Tribute to Sister Margaret Held, SSSF and Paula Merrill, SCN

Saturday, May 20 started out like a normal Saturday. The St. Francis of Assisi Sisters were getting lots done in school and the convent but they reserved time to drive to Durant,MS to attend the dedication and blessing of a monument in honor of the two Sisters who had been murdered in their home in Durant in August, 2016. The sun was out and it was getting hot and humid. The trip to Durant took about 50 minutes. As things would have it sometimes, we arrived for a 2:00 pm dedication only to find out that it had been rescheduled for 3:00pm. This provided a nice chance to visit and relax as we waited. Six Sisters, members of the School Sisters of St. Francis and of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth had arrived before us. These are the communities that mourn the loss of Sisters Margaret and Paula.  The monument stood somberly covered in readiness for the ceremony.

Soon others gathered along with Fr. Greg Plata, priests and a deacon of the diocese, and Bishop Joseph Kopacz .

As we had driven into Durant we saw many buildings and homes with evidence of temporary repair due to the tornado which had hit the town just three weeks earlier.

Now as we waited, the sky began to darken.

At three o’clock all seemed to be in readiness and Fr. Greg began the service.

Soon more and more umbrellas opened up as the sprinkles grew steadier.

The Bishop, who had come from celebrating a parish Confirmation and needed to leave shortly for another Confirmation, was getting his share of this MS storm also. Thunder and lightning accompanied the strong wind and heavy downpour with no let up. The rain came at us in all directions. Everyone was getting drenched.

The service continued, and Bishop Kopacz never paused until Fr. Greg began searching for the Holy Water for the blessing. The Bishop spoke to the crowd and with a grin,  asked, “Do we really need Holy Water with all this rain?  It seems that God has provided more than enough!”

The crowd did not stay around long as all were invited to St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Lexington

 where the two Sisters served, prayed and were were a powerful presence in the Faith Community.  Mass and a fried catfish dinner followed with more sharing of the blessings these two Sisters had been to the people there.

The rain poured down as we drove back to Greenwood. Our pace was slow, but following the tail lights of the car ahead of us helped. Suddenly the tail lights became flashing alert lights and a line of red lights. There had been a bad accident ahead of us. As we waited in the pouring rain we thanked God for our safety and prayed for the victims of the accident. We returned home wet, but grateful for the many blessings of that day.

Franciscan Sisters of Greenwood Enjoy the Calm and Beauty of Sky Lake

It is often said that we can miss the beauty in our own backyard. This was true of the Sisters at St. Francis of Assisi until this past weekend. Just 35 minutes from our home we discovered “Sky Lake” An article published in our local paper, The Commonwealth describes it as; “a hidden gem tucked away in the remote reaches of southern Leflore County and northern Humphreys County.”  Near the town of Belzoni,                                                                MS,  Sky Lake is an old abandoned channel of the Mississippi River.                                                                        Native Americans are thought to have occupied it thousands of years ago.

The 1,735 ft. boardwalk, which is 12 feet above the forest floor, was completed in 2010. The shallow swamp is home to some of the largest and oldest bald cypress trees on earth. Some are thought to be more than 1,000 years old and are in the same family as the Sequoia and Redwood trees.

Along  the boardwalk we learned many interesting facts about the cypress and the area.

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The day was overcast and the temperature of about 70, so combined with the humidity we had an ideal day to slowly enjoy God’s nature from the boardwalk.

Surrounded by all of these reflections of God’s beauty  in nature we also reflected and pondered the wonder of God’s immensity.

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We noticed many things small and large as we walked along the walkway.

We saw the most brilliant warbler flying about the area, but never spotted the alligators or bear!

It didn’t take us long to understand why it is called “Sky Lake”! The reflections were beautiful. It was hard sometimes to see where the tree ended and the water began.

We are sure we will re-visit “Sky Lake” in other seasons of the year to see the changes and to show visitors who travel to our home.

 

St. Francis of Assisi Parish Celebrates May Crowning

Many parishes honor Mary in the month of May by crowning her Mother of Us All. St. Francis keeps this tradition alive each year.   Some of our First Communicants returned this Sunday to do the honors for us. After Mass we all processed to the grotto for the occasion.

The familiar verses of Immaculate Mary accompanied the beat of feet in the procession.  Then, with great care, Brother Craig assisted the children in the crowning, while all sang Hail, Holy Queen.

This was a great day for photo-ops and celebrating, so following the picture-taking everyone was invited to the school cafeteria for a lunch and cupcakes to honor the occasion.  And yet again Brother Craig was right there to assist in the service!  This “Good Shepherd Sunday” at St. Francis was marked by many happy lambs and sheep as all made their way home.

Greenwood Parishes Celebrate 25 First Communions

The last weekend of April was a big weekend for the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity in Greenwood. Twenty five young Catholics, under the care of Sisters Elena and Kathleen, participated in a retreat on Saturday while the parents gathered with Fathers Greg, OFM and Michael C.Ss.R.  The children came from Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish and St. Francis Parish combined with 2 children from Sacred Heart Parish in Winona.

Anticipation before mass!

Offering of self and the gifts.

Presentation of the First Holy Communion Candles

The Padrinos holding the Communion candle for the Hispanic Communicants.

Such radiant faces after mass told the story!

Mrs. Jackie Lewis, Principal of St. Francis School joins the communicants, Fr. Greg and Sr. Elena.

Picture This! St. Francis Mission Triduum

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words! Reflecting back on the holy days of this season we will share some of the meaningful sights from St. Francis of Assisi Mission.

Holy Thursday evening services were preceded by a dinner hosted at the Friary for for the Sisters and 6 young men who had traveled here from different areas of the USA as they discern their vocation.

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Good Friday morning found the Sisters being creative in the kitchen and enjoying dying some Easter eggs.

The afternoon services gathered us together in church.

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Holy Saturday brought with it a variety of activities.

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The Easter services held so many beautiful realities, sights and sounds.

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The Sisters entered into their own fun after the masses had been celebrated.

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So, Happy Easter and thank you for joining us in our celebrations of the season!

St. Francis Students Celebrate Seder Meal

With preparations being made for the  upcoming Seder Meal St. Francis School students, under the guidance of Brother Patrick and assistance of Sister Kathleen, made these beautiful bouquets of flowers for the tables .

All of the students gathered together in the school cafeteria to celebrate a Seder meal. As each person was about to enter the hall they were invited to wash their hands in memory of Jesus washing the feet of His Apostles.

 Once gathered together and seated quietly, Fr. Greg introduced our three students who will be Baptized on Easter and invited all to attend and celebrate with them. A few brief explanations of the celebration and directions followed.

The Seder began.

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When the time of partaking of the bread came it was broken and shared. Then small pieces of lettuce were shared and dipped into salt water. The salt symbolized the bitter tears shed by the Hebrew people during their slavery.

As the meal drew to a close the students shared the remaining food items and enjoyed each other before returning to their classrooms.

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Franciscan Sisters and Hispanic Community Honor Our Lady of Guadalupe

Balloons, streamers, costumes and flowers surely signal a celebration!  All these elements lent themselves to the celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe here at St. Francis Parish in Greenwood.  Families bedecked a trailer with balloons, drapery and ribbon in the colors of Mexico where Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego.

Those gathered in the street soon moved inside a parishioner’s home to bring out the image of the Virgin.

After the blessing of the image, it was time for the last minute preparations of the float!

Clouds filled the December sky and a brisk wind pushed us along the route of the procession.  Participants joined in praying the rosary and singing Spanish songs honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe.

The procession ended in front of St. Francis Church where many more members of the Hispanic Community waited.

St. Francis church held a joyful congregation of the faithful.  Some of the families spent most of Saturday preparing the church for the liturgy.  The beautiful statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe was banked in roses of every hue.  Those coming to celebrate brought countless more bouquets and plants so that Mary was surrounded with the beauties of God’s creation. So, beauty abounded in so many forms–the beat of feet following the image in procession, the lilt of voices raised in praise, the rhythms of the rosary prayed in faith, the reverent faces of children honoring their heavenly Mother, and the vibrant colors of blooms opening at the feet of the Virgin.  Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

Franciscan Sisters Share Signs of Advent

As the first Sunday of Advent dawns, so do the sights and signs of this special time in the Church year.

Our convent home from table to chapel offers beautiful reminders of the season of preparation and anticipation of the coming of Jesus into our hearts.

St. Francis Church was also trimmed and ready. The Church reminds us to use this time to prepare for Christmas and to let it  “renew our ardent desire for Jesus’ second coming.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 524).

Advent brings with it a special Evening Prayer. The Friars, Sisters and Parishioners join together each Sunday evening to share this prayer.

As we walk home after Evening Prayer the sky radiates the light of the Lord Who is to come.

Come Lord Jesus!

St. Francis School Kindergarten Transportation Fair

What is a transportation Fair?

That’s what happens when an excited group of Kindergarteners complete a reading unit on transportation.  Parents and community friends joined in the excitement by bringing several types of vehicles for the children to look at, study and even climb on.

Once the vehicles were all parked on the playground, Sister Kathleen reminded students of their task and off they went with clipboards and worksheets in hand!

Students moved from vehicle to vehicle filling in their worksheets.  They had to draw the vehicle, count the number of wheels, circle the colors they saw, determine whether the size was L, M, or S and tell if the vehicle was used for work or play.  With such a variety of types of transportation, the children had plenty of work to do!

Children drove, climbed, honked and steered their way around the vehicle lot. Everyone had a great time, made lots of noise and learned lots too.

Time marched on and it was finally time to say goodbye to the vehicles and their owners. All joined for a group photo op with Sparky and then it was back to school.

Who knew that transportation could be such a fun topic?

St. Francis of Assisi Secular Franciscan Retreat

 

The Secular Franciscans of St. Francis of Assisi, Greenwood held their annual retreat the weekend of October 14-16. Friday evening began with Evening Prayer in the parish church, a light supper and then the DVD “Clare and Francis”, put out by Ignatius Press. It was the perfect setting for the message Brother Patrick McCormack, OFM was to give us on Saturday.

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Saturday, following Morning prayer in church, we all moved over to St. Francis of Assisi School cafeteria where Brother Patrick spoke to us of St. Francis’ life. He looked at the relationships of child to parent in the times of  Francis and Clare, and also at the relationship of poor to rich and the struggles they faced. In all the challenges and changes of St. Francis’ life, he turned to God. This conversation with God was, for Francis, always a priority and ever present at each new juncture. Francis would always ask,”What do you want of me Lord?” At the close of this first session Brother sent us off with the scripture Sir 2:1-6.

All were able to spend time in church in “conversation” with the Lord, receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and pray the Franciscan Crown as a group  before a simple lunch was shared.

Francis, his prayer life and challenges were the topic for the next gathering with Br. Patrick. St. Francis’ community was growing, he turned to the Lord to seek direction. Mt. 19;21, Lk. 9;3 and Mt. 16;24 gave Francis the basis of his Franciscan life and gave all some food for prayer.

Returning to the cafeteria there were opportunities for sharing thoughts and ideas.

The final session with Brother Patrick concerned the end of Francis’ life. He was losing his eyesight, his health in general was declining and the order had grown beyond his dream. Through it all St. Francis did not complain, rather he turned to prayer. He became prayer. Br. Patrick said; “When you are in conversation with God you are never alone,” and St. Francis was never alone.

Br. Patrick then gave the OFS a challenge, urging them to spend time in conversation  with God and to seek what it is the Lord wants of their Fraternity. “Define what this Fraternity of OFS can do to be a conduit of the love and mercy of God.” “What do you want of us, Lord?”

Saturday evening held a celebration of the Franciscan family. The Friars, Franciscan Sisters, several Pax Christi Franciscan members as well as the Secular Franciscans all came together for the annual Family dinner provided by the St. Francis of Assisi Fraternity. It was a wonderful feast and sharing of the abundant blessings which are ours here at St. Francis Parish.

Sunday after Mass the OFS had a final wrap up session. It was a continuation of the bonding that the entire weekend had provided. The following are examples of the messages members were taking away from the retreat;

“Together…Where do we go from here…Not me, but we…Franciscan Compassion…Falling in love all over again with Francis…Franciscan prayer…Living the Gospel…New beginnings”.