Eye-Witness Reporting from St. Clare Convent, Manitowoc, WI

by Sister Julie Ann on January 1, 2009

Mary Hennessy was born May 11, 1872 in Wexford, Ireland. After growing up in Ironwood, MI, Mary entered the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity at age 25 in 1898. Sister Clarence was professed in 1900.

holyfamilyhospital.jpgSister Clarence is an eye witness to all that happened in the first 40 years of Holy Family Hospital (now Holy Family Memorial), Manitowoc, WI. The Franciscan Sisters’ archives reveal her poignant reporting:

Hard times started in October, 1929. Very little work doing anywhere. Many idle men were seen the whole year. The summer was dry and as a result we had poor crops. There was no water for the cattle. Water was carried in barrels for miles. No rain for three months. No snow until spring.

The Spring of 1931 brought no relief. No work started before the middle of summer. Men came to the back door by the dozens for a handout. They were thankful for any kind of food. We gave some food to each one, no matter how many came and some how or other we did not miss it. Such poverty!

Still no work in 1932. Over a hundred families living on the city depending on them for food, clothing and shelter beside light, water and coal. The men were walking around by the score, hiding themselves in the grass and among the trees, crawling out at meal times and marching up to the back door. Some of them hung their heads in shame because they met their next door neighbor. Hunger is a cure for pride.

img_5040.jpgMoving forward while gaining wisdom from all that has happened in the past, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity who presently live at St. Clare Convent, Manitowoc, WI tell their own stories about life today.

25 thoughts on “Eye-Witness Reporting from St. Clare Convent, Manitowoc, WI”

  1. Sr. Sarah Bertler says:

    Althought today’s economy is not as dire as Sr. Clarence’s account, we still have the poor among us. People with limited income, and/or no insurance still come seeking healthcare from Holy Family Memorial’s clinics and its hospital. And we still serve through a dedicated staff of professionals.

    There are three Sisters employed by Holy Family and many Sister Sponsor Representatives who serve as volunteers throughout the Network. What we the Sisters do as a job isn’t as important to those who are served as is the fact that somehow, through us, God is present.

    I will let the other Sisters address how God works through them to minister.
    Blessings to all.

  2. Sr. Lois Ann says:

    Happy New Year from all of us Sisters at St. Clare’s Convent here in Manitoowc, Wisconsin.
    Our New Year’s Eve was a Community gathering of 12 of our Sisters from 2 other Manitowoc Convent Homes – bringing our number to 20. What a wonderful celebration! At our Evening Prayer we gave thanks for what was, prayed for the needs of the world especially for peace, the suffering, the dying; and for the young women discerning a call to the life of a religious. Supper followed with a hot turkey soup, fruit pizza, veggies, cheese & crackers, ice cream & cookies. Our Home was full of laughs and the sharing of stories & memories. Franciscans always have great fun when they get together.
    May you experience God’s peace & joy in 2009.

  3. Greetings to each Sister who serves at Holy Family Memorial and the surrounding Community. Happy New Year! Yes, I agree, Sr. Sarah that Sr. Clarence’s account of the twenties was a dire time. It makes one be appreciative of all those who came before “to prepare today” what Holy Family IS. Thanks to our Srs. who are employed there and THANKS to all the Srs. who are Sponsor Representatives. We were commenting the other day what would we do here at Franciscan Care Services in West Point, NE without our wonderful, dedicated volunteers & benefactors
    Sr. Lois Ann, I enjoyed your rendition of your Christmas Celebration with the 20 Srs. from the nearby missions as you reminisced. There is strength in numbers and with each one doing their dedicated service one builds on another. Interested in hearing from the other Srs. Blessings!

  4. S. Rose Ulmen says:

    Today, on the Feast of the Epiphany, we had the traditional Blessing of the main entranceway to our home. As the Magi found Christ “on entering the house” so we bless our entranceway as a sign that all who enter will find Christ present.

    After singing about the Three Kings, today’s Gospel was read. Then the current year and the initials of the Magi were marked above the doorway with blessed chalk. (20+C+M+B+09) A very meaningful prayer was said asking for help to make our place filled with kindness to one another, hospitality to guests, and with abundant care for every stranger.

    The initials C-M-B are Casper, Melchior, and Balthasar, the 3 Kings. C-M-B can also stand for the Latin phrase, “Christus Masionem Benedicat,” meaning “May Christ bless this dwelling.”

    I will ask God that I might do my part to help make our place filled with kindness to one another in 2009. God bless you!

  5. Sister Barbara Belinske says:

    I can’t believe the ice on the parking lot at
    HFM REED AVENUE campus! I thank the LORD that Sr. Lois Ann offered to drive me over there this morning. She drove right up to the ramp, and I arrived without a problem. She also picked me up at 4:30 this evening. That was really special. Ordinarily, I always have the car because I have to go over to the hospital for meetings. That’s the case for Wednesday,
    Thursday, and Friday this week. So much for ice!

    Tuesday, tomorrow, I have Mission orientation
    for new employees for an hour. They meet me at 8:15 t0 9:30. For some that’s rather early to listen to “integration” of Holy Family
    Memorial’s mission into our entire network. We do give them little “helps” such as the
    word SERVICE. Each letter stands for one of our Values. S=Stewardship, E=Excellence,
    R=respect, VI=Via or by way of,C=Compassionate
    Caring, in a Christian E=Environment. Hope they can remember that tomorrow! Have a good day tomorrow, Everyone!

  6. Sister Shirley Spilker says:

    I live at St. Clare Convent and serve as a volunteer, sponsor presence for our Community at the Hospital and Harbor Town Clinic. Two volunteers, Sisters and lay men and women work at the clinic front desk answering phone calls, greeting, directing patients and providing wheelchair escort to desired area. We also pass and pick up mail for six clinic areas twice duing our 4 hour morning or afternoon work time. Besides being useful we try to be good listeners. People are overjoyed to see a Sister in habit and love to talk to us, unburden their hearts, or just comment on times past. It’s a joy to meet up with former students from 40 or 50 years ago. This is a great way to pass on God’s love to others.

  7. armando says:

    alright!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    this is beautiful!!!

  8. Thanks for sharing your lives. I agree with Armando, there is much beauty expressed in your relationships with others and in the world around you.

  9. Sister Lois Ann says:

    Today, Friday, is special – you might think it is the end of a work week – tis true. But it is special for us because Sister Mariadele is with us for the weekend. Sister is our Community’s Administrative Contact person. She arrived this AM and will celebrate life with us this weekend. Each of us has an opportunity to share our life and the hopes/dreams for the future with her. It is a time for her to experience our life in Community here at St. Clare’s as well as our Health Care and Parish ministries.
    May the Lord bless your weekend and if you are in the Midwest, may the Spirit keep you warm with the subzero temperatures that are predicted.

  10. Thank you, sisters missioned at St. Clare Convent, for your newsy and insightful comments. Sr. Pam and I also blessed our home last week by writing over the doorway with chalk 20+C+M+B+09 and asked for our hopitality and kindness to be given to each person who enters. It is a wonderful prayer to begin a new year together.
    I ask God’s blessing on each of you as you share life with Sr. Mariadele this weekend.

  11. S. Rose Ulmen says:

    I am a Volunteer at Holy Family Memorial Medical Center, Manitowoc. My main service is to help schedule over 300 volunteers in six of ten categories. Volunteers work in the Surgery Hospitality Center, Welcome Desk, Gift Shop, Admission Desk, Escorting (patients to and from surgery, appointments, or lab work), Information Desk at Harbor Town (Clinics, Rehab, Wellness Center, Lab Center, Walk-In Care, etc.) What I like best is the volunteers and their wonderful spirit. They love their work, enjoy each other, and make many new friends. Besides working their regular schedule, they are willing to sub for one another.

    Some days the volunteers tease me about being called. When they notice it’s my phone number, they say they are not going to answer. However, they still answer and say Yes if at all possible. Great People – God’s People!!

  12. Sister Sharon Paul says:

    Sr. Rose Ulmen, keep up your dedicated service of scheduling all those volunteers. I agree how wonderful to have such dedicated people assisting us in our ministries. Joyfully in St. Francis!

  13. Sister Rita Mae Suhr says:

    I’m Sister Rita Mae and I live at St. Clare’s Convent in Manitowoc, WI. I work for St. Francis Parish as a Parish Visitor. This means I bring Holy Communion to the Shut-ins who are unable to come to Mass. They are so grateful and feel connected to the parish. I assisted Father Klingeisen in anointing the Shut-ins this past Fall. Very inspiring experience!! I, myself, feel enriched by this spiritual service to the parish.

  14. Sister Sharon Paul says:

    Sr. Rita Mae, what a vital ministry you do as a parish visitor. Keep it up! The Lord will reward your caring efforts of bringing CHRIST (Eucharist) to others. Sometimes you may be the only person the elderly see all day.

  15. Sr. Sarah says:

    Hello,
    I am Sr. Sarah, and I also live at St. Clare Convent. I am a nurse.
    For Christmas we received the book, The Shack which I just finished reading.
    The story is about a man who experienced tragedy in his life, and at God’s invitation, spends a weekend at the shack where the tragedy occured.
    The author is so good at blending different experiences and spirituatlities into a story. It was the first fictional book I truly brought to my private prayer time. Made me rethink some of my own concepts of God.
    Higly recommend the book for thinking.
    Blesssings on your day.

  16. Sister Sharon Paul says:

    Hi, Sr. Sarah! Yes, that is a heart-rendering book & we switched names for Christmas and that is the book I purchased for her which was one of her choices. It is in paper-back also. Right now I’m reading Frances, Princess Diana’s mother and Seven Sacred Pauses: “Living Mindfully Through the Hours of the Day” by Sr. Macrina Wiederkehr also the Author of: “A Tree Full of Angels.” During the day it is the PAUSE that refreshes when we take a couple minutes to connect with Our God. Keep up your dedicated labors as a nurse at Holy Family, Sr. Sarah and Thank YOU!

  17. Sr. Lois Ann says:

    Happy Monday to each of you!
    Last evening we shared memories and attended the Wake of one of our Sisters, Sr. Magdalena. Today Sr. Rose and Sr. Rita Mae will attend her Funeral Mass at our Motherhouse representing those of us that are off to work.
    A Wake/Funeral time for our Sisters is such a good time to celebrate their life. For Sr. Magdalena, who had cancer, met her Lord at the young age of 73. Keep her and her family/friends in prayer.
    Being mindful of this week: Inaugeration for President Obama, Christan Unity, and Respect Life – Anniversary of Roe vs Wade – we have much to pray for.
    May your week be filled with God’s love and life,
    Sister Lois Ann

  18. Today I was overjoyed to witness (via TV) the Inauguration of the first American Black President. President Obama’s desire to unite us and restore our American leadership among the nations is most welcome. God will be glorified in the work and leadership of His servant. May God continue to bless and guide all of us through these great challenges.

  19. Sister Sharon Paul says:

    Sr. Rose, your statement is well received about our new President. He has abundant challenges and with the help of God he, with his Cabinet can solve some of the problems laid out before the world. I liked what Obama said: “ON THIS DAY WE GATHER BECAUSE WE HAVE CHOSEN HOPE OVER FEAR, UNITY OF PURPOSE OVER CONFLICT & DISCORD.” JAN. 20, 2009 INAUGURATION

  20. S. Rose Ulmen says:

    Hi,
    I’d like to share one of our customs with you.
    Our mission custom is to go out to eat for our birthdays. Because three of us had birthdays close together, we celebrate one a month. Today we celebrated my October Birthday. Though it was very, very cold we had a warm, tasty Brunch at Silver Valley. As I was eating my Knee Cap dessert, our waitress carried in a piece of cheese cake with a lit candle. What a happy surprise! Five of the Sisters were kind enough to help me eat the cake. It was a wonderful celebration.

    May you have a great week and keep warm. God bless!!

  21. I’ve read The Shack and am reading Seven Sacred Pauses. Both are uplifting, mind-stretching and spiritually nourishing for me. Thanks for mentioning the books!

  22. S. Rose Ulmen says:

    S. Julie Ann,

    What happened to my entry about miracles? It takes time & energy to do this. I will appreciate an answer, please. –S. Rose

  23. Sister Lois Ann says:

    Greetings on a sunny but chilly day – for those not in Wisconsin – we were 8 degrees this morning when we went out for Mass – warmer than last week at -8!
    This year a theme I chose for spiritual growth is “Wonder – Awe”. The times we are living in present such great challenges – how do we meet these challenges? The hope and love of God, sustains us in a sense of wonder and awe that gives us the strength and courage to walk each step of our journey and to reach out to those we meet, those who suffer, are poor, are in need.
    This week’s St. Francis of Assisi Parish Bulletin has an article by Fr. Dan Schuster. He writes of the word “astonishment” that is used 34 times in the Gospel of Mark. We should be “astonished” (in wonder/awe) of Christ’s teaching in Scripture & Tradition and also how much love God has for us.
    May God grant you a sense of life lived in wonder and awe.
    Sister Lois Ann

  24. Thanks again, Sister Rose. I am glad we figured out together that there must have been one of those computer off-line moments in the course of your composing your reflection on miracles. (Talk about being open to the unexpected.) Peace and all good. Do continue to share your thoughts. Thanks again, dear Sisters reporting live from St. Clare.

  25. S. Rose Ulmen says:

    Miracles still do happen today. A patient entered ICC with a meager chance to live. The mother and family members came to the Chapel Mass for healing. After a week and a half, the patient was released to a Nursing Home for Rehab. The mother came to Chapel to thank God for the miracle. She told me the doctor mentioned at least 3 different days and times that this was no ordinary healing but was a miracle. We witness similar happenings quite often. One of the side benefits of Volunteering at HFMMC. Praise God!

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