Hope that lights your way

December 31, 2012

HAPPY NEW YEAR. May the Lord give you love that warms your heart, hope that lights your way, and joy that fills your heart and home this day and all through the New Year.

I hope you had a good Christmas. May you share your love with others, as Jesus came to share His love with us.

The week before Christmas we had our Employee/Sister pot luck lunch. After lunch we had the drawings for the many beautiful gift baskets that were donated by Sisters and Employees. The proceeds ($1,468) were donated to Kinship of Morrison County program. This group helps young people in our area.

On December 20th, Sister Julien and I were at Coborn’s Superstore making a joyful noise to raise funds for the Food Shelf. In the four hours we were there, we collected $472.32. It was a lot of fun and we are grateful to all the generous donors.

Our Christmas Services were wonderful. On Christmas Eve both Chapels were full. The music was top notch and all was very prayerful. Many town’s people join us for the Christmas eve and day services.

The Blood Mobile will be here January 9 and 10 from 1 to 7 p.m. and January 11 from 8 a .m. to 2 p.m.

For years we have a 24-hour prayer-time to end the Old Year and bring in the New Year. Sisters and others spend an hour from 7 p.m. on the 20th until 7 p.m. on the 31st praying for peace and the needs of the Church and the world. This will end with a New Year’s Eve prayer service in Chapel for all at 7 p.m. tonight. Everyone is aware that there are many needs to pray for!

The theme for the Dining Room Decorations this month is snow people. Each table and the counter tops have many kinds of snow people…a festive touch. Peace and blessings on you and those you love.

 Stay well.
 Sister Mary Lou


Merry Christmas!

December 21, 2012

May Jesus, the Prince of Peace and his holy Mother Mary keep you and those you love, in their care this Christmas and all through the new year!

Merry Christmas,
Sister Mary Lou


Preparations continue, Christmas is close!

December 17, 2012

Third Week of Advent. Christmas is a bit more than a week away. May the Lord be with you as you continue your preparation for Christmas.

Last Thursday evening the Lions Club members came to sing Christmas songs for the Sisters. As part of the program one of the Lions, Brad, gave a tribute to the Sisters he knew who gave him a chance to get an education and become a successful elementary school teacher. When he was a student at the Junior College in Fergus Falls we hired him to help clean classrooms after school and take 6th grade boys phy ed. The money he made helped pay his college bills and also gave him a desire to be a teacher. Thanks, Brad.

On Friday evening the two Strings Orchestras from St. Francis Music Center presented their concerts. A jam-packed Chapel of people enjoyed the beautiful music. The acoustics in Sacred Heart Chapel are so good. Performers like to perform there. The Con ‘Brio Orchestra has 28 members and the Sforzando Orchestra has 27 members. In the program, Celo ‘V’ec writes a very interesting little history of each of the 13 pieces. I really like that. Celo was given a beautiful Christmas cactus in thanks for his work.

Saturday we had 6/10 inch of rain during the day. Later the temperatures dropped and we got a little snow. This left roads and sidewalks icy and bumpy. I just stayed inside Saturday and Sunday.

Sister Donna completed a beautiful puzzle. We each are one of those birds in the hands of a God who loves and cared for us. The pieces to this puzzle were really little.

In the back of the small chapel are two Christmas trees, covered with the prayer intentions sent in by our Donors. If you returned your card, it is there. All of us Sisters are praying for you now and all through the year.

On the 12th we celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas. I admire Juan Diego, a poor farmer to whom Our Lady appeared and asked him to tell the Bishop to build a church in her honor in the place where they stood. To prove she was sending Juan, she filled his cloak with roses and a picture of herself on his cloak. This church is a place of pilgrimage in Mexico.

Tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. we will be having our Advent Penance Service.

On Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m., Sr. Julien and I will be at Coborn’s Superstore “Making a Joyful Noise” as a fund raiser for the Food Shelf. We thank generous donors who help this very worthy cause.

 Let us pray for the people suffering because of the Sandy Hook School tragedy.

Have a good week.
God bless you.

Sister Mary Lou


Second Week of Advent

 December 10, 2012

Our snowstorm over the week end blest us with 11 inches of clean, white snow. My car on the parking lot looked like a big white bump until Keith brushed all the snow off of it. Yesterday’s wind moved the fluffy snow all around. Today all the schools in the area started two hours late. The trees look beautiful…and the snow piles are big! Tonight trucks will come and move those piles to the big field.

The bakery has been a busy place today with tubs of cookies ready to be decorated and sweet breads ready for frosting, too.

Saturday was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Our Community is The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Little Falls, MN. So this is our Feast Day, too, along with the Feast of St. Francis. We 3rd floor of Mary Hall Sisters were in charge of setting and decorating the dining room tables. We had light and dark blue napkins and then little vases with blue water and a little white mum on the tables. After the meal the Sisters could take a flower along with them if they wished to do so.

Last Thursday the local Ministerial Association had their Christmas Luncheon here. Pictured here are the ministers of the various churches and the Sisters who joined them for a delicious lunch. The large, hand-made quilted wall hanging was a gift to us from my friend Ron.

Thursday was also the Feast of St. Nicholas. My sister, Cecelia, made this St. Nicholas for me many years ago. She even has a little mouse in the back-pack. The other picture shows our local St. Nicholas on his rounds distributing candy and peanuts to all the Sisters and the Departments.

Today was the funeral of Father Dave Gallus, a Crosier priest. For many years he came here to Celebrate Mass with us. Many of us would have liked to have gone to his Wake and Funeral. But white-out driving conditions and hazardous roads kept us all home. We prayed for him here. May he rest in peace.

Our Evening Prayer tonight was a Memorial Service for Sister Joel’s sister, Pauline Mans, age 97, who died last week in a Nursing home in Riceville, IA. Because of the distance, Sr. Joel did not attend the funeral. When a sibling dies and the Sister cannot attend the funeral, we have our own prayer service here as part of evening prayer.

On Wednesday, the Feast of our Lady of Guadalupe, and Patroness of the Americas, Father Tony Kroll will lead us in a bi-lingual Mass. We are getting better at singing the Mexican songs. They say, “Practice makes perfect.” Well, I wouldn’t go that far but I would say, “Practice makes better.”

Friday, 7 p.m., is the Christmas Concert for the two Strings Orchestras. They do so well! If you are in the area, do stop by. You’ll not be sorry you did.

Our Fioretti Fraternity of Secular Franciscans will have our Christmas party here in the Heritage Dining Room Saturday afternoon. It will be a good time.

Our Minister, Jim Hein is having some health problems. His heart is acting-up—going very fast. Please pray for him. He was at the Park Rapids Hospital and now is in the St. Cloud Hospital.

Again, Happy Second Week of Advent.

Lots of Sisters have already mailed their Christmas cards. I hope to get mine out within the week.

Peace and many blessings,
Sister Mary Lou


The first week of Advent

December 3, 2012

The first week of Advent. Since the tenth century, Advent has marked the beginning of the Church Year in the West.  Today, Advent is hardly notice, rarely observed, obliterated by a shopping tsunami. Advent is not four weeks of shopping for Christmas. The word “advent” literally means “arrival.” Advent is a time for being awake and aware, a time for longing and waiting, a time for preparing for the coming of Christ.  Jesus tells us to light our lamps and wait for the Master.  Our waiting should be an active not passive waiting. During Advent we get ready to become active participants in God’s incarnation by creating peace in our spiritual, social and personal relationships. In Advent we are asked to look at our lives, and if we see something amiss, we need to correct it.  We need to turn our swords into plowshares. Our lives need to be transfigured into vessels of God’s love and compassion. Advent is a time to renounce our clinging to false securities so our eyes will not be so blinded that we cannot see the arrival of Christ in our midst.  (Gerry Straub)

As I was driving to Brainerd yesterday afternoon in the dense fog, I was thinking of how we see, as in a fog, and how Steve Emblom, who died Saturday morning, is seeing things as they really are from the perspective of God and heaven.

 Last Wednesday the State of Montana was featured as our Dining Adventure. Terry and the kitchen crew do a nice job of serving foods from the state.  And the ambiance is great, too.

Friday night a number of us Sisters attended the dinner and the Hole-in-the-Day Players play, “Lie, Cheat and Genuflect” at the Falls Ballroom.  It was an evening of MANY laughs. Allen, our Head Housekeeper, had a main role in the play. Thanks, Allen, for such a fun evening.

Preparations for Christmas are happening around here, too. One day last week, Sr. Deborah Honer’s brother, brought us six beautiful huge poinsettias. Sister Antonette has the dining room windows on second floor painted. And Terry has a whole lot of delicious little fruit cakes baked and ready for us to eat and to give as gifts.

Yesterday was our Advent Retreat Day.  “Living into the Incarnation” was the theme of Jim Smith’s presentation.  Most of us are familiar with “Lexio Divina”  (listening with the ear of our heart) as a form of prayer using Sacred Scripture. Jim talked about “Visio Divina” using pictures and our sight and vision to see God in our daily lives and all around us…God meets us here. And a third concept was “Vita Divina” witnessing God in our own lives and the lives of others, especially the marginalized as a means to live the Incarnation.

Last evening the St. Francis Community Chorale presented their concert, "O Holy Night” directed by Barb Stumpf. The Brothers in Harmony were also part of the concert. Seven-year-old Jaylene Newman was the soloist for “Some Children See Him.”  What a wonderful strong voice she has and so much poise to sing before a Chapel full of people.

Saturday, December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is our Patronal Feast, the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. We will have Morning Prayer together at 8 a.m. followed by breakfast.  Mass is at 11 a.m. and Evening Prayer at 4:15 followed by dinner.

God bless you this first week of Advent.                                                                                                 

May you find God in the events of your day.    
Sr. Mary Lou


Winter has arrived!

November 26, 2012

Winter has arrived! The low this morning was 3 degrees. I think the snow from Thanksgiving Day is on the ground to stay.

Sister Mary Alice Rudnicki, age 97, died very unexpectedly at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, November 21st, in Clare Residence. We will welcome her body back to the Motherhouse today with a short prayer service at 3:30 today. The funeral for Sr. Alice will be tomorrow at 11 a.m.

I hope that each of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I did. Pictured here is the veggie tray that Kelly brought for our family potluck meal. There were 37 of us gathered at Richard and Louise’s home near West Union. It’s always good to see all the family.

The tragedy of two teenagers being murdered last Thursday, has put a damper on feelings here in Little Falls. May the Lord bless with comfort and peace all the families and friends of the two youth.

On Saturday, Sister Ruth’s mother, sisters and sister-in-laws came to do Christmas baking. She said she didn’t count how many coffee cakes. But it was LOTS. She shared a couple with the Sisters for brunch on Sunday. Yummy!

Our EnLUNCHment on Wednesday will be a Memorial Service remembering the Sisters who have died in the past year—14 since last November. Eternal Life give to them, O Lord and let Perpetual Light shine upon them.

Saturday night the Heartland Orchestra will be presenting their Christmas Concert at the Public High School. It is always a great program.

On Sunday, December 2nd, our own St. Francis Chorale will sing their Christmas Concert in our Sacred Heart Chapel at 7 p.m. It is always well worth listening. We usually have a full-house for the event. Thanks, singers, for sharing your talents with all of us. God bless you.

Blessings on your week.

The first Sunday of Advent is this coming Sunday. That means Christmas isn’t far behind.

 Sister Mary Lou


So many blessings and graces

November 20, 2012

Let us praise and bless the Lord for all God’s goodness to us.  HAPPY THANKSGIVING to each of you. We have so many blessings and graces; it would be a LONG list to list them all. How blest we are to have a God who loves and cares for us in such generous ways…and friends who do the same for us.

Last Friday evening, 16th, Sister Giles Weyandt, age 84, left us for heaven.  I knew her best as an elementary school teacher and principal.  She was a good one.  When I was stationed at Morris and she was at Osakis, I picked her up many times when we went together to principal’s meetings in St. Cloud. She had a great sense of humor and wonderful musical talents that she willingly shared. She is the last of her family to die. Think of the welcoming committee there was to meet her at heaven’s gate… along with her dear friend, Sr. Marcelline.  Eternal life give to her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her.  Her Wake was last night and her Funeral is today.

Our Give to the Max Day last Thursday was very successful. 105 generous donors gave us $15,385 in that one day.  THANK YOU. The computer system was acting up because of the high volume of users so maybe some donors maybe just gave up.  God bless you all.

Next Tuesday, Father Brenny will be the presider at our daily 11:30 Mass. He wants to celebrate his 83rd birthday with us by joining us for Mass and lunch. Happy Birthday, Father. Thanks for all the good you’ve done these many years.  

In December the Music Center will present many concerts for our entertainment. Next week I will list those I know of.

Mass on Thanksgiving Day is at 8:30 a.m.—NOT at 11 a.m.

This morning the temperature was about 25 degrees, and it is VERY foggy.  May all travelers have safe journeys.  It is 9:40 a.m. now and the fog hasn’t lifted very much if at all.

Again, Happy Thanksgiving.  Safe travel to all who go to visit family and friends.

Peace and blessings,
Sister Mary Lou


Roses delight in November

November 12, 2012

In one day: bright sunshine, fog, thunder and lightening, rain, and snow. That’s what Saturday was. We got about ½ inch of rain here in Little Falls. This morning there was snow covering the grassy spots and our low temp was 13 degrees. We’d better get started getting used to these temps! It’s 23 right now.

This morning we celebrated the 90th birthday of Sr. Maureen Blenkush. She was enjoying every minute of the special attention. Thank you, Sister, for all your years of ministry as a Franciscan Sister…and all your humor so have generously shared.

Saturday evening’s program by The Rose Ensemble was FANTASTIC! The singing was great! The title of the program was Il Poverello, the story of St. Francis. They are not afraid to open their mouths and let the sounds come out. The guest instrumentalist, from Italy, was so much fun to listen to and to watch. One time he played two flutes at the same time. He also played a unique bag pipe. Another time played a drum and a flute at the same time. The Chapel was nearly full. They sold CDs of some of their programs. One lucky lady won a free CD for filling out the evaluation. The group liked singing in our Chapel because of the great acoustics. They’ll be back sometime, I’m sure. (www.RoseEnsemble.org)

Election Day was a busy day. I worked at the Ward 1 polling place. We had LOTS of people come to vote. Many were same day registrations because they were new to our area or had moved since the last election. May all the newly elected officials work for the Common Good. God bless them all. May those who were not elected work with those elected for the benefit of everyone.

GIVE TO THE MAX day is Thursday the 15th. Support your favorite non-profit organization (and the Franciscan Sisters) and the amount will be doubled.

I hope the hunters were all safe and had good results.

Have a good week. Peace and blessings,

Sr. Mary Lou


Stepping up to the plate

November 5, 2012

We are into November. There's a look and a feel of the season in the air. Little bits of moisture are falling. God bless the deer and wolf hunters and keep them all safe. Our sympathy to the families of hunters who lost their lives this past weekend.

Thursday afternoon, All Saints Day, Sister Helen Ann Klepaida, age 93, died and joined the saints in heaven. Her funeral will be Saturday, November 10, to allow her family time to get here. Eternal Rest give to her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her.

Last week we had the American Red Cross Bloodmobile here. Our goal was 233. We received 262 units of blood. And there were 28 who came and could not donate blood for some reason or another. Because of that big storm, Sandy, over 300 blood drives had to be cancelled in states east of here. The need for blood is great. So our area residents really stepped up to the plate in making our drive a great success. THANK YOU, DONORS!

Saturday evening we had our Harvest Supper. The whole meal was delicious but the roasted vegetables were my very favorite: potatoes, carrots, rutabagas and parsnips. Sr. Donna said she peeled three 5-gallon pails of carrots last week…and when we had left-overs for supper last evening, there wasn’t a carrot in the serving pan for her. We served 381 meals and filled both dining rooms. There were many take-out meals, also. Special thanks to all of the volunteers and supporters.

Each November the Church remembers the deceased. Each year Sr. Joel puts up a display in Chapel where are listed the names of the deceased Sisters, priest of the diocese, our family, friends and Associates from the past year. There is also a book where we can write the names of deceased that may not be already listed. This list is placed on the altar each day of November during Mass. So we are remembering our beloved dead each day of November.

Saturday evening, at 7 p.m. the Rose Ensemble will be here in our Sacred Heart Chapel for a concert of vocal and instrumental music. One report says it is “A Musical Journey through Assisi, Florence and Rome.” Special guest performer is the ever-playful wind and percussion virtuoso Isacco Colombo from Milan who plays bagpipes, shawm, recorder, double flute, piper and tabor. (I don’t know what some of those instruments are. I’ll find out.) The Ensemble is just returning from Spain where they received two first place awards in international competition for their music… and to think they are coming to us here in Little Falls the end of this week! I’m looking forward to hearing them. This is their first time here.

Elections are tomorrow. I am an election judge and will be working the early shift from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Be sure to vote and take a friend with you.

Peace and blessings on you.
May all hunters and travelers be safe.

Sister Mary Lou

PS. Here's some Halloween fun for you!


Last days and Knights of October

October 29, 2012

Let us all pray for the folks on the East Coast who are dealing with very stormy weather conditions these days…and for those who have to stay there to care for those in danger. Our little snow and rain the past couple days is a blessing as it provided moisture that mother earth needs.

Last Thursday the Reception Department was recognized. For many people this is the first face and contact with the Franciscan Sisters. Sister Fabian has been working in this department for the past 30 years. WOW! Congratulations. She’s seen many changes in locations where the department has been centered. Recently a writer came to interview her. The picture shows the tall and the short of it. Thank you, Sr. Fabian, for your gentle and caring service.

Several events went on that I missed, but were important to the Franciscan Sisters. Yesterday afternoon the Knights of Columbus came to serve ice cream and cake to the Sisters. Also, yesterday afternoon the Music Center had Halloween recitals—piano, flute, guitar and vocal. All performers were in costumes. Thanks, students for sharing your talents.

Over the weekend we had a group of Knitters here at St. Francis Center. After brunch Sunday, I went to 3rd floor to see some of the interesting items they were making — scarves, mittens, caps and fun decorations.

The Bloodmobile will be here Wednesday and Thursday (1-7 p.m.) and Friday (8 a.m.-2 p.m.) this week. Thanks to all who share this gift of life with their neighbor.

The past two weekends a number of Sisters attended the Geritol Frolics program in Brainerd. This group of 40+ elders put on a very entertaining 2 ½ hour production. They must be very tired after all the dancing and singing and clothes changes they do from one act to the next.

Saturday evening we have our Franciscan Harvest Supper (4:30 to 7 p.m.). Bring your appetite and join us.

After lunch today I went to Lindbergh School to read to the First Graders. One poem I read was “Little Orphan Annie” by James Whitcomb Riley. The students really got into the last line of each verse: “ ... and the goblins will get ya, if you don’t watch out!”

Safe hunting to all hunters. Happy Halloween. Happy All Saints Day to all you Saints in heaven and on earth. Peace to the Faithful Departed. We continue to pray for you.

Let us all pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we do our voting next week.

Peace and blessings,
Sister Mary Lou


Thousands and thousands of lives touched

October 23, 2012

After lunch today, I filled my thirsty car and was happy to discover that gas was $3.39 a gallon and then on Tuesdays my 5 cent coupon is worth 10 cents. The last time I paid less than that was December 24, 2011 when I paid $3.09

Early this morning we had a very nice thunderstorm that dropped about an inch+ of rain. We praise God for that blessing, too. It sounds like more rain the next couple days. It will be very good to get moisture into our dry earth before it gets really cold and the ground freezes.

So many things to write about again. I’m not going to even attempt to put them in chronological order.

Yesterday Virginia Sanderson, a friend of Sister Maristell, donated a lovely picture of an apple she had painted. She read the story of Sr. Maristell’s revelation about the Trinity that Sr. Grace heard from Sr. Maristell the day Sr. Maristell died. (The story can be found at fslf.org under “More News—July 27, 21012.) Thank you, Virginia.

Today the first group of 64 volunteers came to “stuff envelopes” for our annual Christmas Appeal. These folks will be stuffing about 16,000+ envelopes and will most probably finish on Thursday. If you don’t get an envelope and want one, let me know. I invited you to send a donation to the Franciscan Sisters.

On Sunday, October 7th, we had our Donor Day appreciation gathering here in Little Falls. Then on the 21st we had a similar gathering at St. Olaf’s Church in Minneapolis so the Twin Cities donors don’t have so far to travel. At that gathering, Robyn Gray, Director of St. Francis Music Center, was the speaker. I learned so many things from her talk and want to share some of them with you.

The Music Center was started in 1979 by our Sister Cecilia Schmitt. In those 33 years, thousands and thousands of lives in central Minnesota have been touched. There are 17 teachers who teach private lessons in piano, violin, viola, cello, string bass guitar, base guitar, banjo, mandolin, voice, organ, all the band instruments, the trap set, accordion and composition. They also teach classes in dance, gymnastics, Preschool Music, and College Prep Music Theory. There are two multi-generational chestras, St. Francis Community Chorale, Sestri—a women’s group that sings folksongs of Eastern Europe, and Brothers in Harmony, a men’s singing ensemble.

Each week over 500 students come to the Center for lessons and classes, orchestra and the choirs. There are 12 student recitals a year, two major orchestra concerts and three chorale concerts each year. Each spring there is a big dance recital and a gymnastics recital. About 200 young pianists from the area come each spring for the Keyboard Festival. The Music Center brings music to Little Falls, a town with a population of 8,000, and the biggest town in Morrison County, with opportunities that would not be there if it were not for the Music Center. There is not another community school for the arts in a town of our size in all of the United States.

Morrison County is also one of the poorer counties in MN, so the Music Center reaches the rural poor, a demographic often overlooked by grantmakers and other programs. Scholarships are available to students needing assistance because of grants, donors and fund-raisers. The URock Summer Camp is for Middle and High School students who want to be in a band. They learn business and skills to make a band work. Thank you Music Center staff for all you do to help students ages 1 1/2 to 82.

Sue Roelandt, one of our faithful 5-year volunteers on second floor died on October 13th. We had a prayer/memorial service for her in our Chapel last week. She liked working here and we liked having her come here.

Sunday, October 21st, was World Mission Sunday. Sr. Joel fixed a nice display in the sanctuary to remind us that as Christians we are to take the Word of God to the whole world. God bless and care for Missionaries who do this throughout the world.

Two new American saints were canonized last Sunday: Saint Kateri Tekakwitha and Saint Marianne Cope. Saint Kateri was a Mohawk Indian and Saint Marianne was a Franciscan Sister who worked with Father Damian in caring for lepers in Hawaii. A couple of our Sisters went to the diocesan celebration for Saint Kateri in Ogalvie this past Sunday.

Walter was busy washing the Mary Hall front windows this afternoon. It was misting slightly, but he wanted to finish that job today…and before more rain or even snow.

The Knit N Stitch ladies are coming this weekend. It is always fun to see the creative things they make. I will go to look, take a picture or two…and maybe learn something, also.

Up-coming events:
  • Halloween Recitals Sunday at 1 p.m. at St. Francis Center in Rooms 242 and 244
  • The Blood Mobile will be here on October 30, 31 and November 1st
                Tuesday, Wednesday (1 to 7 p.m.)
                Friday (8 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
  • Our Harvest Dinner is Saturday, November 3rd, 4:30 to 7 p.m. - Join Us!
  • Elections are Tuesday, November 6th - Please vote!
  • The Rose Ensemble will have a concert in our Chapel Saturday, November 10th at 7 p.m.

Peace and blessings, Be safe.

Sister Mary Lou