“She Taught Me the Meaning of a True Vocation…”

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

November 17, 2021

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity share a bulletin message from the desk of Fr. Sean Dooley of the Diocese of Columbus, pastor of Our Lady of Peace Parish, Columbus, on the death of his Aunt Martha, Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Frances Joseph Hildebrand.

Hello friends,

This month we pray for all the faithful departed; that their souls may be united to God. May their souls, by the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Our Lady of Peace celebrated the All Souls’ Mass of Remembrance on November 2nd with over 170 people in attendance. We prayed for 68 individuals and groups of people during this beautiful liturgy.

I would like to share a little more about myself and my family. We are blessed with a rich history of vocations. This week I am leaving to celebrate the Funeral Memorial Mass for my great-aunt Martha. The Mass will be celebrated on Wednesday, November 17th (her birthday). Her religious name was Sr. Frances Joseph Hildebrand. She was a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity in Manitowoc. I had another great-aunt (Aunt Dorothy, 1912-1998) and a great-great-aunt (Aunt Christiana, 1872-1898) in the same religious community. I had some of these Franciscan Sisters in grade school at St. Nicholas in Zanesville. Currently, they co-sponsor Genesis Hospital in Zanesville. The Sisters were everywhere when I was growing up, so I had to be on my best behavior!

Aunt Martha passed away on Holy Saturday, April 11, 2020 at the age of 98. Sadly, her Funeral Mass and those for other deceased sisters were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The religious community is currently playing ‘catch up’ with funeral liturgies.

Whenever I visit the Franciscan Sisters, it is a kind of second home. Growing up, my family would make trips to visit Aunt Martha and Aunt Dorothy. As I look back, I realize these visits really planted the seed for my vocation to the priesthood. Since I have been ordained, I have tried to make a trip once a year to see Aunt Martha. While her mind slipped more and more into dementia, my Aunt Maureen (my dad’s sister) made a memory book full of photos for her. Photos full of family and pictures from Zanesville.

At our last visit, I remember she said to me: “Sean, I do not know why I am still alive here.” Not knowing how to respond, I said, “I am not sure why either, but I am glad you are here and praying for me.” I will always treasure our visits and the many letters she wrote me in the seminary. She taught me the meaning of a true vocation, one that is a balance of prayer, service, and simplicity in Christ. I know I would not be a priest without her prayers.

In 2011, she celebrated her 50th year of religious profession of Golden Jubilee. For the occasion she shared her favorite prayer with our family and her religious community:

O Mary

Watch the hour when my departing soul will lose its hold on all earthly things and stand unveiled in the presence of its Creator. O then, be my tender Mother and place the merits of thy Divine Son on the scales of justice in favor of my poor soul. Amen.

Rest in peace, Aunt Martha.

Under the protection of Our Lady of Peace,

Fr. Dooley

Article Comments:

Sister Sharon Paul, O.S.F. 11/18/2021 @ 5:43 am

Father Sean: a blessed & meaningful article on Sr. Frances Joseph & right from the heart. Sr. Frances Joseph was a mentor, right from the start. The Hildebrand family were dear friends of our parents & the their children’s children were in many of my families’ grades at St. Nicholas & Rosecrans in Zanesville. In fact, Paula & I were friends & in 8th. Grade we were considering going to the Convent then, but decided we would miss the fun our brothers & sisters had in high school. The Lord had other reasons as Paula died when we were Freshman of a burst appendix. Martha (Sr. Frances Joseph) was our secretary at Rosecrans & occasionally would fill in for our classes.
Lo & behold, when I came to the Convent in WI after high school WHO was there but Sr. Frances Joseph! She was at our Holy Family College in the office so I would go to her to decide WHAT classes to take each semester that would correspond to my majors. Then, every Summer from then on we always visited & shared much. Later, her sister, Sr. Francis Aloysius, was at St. Benedict’s, Cambridge, OH when I was stationed as Principal. The Lord winds people in & out of our lives & when they are gone there are many memories & the Lord provides new people who have influences in our lives. Sean, may each of your relatives be resting in God’s PEACE!


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