Just a couple more days left of 2011

It seems like a very short time ago that we started writing 2000! And soon we will be writing 2012. I hope you had a good and peaceful Christmas. A friend gave me a “Keep Christ in Christmas” magnet that I proudly put on my car. With all the stress on “buy, buy, buy” one can easily forget that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” We had a very nice Christmas here at the Motherhouse. We had full-house for our Christmas Eve Mass. I was so pleased that so many came to St. Francis Hall afterwards for hot chocolate, goodies and to visit with one another.

Theologian Howard Thurman (1899-1981) said, “When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the shy is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flock, the work of Christmas begins: to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among all to make music in the heart.” I say: “There is plenty to do.”

About a month ago I talked about our Caring-by-Sharing Program during Advent. The Franciscan Sisters, employees and volunteers, raised $1,393 that was donated to the Minnesota Military Family Foundation. What a generous gift.

Sister Justina Bieganek will celebrate her 100th birthday on January 16th. We will celebrate the event on Sunday, Dec. 15th, with an 11 a.m. Mass and a reception from 2 – 4 that afternoon here at St. Francis Convent. Congratulations! It will be a great day for her. And knowing her, she will probably be going to work at the Music Center the next day.

Last evening at our Local Community Christmas celebration, we had fun with the Christmas “Chat Pack” cards (from our Gift Shop for $7.99). The questions are good conversation starters…and bound to be a source of lots of laughs.

On December 22nd, Sister Julien and I took part in the Food Shelf fund-raiser at Coborns. We “Made a Joyful Noise” from 3 to 7 p.m. The generosity of shoppers helped the Food Shelf reach and go over their goal. God bless you, generous shoppers.

Starting today and until Saturday noon we have a Girls Retreat going on. There are 10 girls and each has a Sister Companion. I appreciated all the extra voices for the singing at Mass this morning.

Starting Friday at 6 p.m. and for 24-hours we have “Prayers for Peace.” Each hour for the 24-hours there will be a Sister or an Associate praying for peace. Then on New Year’s Eve we have a special 7 p.m. prayer service in Chapel.

Peace and many blessings in the New Year. Sister Mary Lou

P.S. I wrote this article yesterday and when I looked for it this morning, it had disappeared. I must have forgotten to save it, though, I thought I did. I’ll remember next time!


We are already into the 4th week of Advent

We are already well into the 4th Week of Advent. Did you miss me last week? Good. I was too busy to get anything written. I moved to Campus to a room on 3rd floor at Mary Hall and am now part of that Local Community. For 20+ years I lived at 609 3rd Street—about 4 blocks from the Motherhouse. Because of my broken ankle last July, it was decided that I’d be safer living on Campus…so here I am. My Christmas letters will come at Valentine’s Day in 2012

There have been so many activities the past couple weeks. I will just list them. On December 8th about 25 Lion’s Club members came and sang for and with us. Following their singing we all had pizza in the dining room. The Strings Concert, December 9th, was to a jam packed Chapel. Then the St. Francis Community Chorale Concert on the 11th was to another full house. Tuesday Brothers in Harmony came to sing for the Sisters in Clare Residence. These are a group of guys who just enjoy singing together—and they do it very well. On Friday the 16th was the Age to Age Concert. How twelve people can make such great music is hard for me to understand…but they DO it. These are professional musicians who do a splendid job. If ever you have opportunity to hear them, go to their concert. In preparation for all our guests we got the house beautifully decorated with the help of a group of dedicated volunteers and staff. Christmas is present everywhere! After Chapel, my favorite place is the area right outside Chapel with the tall tree next to the burning fireplace. That is a cozy spot.

Friday afternoon I went to the First Grade program at Lindbergh School. I read to one of the First Grade Classes several times a month. It brought back memories of the many Christmas Programs we had in the schools where I worked. I was amazed at the many songs the children learned for the program…and they were so well behaved, too.

On the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12th, Father Tony Kroll presided at our Bilingual Liturgy. We have these several times a year. We are getting better at singing the Spanish songs! It helps, too, to have Sr. Maurita lead the singing.

Our big Christmas mailing was sent out the end of November. MANY people have returned the paper ornaments with their prayer intentions. These ornaments are hung on two big Christmas trees in Chapel. We all pray for all these donors daily. Then in January each of us will receive a number of these cards as the donors we individually pray for each day.

The Department being recognized in December is the Rehab Department. Those three ladies work hard at keeping us mobile and limber. They are gentle but firm in helping us do what we need to do to move as best we can.

Sunday afternoon I took a little trip out to Camp Ripley to see all the wreaths—a wreath with a large red ribbon at every grave marker. Two semi-trucks brought the wreaths to the Camp and over 350 volunteers place them at the sites on December 10th. There are 4,000+ persons buried at this Veterans Cemetery. My eyes filled with tears just at the sight of it. God bless these men and women who have served our country. May God take care of and bless the families of these men and women.

Our Advent Penance Service is at 6 p.m. tonight.

On Christmas Eve, the singing starts at 7 p.m. Mass is at 7:30 p.m., with treats and visiting after Mass in St. Francis Hall. Our Christmas Day Mass is at 8:30 a.m. You are invited to join us.

The Blood Mobile is coming January 11th (1—7 p.m.), 12th (1—7 p.m.) and 13th (8 a.m.—2 p.m.).

I wish you a Merry Christmas. My prayer for you is from our Franciscan Prayer Book. ”We rejoice again, O God, at this feast of our salvation, seeing in Your coming the promise of Eternal Life. May our hearts by filled with gratitude for the Great Gift You bestowed on us at Christmas. May we always welcome You into our lives, God-with-us. Amen”

Peace, Sister Mary Lou


December 6 is the Feast of St. Nicholas

Second week of Advent…and the week is almost half over.

St. Nicholas came to the Motherhouse dining rooms this noon. He brought a treat for all those who were good! He gave out either a chocolate bar or a bag of Planters Peanuts.

Sisters Maurita and Elise led us in singing, “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” and other Christmas songs. When we were kids St. Nicholas brought us a big bag of salted peanuts in the shell and maybe a little candy or oranges or apples. I remember, with a smile, the fun we had at our Catholic schools on the Feast of St. Nicholas.

St. Francis Hall is decorated for the many events that are held there during the Christmas Season. The first one was the Morrison County Ministerial Association luncheon last Thursday. About 25 folks came for a delicious noon meal and time of sharing.

Last Saturday we had an Advent Day of Reflection, a retreat day. The presenter was Sister Sue Togersen, CSJ from Minneapolis. There were about 40 sisters and friends who came for the day. All who attended were very appreciative of the talks and reflection time. One of the reflection questions she gave was, “What ‘something new’ is God asking of you this Advent?” I can ponder that one question for a long time.

Saturday evening I was privileged to attend the Heartland Symphony Orchestra concert at Charles D. Martin Auditorium here in Little Falls. The music was GREAT. After the intermission we got to sing Christmas Carols with the Orchestra. The last song was the “Hallelujah Chorus.” The Orchestra is made up of about 50 musicians from the Brainerd, Little Falls and surrounding area. A group of singers from the Central Lakes College in Brainerd led us in the singing.

Thursday is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This is an important feast for our Franciscan Community. We start the day with Morning Prayer together in Chapel, then a festive brunch. Mass is at 11 a.m. and then after 4:15 p.m. Evening Prayer we will have a special dinner. We will have special table decorations.

Two big events coming up in the next few days are the Strings Christmas Concert Friday evening at 7 p.m. in our Sacred Heart Chapel and the St. Francis Chorale Christmas concert at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 11th, also in Chapel.

Wednesday evening those who wish to take part can come to the Convent kitchen to make cookies and have a cookie exchange. That is always so much fun. I can’t take part this year, but I will again next year.

God bless you. Sr. Mary Lou