Franciscan Sisters Initial Formation Weekend: Community United in God’s Love

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

February 18, 2024

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Novice Sr. Michelle Marie Ozuna reflects on a recent Formation Weekend held at the Motherhouse for those in Initial Formation. Photos: Temporary Professed Sr. Concepcion Medina

Community: United in God’s Love was our theme for the 2024 Formation Weekend. It was easy for Sr. Concepcion Medina, Sr Maria Guadalupe Martinez-Lopez, Sr. Catherine Peter Logan, Jennifer Bourque and me to see the unifying power of God’s love through community, in the care and preparation expressed in the thoughtful planning and execution of the weekend by our directresses, Sr. Theresa Feldkamp and Sr. Kathleen Murphy, and the prayerful intercession of all of our Sisters.     

Formation weekend started out with splurging on the film titled, Sweet Inspirations.  The film was great in that it had many implications to life in community that led to great discussion. The movie expressed how we are given different gifts or graces to be shared on behalf of the community. However, when we are not at peace internally or do not have a strong prayer life, it seeps out into our relationships and can cause division within community. We can accomplish much more together than alone. The first day concluded with a special night prayer focused on love, unity, peace and grace. 

The second day of formation weekend started with morning prayer together, followed by Mass in St. Francis Chapel.  It is always a blessing to celebrate mass in St. Francis Chapel against the backdrop of the statue of St. Francis reaching and embracing Christ on the Crucifix.  In prayer I often place myself with Francis reaching and embracing Christ from the cross.  It was special to celebrate Mass with Initial Formation and it helps to build up our formation community within our larger community as Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. 

Father Brendan Creeden, OSB, from Monastery of the Holy Cross ( who was taught by our Sisters in Manistique, Michigan led very inspiring and enlightening talks for us in Initial Formation as we took time to reflect on how we are rooted in Scripture and the characteristics of a healthy community. The first talk was titled Community-Rooted in Scriptures.  Father paralleled reading scripture to an archeological dig he was blessed to participate in as a high school student in which he touched an artifact from 4,000 years ago.  When we delve into scripture, we are joining our much larger community, we are placing ourselves back in time, taking part in an ancient conversation.  The echoes of scripture are present and we need to listen for them. The model of community life in the scriptures can be summed up in Acts 4:32, “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.”

In his second talk titled, Characteristics of a Healthy Community, Fr. Creeden left us with much to reflect upon and tools to implement in each of our lives now. As Father Creeden explained, a healthy community is one that reanimates and evangelizes itself.  This immediately made me think of what St. Francis said, “preach the gospel and if necessary, use words.” A healthy community creates a space that enables ongoing conversion in life.  A call from Christ is a personal conversion that leads to holiness.  This ongoing conversion is not meant to be comfortable; we can encounter Christ hanging with Him upon the cross or standing with the crucifiers.

Before we can act as a healthy community we have to listen; receptivity comes before action as Fr. Creeden said it.  The talk ended with four practical tips for living within community and in formation.  (1) Things take time; practice patience and a level of docility, there are stages of growth in the spiritual life.  (2) Things are not what they seem; we tend to see things as “we are” or how “we want.”  (3) Things must be done together; surrender for the sake of another. (4) Thought drives out thought; the battle for virtue starts with recognition of our thoughts.  We should be combatting our thoughts in a virtuous way and that starts with self-awareness.    

After both talks, we took a little break to enjoy some treats and fellowship in community with Father and our Directresses.  This was immediately followed by a Holy hour in Eucharistic adoration in St. Francis Chapel.  We praised Christ with songs and also were provided scripture verses for contemplation which led to a deeper time in prayer. The peace felt in the presence of the Lord and in our formation community was palpable and comforting. This was a great way to end the second day as we continued to listen to how the Holy Spirit was moving us throughout the day and as we processed all we had learned and the blessings we experienced over the weekend.

After our holy hour we prayed evening prayer with our larger community of Sisters.   Next, we had a fun-filled night of recreation and a special Franciscan night prayer planned.  Recreation started with the five of us preparing a “breakfast for supper” meal together. It was sweet to see how we all just jumped in and helped to prepare something special for all of us to enjoy.  It mirrored a video Fr. Creeden had shared with us earlier in the day of five men playing one single cello beautifully and harmoniously. Our meal harmoniously led to meaningful discussion which opened up to a special night prayer where we read from “The Words of Admonition of our Holy Father St. Francis.”  

The next morning our Formation Weekend concluded with Holy Mass celebrated by Father Brenden Creeden, and a delightful breakfast with Sr. Natalie where we discussed the blessings of our weekend and shared the many joys of community life.  With thankful and grateful hearts, we continue to unwrap all the spiritual gifts and graces we were nourished with over the weekend.

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