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 a usa 06Associate Anne Cabanas, like others present at the tree dedication, blesses the newly planted maple tree, a gift from the Congregation

a usa 02(left to right) Sr. Jo-Ann Jackowski facilitates the panel “The Other Side of Comfort: Stories of Ministries,” a sharing by Associate Karen Skillman, Sr. Mary Jacinta Doyle, Sr. Arleen Bourquin, and Sr. Bernadette Sullivan

To view the PHOTOS click here

Photos courtesy of Sr. Madonna Hoying, Ruthy Trusler, Lisa Biedenbach


a usa 17Sr. Teresita Samson receives her Assembly packet from Sr. Mary Maloney and Sr. Mary Louise Sahm
 a usa 16Sr. Licia Mazzia, Sr. Marilyn Trowbridge, and Sr. Marvi Delrivo speak with guest presenter Fr. Norm Langenbrunner
 a usa 15Sr. Pauline Sweeney (right) leads the Assembly in blessing Sr. Licia
 a usa 14Associates Monica Smith and Gloriajean Wallace create artwork during “Art as Prayer,” one of four alternative prayer forms offered
a usa 13(standing left to right) Sr. Christine Edwards and Sr. Rita Kruthaupt lead Stations of the Cross in St. Clare Chapel

Like the disciples who were asked repeatedly to step out of their comfort zones as they encountered the Risen Christ, US Area Sisters and Associates were challenged during their 2015 Assembly to surrender their comfort zones and engage in ministry in new ways. The theme of “surrender and engage” pervaded the three-day Assembly held at St. Clare Convent in Cincinnati, April 17‒19.
Sr. Marilyn Trowbridge, Councilor for the US Area, opened the Assembly and encouraged the forty-five Sisters and sixteen Associates to enter into the practice of Resurrection during the weekend. The Assembly theme, she noted, came from the Second Chapter Call to surrender comfort zones and choose to work with the poor and vulnerable.
For the first time in the US Area, portions of the Assembly were live streamed to Sisters and Associates assembled in St. Francis Convent in Warwick, New York.

New Ways to Think of Ministry

Day One of Assembly began with reading the Second Chapter Call in the four languages of the Congregation. Then a visual meditation on the Scripture passage of the woman at the well was presented by Sr. Mary Madonna Hoying, Sr. Mary Veronica Donohue, and Associate Mary Jane Bauer. Sr. Mary Louise Sahm proclaimed the Scripture passage of the Beatitudes.
A panel facilitated by Sr. Jo-Ann Jackowski, “The Other Side of Comfort: Stories of Ministries,” featured four presenters who spoke of coming out of their comfort zones to minister in unique ways:

  • Sr. Bernadette Sullivan who spoke of St. Francis Convent’s ministry of hospitality to employees of Mount Alverno Center, a care facility located near the convent.
  • Sr. Arleen Bourquin who described the duties of legal guardianship that she, Sr. Adelaide Link, and Sr. June Casterton have for adults and children entrusted to them by the courts.
  • Sr. Jacinta Doyle who detailed how her AIDs ministry has led to working in bereavement support in a parish.
  • Associate Karen Skillman spoke intimately about how her work with Al-Anon while dealing with a close relative’s struggle with alcoholism and addiction.

The four panelists agreed that they have felt challenged by doing what is uncomfortable and by risking being present to others in new ways. They encouraged all to listen to their hearts in discerning what they are being drawn to do, to bring a friend when feeling fearful to go to new places, to build skills for the things one is attracted to, and to take a chance and pray about it.

Leaving Your Comfort Zone

“Three people all named Francis went out of their comfort zones to follow Jesus,” said Fr. Norm Langenbrunner, a guest presenter on Friday of the Assembly. “Francis of Assisi when he stripped himself of clothes told his father that he was not going to live his father’s way of life. Mother Frances stood up to political and religious authorities in order to do what she believed God wanted her to do. Pope Francis consistently calls us to go out to the periphery, even when this upsets the status quo.”
Fr. Norm encouraged Sisters and Associates not to become like Martha of the New Testament—“allowing yourself to be so very busy doing your job, maintaining your own turf, that you forget about the relationship that you are to have both with the Christ and with the people of God, and others around you.”
Instead, said Fr. Norm, “adopt the Four Ds of Christian commitment: (1) a dialogue of prayer. Be quiet and allow the voice of God to enter into your minds and hearts. Allow God to speak to you. (2) Dare greatly. Be willing to risk. Put yourself in a situation where you are indeed vulnerable to rejection. (3) Be down to earth. Act humbly like the small God who can fit into the palm of your hand. (4) Discern how to approach people and how to respond with discretion. Think first about how to be an influence for good before taking action.”
Fr. Norm called Assembly attendees to take prayer on the road as St. Francis did and “love your neighbor, something that will require you to go out of your comfort zone.”

How Sr. Licia Came Out of Her Comfort Zone

On Friday afternoon of Assembly, following a break for a midday meal, Sr. Licia Mazzia, Congregational Minister, shared how she and the Congregation have had to come out of their comfort zones in the last sixteen months.
A lawyer whose belief in her legal career started to waver amid the many questions about human rights and the law, Sr. Licia told the Assembly that she “began to think in a different way about my faith, my future, my life, and my goals and intentions. This is the time when I started to step out of my comfort zone.” She left her family, her city, her security, her studies, and her career to follow Jesus in a different journey. “I felt that God’s love was calling me to do something extraordinary by being faithful to the Gospel,” she recalled.

Since election as Congregational Minister, Sr. Licia has heard God calling her to continue to step out of her comfort zone: to be always universal, intercultural, planetary, and global in her thinking; to live in uncertainty; and to live in loneliness, something connected with service as Minister of the Congregation. The relocation of the Congregational House from Brooklyn to Rome, and the life and deaths as well as joys and troubles in the past sixteen months also have challenged her comfort zone. “As a Congregation following our General Chapter Calls, we are studying how we can meaningfully contribute to creation and our planet through our ministries, in light of our changing demographic situation,” she said. “We are all experiencing the same discernments in our circles of life and in our local communities. Discernment opens the door to change and heralds the unknown. Both mean stepping out of our comfort zones.”

 a usa 12Sisters and Associates walk the outdoor labyrinth on the St. Clare campus
 a usa 10Speaker Sr. Carol Gaeke, OP (left), chats with Sr. Marilyn Trowbridge
 a usa 09Guest presenter Sr. Carol Gaeke, OP, told Assembly attendees that their tired feet are beautiful: “They have climbed mountains in ministry and are still climbing new mountains. We all need to keep asking where these feet will take us.”
 a usa 08(left to right) Sr. Daniel Marie Meade, Sr. Licia Mazzia, and Associate Mondaline McCall chat during a break
a usa 07Both Sisters and Associates share ministry experiences and reflect on questions posed by speakers during Assembly
a usa 05Jubilarian Associates Clara Bushelman and Karen Skillman process up the aisle in St. Clare Chapel for the annual Jubilee Mass
a usa 04At the closing of the Jubilee Mass, Sr. Jeanne Glisky blesses a Mass-goer on Sunday, encouraging him to “go make a difference.”

The Congregation, she said, is powerful as Mother Frances was. “Following her spirit and united in her name,” Sr. Licia said, “we will continue to love and serve poor and suffering humanity and give dignity and new life to the poor and all creation. This is what it means to be people of Resurrection.”

Praying in Alternative Ways

Many Sisters and Associates attending Assembly opted to pray in an alternative way on Friday afternoon, choosing from four prayer forms: Living Rosary led by Sr. Pauline Sweeney and Sr. Mary Maloney, Stations of the Cross led by Sr. Rita Kruthaupt, Labyrinth Meditation led outdoors by Sr. Jo-Ann Jackowski, and Art as Prayer led by Associate Sarah Hellmann who is Director of Art for All People (a sponsored ministry of Franciscan Ministries, Inc.).

The first day of Assembly concluded with Liturgy celebrated by Fr. Carl Hawver, OFM. Supper followed Mass, and later Community Ministers met with Sr. Marilyn.

Relationships as Ministry

Saturday of Assembly opened with a blessing prayer led by Sr. Pauline Sweeney and then a presentation by Sr. Carol Gaeke, OP, on “Relationships as Ministry.”

“When one is in intimate relationship with God, then one is impelled to live in community, and this erupts into loving service, which is another name for ministry,” Sr. Carol said. She quoted Scripture—“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the one who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news”—and then asked Sisters and Associates to look at their feet.

“Where have these feet been?” she asked. “In what countries, what states, what cities, what houses and places of ministry? What houses have they brought joy and hope to? What places of hopelessness and pain have they been in, bearing good news? Where have they been? I am sure these feet have taken you places you would rather not have gone and that these shoes have taken you out of your comfort zones.”

Sr. Carol continued: “Your tired feet are beautiful. They have climbed mountains in ministry and are still climbing new mountains. We all need to keep asking where these feet will take us. Mother Frances is our inspiration. She was indefatigable. The pain she saw in the world kept her going. Our feet, like hers, have been announcing Good News for decades.”

Each of us needs to be the one whose feet are on the mountain announcing the good news, Sr. Carol said. “We often look more inward than outward. But we need to continue to look outward. We still need to bring joy and shout the message of God’s love. It is in our relationships with each other that we do that.”

Planting Seeds of Love, Hope, Faith

Following Sr. Carol’s presentation, Assembly attendees reflected on questions Sr. Carol provided and then each table shared aloud some thoughts from the discussion.
After the midday meal, Sisters and Associates met on the lawn outside the convent for dedication of a maple tree—a gift of the Congregational Leadership Team to the US Area. Sr. Licia and others blessed the tree and a plaque. In blessing the tree, Sr. Licia said, “Today we continue to plant seeds of love, hope, and faith wherever we are in the world in the name of St. Francis, St. Clare, and our Mother Frances, just as our Sisters here have done since the first pioneering group came to Cincinnati in 1858. In thanksgiving for your efforts to share God’s goodness and love and of the efforts of the many who came before you, dear Sisters of the United States, we plant this tree today. May it be a sign of the richness of our life as Franciscan Sisters of the Poor and of the unceasing intensification and profound depth of our desire to heal the wounds of Christ in poor and suffering humanity. This plaque is a sign of our love for all of you and your commitment.”
Day Two of Assembly ended with two Circles of Life—one for Sisters led by Sr. Marilyn and one for Associates led by Director of Associates Joan Mills. A Liturgy celebrated by Fr. Mark Hudak, OFM, was followed by a communal supper and entertainment by jazz singer April Aloisio and guitarist George Simon.

Celebrating Ministry

On Sunday, the final day of 2015 Assembly, Sr. Marilyn reviewed highlights of the Congregation’s ministerial summary that reported the scope of ministry offered by the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor. Sisters and Associates then discussed the summary highlights and shared their comments with the Assembly.
A joyous Mass that recognized the 2015 Jubilarians was celebrated by Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM. At the conclusion of the Liturgy, Jubilarians anointed congregants and sent them on their way to the lyrics of the recessional hymn, “Go Make a Difference.”
Assembly 2015 concluded with a festive feast prepared by St. Clare Convent Dining Services staff.

What was your most meaningful experience at 2015 Assembly?

  • The sharing with Sisters and Associates! Listening to others’ stories and telling my story. (Sr Mary Maloney)
  • The realization that even if we are older, we can and have found many creative ways to continue a commitment to spread the healing energy of Christ. (Sr. Marie Clement Edrich)
  •  The topic of getting out of my comfort zone was very meaningful and made many of us really think about personal complacency. (Joan Steiner)
  •  The reminder to “stretch” beyond my comfort zone, reaching out to others with love and compassion—knowing God was in and around all of us. (Anne Cabanas)
  • Fr. Norm’s 4 Ds is input that I can take to prayer and action in my daily life. (Sr. Mary Louise Sahm)
  • How has 2015 Assembly encouraged, inspired or motivated you to come out of your comfort zone?
  • Sharing in small groups at table was difficult for me but I did it. (Sr. Norma Rose Meyer)
  • “Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains a grain of wheat, but when it dies it rises and brings forth much fruit.” I pray for the grace to do likewise. (Sr. Daniel Marie Meade)
  •  The Assembly talks invite me to be more aware when I am actually outside my comfort zone. (Sr. June Casterton)
  • I was encouraged to hear that others have the same difficulties. (Sr. Mary Lawrence Vanderburg)
  • I felt the support of others and felt closer to Associates and Sisters from other areas. All we do is easier when we feel supported and confident that others are with us. (Sr. Paula Huecker)

What is the fruit of this Assembly that you want to integrate into your life?


  • ultSr. Madonna Hoying and Sr. Mary Veronica Donohue enact the Scripture story of the woman at the wellGreater appreciation of our Congregational and Area leadership and all they have been investigating and planning for the future of the SFPs! (Sr. Mary Virginia Schreiner)
  • More consciousness of being attentive to the needs of Sisters in my local community and balancing it with my own needs. (Sr. Bernadette Sullivan)
  • To continue to surrender. (Sr. Mary Madonna Hoying)
  • To continue to be faithful to the inner call to be the woman God called me to be. Nothing else has eternal reality. (Sr. Betty Igo)
  • I will have “happy feet” as I climb the mountains of welcoming new uncomfortable spaces and opportunities. (Sr. Bonnie Steinlage)
  • To keep the (small) flame enkindled, going and growing. (Sr. Dorothy Ann Bolser)
  • I felt reenergized by seeing all the Sisters and Associates and feel like I want to keep more in contact. (Karen Skillman)

By Lisa Biedenbach, US Area Administrative Assistant


To view the PHOTOS click here

Photos courtesy of Sr. Madonna Hoying, Ruthy Trusler, Lisa Biedenbach

a usa 03Jubilarians Sr. Jeanne Glisky, Sr. Mary Veronica Donohue, and Sr. Theresa Calviello renew vows with Sr. Licia Mazzia (far right)

a usa 11(left to right) Sisters Mary Maloney, Pauline Sweeney, Daniel Marie Meade, Ellen Durso and Madeline Marie Hill pray the living rosary

Published: September, 15, 2015