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From April 17th to the 23rd, the General Leadership of the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis visited the SFP General House. It was a beautiful event that also was meaningful to the history of our Congregations that we wanted to share with all a step by step account.

vgr 01Sr. Marvi, Sr. Maria Ursula, Sr. M. Dolores, Sr. M. Susanne, Sr. Maria Claudia, Sr. Katharina MariaWe met the sisters at Fiumicino airport, where we were welcomed by their warmth -- and by summer-like weather in Rome. After settling into their rooms, we went out to explore the city. We visited the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, the oldest churches dedicated to Mary in Rome; then Chiesa Nuova, where St Phillip Neri is buried, as well as other smaller churches. Then we walked through one of Rome’s baroque piazzas, PIazza Navona.

On Monday morning, right after communal prayers and breakfast, nice and early, we went to Saint Peter's. After the mandatory security checks, we passed through the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica as pilgrims, thus earning the plenary indulgences attached to the Jubilee year celebrations. Because it was early, things were still rather quiet and we were able to take part in the Mass in St. Joseph's Chapel. We understood some of the homily because the priest was so expressive!

Naturally, we also visited the Papal Tombs, and Campo Santo. In the afternoon, we met with the Sisters from the SFP Leadership for an interesting discussion about our communities and their development. Some Sisters from nearby convents and some Associates were also invited to dinner. The kitchen and hallway filled up quickly, but everyone found a spot. After satisfying our hunger, we participated in a series of presentations. They included presentations by a novice, a postulant, and two girls who live at the Youth Center. It truly was beautiful meeting during which we also learned that our Sister M. Susanne is of Italian origin – a fact many of us did not know, and with which we had a lot of fun over the next few days.

vgr 02Mosaics at St. Paul Outside the Walls: Francis, Benedict XVI, John Paul II, John Paul I
vgr 03The convent portico

On Tuesday, the sun was shining and it was very warm, it felt like mid summer. Even the trees were ripe, full of oranges and lemons and other tasty fruit. This afternoon, we were ‘outside the walls’ visiting one of the papal basilicas, Saint Paul Outside the Walls. We hurried through Rome’s ever-present traffic as quickly as we could, when, from afar we saw the church’s mosaic façade. We entered the church through an impressive four sided portico, passing through the Holy Door. Of course, we prayed for the Church and for Christianity over the tomb of Paul the Apostle, located at the base of the main altar. Then we were able to visit the Cloister of the Benedictine Monastery. The convent portico was built between 1205 and 1241 and its marble insets are among the most ornate in the West.

We left this magnificent church and went straight to Tre Fontane Abbey, where, according to legend, Saint Paul was beheaded. Over the course of history, three churches have stood here. Since 1868, the Abbey has been entrusted to Trappist Monks. In this place, which is not often visited by tourists, we found silence -- and we took part in the six o'clock prayer with the Monks.

vgr 04Sr. M. Susanne, Sr. Juliane Maria, Sr. Licia, P. Gianni, Sr. Katharina Maria, Sr. Dolores, Sr. Maria Ursula, Sr. Maria ClaudiaIn the afternoon, we returned to the General House where we met the Postulator for the Canonization of Mother Frances, Fr. Gianni Califano, OFM. He told us that Mr. Siemer's miracle had to be recognized as extraordinary healing. The decision has been entrusted to a commission of seven doctors. We asked when we might learn of their decision, and what we could do to help. Fr. Gianni told us: pray, pray, pray!

After the meeting, we visited a magnificent garden with an extraordinary view of Rome and St. Peter's cupola. Our next stop was the home of the Italian Area. Here, too, Sisters welcomed us with great joy. We had a beautiful meeting with them. We felt like we were taking part in a large family reunion.

Wednesday morning was a most important time because we went to Saint Peter's for an audience with the Pope. We had to wait in line for almost an hour to get through security checks. Before the official audience began, the Pope went by the people in a car. On large screens, we were able to see the Pope clearly as he moved through the crowd. He stopped a number of times to bless children and the sick. Then he went to the podium where the Holy Fathers' speech and blessing of pilgrims sent us home enriched by his blessing.

In the afternoon, we met with Sr. Maria Atorino who told us briefly about the mission in the Philippines and then we went for another tour around the city – luckily we always had our wonderful Sisters as guides. We visited the Pantheon, Sant’Agostino and the tomb of Saint Monica as well as the Church of the Gesù, which contains the remains of Saint Ignatius of Loyola.

vgr 07Statue of St. Francis at San DamianoThe SFPs decided to take us to Assisi the next day. And so, on Thursday, we left for Assisi in two cars. Our first destination was the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, with the small chapel of the Porziuncola, where we again entered through a Holy Door. We celebrated the Eucharist with the faithful in the Basilica choir stalls. We all took time for personal prayer in that holy place before joining the Sisters in Rivotorto. The weather was so nice that we had a picnic on the terrace.

In the afternoon, we drove up into the hills, to San Damiano. There -- and we could have had it no other way -- each of us spent some time alone in silence. As difficult as it was, we had to leave this beautiful place and return to the city: we still wanted to visit Santa Chiara and San Francesco. In the crypt we placed prayers for ourselves and for our communities in the hands of Saint Frances, and asked him to share our prayers with the Lord.

We took a photo in front of San Francesco, and then we sadly said goodbye. The next day, we had to leave this summer climate to return to "cold" Germany. We are truly grateful for this trip and in particular for being able to meet so many Franciscan Sisters of the Poor. We clearly descend from a shared beginning, and each of our communities is seeking to live the charism of Mother Frances here and now, in today's world. We are united on our path under the aegis of Mother Frances.

 

vgr 06Sr. M. Susanne, Sr. Licia, Sr. Maria Ursula, Sr. Maria Claudia, Sr. Katharina Maria, Sr. Dolores, Sr. Juliane Maria, Sr. Paola

Sr. Dolores Haas SPSF

Published: June, 14, 2016