U.S. Area Assembly 2012: Facing our Future with Hope

e2Sr. Joanne introducing panelists

Living in the Awareness of God
Sr. Jo-Ann Jackowski led the Opening Ritual for the Assembly: the song, prayer and process focused on the Spirit of God, the breath of life. As we sang and prayed, we each opened ourselves to deep peace . . . closed our eyes, and reflected upon a feather in each of our hands. . . closing our eyes, taking it in our hands . . . feeling its lightness, its vulnerability. . . Breathing on it . . .  seeing how easily it responds to our breathe. . . .such are we to be when we live in the awareness of God – as responsive as a feather floating on the holy breath of the One who first breathed life into us. . . . thus we prepared to be open to the Holy Spirit as Sr. Tiziana updated us on the various Congregational matters.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) Process
Then Sr. Joanne Schuster, CCA for the US Area , introduced our speaker: Amanda Trosten-Bloom, who was filling in for Diana Whitney, who was ill.  Amanda, who is Diana’s close collaborator and co-author did a fine job -- so we certainly were not disappointed! For several months, Sr. Joanne had been filling us in on the process of Appreciative Inquiry (AI), and now we were about to experience it first hand. Following a short PowerPoint presentation and explanation, we were each asked to break into pairs – with someone we did not know well, interviewing each other according to a specific, positive formula – and then we would switch roles. Many of the Sisters and Associates found it to be a profoundly moving experience!

e3Our panelists – Srs. Mary Madonna Hoying, June Casterton, Anita McArdle and Betty Igo address the future of religious life

Nourishment for Bodies and Spirits
Following the delicious and thoroughly appreciated lunch, we returned to the Centennial Barn to continue our Inquiries. Once again, we met with our partners of the morning and shared with one another, again through structured interviews, what it was like for us to speak so openly, and be heard so respectfully – and thoroughly!


We finished Friday and started Saturday with Mass in St. Clare’s Chapel. Fr. Dan Havron, ofm, was the celebrant for all three liturgies held over the weekend. Sr. Jo-Ann Jackowski arranged the liturgies and was ably assisted by Srs. Pauline Sweeney, Sr. Arleen Bourquin, Sr. Josetta Marie Lonneman, and Sr. Mary Louise Sahm, who led the singing.


e5Sr. Mary Louise Sahm interviews young adult minister Maria Meyer

Visions of Hope
Amanda began the AI process by applying it now to the future of the SFPs, and soon had each group discussing their visions for the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor’s preferred future. Then each group shared their poster and vision with the group as a whole, looking for shared themes.  One thing all groups shared was a firm belief that there was a future -- with smaller numbers, perhaps, but more contemplative and inclusive! Discussion was lively as we thought about the implications of each vision – and their differences as well as commonalities. As our facilitator, Amanda left, we sang the Blessing of St. Clare…and there were tears in her eyes.

Each director of the Area Sponsored Ministries – Rose Aleman (Centennial Barn), Marci Peebles (Franciscans for the Poor), Maria Meyer (Young Adult Ministries), Tonie Lynn (Our Lady of the Woods), Sr. Grace Miriam Pleiman (Tamar’s Place) and Estelle McNair (Franciscan Haircuts from the Heart) -- provided a short report, followed by an opportunity by by questions and answers.

e12Srs. Tiziana Merletti, Joanne Schuster and Marilyn TrowbridgeThe Future of Religious Life
After a short break Sr. Joanne Schuster introduced a new Facilitator, Kristin Barker, and a panel of experts, who shared differing visions of religious life in the future: Sr. Betty Igo, Sr. Anita McArdle, Sr. June Casterton and Sr. Mary Madonna Hoying. Kristin summarized the presentation of each speaker and then broke us up into groups with facilitators who had us share, summarize one another and express our own thoughts about the future – with an emphasis on respect and true listening.

Three Sisters Celebrate 180 Years as Women Religious
Following the ‘Circle of Life,’ the Sisters and Associates gathered together and celebrated with the Jubilarians at the Mass:

Sr. Therese Martin Hessler – 70 years
Sr. Margaret Ferri – 60 years
Sr. Arleen Bourquin – 50 years

Each Jubilarian renewed her vows. Afterward the festive closing dinner marked the Official Closure of the 2012 Assembly. Sr. Tiziana Merletti presented each Jubilarian with corsages… After grace, and a joyful celebration, Sisters and Associates exchanged hugs and good wishes as each gathered their belongings together and headed out for their automobiles or airplanes, facing their future with courage – and hope!

e8Sr. Arleen Bourquin celebrates her 50th Jubilee e9Sr. Margie Ferri celebrates her 60th Jubilee
e10Sr. Therese Martin, Sr. Margie Ferri and Sr. Arleen Bourquin renew their vows e11Sr. Tiziana pins a corsage on Sr. Therese Marti as she celebrates her 70th Jubilee

[Photos by Leah Curtin]

Leah Curtin, Associate

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