Living the Founding Charism

by Sister Julie Ann on November 7, 2009

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We,  Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, officially commemorate our 140th anniversary as a community on November 9, 2009. This year the celebration begins on Sunday and concludes with Evening Prayer on Monday.

Traditionally, the celebration includes:

  • Eucharistic Liturgy (St. John Lateran Feast has the perfect ‘building’ scripture readings!)
  • Special Morning and Evening Liturgy of the Hours (this year’s novices helped plan the community prayer)
  • Founders’ Day Program (Sister Pamela Catherine Peasel, OSF, produced and directed this year’s  historical remembrance)
  • Cemetery Service honoring our deceased Sisters

Cemetery Service Honoring Deceased Sisters

With grateful hearts we pause today to honor those who have gone before us in this Community of Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. The ground on which we are standing is Holy Ground. It was consecrated by the Church, set apart, to receive the bodies of our deceased Sisters, Sisters who were consecrated to God in Baptism and consecrated more fully in their Religious Profession. As they were laid to rest in this holy place, their very bodies added to the blessing of this ground…our eyes rest upon names of Sisters who have gone before us. We see dates long before our time, but faith tells us that today we live in the presence of each one of these women who have touched our lives and who look to us at this moment with love in their hearts.

From our past, Sister Pelagia had reminisced how candles used to be lit on the graves of our deceased Sisters during November. This seems to have been our custom in our Community in our very early years. Today, we will place a lighted candle on the graves of our Community leaders, representing all of our deceased Sisters.

Noteworthy References

foundresses.jpgThe Fidelity to a founding charism is evident in the history of religious communities. Read Sister Donna Marie Kessler’s, OSF (community archivist) noteworthy references revealing something of our own charism as lived in the beginning days. 

Here’s our first entry. A new reflection will be added under this posting’s comments each day until November 25, 2009.

The simple faith response of Theresa Gramlich (Mother Gabriel) when called, through Father Joseph Fessler to teach catechism to the children at Clarks Mills. This is in her own written words. “I replied: “If Father Oschwald wants me to go, I shall go.” (Father Oshchwald was her ‘pastor’ at St. Nazianz.)

Why is it important to remember the past?

22 thoughts on “Living the Founding Charism”

  1. How wonderful to have an extended Founder’s Day (month long) celebration. What beautiful pictures, too!

    I think it is important to remember the past for several reasons:
    1. There is great security in having a past; a foundation on which to build.
    2. When times get difficult, there are role models of sisters gone before us who exemplify struggle, growth and peace through difficulties and sufferings.
    3. There is a sense that present members are participating in creating a future to pass on to other, newer members.
    4. God’s loving care can be traced throughout the history of the Congregation.

  2. Much wisdom to be reflected on in Sister Anne Marie’s comment.

    Every period in the history of our Sisters brought new gifts to be developed, new techniques, new technologies, etc. A common spirit of prayerfulness opened all to the one constant: change.Our past and our future are dependent on our relationship with God.

  3. Sister Sharon Paul says:

    What meaningful,beautiful, God-given surroundings of our Motherhouse of the Franciscan Srs. of Christian Charity. What a treat anticipating what the pictures will be each day and the comments. Thank you! To remember the past is very important:
    l. Appreciate the sacrifices of those men & women who prepared the way.
    2. Appreciate their determination, courage, faith, rendered in every challenge.
    3. To realize they were human too and made mistakes and yet they carried on and trusted in the Lord.
    4. Without our predecessors we wouldn’t be where we are today.
    I am looking forward to our continuing History that Sr. Donna Marie is industriously writing.

  4. Foundresses says:

    Theresa embraced with faith and great dedication her call to a mission. A history of Clarks Mills speaks of the poverty in educational materials, but the quality of the teacher-good will, zeal, love for souls, and a natural aptitude for teaching.

  5. Foundresses says:

    A glimpse of God’s call to her vocation came a few months later when Father Fessler mentioned the prospect of building a little convent. She wrote later of this moment: “This had been my wish long before, but poverty was the obstacle.”

  6. Happy Founders’ Day! As I was taking time to pray this morning, the second reading , put this day into a more profound perspective:

    If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each one’s work.If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.(1Cor.3:12)

    The faith of our Sisters, tested in the fire of 1881; as well as the many fires of struggle, discernment, prayer, community, apostolates, change, and new growth throughout the years continues to inspire me to trust in the presence of the Holy Spirit among our sisters as we respond to Jesus’ love and the needs of God’s people!

  7. Sister Carla Riach says:

    I love Founders Day. Our Foundresses remind me of Abraham in their great faith and trust in God.Remembering them fills me with gratitude for the wonderful legacy they’ve given us. It helps me recall who I am, where I came from and where I’m going.

  8. I’m glad Sister Mary Ann reminded us of the fire and the struggles that entailed. Then Sister Carla summarized it well: our foundresses remind us of where we’ve been, who we are and where we’re going. I am proud to be a FSCC.

  9. Foundresses says:

    Theresa’s early companions were inspired by her desire to be a religious and her dedicated commitment to the call to teach. Together they expressed a desire to form a religious community. Father Fessler received permission for this from Bishop Henni.

  10. Foundresses says:

    Sister Gabriel’s reflection on Reception Day: “Can you really comprehend what feelings passed through our hearts when we were clothed in the religious garments and thus consecrated to God?-after 3 1/2 years as candidates!”

  11. This week’s Eucharistic readings seem perfect for dwelling on the wisdom of the ages.

  12. Foundresses says:

    On that memorable day Sister Gabriel also revealed something of her spirituality-a sense of responsibility for living the Gospel way of life. “As we were now members of a community, we had to take up the yoke of Christ on our shoulders.” Then she referred to Mt.11:28-30. The test came quickly…she and Sister Hyacinth were sent to the east on a collecting tour for a ‘real’ Motherhouse.

  13. Foundresses says:

    Sister Odelia’s reflection on Reception Day: “None of the five Sisters had any money. Our dear Lord who called them together had to provide for their needs. So none of the Sisters had the least worry. They had nothing, yet they felt no actual want. Confiding in our dear Lord and the working of his Providence, this little band carried on, joyful and without worries.” (Note: Within four months, four candidates entered!)

  14. Foundresses says:

    On Profession Day, November 9, 1870-4 were professed; 4 received. Mother Odelia wrote: “It was a happy day for the Sisters in this small group in union with their heavenly Bridegroom to whom they had given their whole life without worry or thought about the future, except the wish to live a holy life whether long or short, in the service of their heavenly Bridegroom.”

  15. Foundresses says:

    Some time later Mother Odelia wrote: “Soon the unassuming attitude of the Sisters attracted other young women and aroused in them the desire to join with the Sisters to serve God.” (By 1859 there were 30 Sisters-the 4 foundresses and 26 who had joined them.)

  16. Foundresses says:

    “In the fall of 1870,” Mother Odelia wrote, “Sisers Gabriel and Seraphica, with a happy spirit of sacrifice, took over the first mission school in St. Andrew Parish, Potosi.” (Two schools-115 in lower grades taught by Sister Seraphica; 75 in upper grades at the District School taught by Sister Gabriel.)

  17. Foundresses says:

    Summer 1875, Sister Gabriel was elected as Mother. Mother wrote: “Sister Gabriel, during her six years and more since the convent was founded suffered many hardships for the honor of God in the service of the convent with great self-sacrificing devotion. The low opinion which she had of herself and her extreme humility urged her to resist this office, but the Sisters forced her to take it.”

  18. Foundresses says:

    Welcoming of the German Sisters in October 1875. Difficulties followed. Amalgamation of the two communities occurred in November 1876. Sister Orestes, a Community historian, said in a lecture: “The difficulties and problems facing the entire community at this time must have been tremendous. The fact that solutions were found cannot be redound to the glory of each and every Sister concerned. In my opinion this may one day be one of the glories of our historical past.”

  19. Foundresses says:

    Mother Odelia: In the year 1881 it pleased our Dear Lord to send the Sisters a heavy trial. With one stroke, almost in one moment, He took their house and everything that was in it, which at the time was not free of debt and was heavily mortgaged…it seemed that ruins marked teh graveyard of their hopes. This was a picture of total destruction. But a star of hope still shone in the convent sky. Our dear Lord showed in his kindness that he does not only send trials but also consolation.” (She spoke of the kindness and of so many people.)

  20. I love the phrase “Star of Hope” used by Mother Odelia. I also think of the marker labeled “Happening of Hope” as we enter the Motherhouse drive. Hope seems to be one of our “guiding stars” when many would be tempted to despair. What a great theme as we approach Advent where God responded to our hopes and dreams with Jesus. Thank you for posting so many of our early memories.

  21. Foundresses says:

    The convent was rebuilt. Mother Odelia: ‘The new convent was built again on borrrowed money, trusting in the providence of God, which never allowed us to suffer actual want, even though it often happened that we experienced poverty to a certain extent. It also seemed that our Holy Father St. Francis wished to see to it that we always had some debts. May our Holy Father St. Francis obtain from our Heavenly Father for us a love of the practice of this fundamental virtue.’

  22. Foundresses says:

    A final November thought…

    In Heming’s History of the Catholic Church in Wisconsin, (1895-1898), someone wrote an historical sketch regarding our foundresses:
    “To these four Sisters…is due the establishment of an organization whose far-reaching influence in all pertaining to the advancement of the Church, has been widely felt. Patient, zealous and indefatigable in the work they had undertaken to perform,these noble women set about a task which naught but an overpowering love for Mother Church and for their fellow-men could have induced them to attempt…In those early days of organization, with its works of benefaction still unheralded, its deeds of mercy unknown of man, dire, pinching poverty stalked about its every endeavor dimming the luster of each well-meant effort, and menacing the prospects of every cherished plan. But in spite of all its unfavorable surroundings, the Order grew and thrived; slowly at first, it is true, yet with healthful and positive assurance that it would live to succeed…” (947)

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