Called to Be a Franciscan Sister and a Nurse

by Sister Julie Ann on October 30, 2013

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Alanna Ring shares the story of how she was called to be a Franciscan Sister and a nurse.

Tell us about your early life. Franciscan Sister Alanna and family

My journey with God began when I was born in Marshalltown, Iowa on October 1, 1928 and became known as Joan. My family consisted of wonderful parents, Anna and Edward, who had four children, three girls and one boy; I was number three. My family was closely knit as we grew up in the midst of peace and joy, along with experiencing the use of limited funds and learning many things about life and love of God. My father was a farmer. After living in Iowa for a few years, the sad event of the Great Depression occurred, causing us to move to Jacksonville, IL, the roots of my parents. We lived in Jacksonville during my grade school years and two years of high school taught by the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, IL. We then moved to Peoria where I finished high school at the Academy of our Lady, taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph from St. Louis, MO.

Tell us about your call to be a nurse and a Franciscan Sister.

Franciscan Sister Alanna as a NoviceI always wanted to be a nurse; therefore, I had no decision to make regarding my future desires after high school graduation. I entered nurses’ training at St. Francis Hospital School of Nursing in Peoria, and after receiving my nursing diploma in 1949, I worked for the next one and one-half years at the hospital. After several attempts of my supervisor in giving me a holy card that stated “Jesus is calling”, and encouraging me to join her German Franciscan Order, I, of Irish descent, decided to pursue other avenues, such as furthering my education or seeking information about religious orders.

I was beginning to feel God calling me to something in addition to nursing, but it was difficult for me to make a decision for commitment to Religious life since I loved nursing and would be the last one in my family to leave my wonderful parents. My older sister and brother had married and my younger sister had become a Benedictine Sister, all within the span of three years. Daily Mass, reading “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis, and praying the 54-day Rosary Novena (27 days in petition and 27 days in thanksgiving) helped me to make a decision.

My pastor gave me a booklet entitled “Career Women in Illinois”. I wrote to various Orders, one of which was to the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, Manitowoc, WI. I received an immediate reply from Sister Una (Kathryn) Scheu who worked with Sister Mary Ellen Doolan, Directress of Postulants, and became interested in the ministries of their Community, including health care. My parents and I, along with a nurse friend who was interested in another nursing experience, visited Holy Family Convent and Holy Family Hospital. A nursing position was offered to both of us that we accepted. After working at Holy Family Hospital for about six months, I submitted my application to Holy Family Convent.

How have you been serving God and His people these last years?

Franciscan Sister Anne and Sister AlannaI have been involved in health care all my active life and it has been full of many spiritual, educational, and ministerial experiences.

I began with bedside nursing, head nursing, supervisor of nursing, instructor/coordinator of medical/surgical nursing in a school of nursing, and assistant director of one of the nursing schools. From there I became Community Health and Retirement Coordinator, Coordinator of a Community Health Program until nurse practitioners started our own Health Clinic in 1982. I also served as an Administrator of St. Paul Home, Kaukauna and Director of our own St. Rita Health Center at the Motherhouse. From there I returned to nursing duties, including volunteer work.

What is your most rewarding experience in nursing?

My most rewarding experiences in nursing have been caring for the ill and spending time visiting with patients in the hospital and Sisters in St. Rita Health Center.

Do you feel called to be a Franciscan Sister, as well as feeling a calling to be a nurse? or some aspect of education? or parish life?  Are you wondering how to meet Franciscan Sisters? We invite you to contact us. We would be happy to meet you where you are.

4 thoughts on “Called to Be a Franciscan Sister and a Nurse”

  1. Guest says:

    Thank you, Sister Alanna, for this article. I hope and pray it will be an inspiration for others to follow in you footsteps.

  2. Verone Leeman says:

    Thank you, Sister Alanna, for this article. I hope and pray it will be an inspiration for others to follow in your footsteps.

  3. Sister Ann Joachim says:

    You have lived a beautiful life as a religious as well as following your career..You also are a friend to many of us. Thank you for your life story.

  4. While making retreat at our House of Prayer this week, I was sharing a pew at Mass and during Morning and Evening Prayer with Sr. Alanna. Her focus on prayer and her reverence is an inspiration to me while I am focusing on my spiritual growth. Thank you for posting this story of faith and commitment!

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