June 29, 2010: Orphan Train Riders

What a surprise to have such a cool morning again today. One will have to work hard and fast to work up a sweat! With all the rainy days last week we didn’t get all that much rain. The lawns look beautiful and the grass needs frequent cutting.

Governor Pawlenty proclaimed Saturday, June 19, 2010 as Orphan Train Riders Recognition Day in the state of Minnesota. “Between 1854 and 1929 an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 impoverished, orphaned and abandoned children were placed on trains by the Children’s Aid Society and the New York Foundling Hospital and sent to new family placements all over the United States. Minnesota welcomed thousands of infants and older children during this Orphan Train Movement. The legacy of the Orphan Train riders adds to the rich history of our state.” (From the proclamation) Six Riders were present for the program on June 19, 2010 at the 3M Auditorium in the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. One of those Riders in attendance was our own Sister Justina Bieganek, age 98. Sr. Justina still volunteers in the Music Center. And she does e-mail! What a Lady!!!

The Bloodmobile was at St. Francis last week. Each day I would call Party Line to give the report and to drum up business. Our three-day goal was 260 units. We received 226 unit of blood. (We had 27 who were turned away because the hemoglobin was too low.) That’s a lot of blood! When asked some questions I didn’t know the answers to, I asked Sr. Julien some questions and found out some very enlightening information. In October it will be 11 years that the Bloodmobile has been coming to St. Francis. Each year we collect between 1,000 and 1,100 units of blood. Do the multiplication. That’s a LOT of generous donors. After they donate blood, donors get the usual juice, water or coffee AND convent home-made cookies. Friday morning I went to see what kinds of cookies were in the baskets: Carmel Apple, Peanut Butter, M & M, and Oatmeal Raisin are the ones I can remember off the top of my head. I’ve heard that some people donate blood just to get the cookies!

Saturday night we had a wonderful choral music ensemble concert in Chapel. The group, From Age to Age—changing the world one concert at a time, were six women and seven men. This a cappella group sang in Latin, German, Russian and English. The harmonies were very pleasing to the ears. Just looking at them, one could tell they liked to sing together. The founder and artistic director is Andrew Miller, who in 2007-2008 school year, taught vocal music K--12 in Long Prairie/Grey Eagle school district.

Another thing that happened last week was that three YTM (Youth in Theology and Ministry) participants came to the Motherhouse to share their ministries for the past year. A year ago these young people attended two weeks of theology camp at St. John’s and during the past year lead projects in their home parishes. They showed great leadership ability in working with peers and young children. (The YTM students also had another two-week theology camp this year.) One project that I liked was “Rent a Kid.” The YTM student gathered young people who offered to help elders and others in need with raking lawns, washing windows or whatever was needed for a free will offering. We can be very proud of these young people. The Franciscan Sisters help sponsor the YTM program.

Tuesday – Thursday we have the Girl’s Camp activities going on. The 32 girls and seven adults will be tenting in Assisi Park on the south end of our property. They will be having other activities in Breezy Inn and will tour the Motherhouse. They will attend Mass with the Sisters on Wednesday. We are hoping for no rain the next couple nights.

Saturday several of us attended the Memorial Service for Sister Maristell’s brother, Bill, in Grand Rapids, MN. On Wednesday some of us will be going to the funeral for Lois Loher in Morris, MN. I taught a number of the Loher children when I taught at Morris.

Have a safe and fun 4th of July. I will be going to the West Union Parade on Sunday. If you want something to do on the 4th, come to the parade. Pot-luck lunch in the park afterwards.

Have a good week.
Pax et Bonum.
Sister Mary Lou


June 21, 2010: Welcome to Summer!

Welcome Summer! We had 3/10 inch of rain early this morning.

Let us pray for and help however we can those many people who lost homes and property in the tornados last Thursday. I can’t imagine the damage. I saw pictures from the Wadena area. Enough to make one sick. God bless those generous volunteers who help with cleanup. Peace, hope and courage for those who are dealing with the mess.

Our week of meetings concluded with a festive dinner Friday evening. John is pictured below standing beside the pellet smoker machine in which he barbequed 80 pounds of delicious pork baby-back ribs for our evening meal. The meetings were good. Now the work continues to prepare for the meetings that will happen in February, March and April, 2011. At the end of the meetings we were all missioned with our next tasks to do.

One night the evening entertainment was a delightful musical presentation of “The Kings Breakfast” by A.A. Milne. Sr. Elise Saggau was the singer and actor accompanied by Sr. Maurita Bernet. I saw the original presentation some 50+ years ago at the Summit Avenue House of Studies in St. Paul, MN. It was as good now as it was then. A slide show of events of long-ago stirred up many memories and lots of laughs as we saw ourselves at play and at work “back then.”

First we had a porcupine on campus. Now a bear was sighted coming across the highway and heading into the woods south of the Motherhouse buildings. We were reminded to be aware of our surroundings especially when walking in the evening or early morning hours.

The Community Gardens on campus are looking really good. I often see gardeners out planting and weeding in their plots. I’ve not heard yet of deer being a bother and feeding on the garden produce.

Tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday, June 22-24, the Bloodmobile will be in Little Falls in St. Francis Hall at the Motherhouse. Hours the first two days are from 1 to 7 p.m. and on Thursday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call Sr. Julien at 320-632-0663 to make and appointment or to find out when there are openings. Walk-ins may come, but are taken after those who have appointments.

The city of Little Falls celebrated the Dam Festival the past weekend. Saturday there was a 73-unit parade with two marching bands. Mary of Lourdes of Schools won the Most Creative Float Award. The parade ended in our parking lot at the south end of town. I missed the parade, but went to Maple Island Park to see what I could see when I got back from my Brainerd SFO meetings. At night I went to see the fireworks. They were spectacular…half and hour of a beautiful light show. I park the car at the Initiative Foundation facing the river and have a perfect view without leaving the car…and no mosquitos!

God bless and continue to care for you this coming week. Be safe.
Sister Mary Lou


June 15, 2010: "Hunger Banquet"

Here we are into our busy week. I heard that we had rain today. I was inside all day in a basement room so didn’t know anything about it until supper time…and heard we were under a storm watch, too. I am grateful for gentle rains. Now I’d like some sunshine…tomorrow’s gift.

Last Saturday we celebrated the 60th Jubilees of five of our Sisters. It was grand. With so many Sisters home for the coming week, we make good music at Mass.

After the Mass and festive meal, I drove to Perham, MN for the Baptism of our newest family member, Joanna Rose Dardis. The parents have waited fifteen years for this birth. So there is much joy for our family.

On Sunday we had the Profession of First Vows for Sisters Aurora and Isabel. Sisters Aurora and Isabel are from Mexico. The Presider at Mass was Fr. Omar Guanchez, Associate Pastor at Elk River. We had many prayers and songs in Spanish. Again, great music and enthusiastic singing. A beautiful picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe was part of the entrance procession as were two big bouquets of red roses.

Our week-long Community meetings started with prayer and roll call at 6:30 p.m. Sunday evening. Many of our Associates (42) joined us for the Monday and Tuesday sessions. The picture below shows the ambiance for the gathering. It is a picture of St. Francis by Massimo Cruciani from Assisi.

Our meal last night was a “Hunger Banquet.” When we entered the dining room, we drew a slip of paper from a brown paper bag. This paper told us at which table to sit. At the beginning of the meal, two Sisters read us some sobering statistics: more than 2.5 billion people live in poverty. Over 1 billion people suffer from chronic hunger. A child dies from hunger or a preventable disease every 3.4 seconds. That’s 25,000 children a day. We think hunger is about too many people and too little food. That is not the case. Our rich and bountiful planet produces enough food to feed every woman, man and child on earth. Hunger is about power. Its roots lie in inequality in access to education and resources. The results are illiteracy, poverty, war and the inability of families to grow or buy food. People who drew pink slips were in the low income tables—they live on $2.70 a day—and this is roughly 50% of the population. They got a bowl of rice and a glass of water. Those who drew green slips of paper were in the middle-income group and they got a bowl of rice and beans and a glass of water. The rich people were those who drew a white slip of paper (15 % of the population) and sat at a table with a white tablecloth, were served their meal of chicken, rice, green beans, a salad, wine, coffee, water, and an apple dessert. It was a humbling experience to sit at the rich people’s table. But it graphically made the point of the prevalence of hunger and poverty in the world.

This weekend the City of Little Falls celebrates the Dam Festival from Friday through Sunday…with a parade Saturday noon.

Next week the Bloodmobile will be at St. Francis Center Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The hours are 2 to 8 p.m. the first two days and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the last day.

God bless you and please keep us in your prayers as we Sisters meet the rest of this week. Peace.

Sister Mary Lou


June 7, 2010

Another sunny, low-humidity day where we rejoice over a little rain the past few days. I am so amazed at how lush and green and beautiful the trees and plants and fields are. Thank you, God, for protecting us from storms. May generous people come to the aid of those who suffer from destructive forces of nature. And may the oil spill mess get cleaned up soon.

My recent days have been filled with Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) business. I was at the Regional SFO Ministers Meeting at the Kings House Retreat Center in Buffalo, MN, Friday through Sunday noon. So my brain is filled with mostly SFO business.

Last Thursday our Sister Rita Marie Martodam (age 90) went to her eternal reward. In her active years she was an elementary teacher. I will always remember her as a very fine reading teacher. We have a Wake Service for her tonight and her funeral is tomorrow here at St. Francis Convent.

This week also has several other celebrations to be noted. First, on Friday is the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the patronal feast of our Sacred Heart Chapel here at the Motherhouse.

Saturday we will celebrate the 60th Jubilees of five of our Sisters. Thank you Sisters Mary Dulski, Blasé Kulzer, Llydia Langer, Jeanette Martell and Cleone Renner for a combined 300 years of service in our Franciscan Community and in the Church. You make a difference. We will have Mass, renewal of vows and festive meal as part of the events of the day.

Sunday, June 13, and feast of St. Anthony, Sisters Aurora and Isabel will make Profession of First Vows. What joy to have these two Sisters as new members of our Franciscan Community. Liturgy will be offered at 11 a.m. followed by a dinner and reception.

Then Sunday evening begins a week-long gathering of all our Sisters for the Organizational Days for our Delegate Assembly. Next week promises to be filled with talks and talking and planning. Keep us in prayer. Thanks.

This week the Franciscan Gift Shop celebrates its fifth anniversary. They are having a “Red Dot” Sale which means all items with a red dot sticker on them are 50% off the regular price this week.

I want to close today with an English Blessing: May your path be strewn with flowers, memories, friends and happy hours. May blessings come from heaven above to fill your life with peace and love.

Pax et Bonum, ]
Sister Mary Lou

P.S. Last week I talked about the CEC graduation. Here is a picture of the group. Aren’t they great! Congratulations to ALL graduates.


June 1, 2010

I hope you had a safe and good Memorial Day weekend. There were lots of Graduations and parties. Sunday, on my way to my grand-nephew’s party at Sauk Centre, I saw lots of fine looking corn and grain fields. We do need rain. I pray for sufficient gentle rains and protection from damaging storms again during this growing season.

It was the middle of June last year when I posted a picture of the blooming poppies that grow by our house. This year they are two weeks earlier and are shining in all their glory this week. I just wish they’d last longer.

Last Thursday night was CEC (Continuing Education Center) graduation at St. Francis Center. They had 31 graduates who received a Little Falls High School diploma. Sister Julien presented the Franciscan Sisters Scholarship to Ashley Snyder, who will be attending Central Lakes College in the nursing program. A full house of parents, guests, School Board Members, Sisters and friends filled the gym. One very touching part of this ceremony is the presentation, by the students, of carnations to anyone in their life who has made a significant contribution to them in their years of schooling. One hundred fifteen flowers were presented. Laura, CEC coordinator, told me they had over 140 students in the CEC program this year. The Little Falls High School graduation was Sunday and the Franciscan Sisters also gave a scholarship to Jessica Ann Martinson. Congratulations to all the graduates. May you believe in yourself and help to make the world a better place. To all, may you have a safe summer.

One day last week the novices helped pull rhubarb. Then there was the washing and “cutting-up” party. In the end, we froze 30 5-gallon pails of rhubarb! That’s a lot. We probably will freeze one more batch and then have a year’s supply ready. It’s amazing all the things one can make with rhubarb.

Last week, also, we celebrated all our Senior Sisters—that’s most of us—with an afternoon treat. As I look at all of us, I marvel at the wisdom!

Our Episcopalian friends from the Diocese of MN (one Diocese for the State) are returning this week-end, June 4-5 for their Total Ministry Summit. The participants include Ministry Teams, ordained and non-ordained. As of today we expect 83 participants, including their new Bishop, Brian Prior. Twenty-seven of them will be staying overnight here and others at Motels or commuting. They have been coming here for their gatherings since 2005. Welcome, friends.

Peace and God bless you,
Sister Mary Lou