My Experience

Around mid September I began my residency in a Retirement Home in Assisi. This experience is helping me discover more and more the face of Jesus as poor in the elderly and ill.

Every day when I begin my shift, I feel the Lord asking me to be first of all a presence of love that does not judge, that knows how to love each person without being partial, and by going beyond appearances. This experience allows me to concretely touch the fragility of these brothers who need everything: being nourished, clothed, and washed, but especially loved and sometimes even cuddled. I often read loneliness in their eyes, and abandonment and sadness for a life that is ending.

For this reason, I feel that God is asking me to have a particular care for each, a care that is sensitive to their physical and psychological difficulties. Many have difficulty moving, but mostly they have issues with the understanding of time and space. This means that I can exchange a few words with just a few of them, but thank God, I follow the advice of Mother Frances, who tells us to use kindness in all cases, and I see that it works most of the times. It is really true that the language of love is the most comprehensible, and that it is the one that overcomes any barrier.

Sometimes I have to exercise patience with some of the workers as well: the way they address the elderly, which is at times rude, encourages me to set a good example to be a healing presence for all.

I am really grateful to God and the Congregation for having given me the possibility to live this beautiful experience, in which I learn much from my teachers, who are precisely these brothers I meet every day.

Sr. Barbara T.

Sr. Barbara and colleagues

With a guest of the Retirement Home

 With other guests

A shared recreational moment


Vatican II – The Second Vatican Council called by Pope John XXIII

For those of us who were alive and able to hear, see, and feel the Vatican Council – we must not let it be something that happened 50 years ago, but rather something that opened this Church to the world in which it exists. The Council rejected monarchy as our way of functioning. It welcomed the languages of the people of the world and rejected Latin for the Church Liturgy.

The underlying principle of the created world assumes change.  Change or die!  We, as Church, no longer wall off change; change is not the enemy.  “Today Providence is guiding us toward a new order of human relationships.”  Pope John’s positive voice “infused the deliberations and conclusions of Vatican II and that in itself defined the Council’s  truest revolution.”

The Church’s relation to Scripture changed.  When I entered Religious Life in 1947, we did not even have a Bible.  I was familiar with the Bible because my grandmother had one at home and quoted from it, and my paternal grandparents were Jewish.  The Council through its documents invited us to the study of the Bible and our Missals were revised to center the Sacraments in Scripture. Our preachers returned to the Word of God and most important – Jesus was once more the Center for Christian Life; He  had not been for centuries. To many our life in the Church radically changed as a result of 2400 Bishops of the world having the courage of the Spirit to move us to a deeper connection and experience of God in our life and worship.

During these coming months in preparation for our 2013 General Chapter, should we not review these documents:

Constitution on Sacred Liturgy
Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation
Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium)
Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes)
Declaration on Religious Freedom

Do not let the dust settle on the works that changed our lives. I know it may be hard for some who have never known the Church of the earlier part of the 20th Century. However, if we are not alert and aware there is a tendency for some in the Church toward the restoration of intellectually sterile, liturgically lifeless Masses where the laity are passive spectators and clergy are cut off from the laity, with Jesus himself on the margins of piety. What began at the Second Vatican Council must continue, its changes must be acknowledged. Attempts to roll back must not be allowed to happen. 

The Council made a deep impression on the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor.  Our Chapter of Renewal was called by Mother Innocenta Donnelly for September of 1968.  During 1967 there was exciting activity among us in the U.S.  We had for the first time an election for Delegates to the General Chapter, two from each Province:  Sister Mary Frances (no longer among us) and Sister Grace Frances Strauber from St. Anthony Province and Sister Rose Margaret Delaney from St. Clare Province. 

Many wonderful and exciting things were approved by this Renewal Chapter.  Mother Innocenta was re-elected and courageously moved to Brooklyn, NY with five younger women – Sister Rose Margaret (General Councilor), Sister Mary James (now Rita K. Kerr, Councilor), the former Sister Nancy Daniel (Councilor), Sister Mary Virginia Schreiner (Secretary), and Sister Grace Frances Strauber (Treasurer). Most Reverend Francis J. Mugavero, Bishop of Brooklyn, gave us a house on Middagh Street in Assumption Parish.

 Gradually we moved toward becoming more deeply aware of our Sisters living and ministering in Italy and Brazil.  We must never forget the courage of Sisters Cristina Di Nocco, Maria Atorino, and Annunciata Marino.

At our 2011 Healing Conference Sister Antonietta Potente, O.P., began her wonderful talk with strong references to memories and how much they mean to our lives: the memories of beginnings and of the powerful role which women have always played in “keeping alive the development of human societies.”  She wonders now “. . . if religious life can rediscover alternate journeys!”  That is the question we should ponder and pray with as we move forward recalling our past journeys and learnings to create a rediscovery of our 21st century journey. 

Sister Grace Frances Strauber


What Vatican II Meant for Beth Rindler, SFP

I grew up in a family on a small farm in Ohio, USA among Catholic people.  It is the only religion I knew at that time. Therefore, what I believe comes from Roman Catholicism. My family went to Church every Sunday and we, as children, went to catechism classes every Saturday morning for a couple of hours during the year.
My basic religious beliefs did not change much after I became a Sister in 1949.  With the event of Vatican II, however, my perception of Jesus and God changed tremendously. Before Vatican II, God seemed to be more like Santa Claus than any human being I knew. I never imaged this "Being" as anything other than gentle, kind and good. I knew this "Being" was invisible to me as was the "real" Santa Claus. Yet I believed in the existence of both. Jesus at that time was the Blessed Sacrament in the Eucharist.

The spiritual books available to me in the Novitiate, which were written before Vatican II, seemed incomprehensible to me; at least, most of them.  I could not relate to them. Then when Cardinal Suenens wrote, The Nun in the Modern World at the time of Vatican II, I not only understood what he was saying, but I liked what he was saying. This book was "making sense" to me. I wanted to turn the pages as fast as I could to see what he was saying next.

I was also happy to be able to read the Scriptures texts for myself, especially the Gospels. I do not remember the time or event, but I remember being able to obtain a Bible. I got the Jerusalem Bible. I had heard it was the best translation. Related to this, another book that greatly affected my life was, Our Gospel Way of Life, the first revision of our Rule. This book meant a lot to me. However, the revision, to meet canonical expectations, seemed to remove the "spirit" I experienced from the first one. Yet, I trusted that I might be able to hold onto the spirit I felt in the first one.
The other facet in my life which meant a great deal to me after Vatican II was the ability to enter the world of Pastoral Ministry in 1972 after serving in our hospital world as a nurse. Within this Pastoral Ministry world, I was led to read and study the writings of Scripture scholars, as well as feminist theologians. The books that stand out for me in this realm are the books written by Jane Schaberg, Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, and Margaret Farley, RSM. Jane helped me see the humanity of Jesus as well as his divinity; Elizabeth Johnson, to see how God can be present in other religions as well as in Christianity; and Margaret, to see human love as I thought it existed in the Scriptures. There are many other good and significant books I have had the privilege to read and ponder, but for the purpose of this article I will mention only these for the sake of brevity.

Another asset in my life as an SFP since Vatican II has been my ability to live among people who are more economically poor than affluent. My first experience was in the late 60's when I was able to live briefly among African American people in a large housing project in the big city of Detroit during my graduate studies in nursing. Since that time I have lived in "common" homes with Sisters from other congregations or alone as I sought "employment" in some of the poorer city parishes in Ohio and Michigan.

And, lastly, in my journey of life as an SFP, an unexpected blessing happened about 20 years ago when a family from Bangladesh with six children, the youngest being a baby at the time, moved next door to where I am living. They lived on the first floor of the house next door. I befriended them. Within a short time, they arranged to buy the house in which I am living and requested that I stay rather than move away.

My close association with this family has helped me to understand another culture as well as another religion different from my own. They are Muslim. I find that the practice of their religion makes me think of my own life as a Roman Catholic before Vatican II. Their values and beliefs seem similar to those I have always treasured. Family seems very important to them as well as the presence of a caring God whom they call Allah. When I think of God, I usually think of Jesus.

I am most grateful to the SFP leadership that has been ours since Vatican II. There are many people I could name. However, I recognize that it is not these few people among us, but it is all of us who have changed a great deal since Vatican II happened. For me, I think I am "tasting" a bit of heaven here on earth even before I die.  Of course, at the time of death, I expect to continue to enjoy it in the eternal sense.





There are many changes that came with Vatican II that have affected my life over these past 50 years in very good ways.  But there are two that I would like to mention now as especially important to me.

 The first one is interpreting the signs of the times in the light of the Gospel.   We started looking at Jesus in the Gospels in a whole new way.  We used to see ourselves as “the Church AND the world.”  Vatican II reminded us that we are “the Church IN the world.”  That called us out of the “monastery” into the REAL world where we were ONE in unity with the laity.  We saw Jesus wearing what others wore and going out among them in service.  So we dressed more simply and included  ministries that dealt with the signs of the times of our brothers and sisters in the world today.  And we knew we could not do it just by ourselves!  We needed the help of the laity.  So as time went on, we accepted Associates to walk with us and assist us in ministry.  What a gift Vatican II gave to us in giving us our Associates!

 The second “return to the sources” that Vatican II called us to was more participation, dialogue and collaboration.  In its emphasis on “the priesthood of all the baptized and the common responsibility for the life and mission of the church,” we were called anew to participation, authentic conversation and collaboration.  “WE are the Church” became a common phrase.  In our Congregation we started “Circles of Life” that called us to more dialogue and sharing.  We were ALL called to participate in decision making.  Instead of a top-down kind of obedience, we formed a CIRCULAR kind of living so we could listen to and respond to all our Sisters in working for the common good.  Again, we looked at Jesus in the Gospel who reminds us that leadership is NOT about power but about loving SERVICE to one another. 

While we may have a ways to go yet to really live out the calls of Vatican II, we have been blessed and graced in many ways.  Thank you to the Spirit who guides us in God’s Love!  
Sr. Mary Madonna Hoying, sfp





It is hard to believe that Vatican II was 50 years ago! I remember the excitement when Pope John XXIII announced an ECUMENICAL COUNCIL!!!  Then the news that came as the council proceeded!

For me personally, it was so freeing. I personally appreciated the changes in the liturgy: the priest facing the people; everything in the vernacular. I was thrilled with the documents on the Church: LUMEN GENTIUM and, even more, GAUDIUM ET SPES.  Those documents and the one on ECUMENISM were all like opening the windows wide! Each document published  was exciting in its own way.

I was involved in initial formation at the time and, consequently, lived with the challenges in the Church and religious life on the younger Sisters.  It became a time when many evaluated their call and some realized that their call was to a different way of life.

In the Congregation I felt that it was a time when together we opened ourselves to the Holy Spirit in a special way.  Just one of the things that I found very helpful was a community study of the Council documents, following outlines and questions prepared by Father Eugene Maly. For me, Vatican II offered the possibility of really being open to the Spirit in fidelity to the Council and to the Church in the spirit of Blessed Frances Schervier.

Sr. Marie Clement Edrich