Ring in the new year!

My wish for you is that you had a grace-filled, wonderful Christmas celebrating the coming of Our Savior, Jesus Christ, with family and friends. The Christmas Masses here were prayerful and filled with music that made the heart happy. After the 7:30 p.m. Mass on the 24th, MANY people came to St. Francis Hall to enjoy goodies and visit. Following are some pictures that caught my attention as I moved around the building.

We had lovely green grass for Christmas, but that night we received a couple inches of fresh white snow. Now the cold is taking over. I hope the cold kills some of the “sickness bugs” going around. I remember when I was teaching, I liked some really cold days for that reason.

After Thanksgiving we mailed out some 16,000 Christmas letters to Donors and friends. Each envelope contained a little tag like the one shown here. Donors could write the intentions for which they want the Sisters to pray for in the coming year. All tags were hung on two trees at the back of Chapel. Now after Epiphany, the tags will be divided among us Sisters and these are the people we will individually pray for in the coming year. God bless you generous donors. You are being prayed for.

Our Dining Room tables were beautifully decorated with some of the decorations used for the past 19 years. This picture shows a collage of one of each of those decorations.

For 11 evenings before Christmas the local Food Shelf had fund-raiser time at Coborns Superstore. Pairs of volunteers worked to Make a Joyful Noise for four hours each evening. Sister Julien and I were the workers on the 23rd. We greeted each customer with “Merry Christmas” as they left the store. Through their generosity we raised $475 on our shift. Approximately $3,500 was raised in the eleven days. Thank you, generous donors. That will help the Food Shelf and feed many hungry people this holy Season and afterwards, too.

We will be having a 24-hour prayer vigil for Peace on New Year’s Eve. We invite you to join us in praying for peace in our hearts, in our Church and in our World…wherever there is strife and unrest.

January 4—10 is National Migration Week. The theme is “We are One Family Under God.” This is a time to reflect on the plight of migrants and refugees worldwide. In June 2014 the number of refugees worldwide exceeded 50 million children, women and men. Half of these refugees are children traveling alone or in groups. Millions of these refugees are people displaced because of natural disasters, wars, human trafficking, political unrest—to name a few reasons. Please pray for them and for us so that we do our part so all can live as One Family Under God and care for them however we can.

I wish you a safe, healthy and blessed New Year.
Peace, Sister Mary Lou


Christmas Blessings

December 22, 2014 First full day of winter.

We are in the Fourth week of Advent. In a few days we celebrate the Birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. May Christ bless each of us with many blessings this Holy Season.

Last week we brought to a close the end of an era. For 45 years the Franciscan Sisters operated the Clothes Review. These last many years it has been housed here on St. Francis campus. From now on the ministry will be handled at “New 2 You” a new Thrift shop in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club on the west side of Little Falls. I stopped there on Saturday to see it for myself. It is really nice. Besides clothes they have household items, furniture and every so MANY other things. (A few of the employees, wearing attire from the Clothes Review, furnished a little entertainment at lunch.)

Last Thursday we had our Sister/Employee pot-luck lunch and also the drawings for the many baskets. The proceeds went to the Boys and Girls Club. The total exceeded our expectations. We raised $1,577. Thank you to all who supported this effort. One of our Franciscan goals is to support at risk youth. Support of the Boys and Girls Club helps us reach that goal.

Saturday I drove out to the Veterans Cemetery at Camp Ripley. I knew that on December 13th there was a short ceremony and then LOTS of volunteers went to work to put a wreath with a red ribbon at each of the 3,800 grave sites. In 2006, 5 wreaths were placed—one for each branch of the military. The program has grown. The wreaths will be removed on January 31, 2015. Let us pray for the families of these and all military families.

Christmas Eve Singing starts at 7:00 p.m. Mass is at 7:30 p.m. followed by refreshments and visiting in St. Francis Hall after Mass.

Christmas Day Mass is at 8:30 a.m.

In the Spirit of Christmas which is PEACE, 
 the Miracle of Christmas which is HOPE, 
 and the Heart of Christmas which is LOVE.

Merry Christmas!

Peace, health and safety to you and those you love,
Sister Mary Lou


Making a Joyful Noise

The third week of Advent is half over. Christmas decorations are up all over. Last week I took a picture of Jane fixing the ribbon on top of the big tree in the entryway. Now is the finished product.

Friday, Dec. 12, the St. Francis Preparatory and Concert Orchestras presented their “Making Merry” Christmas Concert. The response to the ten beginning violin students in the Preparatory Orchestra was loud and proud. The Concert Orchestra performance was fantastic. Some Music Center Alumna, Faculty Members and Friends from the Heartland Symphony Orchestra joined the St. Francis Concert Orchestra. We are so fortunate to have such high caliber entertainment right here in Little Falls. It’s easy to see that the players enjoy playing and sharing their talents.

The local Lion’s Club members came to sing Christmas Carols with us and we shared pizza with them. They start singing at 5 p.m. and go to four or five other places to sing for the elderly. So by the time they get here they are hungry for supper. We always enjoy their visit.

I was scheduled to go to St. Cloud for dinner with Santa at the Holiday Inn on Monday evening. Because of my shoulder injury, I decided it best for me to not attend. Several Sisters did join the 450+ Senior Citizens who were there. I hear that it was a fun evening. (My shoulder is much better and I am back to doing most of what I did before my fall. I am grateful for all the prayers and the fine care I received in Convent Care.)

Tomorrow we have the Sister/Employee Christmas Lunch and then all the drawings for the Caring by Sharing Gift Baskets. Thus far we’ve taken in over $1,293 that will go to the Boys and Girls Club. And tomorrow we will find out who wins the beautiful baskets that have been on display the past two weeks.

Tomorrow, too, we will have a prayer service as we put closure to the ministry of the Clothes Review. For over 45 years the Clothes Review has served the needs of those in need. Most of that time, the Clothes Review was housed here on St. Francis Campus.

From now on the ministry of the Clothes Review will be taken over by “New 2 You” as a way to help with the Boys and Girls Club expenses and helping Habitat for Humanity, also. The hours at New 2 You are 9 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday. They are looking for volunteers. One volunteer said, “Giving back to the community feels good! I’m making new friends and learning new skills.”

On the 23rd, from 4 to 7 p.m., Sr. Julien and I will be at Coborns “Making a Joyful Noise,” which is a fund-raiser for the Morrison County Food Shelf. The two of us always have a successful evening.

Christmas Eve Services start with singing Christmas Carols at 7 p.m. on the 23rd. The Mass starts at 7:30 p.m. Treats will be served in St. Francis Hall after Mass. All are invited to join us.

Mass on Christmas Day will be at the usual time of 8:30 a.m. Again, all are invited to join us.

Peace and God’s blessings on you and those you love,
Sister Mary Lou

The Blood Mobile will be here January 7 and 8 (1 to 7 p.m.) and 9th (8 a.m. to 2 p.m.) Mark your calendars.


Many reflections these past weeks...

Here I am again. I never did get my writing for last week completed, so I just decided to start afresh today. These weeks are packed with activities. We are into the Second Week of Advent. I have read some great Advent reflections on the beautiful Sacred Scripture readings for the Mass these Advent days.

On December 1st, we honored Sister Irenemaree who became a United States Citizen on November 18th. Congratulations, Sister. A group of Sisters entertained us with an Australian Song.

On December 4th, we celebrated Sr. Annella Bieniek’s 90th birthday. Many family and friends joined us for the afternoon treat in the dining room.

Saturday’s Advent Day of Reflection was led by David Liedl. Each of the reflection presentation showed how we can get a deeper sense of God by seeing and taking note of Where we find God in out day –to-day living. God is faithful. We need to tone down the noise so we can hear/see how God is showing Himself to us through others how we can serve this loving God. (It was after lunch when I tried a flying lesson in the dining room and landed on the floor with a big thump. I landed on my shoulder. No broken bones, but soreness now a few days and my right arm is getting stronger with more movement and less pain each day.)

Saturday was the Feast of St. Nicholas. Those of us from German descent probably have memories of St. Nick coming to our childhood home. St. Nicholas brought us kids salted peanuts in the shell and an orange or apple, as I remember it. We would be doing our homework at the kitchen table and there would be big ruckus on the porch. Then we’d find our bag of goodies. My sister, Cecelia, made this St Nick for me quite a few years ago. He comes out of the box for December 6th and stays around until after Christmas.

The St. Francis Music Center presented the Choral Christmas concert, “Christmas Candlelight Carols”, on Sunday December 7th. The music was wonderful. The St. Francis Children’s Choir added a special something to the evening performance. Those 12 girls really know how to open their mouths and sing out. I think some people stayed home because of the impending bad roads and weather conditions.

This coming Friday night, December 12th, the St. Francis Music Center will present their Orchestra Concert. This too, is a great event and wonderful entertainment. Thank you, young and older, who share your musical talent with us.

Monday we celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This is the patronal feast for our religious community—so Mass and meals are very special times of getting together for prayer and visiting.

Friday is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas. The many Sisters who have been missioned in Central and South America and with the Hispanics in the USA, have helped us have a deeper appreciation of this feast. Just this afternoon I read a good article on Our Lady of Guadalupe that helps me see the importance of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the life of so many people.

Lion’s Club member will come sing Christmas carols for us on Thursday and then we will join them for pizza after the singing. It’s always a good time.

“Caring by Sharing” is an event that has happened here for a number of years. The different departments make up baskets and boxes of wonderful items. Employees, Sisters and others buy $1.00 tickets and put them in the box of their choice. On December 18th, we will have the drawings of the baskets. Every year the baskets get bigger and better. This year the proceeds will go the Boys and Girls Club here in Little Falls.

I’m sure I’ve missed some of the goings on around here, but this is all I can think of at this time.

Peace and blessings on you this Second Week of Advent.

Sister Mary Lou


Last Friday morning’s conversation before Morning Prayer at Mary Hall, third floor: “Mary Lou, is your door closed?” “No.” “There’s a bat hanging on your door frame.” Fifteen seconds later, “Yes, my door is closed.” “Donna, there’s a bat on Mary Lou’s door.” A few seconds later, Donna armed with tennis racket, knocks down the bat and kills it. How the bats get in, we don’t know. But they are many fewer now than there used to be. (I have nothing against bats when they are outside, but I don’t like them in the building. The last one I had, I took outside to give it a second chance.)

The Salvation Army Red Kettle Bell Ringers are out there ringing the bells. I did not recognize Betz outside the Coborn’s Store on Friday. She wasn’t going to be cold this day, as she was the day before. There were many $s in the kettle. Thank you for ringing bells…and to the donors, too.

The Community Thanksgiving Dinner is Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., is at the High School. The Franciscan Sisters are providing six five gallon-pails of potatoes for the meal. We will cook and mash them here in our kitchen and then bring them to the High School. The picture shows, Sr. Donna with one pail of peeled potatoes and boxes of those yet to be peeled.

Tuesday, Nov. 25th, we will have a concert in the Chapel at 7 p.m. by a Nicaraguan Troubadour. He will be playing and singing songs from his country.

On Wednesday we will have an afternoon gathering in the dining room to thank Pat Sharon for being our Librarian the past eight years. She has done a very fine job and we will miss her. (Christina Gottwalt has been hired as our new librarian.)

Last Friday evening there was a program at the Great River Arts Center. The speaker was Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train, a novel. She has spoken at two of the 50+ Orphan Train Reunions, hosted by now deceased, Sister Justina Bieganek. Christina talked about the research she did before writing this novel so the facts are correct. It was a very interesting presentation with LOTS of people in attendance.

Sr. Donna just finished putting together this lovely puzzle of a beautiful angel.

Mass in our Chapel is at 8:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day

Sunday, November 30th, is the First Sunday of Advent.

Sunday is also the beginning of the “Year of Consecrated Life.” More about that at a later date.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING. We have so much to be thankful for.

Peace and blessings,
Sister Mary Lou


Winter has arrived whether the calendar says so or not.

Feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary—Patroness of the Franciscan Third Order: Secular and Regular…and now you are wondering what that’s all about. St. Elizabeth (1207-1231) was married to Louis of Thuringia. They had three children. She erected a hospital, served the sick, and cared for those with leprosy. Secular Franciscans are women and men who are Franciscans who belong to the Secular Franciscan Order. Franciscans take vows and live in Community are called “Regular.”…that’s what we are…Franciscan Sisters “Regular.” St. Elizabeth, pray for us.

Winter has arrived whether the calendar says so or not. The radio announcement at 10 a.m. just said, “The Temperature is 11 degrees and feels like -4 degrees.” The wind is strong and last Monday’s 11 ½ inches of snow is moving around pretty good in open places. I think I will mostly stay inside today.

Today we had a Bi-Lingual Mass honoring the six Jesuit Priests, their housekeeper and her daughter who were murdered, early in the morning, in El Salvador 25 years ago yesterday. The priests were murdered because of their stance with the poor and their speaking out for justice and peace in El Salvador. Martyrdom continues to take place in our own time. We know the names of only a few, but the nameless cloud of witnesses invites each one of us to contemplate its possibility for our own lives.

On Tuesday, November 25th, we will have a concert in our chapel by Paul Baker Hernandez, a hermit monk turned troubadour, singing and playing Latin American music to support “Save the Water, Save the Children.” This project is to raise funds to continue grassroots health, educational and cultural programs in his working class barrio in Managua, Nicaragua.

The Orchestras and Chorales are busy practicing for their concerts coming up in early December. The St. Francis Chorale will have their Concert, “Christmas Candlelight Carols” on Sunday, December 7th at 7 p.m. in Sacred Heart Chapel. Brothers in Harmony and the St. Francis Children’s Choir will also be featured. Barb Stumpf is director. The concert will be repeated on Sunday December 14th at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Upsala, MN at 3 p.m. Free will offering accepted.

On Friday, December 12th, at 7 p.m., Sacred Heart Chapel will be the place the two Orchestras will present their Christmas Concerts, “Making Merry.” Some St. Francis Music Center faculty and also some members of the Heartland Symphony Orchestra will also perform with the Orchestras. It will be GREAT entertainment and will put you in the Christmas Spirit, if you are not already there. Free will offering accepted.

Usually I read a story to First Graders at Lindbergh School on Thursdays. Last week, after the story, we took a picture of the students and their teacher, Mary Hanson. It’s such a great group of students. I really enjoy my time with them. “Once a teacher, always a teacher.” And in my estimation, First Grade is the BEST grade. Guess I am a bit prejudice, having taught first grade for many years.

Recently St Francis Music Center received a $91,450.00 grant to bring together young people with musician mentors who want to make a difference with anti-bullying and other unproductive behavior. Rob Clemons was hired as the director of the URock Against Violence program. St. Francis Music Center is committed to serving all who wish to learn and strives to create an environment where everyone is welcome and feels valued.

The Little Falls Community Thanksgiving Dinner is November 27, 2014, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Little Falls Community High School Commons. All are invited to attend this community dinner. There is no charge. Donations are accepted.

A BIG THANK YOU to all who donated to Give to the Max Day fundraising effort. The number I saw on our bulletin board was that we received $37,924.77. God bless you, generous donors. We are praying for you.

In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus asks the question, “What do you want Me to do for you?” As I ponder that question, I can think of many things we can ask Jesus to do for us personally and for our world with wars and hunger, and homelessness, unemployment, ebola, and so many other things. Let us together ask the Lord for the help we need.

Keep warm and stay safe.
God bless you. 
Sr. Mary Lou


A taste of winter

Our first winter storm is in progress as I write. I picked this little flower outside the Convent east door yesterday afternoon. Now it would be covered by 10 or 11 inches of blowing snow. All schools in the area are closed today. May children be safe this day.

Elections were last Tuesday. Our Morrison County had a 70.99 % voter turn-out. Congratulations. Many times I heard, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain about government.”

Saturday evening we had our Harvest Dinner. MANY people came for a delicious meal. The Dining Room and St. Francis Hall were filled with happy guests and then the Dining Room filled up about 2/3rds the second time. Everybody raved about the delicious vegetables. Thanks to the cooks, the volunteer servers and all who had a part in a very fine dining experience.

In the Gift shop, there is for sale a BEAUTIFUL tree skirt made by Sr. Mary Obowa. Each panel shows one of the Twelve Days of Christmas. It is a work of art—as are all of her items.

Thursday is Give to the Max Day. Please consider giving a donation to the Franciscan Sisters. We will pray for you.

Be careful and take care in the snow.

Peace and blessings, 
Sister Mary Lou


Eyes brightened with beauty

Below are two pictures taken yesterday about 5 p.m. … the first day of the ending of day-light-savings-time. John Gilbert, author of Minnesota Nature Notes, says that November has some of the best sunrise and sunsets of the year. It sure started out that way!

First, The Blood Mobile report: Tuesday’s goal was 108—we got 90: Wednesday the goal was 89 and we got 93: Thursday the goal was 68 and we got 75. Our total goal was 265 and we got 258 units of blood. That is a lot of very generous donors. There were many “double donors.” God bless each donor with many blessings and graces. This is a real gift to those in need.

Sr. Eileen celebrated her 90th Birthday last Monday. It was a happy day for her and her family.

Some of the Dietary Staff got into Halloween “real good.”

On November 1st, Sr. Joel had a display to remember All Saints. She does such a wonderful job of ambiance-making. God bless all the every-day Saints in our midst.

Sister Joel set up another beautiful November display for remembering our deceased Sisters (7), Priests (9), Associates and Friends and Relatives. There is also a book for us to write in the names of those we wish to be prayed for each day. This sheet is put on the altar for Mass each day. May all those who have died be enjoying Eternal Life with the Lord.

Yesterday the Flensburg Choir joined us for Mass at the Convent. The Sisters who just moved from Flensburg were happy to see their friends. Sisters Christelle, Fabian and Bernarda, were members of the choir during the years they lived in Flensburg. After Brunch the choir sang songs (some Polish ones), laughed and had a good time.

Yesterday I attended a great concert, Civil War Portrait, by the Minnesota Center Chorale at Calvary Community Church in St. Cloud. The Chorale’s singing was fantastic. The two featured artists, Cristina Seaborn (on the fiddle) and Paul Imholte (On the Hammer Dulcimer) were tremendous players.

Tomorrow is ELECTION DAY. Please vote. Some of you may have already voted. Voting is a privilege and also a RESPONSIBILITY.

Saturday evening is the time for our Harvest Dinner. The Menu: Fried Chicken, Sausage, Garden Vegetables, Coleslaw, Homemade Bars and Beverages. It makes me hungry just thinking about it.

These are two pictures of very hardy little flowers blooming outside Hurrle Hall. We’ve had some really cold nights and there they were showing off their bright colors. Come and join us.

Have a great week. Will we have snow by the next time I write? I’m willing to wait another 6 weeks.

Peace and blessings,
Sister Mary Lou