Sister Audrey remarked, "I always loved little children, so I knew I wanted to teach when I entered the convent in 1955." Sister Audrey has done just that --- and a lot of it! Teaching children became her meaningful lifetime ministry. She recounts a specific memory from her first seven years on mission in Jackson, Minnesota. "I lived with Sisters Jeanne Marie, Austin, DeChantal and Soubirous. We were together for five years and we did everything together. While walking, we often and prayed our office and frequently saw little children run into their homes and say, 'Mom, here come the gods; here come the gods!'"
Over the years, a special part of Sister Audrey's love for teaching in primary grades was preparing children to receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist for the first time. "It is a joyful experience to see them get so excited to receive Jesus for the first time."
Sister Audrey described her teaching contribution to the larger mission of Jesus and the Church, as she was being inducted into St. Mary's School Hall of Fame in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, in February 2000, recognizing her many years of service. It is as though she came full circle. Not only is Sleepy Eye her hometown, it is also where she spent her last years of teaching full-time, then transitioning into serving as teacher's aide. In the Spring 2016 issue of RECALL, St. Mary's newsletter, Sister Audrey is honored as "the last Franciscan Sister at St. Mary's School," marking the end of 133 years in which Franciscan Sisters were present in the parish.
"I think my greatest gift is thoughtfulness. It is very easy for me to see when others have needs, and I try to meet their needs. I have gotten food for needy families, as well as helping them meet other [physical and spiritual] needs."
Looking at Sister Audrey's life, one tends to ask, "What makes her tick?" It's probably summarized in a favorite prayer of hers, in the spirit of St. Ignatius of Loyola:
Dear Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve You as You deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labor and not to ask for reward,
Save that of knowing that I am doing Your will.
It would be very interesting to know how many caramels Sister Audrey has made and given as gifts over the years. What a sweet expression of thoughtfulness! We've seen it, tasted it, and have known the main ingredient is love.
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Most Rochester Franciscans probably identify Sister Clairvaux McFarland as "our Iconographer." So, it is most fitting that she considers the one highlight or most fulfilling moment in her ministry as writing the Icon of the Holy Trinity for Saint Marys Hospital.
The task was challenging because of the energy-sapping need to stand for much of it, considering it happened after her life-changing accident in 1994. At that time, she moved to the Cottage at Assisi Heights, which made a wonderful new home for Sister Clairvaux and her ministry. "Had I not had this accident and been moved to the Cottage, I would not have such a wonderful space to do my ministry of Icon writing."
Other life experiences that were fulfilling include the gift of a 30-day retreat in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where opportunities for spiritual growth and prayer were tailored to her singular way of praying, as well being able to experience the beauty of the ocean. "Water continues to open windows to the purity and surprises of God," states Clairvaux.
Another deepening of her spirit-growth was realized during the three week visit to Assisi with Sister Ramona Miller, where she researched the lives of Francis and Clare. She did this research in preparation for writing Icons of Francis and Clare while temporarily residing in Switzerland. "I did not feel like a stranger staying at Gelderkinden and Neuchatel; on the contrary, the Sisters were very kind and generous," which Clairvaux attributes to our Sister Carlan having lived there previously, paving the way for others that followed.
Spiritual growth was also the fruitful gift of assisting Br. Joseph Kilikevice in retreats and guiding our Sisters at Tau Center, Assisi Heights, and Lake Elysian.
Without a doubt, Clairvaux's iconography is her role as "a co-creator with the Spirit" and it has deepened many persons in churches, private collections and in our Franciscan Congregation; all places where the icons were consecrated, prayed, and given depth, especially for those persons who participated in the initial consecration events held by Clairvaux.
What a valued and sacred contribution to the larger mission of Jesus and our Community mission.
Clairvaux concludes, "In a society that is always in a hurry or 'doing' rather than 'being', I find that as I am becoming less mobile, the Prayer Before Icons, the prayer of 'being' is, again, such a reward."
Thank you, Sister Clairvaux, for awakening us to this singular privilege of being in the Heart of God, where the Spirit of God keeps being re-planted anew on our Home-bound journey.
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Before Sister Delphine Klein retired to Assisi Heights, her ministry was housekeeping in a number of the parish missions where Franciscan Sisters taught. During the latter part of her ministry, from 1958-1989, she was missioned to work at the College of St. Teresa (CST).
When asked why she chose housekeeping, Sister Delphine said "I only had an 8th grade education, so housekeeping was the only other choice besides teaching."
Listening to Sister Delphine's description of the golden times at CST, it is obvious that there was a great difference between CST and smaller missions. "I wasn't alone like in small missions before; cooking for me was boring, but cleaning gave me a wonderful sense of having done something where I could see the results!" At CST, she experienced friendship with students, faculty members, secretaries and visitors. Her supervisors, Sylvia Odegaard and Sister Egbert Flannery were very significant guides and friends.
Add to that, the fact that the CST graduating class of 1982 requested that Sister Delphine receive the Teresa of Avila Award. "They felt that they knew me," said Delphine, happily amazed! It was then that Dr. Thomas Hamilton named her "a valiant woman: a woman possessed of an inexhaustible gift of self....She brought to all at the college an appreciation of their home away from home."
Not surprising then, that Delphine realizes her greatest gift has evolved from childhood, spanning all her years as a Franciscan Sister. "I'm quiet like my Dad. Observing the older Sisters made me more gentle and kind as I've grown older here at Assisi Heights -- learning from both bad and good examples. I learned to forgive others and myself. I can take suggestions from others. Before I die, I want to thank all my Franciscan Sisters...they are family.
Also, my parents and my sisters, Ss. Judine and Jeanette, gave me wisdom by their own examples. My favorite belief comes from The Holy Family -- I can't leave St. Joseph out, that's why!"
Sister Delphine continued, "...a few years after CST closed, Sister Avila appeared to me in a dream and said to me, 'Pray, Pray, Pray.' As our world is now, those words help me to accept what is -- especially in these hard times for our world, our country, our church, and our community."
Sister Delphine sums up her view of life and of being a Franciscan as beautifully simple. "To me, especially at CST, and other places, too, we Franciscans are so willing to open up and Sisters Jeanette, Delphine and Judine Klein be women of great kindness and goodness." That's the heart of the matter, Delphine; your story proves it!
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