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.

 

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!

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!

Franciscan Sisters and Brothers Celebrate the feast of St. Francis

“O God, you gave your servant, Francis, a heart full of praise. Fill our hearts with praise as we celebrate this feast of St. Francis.”

 

A hymn from an old Slovak Hymnal states; “Blessed Francis Holy Father now our hearts to thee we raise, as we gather ’round thine altar, pouring forth our hymns of praise.”

So, the Franciscan Sisters and Friars of St. Francis Mission, Greenwood, gathered along with 2 visiting benefactors who are aspiring Secular Franciscans, to sing praises to God. The hymn chosen for this evening, was the “Canticle of the Sun” by Marty Haugen, giving praise for all of God’s creation as seen in the eyes of St. Francis.

A group picture to commemorate the gathering.

Francis loved to celebrate life and all God’s gifts so a gathering of Franciscans seems to imply food!

“Bless thy children holy Francis, with those wounded hands of thine, from thy glorious throne in heaven where resplendently they shine.” 

“We praise God with the entire Church and all our Franciscan brother and sisters.”

Franciscan Sisters Invite Young Catholic women

Picture a fine Fall Friday afternoon.   After a busy day of school, 15 vivacious young Catholic girls, plus one aspiring to become Catholic,  arrived at the Franciscan Sisters convent door full of smiles, excitement and anticipation.

First things first, and in this case that would be an after school snack. The smell of fresh popped corn always tickles the olfactory nerves and a cold drink to wash it down hits the spot.

The snack was soon devoured and the group was ready for some fun.

The “Heads Up” game, sponsored and tailor made by Sister Elena included words unique to our group and our Faith.  The game surely got the young ladies off their chairs and at times jumping to give a clue to their team mates.

Soon it was time for Sister Kathleen to tell a story, and if you haven’t heard her tell a story, well she is a great story teller. Since we are so close to the feast of St. Francis we had decided to focus our activities on our patron. Sister Kathleen shared the story of Francis and the wolf of Gubbio. She had everyone spellbound and even made a few jump when she startled them.

After the story there was an outside game of tag to go with the story. Sister Elena got for volunteers to be the wolf and  St. Francis.  The rest of the girls became the villagers. Of course it was St. Francis after the wolf and the wolf after the villagers and the rest was all fun!

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The group ran for their lives! And before long the next activity was ready to go in Sister Kathleen’s classroom.

Using coffee filters, tempera paints, paper plates, and ribbons to hang them on, the young ladies made Canticle of the Creatures wall hangings. They were so engaged and happy with their creations which they each proudly took home.

It was time for our group picture before we went in for something to eat.

It was group picture time before we went in to see what was cooking.

Whiffs of a proven favorite menu item were soon filling the air.  Sister Annette always hears the young ladies exclaim, “You are such a good cook!” And I just smile at them.

Then the best part came!

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Our time together was fast coming to an end. It was time to thank the good Lord for a great afternoon.

One of the young ladies was wearing a t-shirt which added a perfect finish to our evening together.

Words of St. Francis of Assisi

These words of St. Francis of Assisi, were proven true in the way he lived his life and in the way all Franciscans are called to live.

Franciscan Sisters Develop Mercy Reminders

As a part of our Community Days sharing we wanted to have some reminder for ourselves of the many references to Mercy which had been given to us in Sister Natalie’s letter and in other sources. Sister Kathleen came up with a simple plan of placing cards containing “Mercy Thoughts” in chapel. Each day she shares with us another thought.

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These reminders should help us live out our Community goal: “To Bear Witness to God’s Merciful love – Living in Hope.”

Franciscan Sisters Celebrate Assisi Gift

Sister Kathleen had the privilege of going on Pilgrimage to Assisi this past summer. While there she found a most beautiful art piece with the right price. Her excitement bubbled over this summer when she arrived back at the Motherhouse where she shared the piece with some of the Sisters. For some of us here at St. Francis it remained a surprise. but what was the best way to unveil the picture and give it it’s due respect? That would  be by way of a prayer service, which Sister Kathleen soon put together. Everything was in readiness as we gathered in chapel.

St Francis emphasized these three devotions: the crib in which the infant Jesus was laid, the cross on which Jesus died, and the ciborium or the Eucharist wherein Francis most clearly saw the humility and poverty of the Incarnation.

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Sister Kathleen played the keyboard as we sang a hymn between each selection.

The cross makes visible the very reason why Jesus came into the world. “He was known to be of human estate, obediently accepting even death: death on a cross”. In the cross Francis saw the ultimate sign of the humility and poverty of God. This was followed by the singing a verse of “Glory in the Cross”

Francis saw the Eucharist as the extension of the Incarnation into our daily lives. In his Letter to the Entire Order he sings out: “Let the heavens exult when Christ, the Son of the Living God, is present on the altar in the hands of a priest! O wonderful loftiness and stupendous dignity! The Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles himself that for our salvation he hides himself under an ordinary piece of bread! Look at the humility of God, and pour out your hearts before him! Humble yourselves that you may be exalted by him! Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves, That he who gives himself totally to you may receive you totally!” We responded by singing in English a verse of “Panis Angelicus”

And lastly, Mary in her “yes” to God, became the gate through which salvation entered the world. “Be it done to me according to your word”, Mary said. In that crib lies the Son of the God who “so loved the world that he sent His only Son.” “He emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born  in the likeness of men”. In Greccio, Francis celebrated the Crib, the Lord’s birth and made the ultimate link between creation and Incarnation visible. Celano recounts, “The night is lit up like the day, delighting both man and beasts….The  forest amplifies the cries and the boulders echo back the joyful crown….The whole night abounds with jubilation.” For here in humility and poverty heaven touches earth in a baby, a baby who is God, who is Love Incarnate.   The hymn? “Infant Holy Infant Lowly” was then sung.

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The moment of the unveiling of the long anticipated surprise had come!

 

It was only fitting that we all give a simple blessing before Sister Kathleen had the joyous blessing of placing this special picture in our chapel. Now we have present in our small chapel the representation of “the crib”, tying together the three devotions of St. Francis; “the crib, the cross and the ciborium or the Eucharist.

The question remains for some of us; is it Mary and St. Joseph, or is it Mary and St. Francis, or is it St. Clare and St. Francis? This remains for us to ponder, but what is our focus is the central figure; Jesus.

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Another perfect setting for a group picture!

Franciscan Sisters Join in Farewell

The term Saint has been applied to the two Sisters who passed away this week in  Durant, MS. The root word of “saint” is Sanctus which means holy. To live a holy life is to do what Jesus asks of us: to live the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Mercy was what these two Sisters lived as they ministered to the people of Holmes County. The ministries of Sisters Paula and Margaret and the Franciscan Sisters of St. Francis in Greenwood would at times cross and mingle. It was only natural then, that we would want to honor these Sisters with our presence at the wake service at St. Thomas parish in Lexington, MS on Sunday evening.

 Family members, School Sisters of St. Francis and Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, as well as local friends and neighbors gathered. The church held about 145 people. Outside another 160 chairs were set up under a tent and still more people stood.  All those outside were able to participate via monitor in the Wake service lead by Bishop Joseph Kopacz.

A Memorial Mass celebrating the lives and service of Sr. Margaret Held, OFS and Sister Paula Merrill, SCN was held at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in Jackson, MS the following day.

The Bishop asked Fr. Greg Plata, OFM as Pastor of St. Thomas Parish where the Sisters attended, to  give the homily.  The quotes below are parts of Father Greg’s homily.

“Sr. Margaret and Sr. Paula, when taking their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, did so for one reason: they wanted to express their love for Christ and His church in a radical way. They imitated the humility of Christ, humbly going about their work as St. Paul says in Philippians, “always looking to others’ interests rather than to their own.”

“It may seem romantic to some, but it is not easy working among those who are poor.  Yet, the poor can also teach us so much about faith and trust in God.”

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As the mass concluded and the Bishop processed out it was time for us to enjoy a little sharing with Sisters Emy Beth and Monica Mary from Mound Bayou, MS who also attended the Memorial Mass.

Sister Paula and Sister Margaret freely chose to serve others amidst the uncertainties, unfairness and violence of this world. Yet, like the anawim, they did it with trust, and they did it with love.” That love is what we will always hold in memory when we think of these two Sisters.

Franciscan Sisters in Greenwood, MS share a “linked” idea.

This summer at  the Motherhouse we had a total Community gathering. All of the Sisters enjoyed the times of sharing, renewing friendships and praying together. As a ritual during Morning and Evening Praise we each received a link.

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We are all linked to each other as Community Members.

These links remind us of how connected we are to each other and how God has  joined us together.

Now that we are all back on our respective missions we have tried to carry the meaning and creativity along with us from the Motherhouse. As the 4 of us come together and as life would have it there was a “missing link” Alas, the Hardware store could save the day! And so we came together.

Borrowing an idea seen at the Motherhouse a paper chain was constructed for our table holding our names and qualities which we strive to  live together. As our days together began to unfold the mailman delivered the “missing link”. So now we have 5 links. That was easy….Jesus in our midst!

Now how to use the metal chain links in a meaningful way? Sister Kathleen came up with an idea based on the Jewish tradition of the Mezuzah which hung by the doorway. The Mezuzah held a prayer, “Shema Yisrael“, beginning with the words;  “Hear, O Israel, the LORD (is) our God, the LORD is One”.

Our Community has a goal each year and this year it is “To Bear Witness to God’s Merciful Love – Living in Hope”

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The chain of our links  and the link of Jesus is hung by the door we most often use to enter and leave. The sign or prayer next to it reads; “Help us to walk together in Hope, as we go to share the Mercy we have come to know.” So as we leave to do the Lord’s will and work we are reminded of our goal and the power of the Lord at work among us and the manner in which we should live.