How We Are In Ministry

“ … As vowed women of the Church, we respond with diverse gifts in a spirit of collaboration and of mutual service to the needs of others, especially the economically poor, the marginal, and the oppressed …”

(Excerpt–Mission Statement, General Chapter, 1986)

One of the ways we further the mission of our congregation is through our diverse ministries. As Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, we are called in our Commitment Statement to: “… ‘rebuild the Church’ by living the passion of the Gospel …”

“… take the necessary risks to be a healing, compassionate presence in our violent world especially with women, children, and those who have no voice …”

(Excerpt—Commitment Statement, General Chapter, 1996)

Each sister discerns with the congregation how she can best serve God, the congregation, and the people of God. Furthering the congregation’s mission with the blessing of the congregation and with a loving heart and spirit is to be in ministry.

Sisters “rebuild the Church” through the following ministries:

  • Parish ministry
  • Religious education (all levels)
  • Spiritual ministry and retreats
  • Diocesan ministry
  • Education (all levels)
  • Social ministry

Sisters “take the necessary risks to be a healing, compassionate presence in our violent world” by ministering in the following areas:

  • Healthcare
  • Eldercare
  • Social ministry
  • Pastoral ministry
  • Counseling
  • Advocacy
  • Immigration
  • Homelessness
  • AIDS ministry
  • Caregiving

Sisters’ Gifts and Contributions Recognized

Over the years our sisters have served in many types of ministries. When the need arose, we responded whenever it was possible. Although we no longer serve in some of these same ministries today—or perhaps do so in different capacities—the influence of those early sisters is still felt. Echoes of that influence were heard in recent celebrations on both the east and west coasts.

St. Catherine of Bologna School Receives STEM Certification

About six years ago, St. Catherine of Bologna School in Ringwood was invited to be one of eight New Jersey schools piloting STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math). Over the intervening years, five of those school moved out of the program for various reasons. The three remaining schools—one of which was St. Catherine’s—are the first Catholic elementary schools in the U. S. to receive STEM certification. Sister Theresa Firenze, principal of St. Catherine’s, described the program’s emphasis on the inquiry method. “Science, technology, engineering, and math ‘blur’ their lines” she explained, “and connections, exploration, and problem-solving are at the service of making discoveries that will make the world better for all over here.”

Sister Corda Honor Society at the Catholic High School of Baltimore

During Sister Corda Marie Bergbauer’s 14 years at the Catholic High School of Baltimore (1956-1970), she taught English, served as chair of the English Department, and was advisor of the TCHS newspaper, The Highway. Recently she received a letter from members of the school’s current English department telling her about the school’s newly initiated National English Honor Society and informing her that they had chosen to name it the Sister Corda Marie Bergbauer Chapter of the National English Honor Society in honor of her years of dedicated service. She was invited to attend the first induction ceremony. In addressing the students, Sister Corda thanked them for the honor and recalled some of her own experiences in TCHS. She closed her comments by reminding them of the values Catholic High continues to hold dear. “You, too, like me, will leave TCHS,” she said, “but may TCHS never leave you.”

Clare of Assisi House Opening Soon

Clare of Assisi House is moving closer to an opening date and two of our sisters are actively involved, not only in making that opening happen but also in being actively involved in carrying out the facility’s mission. Robin Ball, the founder and director of Clare of Assisi House, envisions a place in the Reading and Berks County area where women coming out of prison can find both a second chance and a safe and supportive environment. Sisters Eileen Doherty and Kathleen McMullin, assistant director and program director respectively, will assist staff in providing multiple services to help the women reintegrate back into society and to regain their independence. The team has established partnerships with various local organizations and has held various fundraisers to translate their plans into realities.

Beautiful Bronze Statue Dedication

Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bethesda held a special celebration honoring our sisters who had taught in the parish school. Seven of our sisters traveled to Bethesda for the festivities which included liturgy and the blessing of both a beautiful bronze statue representing the Franciscan sisters and a plaque listing the names of the 92 sisters who had taught there. During the program, John Ford, a former student of Our Lady of Lourdes School and more recently a member of Neumann University’s board, did an enjoyable presentation entitled “A Room Full of Memories.”

Hand-made Prayer Pillows

Sister Margaret Xavier Romans was recently acknowledged in the October edition of the St. Anthony Messenger for her latest endeavor. When not working in her regular ministry, Sister Margaret enjoys designing and creating prayer pillows for those who are sick or in difficult situations. “This ministry is the outgrowth of just being aware of the needs of others and using something as simple as a pillow to let the other person know that he or she is not alone but is held in prayer in a special way,” she explained in the article. The pillow-making process is a very thought-out one. She first chooses a fabric in the person’s favorite color, attaches a cross-stitched block with the person’s name and its meaning, and sends it along with a personalized card. She once had a student request that she make a pillow for her father who was a U.S. Army sergeant on his way to Afghanistan. Sister Margaret made a pocket-size pillow and sent it over. She later received a card of gratitude from the U.S. Army along with her very own encased American flag and certificate. The article written by Rita Piro concludes with a quote from Sister Margaret stating, “Having a ministry that reaches so many and which has brought so much joy and consolation is a dream come true. I hope and pray that others will come up with their own version of a way to reach out to those in need.”

Building a Better Community

Some of our sisters joined with local groups in several justice and peace efforts. In May the sisters from Anna’s Place traveled with 75 Chester residents to attend the Rally for Universal Backgrounds on Gun Sales held at the state capitol in Harrisburg. The Chester group was connected with Delaware County United for Sensible Gun Policy. In May, a group of sisters joined the men, women, and children who walked through parts of Chester singing and praying. Walkers wore t-shirts reading “Building a Better Chester. We See You, We Hear You, We Care About You.” The walk was one of several to be held throughout the year in sections described as “high crime areas.” Sister Jean Rupertus described the experience as “the closest experience to ‘church’ that I think the God of many names envisions.”