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The joy evident among Sisters and Associates attracted Mary Ann Brownlee to become an Associate of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor 25 years ago.

“I admired the intellectual planning and implementation of your discernment of the ways of living out the gospel through the assemblies and chapters,” Mary Ann recalls. “I was impressed that pervading all of this was the contemplative and meditative aspects as seen in your wisdom circles, group prayer meditations, and literature.”

Mary Ann, of Weatherford, Texas, who was unable to attend the 2015 Assembly, says, “Being an Associate, I have felt firmly grounded in trying to live out the SFP charism when discerning my work and life paths. Currently, I have had to ‘hang up the gloves’ from actively living out this charism in counseling work for the Adult Education Department of the New York City Board of Education in the neighborhoods of Harlem, Spanish Harlem, China Town, the Lower East Side, and the South Bronx. In my work I was inspired by the example of Sr. Paula Huecker and encouraged by the late Sr. Margie Ferri.”

Mary Ann says the SFPs inspired her to continue volunteering as a lector and eucharistic minister and as a member of a Bronx, New York-wide Healing Team and Donwoodie-sponsored Catholic Evidence Guild. 

“My mentor, Sr. Bernadette Sullivan, encouraged me to serve on the Justice and Peace committees for the SFP and two successive churches—one in Novi, Michigan, and the other in Charlotte, North Carolina—as well as going with a Franciscan delegation to the West Bank with the Christian Peace Maker Teams, that Sr. Grace Miriam Pleiman introduced. The example of Blessed Frances helped me become trained and to form a Divorced and Separated Catholics ministry at a church new to me,” Mary Ann says.

Her continued study of Hopi, Sun Bear, and Shoshone Native American spirituality and other indigenous groups was inspired, Mary Ann says, by the interests of Sr. Adelaide Link and Sr. Joanne Schuster.

“The joy that Sr. Rita Marie Donnelly took in being a hospital chaplain encouraged my preparation and such work at a North Carolina hospital, volunteer work with the Red Cross for three months, starting 9-11, at Ground Zero, and with some homeless at St. Aloysius Church in downtown Detroit at their Franciscan Canticle Cafe. The later involvement was made more joyful by the memory of Sr. Rosamaria Guida’s singing and dancing with the older seniors in residence at St Anthony’s in Warwick, New York,” Mary Ann says. “I am so thankful to Sr. Beth Rindler, who for six years drove me, along with SFP Associate Mondaline McCall, to SFP gatherings, as well as introduced me to Detroit-area conferences of priests and Catholic laypeople.”

 

By Lisa Biedenbach

Published: September, 22, 2015