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franciscanway - Franciscan University of Steubenville

franciscanway - Franciscan University of Steubenville

One e May afternoon in

One e May afternoon in 1988, fi ve Franciscan University students piled led eeverything er thing the they owned o ned on a large table in Marian Hall. Hall Cameras. Typewriters. Books. Music tapes. Then the sorting began. Keep, toss. Toss, toss, keep. One simple standard applied: What would they really need when their new religious order began? “It was a time of profound letting go. . . and risking everything to follow a dream that we felt God had placed in our hearts,” says Reverend Mother Sister Katherine Caldwell, TOR, ’87. This dream, which had come to each young woman individually and bonded the group together, was to stand with the Blessed Mother at the foot of the cross, by founding a new contemplative-active TOR order. “Our founding grace was to renew the contemplative dimension,” Sister Katherine explains. “While all Franciscans are contemplative, we’re different in the emphasis we have on the contemplative and how it shapes our daily life.” On August 15, 1988, the founding sisters gathered before another table—in another campus building—this time, an altar, in the Portiuncula Chapel, where several Franciscan friars celebrated the founding Mass of the Franciscan Sisters, TOR, of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother. This year, the order celebrates its 20th anniversary. Much has changed. Two decades ago, seven sisters lived together in one modest dwelling. Today, 28 sisters—17 of whom attended Franciscan University—reside in three cities: Toronto, Ohio; downtown Steubenville; and Gaming, Austria. But despite this growth, the order’s original calling remains the same, as its constitution affi rms: “Through our profession of vows we freely join our Sorrowful Mother at the foot of the cross offering our life with Christ as a holocaust of love.” The sisters answer this call by living out their four charisms— poverty, contemplation, mercy, and crucifi ed love. 22 Franciscan Way • Autumn 2008 GodHAS HAS DONE” “What The Franciscan Sisters Third Order Regular mark their 20th anniversary this year. By Maura Colleen McKeegan Poverty y The T sisters’ vow of poverty not only frees them from attachment to worldly goods, but it also gives God a chance to show his extraordinary providence, as he did in grand fashion when the sisters built their formation house. “We literally did not have any money when we started the formation house,” recalls Sister Katherine, noting that they even had to borrow a shovel for the groundbreaking. But, trusting in God’s providence, they began. And people came. Sometimes up to 60 of them showed up to work for free. And miraculously, the bills got paid. “As reverend mother, Sister Jean [Daugherty, TOR, MA ’87] was in charge of the fi nances at the time. Just when she would say, ‘I have no idea how we’re going to pay this bill,’ we’d get a check in the mail for that exact amount,” remembers Sister Anne Marie Gill, TOR, ’91, MA ’98. Today, Sister Katherine calls the 10,000-square-foot building the “pulse beat” of the sisters’ daily life. “Over and over,” Sister Anne Marie says, “God has proven that this is a work that he is doing.” The poverty is not always easy, Sister Grace Ann Wills, TOR, acknowledges, but it has worth beyond measure. A widow with 7 children and 23 grandchildren, she struggled with her inability to give gifts to her grandchildren, until she realized that through her vocation, she could bestow the greatest gift of all. “I have a source for enriching them not comparable with any other resource of material goods,” she explains. “I can give them gifts in the manner of God himself.” Contemplation For the sisters, the renewal of the contemplative dimension means that prayer is the heart and soul of their ministry. They spend four Emily Fogarty

to six hours each day in prayer, including two hours of eucharistic adoration. “The Eucharist is the culmination of all we are,” Sister Katherine says. Also, as “Sisters of Penance,” they practice different forms of penance throughout the day. Whether fasting on bread and water, refraining from conversation, or having praise and worship sessions in reparation for those who do not praise God, every sacrifi ce, small or large, becomes an offering to God, a prayer for those who need it most. Mercy Strengthened by the graces of their deep prayer life, the sisters perform works of mercy for Franciscan University and for the local community. At the University, they have taught courses, served as residence hall and spiritual directors, spoken at conferences, and led Spring Break mission trips. Sister Mary Rose Bratlien, TOR, ’90 is the University’s assistant director of Evangelization. Four sisters also serve as pastoral assistants for the University’s Gaming, Austria, program, joining students for Scripture studies, pilgrimages, and even Ultimate Frisbee. The sisters also have a mission house in downtown Steubenville, where they serve the poor in various local ministries. They also assist parishes and Catholic schools throughout the Diocese of Steubenville. At each place the sisters bring the message of God’s mercy. Eric, a lifelong Catholic, came to the 2007 Young Adults Conference after undergoing extensive treatment for a debilitating disease. Two years of heavy medications and chemotherapy left him exhausted, confused, and heavy-hearted. But when he heard Sister Therese Marie Iglesias, TOR, speak, a spark ignited within him. After the talk, Eric went up to her, and she talked and prayed with him. He hasn’t been the same since. “Even though I was with her for only fi ve minutes, her work still echoes in my life,” Eric says. “Every time I’ve been burdened or stressed, I’ve thought back to that moment with Sister Therese Marie, and it has brought me peace again and again.” Crucifi ed Love The TOR sisters live out their charism of crucifi ed love by fi nding the joy in sacrifi ce. They tell a humorous story that illustrates this well. In 2004, Sister Anne Marie Gill and Sister Della Marie Doyle ’07, two small TOR sisters in full habit, rode the trains from Poland to Gaming, Austria, where they were setting up their new mission house. Sister Anne Marie lugged a suitcase containing a newly purchased 100-pound tabernacle. Beside her, Sister Della Marie carried a six-foot-tall crucifi x. “She takes it literally,” Sister Anne Marie told gawking spectators, “when the Gospel says, ‘Take up your cross and follow me.’” Each nun carried a heavy load that day, but knowing they were serving Jesus, they bore the weight with joy. “The cross brings us to the resurrection, which fi lls us with joy, happiness, faith, hope, and love,” explains Sister Carrie Ann McKeown, TOR. Looking Forward Coinciding with their 20th anniversary celebration, the sisters recently held their second general chapter meeting, where the professed sisters and the new generation of novices all gathered in one place WHAT GOD HAS DONE to make decisions for the order’s future. From Sister Anne Marie’s perspective, that future looks exceptionally bright. “I saw the strength of the young women following us, and I thought, ‘It is just so worth it,’” she says. “We’ve had our challenges, but it’s been a great grace to be a part of what God has done.” If you have prayer intentions or would like to contact the sisters, please visit their Web site, www.torsisters.org. � Maura Colleen McKeegan writes from Steubenville, Ohio. Facing Page: Sister Jean Daugherty, TOR, MA ’87 greets visitors. Top: The TOR sisters having a ball during the children’s activities after their 2008 May crowning. Middle: Sister Mary Rose Bratlien, TOR, ’90 serves as Franciscan University’s assistant director of Evangelization. Bottom: Sister Monica Spates, TOR, who served in Gaming, Austria, last semester. Emily Fogarty Emily Fogarty Franciscan Way • Autumn 2008 23

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