distractions before we pray. Sister also encouraged us to create a space for prayer. A prayer space is a room or area in a room set aside for one to reflect and pray. This space can be personalized with things that encourage one to pray. Some possible items for a prayer space are a Bible, a favorite statue or picture of a Saint, a rosary and seasonal items from nature like flowers.

We can look to Jesus as a model of how to pray. Sr. Mary Barbara gave us several examples from Scripture. Two of the examples showed how Jesus felt about praying in solitude. In Matthew 6:6, Jesus encourages us to go to our inner room and to pray to our Father in secret. In Matthew 14:23, Jesus went up on a mountain by himself to pray.

As part of the group day, there were several meditations. One was a two-minute meditation exercise where Sr. Mary Barbara touched on reasons to be thankful for different parts of our bodies. Afterwards, I felt more grateful for things I hadn’t thought of. One example that stayed with me was being thankful for arms to hug the people I love.

Another meditation was a guided meditation following along with a CD. The meditation was on the Scripture story about the Potter and the clay from Jeremiah 18: 1-6. First, the CD guided us to visualize ourselves on our way to the Potter’s house with questions about our surroundings. We were then instructed to picture the outside of the Potter’s house, the inside of the Potter’s house and the Potter working with the clay. Meditating on Scripture may be helpful to discern a direction in one’s life or to provide guidance for an issue. Phrases that catch one’s attention may be God’s way of speaking through Scripture.

The loving kindness meditation was my favorite. The steps of this meditation were the same, but bringing a different person to mind each time. First, one visualizes someone very dear and sends them loving and kind thoughts. Then, one visualizes and sends loving and kind thoughts to someone not quite as dear and someone who produces neutral feelings. Finally, one visualizes a person who brings feelings of anger or hurt and sends them loving and kind thoughts. This was a good exercise to help reflect on how people are held in one’s thoughts, especially those people who bring negative feelings.

The centering meditation was difficult for me. We were to sit quietly, as still as possible with eyes closed for 20 minutes. Before the meditation started, each person chose a sacred word to use to return to the meditation if our mind wandered. The purpose of this meditation was to for us to be with God. When the chime went off, Sr. Mary Barbara asked "who couldn’t wait for the chimes to ring" and I raised my hand.

Sr. Mary Barbara talked about silence and solitude. She encouraged us to set aside silent time every day, even if it’s only 5 minutes to start. It's not easy to sit in silence. From experience, I know that I want to jump up and do something. Sitting in silence can be time for self-reflection. Things we don’t like about ourselves may come to mind during this time. If we don’t tune out these thoughts, God can help us acknowledge our shortcomings and work on overcoming them.

Sr. Mary Barbara spoke about some of the benefits one can receive from prayer. Authentic prayer can change a person. It can lead one to true self-knowledge. Prayer can make one more kind and patient. It can lead to gratitude. Prayer can draw us out to serve humanity. After this group day, I can see how deepening my relationship with God through my prayer life can also help me to become more aware of my thoughts, actions and the way I treat others around me.