This Franciscan month calls for a conversation with Sister Hannah Johnecheck, currently teaching at St. Francis School, Yuma, Arizona who comments on life as a consecrated religious in ministry.
Where’s your home town and parish? Growing up there, what inspired or encouraged you to discern becoming a Franciscan Sister?
I am from Petoskey, Michigan. My home Parish is Saint Francis Xavier Parish. The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity helped to staff the Catholic elementary school also named Saint Francis Xavier. My mom was friends with some of the Sisters and they would even come and visit us at our home. The Sisters would even cross country ski with us. When I was eight, my mom took us on a family vacation to visit some of the Sisters at the Sister’s Motherhouse in Manitowoc. I saw how joyful and down to earth the Sisters are. This image stayed in the back of my mind and came back to me when I was 19 and first started thinking about being a Sister.
Where have you served as a sister?
I have been blessed to work with a variety of cultures in Mississippi, Hawaii, Bapchule, Arizona and Yuma, Arizona.
You’ve served in some interesting and challenging locations. How does being a Franciscan Sister help you to address those challenges?
The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity focus their ministry on poor, rural areas of America. To be Franciscan is to be poor and to be happy to live simply because all is gift. Like Christ, who said we must “become like little children”; and Francis who lived this simple, child-like way so well, I had to enter each new place and each new challenge with the attitude of a child.
What does a child do? A child enters each situation with the attitude of a learner. Children know they do not know everything and have much to learn. Children know they need their parents for their very survival and protection. A child lives that moment knowing their mother and father are their care and protection. And I, a Franciscan, had to face the joys and challenges of ministry realizing I too had much to learn and I too needed to be dependent on my Heavenly Father and let Him sustain me in each and every moment.
Living in community with women committed to this Franciscan prayer and service with me also guided and sustained me. Simply knowing they were present with me dedicated to get up each day and pray and serve along with me helped me know I was not alone.
The FSCC’s seem to encourage all their sisters to develop their gifts. Was that the case with you in serving as an educator?
I do believe the Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity have helped me to develop my gifts. They believe God wants you to use your gifts for His kingdom. As a Sister you will be stretched and challenged to do what you have never done before. You will discover gifts you did not even know you had. Most importantly, you will dig deep within and discover a truer love within you that can only come from God.
What would you say to a young women who you thought might be called your consecrated life?
For young women who may be considering Religious Life I would say, “Do not be afraid” to seek God’s will. Take that leap of faith wherever it may lead. God is all good and in Scripture itself He promises He will never abandon you! Go! follow your vocation wherever it it. Look at every follower of Jesus in the Gospels. Look at every Saint. Like the grain of wheat, each had to go through some spiritual death, but if you journey with God through that spiritual death the Saint in you will emerge.
Does this speak to your heart? We invite you to discern with us.