Franciscan Sisters Own Butterfly Transformation Center

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

August 09, 2017

Franciscan Sister Caritas Strodthoff, ever a nurse,  tells the convent story of our Motherhouse monarch butterfly transformation center.

Butterflies are self-propelled flowers. (R. H. Heinlein)

When Sister Priscilla was alive, she would go out to the flower gardens every morning and bring in bouquets of flowers to take to the Sisters confined to their rooms. She would say: If they can’t get out to see the flowers, I’ll just bring them in for them to see and enjoy.”

So it is with monarch caterpillars. St. Francis loved all of God’s creation, seeing God’s miracle of life in all things. We strive to honor that life in all we can do to enrich it.

The journey of the caterpillar challenges us to trust, have faith and lots of courage.

Every year starting in April we watch for the first monarch to wing thru the flower gardens… to lay her eggs. Then we start searching the under surface of milkweed leaves for eggs. We bring them in…to watch the miracle of God’s transformation.  Checking daily for the egg to hatch is fascinating once you see that itsy, bitsy tiny caterpillar munching away. As we find more eggs, a “home” becomes necessary or they’d all crawl away. A fish aquarium works wonderful especially with paper on the bottom to collect their “poopies.” From egg to chrysalis stage they munch and munch, but remember…what goes in must come out!

After about two weeks comes the first miracle: watching that caterpillar turn into a chrysalis, outer skin splitting and then wiggle, wiggle, wiggle til the chrysalis forms and the golden dots appear around the upper mid edge.

The chrysalis hangs for about another two weeks and then gradually begins to darken. You  see the wings forming inside and then…the outer shell cracks and the wings drop out til the new monarch hangs,  dripping, drying out.

During the next couple hours the wings dry and he or she will start flapping and getting ready for flight.

Now is the fun time when the butterfly will “walk on your finger” and let you check the wings to see: is this a male or a female? The male has a black dot on its lower wings!

Last year we had only 6 caterpilars. This year we are thrilled to have found almost 30 eggs and have grown into monarchs. It’s been thrilling watching the miracle God has wrought to teach us about “change.” There are hundreds of quotes about butterflies but I like these the best:

“If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.”

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly.”

“How does one become a butterfly?” she asked. “You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.”

“The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity.”

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