December 28, 2017

Merry Christmas.  I hope it is a good one for you. The Christmas season goes on for another couple weeks—until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on Monday, January 8, 2018. So keep on celebrating! My sister, Rita, came to spend the day with me. Then she needed to go to the farm to feed the kitties.

Winter came with a blast the other day. Today’s high temperature is about minus 2 degrees with a couple inches of snow forecast by the morning. I’m glad we didn’t get the 5 feet of snow they got some places in the East.

We had beautiful liturgies on Christmas Day With lots of singing. For our Christmas Eve Mass, the chapel was full and then after Mass most people came to St. Francis Hall for cookies and hot chocolate and visiting. Pope Francis said, “The joy of Christmas…comes from Faith and from the encounter with Jesus Christ, the reason for out true happiness” (12-19-2017).  May Jesus be near to each of us with His love and caring support.

These two trees are covered with the prayer intentions that our donors have asked us to pray for. So we pray every day of the year-for our generous donors. May God bless and care for each of them in the ways God knows best. 

We have a Blood Drive scheduled next Wednesday. Thursday and Friday, January 3rd, 4th and 5th.  I hope others step up to the plate to cover for the “snow birds” who are trying to keep warm in southern parts of our country.

I’ll write again next year.

I and we Franciscan Sisters wish you good health, peace and loving relationships in the New Year.


Sister Mary Lou


December 21, 2017   
Third Week of Advent

Christmas is in the air and all around us! Saturday I was at the Cathedral in St. Cloud for the Concert of the St. John’s Boys Choir. That director knows how to get great sounds out of those young men.  The Cathedral is a big church and it was full! It was a great concert. My brother’s grandson, Ethan, is one of the singers.

We’ve had several wonderful concerts here, too. St. Francis Music presented the Choral Christmas Concert on the 10th and the Orchestra Christmas Concert on the 15th. The Beginners Orchestra played a few numbers to start the evening off. Lots of talent there!

We have had many Sisters serve as missionaries in Mexico, so the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated in grand style here. This is a picture of the display in the dining room.

Last Tuesday we had a retirement party for Jeff Odendahl, who has served as our Peace and Justice co-coordinator for many years. Thank you, Jeff, for keeping us updated on peace and justice issues and reminding us to write letters when issues demanded it.

That same evening the Dandee Lion Club ladies came to help decorate Christmas cookies. Everyone had fun.

On Thursday, we had a Retirement Party for Donna Field. She has worked as secretary to the Leadership Sisters for about 27 years. Thank You, Donna. (You probably know more about our Community than we do!)

Then that same evening the Lions Club came caroling…and have pizza with us. For them it was supper because they had been singing since 5 p.m., at 5 or 6 other places before they got here about 7:30.

One evening a group of Girl Scouts came to sing to us as we were finishing dinner. Having worked in elementary schools for nearly 50 years, I always really enjoy have youth come to perform for us. The other day the employees sang us a revised version of The Twelve Days of Christmas: On the first day of Christmas: One Franciscan Blessing, 2 flying bats, 3 yoga poses, four Tech HELP requests, 5 Sisters praying, 6 dozen cookies, 7 guitarists strumming, 8 urgent E-mails, 9 brand new donors, 10 sweepers sweeping, 11 maintenance requests and 12 balanced budgets.

The Christmas Eve Mass, Vigil of Christmas December 24th, is at 7:30 p.m. with singing starting at 7 p.m. Come join us if you are in the area. 

Our Christmas Day Mass is at 8:30 a.m.  Again, come and join us if you are in the area.

May the GIFT of HIS LOVE bring you JOY this Christmas Season and throughout the New Year.


Sister Mary Lou


December  6, 2017

Happy Feast of Saint Nicholas.  He came to visit us in the dining room this noon and gave us each a little bag of peanuts…a nice little treat.  I remember him coming to our home when we were children.  There would be a big racket on the porch, but when we went to look there was no one there, but we’d find a bag of peanuts and apples & oranges in the wood box.

There are many activities come up in the next couple weeks. On Sunday December 10th at 2 p.m. the St. Francis Community Chorale will present their Christmas Blessings, Concert in Sacred Heart Chapel.  There will be a reception in St. Francis Hall.  This group is directed by Barb Stumpf.
The other noon, Jeff and a group of ladies did an enlunchment presentation, telling us about the work a group of them did wile in Haiti.  I am always impressed by the great works volunteers do both in our own country and in other countries.  Thank you for sharing your faith by putting it into action.

On Friday, December 15th at 7 p.m. the St Francis Chorale and Chamber Orchestra will give a concert, Joyful Yuletide, in Sacred Heart Chapel.  The concert is directed by Bobbi French.   
The Little Falls Lions Club will come for Christmas Caroling and pizza on Thursday, December 14th from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. in St. Francis Hall.

There will be a retirement party in the dining room for Jeff Odendahl at 2 p.m. on December 12th.  Jeff has served as director of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation department for the past 13 years.  Thanks, Jeff, for a job well done.  We will miss you.  Do come back to visit.

Friday, December 8th, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the patronal feast of our Community.  It will be a special day for us.  We will have Morning Prayer together at 8:15 followed with brunch.   At 11 a.m. we will have a festive Mass with lots of singing .  Following 4:15 Evening Prayer we will have a special dinner.  A little statistic:  We are 117 living Sisters and 338 deceased Sisters.

The Give to the Max collection was a little over a week ago.  From our generous donors our Community received over $54,000 to support our ministries.  Thank You.  We are grateful and we do pray for you.

We have a bit of snow on the roof tops but not enough on the ground to make mention of.  The temperate is cold—but I guess we should expect that since we are into December.
May your Advent days be peaceful (unstressful) as we get nearer to Christmas.

Peace and blessings,

Sister Mary Lou


November 1, 2017     Feast of All Saints

We have an interesting crew of “characters” around the building yesterday. They bring smiles to lots of faces.

Our week of Community Meetings is now over. We gather again in February 2018. What do I carry with me? I carry a sense of gratitude for the 16 women who founded our Community and a sense of gratitude for the 124 women who now make up our Franciscan Community. 

One day when I was distracted, I took the word “assembly” and found 34 words using the letters in that word!  Now isn’t that profound?

Sister Helen Hassler, age 83, went on to her new life in heaven the first day of our gathering, October 21, 2017. Her funeral was at 3 p.m. the last day of our meetings.  I am sure she was watching over us each day.

I fund this poem among my treasures:


On the table, side by side
The Holy Bible and the TV Guide.
One is well worn, but the other cherished with pride.
Not the Bible, but the TV Guide.

One is used daily to help folks decide.
No! It isn’t the Bible, it’s the TV Guide.
As pages are turned, what shall we see?
Oh, what does it matter?  Turn on the TV.
So they open the book in which they confide.
No.  Not the Bible, it’s the TV Guide.
The word of God is seldom read.
Maybe a verse when they fall into bed.
Exhausted and sleepy and tired as can be.
Not from reading the Bible, but watching TV.

So then back to the table, side by side
Are the Holy Bible and the TV Guide.
No time for prayer, No time for the Word.
The Plan of Salvation is seldom heard.
Forgiveness of sin, so full and free,
Is found in the Bible, not on TV.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow we have a Blood Drive going on. Our goal is 220 units.
We are grateful for all those generous people who come to share the gift of life.
Today is the Feast of All Saints. Happy Day to all you living Saints of God.
Thursday we remember in prayer all the Faithful Departed on  All Souls Day.

Today we had many wonderful volunteers come and help us stuff envelops for the Christmas Appeal.

Daylight Savings Time ends Sunday. Set clocks back.

Next week is National Vocation Awareness Week. If you are not sure what that means, google it.

Peace and blessings,

Sister Mary Lou


August 30, 2017

For a quick second, I wondered what I would write about today. One look at the bulletin board and I had plenty of items.

August is almost over…and soon the new school year starts for many students…but not for those students in the hurricane area in Texas, if they even have a school left for them to attend. I cannot imagine such devastation. For them we pray.

Sister Mary Alice Doll, age 96 and a Franciscan Sister for 75 years, died Saturday morning, August 26. 2017. Sister Alice was Director of Religious Education for the Saint Cloud Diocese for many years. As an example of her influence, when she began her diocesan ministry only 15 parishes had a religious education director while at the time of her retirement, 74 parishes had developed religious education programs. Her Franciscan Wake is at 7 p.m. this evening and the Mass of Christian Burial is tomorrow, August 31st, at 11 a.m. Sisters had been sitting with her during the night for several days before she died. During the day, her niece, Patty Doll, stayed with her. Eternal Life give to her, O Lord, and let Perpetual Light shine upon her. May she rest in peace.

Sister Alice was also a gifted artist. She drew pictures for the Stations of the Cross that line the pathway to the cemetery. Here are a couple of her paintings.

We had another very successful American Red Cross blood drive here Monday and Tuesday. We collected 196 units of blood. God bless and care for all the generous donors and the staff who worked the drive.

Another note on the bulletin board asks us to pray for a donor, Greg, who will have a bone marrow transplant tomorrow (31st). The donor is a 100% match and lives in Germany. That takes teamwork between doctors, pilots and others to carry that off! For Greg it is a matter of life and death. Again, let us pray for the success of this endeavor.

I’ve been watching the news about hurricane Harvey. Thank you to all who are helping out there.  The need is great. One news article said that in a 1927 hurricane the Mississippi River was 600 miles wide. Could that be true?

Yesterday our friend, Larry Anderson, from Morris, brought us 585 pounds of cabbage. That will make lots of coleslaw and sauerkraut! God bless you, Larry.

Last week, the folks in the Development Office sent out a bulk mailing of 3,000+ appeal letters. The proceeds from this appeal will benefit our Franciscan Ministries. Because of your generosity and love of the Gospel, we are able to provide assistance and care to people who are poor, marginalized and forgotten. Again, we are praying for all our generous donors. Thank you.

How about this for a beautiful tray of little tomatoes from our convent garden.

While filling in for lunch-break this noon, I picked up the little book from the Music Center that describes their many offerings. They have a staff of 26 people and offer many types of lessons:  piano, organ, guitar, music therapy, violin, viola, brass ensemble, orchestra, cello,  bass guitar, banjo, mandolin, gymnastics, dance, voice, theory, accordion, percussion, etc. Sister Cecilia Schmitt was instrumental in establishing the Music Center 38 years ago.

That’s enough for this week.

God bless and continue to care for you.

Sister Mary Lou


August 14, 2017

We had about 2 inches of rain over the weekend…and it took until noon today for the sun to come out

Last Thursday we celebrated the 100th Birthday of Sister Mary Joel Bieniek. Many family and friends joined us in the afternoon for cake and ice cream. Congratulations,
Sister Joel, and thank you for all the good works you’ve done those many years.

 When we look to end of a second floor hallway, we see this statue of the Sacred Heart. As you see in the note, it has been with us for a long time. “Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in You.  Amen.”

Sacred Heart Chapel
This statue was given to the St. Gabriel's Hospital Sisters by the St. Gabriel's Nursing School Alumnae.

It was in the Recreation Room for the Nursing School students on Ground Floor untill the late 1970's, then it was brought over to Hurrle Hall. In 1993, it was in the Recreation Room of the Immaculate Conception Community on First Floor of Clare Residence.

I recently read this African Proverb: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” A good thought for pondering.

We have a quiet week here, as far as I know. And that is OK.

Peace and God bless you.

Sister Mary Lou


August 7, 2017

Yesterday Bishop Donald Kettler presided at the 11 a.m. Mass here at the Motherhouse as we celebrated the 75th Jubilees of Sister Annella Bieniek, Sister Alice Doll and Sister Fran Kempenich and the 50th Jubilees of Sister Louise Bauer and Sister Charlene Grossman. It was a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge these five Sisters for their many years of service as Franciscan Sisters.  Congratulations, Sisters.

The other big event of last week was the Green Fair Folk Festival on Wednesday, August 2nd from 4—8 p.m. I think the most popular event was the horse and wagon  tour of campus. Each trip lasted about 20/25 minutes. I was lucky enough to provide narration telling about the many places we saw.  I went to on four of those trips. The weather forecast earlier that day wasn’t all that great, yet that evening it was perfect outside with just enough gentle breeze to keep the mosquitos away. There was also a opportunity to tour our Convent Chapel. Many people have seen it from the outside, but had never been inside to see it. About 1,000 was a guesstimate for the number of attendees.

The next big event will be this Thursday when we celebrate Sister Joel Bieniek’s 100th birthday. We will have Mass at 11 a.m. followed by lunch and then a reception at 2 p.m. Thank you for all the wonderful ministries you’ve don these many years: food service in hospitals and nursing homes and here at the Motherhouse, sacristan and now flower arranger for Chapel. Congratulations.

I want to share a reflection with you.

Advice From a Tree

Dear Friend
Stand Tall and Proud
Sink your roots deeply into the Earth
Reflect the light of your true nature
Think long term
Go out on a limb
Remember your place among all living beings
Embrace with joy the changing seasons
For each yields its own abundance
The Energy and birth of Spring
The Growth and Contentment of Summer
The Wisdom to let go like leaves in the Fall
The Rest and Quiet renewal of Winter

Feel the wind and the sun
And delight in their presence
Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
And the mystery of the stars at night
Seek nourishment from the good things in life
Simple pleasures
Earth, fresh air, light
Be content with your natural beauty
Drink plenty of water
Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes
Be flexible
Remember your roots
Enjoy the view!
 (by Ilar Shamir)

Peace and blessings.’
Have a good week.

Sister Mary Lou


July 31, 2017

This is a picture of the flower bed that greets visitors when they come to the front entrance of the Motherhouse.

Sister Helen Ann Brake celebrated her 90th Birthday on Sunday.  Lots of family and friends joined us for cake and ice cream.

For many of us, today, July 31st, was the anniversary of our Reception into this Franciscan Community.  I remember it as a very hot day on July 31st 1953. For many of us, the starched, white headpiece, called a bandeau, had melt-downs and collapsed…and were replaced that afternoon. I’m glad we don’t wear those anymore.

Last Friday evening to 3 a.m. Saturday morning, was the Morrison County Relay for Life. The event this year brought in over $67,000 for the American Cancer Society. More than 1,000 luminaries lined the walkways around the Morrison County Fairgrounds. Thanks to all who provide the meal and help with this event. Several of us Franciscan Sisters were there for the first art of the evening.

Soap making is the newest project by families in Kampala, Uganda. One World Mission, a mission project of FSLF (Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls) gave a start-up grant of $3,400 to cover supplies and training for 30 women to start their own business with potential for earned income. Regular hand washing, soft water, proper storage of utensils have improved, reducing the occurrence of water borne and hygiene related diseases.

Come join the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls for the 2017 Green Fair Folk Festival on Wednesday, August 2, from 4 to 8 p.m., on the west lawn of St. Francis Convent here in Little Falls.  Now in its eleventh year, the Green Fair welcomed over 1,000 guests in 2016. Lots of family fun, interesting displays, fantastic music and exhibitors—all with a green message—are the highlights of this year’s event.  Kids can visit the Teddy Bear Clinic and adoption center or participate in a Bike Rodeo hoisted by the Little Falls Police Department. A horse-drawn wagon will give tours of our campus. It is a fun evening and we pray that the Lord will bless us again with favorable weather.

On Sunday, August 6th, we celebrate the 50th Jubilee for Sister Louise Bauer and Sister Charlene Grossman and the 75th Jubilees for Sister Annella Bieniek, Sister Alice Doll and Sister Fran Kempenich.  Congratulations, Sisters. That’s a lot of years of Franciscan living.

The Peace Garden, in the woods south of our cemetery, is a beautiful place to spend some time in prayer and reflection.

Peace and blessings,

Sister Mary Lou


June 28, 2017

Sunday was a day of celebration here at the Motherhouse. Seven Sisters celebrated 60 years of being Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls. 

They are: (Back row:  Sister Cordy Korkowski, Sister Loretta Bloch, Sister Carol Schmit, Sister Marguerite Ostendorf, Sister Clara Stang, Sister Ade Kroll , (seated) Sister Bea Eichten,  (Community Minister,)and Sister Sylvia Opatz.  Congratulations, Sisters. Thank you for your many years of service as a Franciscan Sister.

I was not here for that celebration since I was at The West Union, MN celebration of the 100th anniversary of Saint Alexius Catholic Church, my home parish when I was a child. That Sunday we had Mass outside on the church steps landing and after Mass a delicious catered dinner. All Priests and Sisters, and former Priests and Sisters, from the Parish received special invitations. It was a great day. The Church windows have the names of donors of the windows when the Church was built. Nick Eltgroth, my grandfather, has his name on one of the windows.

Sister Adella Blonigen, age 90, died shortly after midnight Wednesday, June 28th at St. Francis Convent. The Franciscan Wake is at 7 p.m. on Friday July 7, 2017 and the Mass of Christian Burial is at 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 8, 2017.


JULY 5, 2017

For some reason or another, I didn’t send out last week’s blog so I am just adding on this week’s information.

I hope you had a safe and fun 4th of July celebration. I went to West Union, MN, for their 29th West Union Parade. This parade started out as a 4-H. project. There were many units in the 5 or 6 block parade: of which 10 were tractors. The oldest tractor was a 1917 John Deer followed by the newest big tractor. Oh, how tractors have grown in size! After the parade, the 4H youth served ice cream cones. A good time was had by all.

The annual St. Francis High School Reunion is Sunday, July 16 from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mass is at 11 a.m. All former students are invited to attend. Come to renew friendships. (The reunion is always the third Sunday f July.)

May God bless you each day.

Sister Mary Lou


June 5, 2017

We are into summer big-time. It is sunny and 80+ degrees outside as I write this article. Next January we dream of these days.

Last week Sully Gwast had a “Show and Tell” event here at the Motherhouse. He brought his pet Emu for us to see. He said he bought two eggs and put them in a chicken incubator set at 97 degrees.  Only one egg hatched. Now his bird is three weeks old and about a foot tall, but when it grows up, it will be about five feet tall. I don’t know that I saw an emu before. It is the second largest bird in Australia.

On Saturday the MN Farmers Union women had their annual meeting in St. Francis Hall. There were about 40 women and a few men in attendance. God bless these women for the good works they do. Farm women and men work hard to produce the food we enjoy. Thank you for your labor. I pray daily for favorable weather for a good growing season.

Sister Cordy Korkowski, director of Donor Relations, awarded two Sister Judine Cassidy Scholarships to two CEC students on May 25, 2017. Shania Rossum will be attending Central Lakes College in Brainerd and will be enrolled full time in the Horticulture Program. The second scholarship recipient, Nattalie Cluever, is set to attend Central Lakes College in Brainerd as well. She will be enrolled in the Dental Assistant Program.. Laura Dunlap, director of the CEC (Continuing Education Center) program expressed gratitude for the gift from the Franciscan Sisters and acknowledged the Franciscan Sisters at the event in appreciation for their interest and support of the CEC program.  For MANY years this program took place at what was St. Francis High School, now known as St. Francis Center.

Tuesday through Thursday we will be hosting “Girls Camp.” Girls and leaders will set up their tents in Assisi Park, south of the Motherhouse buildings. Sounds like the weather will be great. Pictures next week.

We have a couple acres of land plowed and used for Community Gardens. The plots are planted and cared for by those who would not otherwise have a spot for a garden. This is the scariest scare crow out there. And this hill of beans is growing nicely.

God bless you these summer days.
Sister Mary Lou


May 31, 2017

Tomorrow, June 1st, is the Feast of Saint Justin. On my Receptions Day, July 31, 1953, I was given the name, “Sister Mary Justin”, which I used for about 14 years, until we were allowed to go back to our Baptismal name. I am glad I am again “Mary Lou.”

We had a couple inches of rain the past week. Everything is lush green…and lawns need mowing about every 5 days. Keith spends a lot of time mowing our big campus.

As I look at my calendar, we have a few quiet days…and that is OK. The next big event will be our celebration for the seven Sisters who will celebrate their 60th jubilee on June 25th.

This year I did not get out to Camp Ripley Veterans Cemetery for their Memorial Day Services. I did listen to the re-broadcast on the radio. Local artist, Charles Kapsner, has finished three of the five big 8-by-10-foot murals in the Committal Hall. Approximately 6,500 veterans/spouses are buried at the Camp. “O Caption!  My Captain” comes to my mind when I think of the Veterans Cemetery.  “Thank you” to all the women and men who have served/serve our country in the Military Services.

Peace and God’s blessings on you and those you love,

Sister Mary Lou


May 22, 2017

Psalm 84 was part of Morning Prayer for today. One line says, “Clothed ion generous growth by early rains…” What a true statement when one is outdoors and looks at all the lush, green grass and green leaves on the trees and bushes! In the past week we’ve had about 2 inches of rain. Sunshine today is much appreciated.

Two of the intercessions at Morning Prayer were: “May those who are young move into the future confident of their place in this world and aware of their responsibility to humanity.”...and  “May those who are old remember gratefully Your many gifts and willingly pass on to the next generation their hopes and dreams.” These are such good things to pray for especially as we celebrate high school and college graduations.

Yesterday about 100 guests joined us for Liturgy and lunch as we celebrated a “Donor Memorial Liturgy.” A meaningful quote in the program, from John F. Kennedy, was, “We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” All of you, our Donors, are remembered at least once a day in our Community prayers.

Alexia, one of our nurses here on second floor, showed us  the big rosary she recently made. By now it is probably on display on the wall in her living room. It is beautiful to see close-up.


At Mass last Friday, we sang the Blessing of St. Francis over Sisters Joel Bieniek and Sister Antonette Ahles who have been Franciscan Sisters for 80 years.

After our week of meetings, many of us felt that we needed to just sit back and ponder the events of the week before moving on with life.

God bless you and all your activities this week.
Sister Mary Lou