Franciscan Sister Serves as Translator on Haiti Mission Trip

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Marlita Henseler is serving as a translator for a Diocese of Green Bay Mission Trip to Haiti. We share an account by one of the pilgrims on the journey and photos.

Day One

Well, we arrived at Pedro Santana last night about 9 pm after a long travel day and some exciting traffic getting out of Santo Domingo. The group consists of Jim Fitzgerald, Sister Marlita, Debbie Knox, Kathy Allen, Ken Deteville and me, Ed West.

Sister Maria and Sister Lidia were waiting for us and had prepared a wonderful dinner for us.

We are about to leave so this is short.

Day Two

Today was a learning day with Sister Maria. After breakfast, we drove to Los Cacaos, Haiti to see the pump that is being used to supply water to the fish farm.

The pump was fashioned from an old engine with a pump attached to one side of the shaft and pulleys on the other side. They were having issues keeping it primed. Maybe we will work on that another day. On the way to Los Cacaos, we stopped at a high point on the International Highway and took some pictures of the green trees on the Haitian side. Those trees have been planted since Sister Maria started work in the area and the area is slowly turning green and as a result, cooler (a relative term).


We then drove to the Ag Center. The 12,000 gallon cistern that we worked on in January is now complete and the second floor is being completed on a multi function building behind the classroom facility.

On my January trip, I had heard a story about Sister Maria borrowing a D8 Caterpillar from the Dominican Republic government and using it to build roads in Haiti. What I didn’t realize that the roads she built opened up the whole Los Cacaos region to commerce. Prior to her road building, the only way to get around the area was on foot or motorcycle.

A side note, I am using the Spanish spelling “Los Cacaos”, but I understand that the Haitian Creole spelling is “Los Kakaos.

All around the area, and now at the Ag Center in Los Cacaos, a bean called Guandul is being grown. It can be grown in the very poor soil and hot weather conditions. It is called the “bean from Congo” locally and is a source of protein. The Guandul beans grown at the Ag Center are a lot larger than the ones grown around the area due to the irrigation and attention to nutrients etc. Also being grown at the Ag Center are tropical sweet potatoes that provide a lot of nutrients for the local folks…

Franciscan Sister Honored at Xavier High School

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Mary Ann Spanjers was selected as a Distinguished Alumni into the Xavier Alumni Hall of Honors for 2018.  The induction ceremony took place on the morning of Friday, October 5, 2018, during an all-school assembly at Xavier High School, Appleton, Wisconsin, as part of Homecoming Week. Sister Mary Ann was also invited to be present for the homecoming parade and game. Her comments at the assembly follow. Read her entire message of gratitude: Francisan Sister Mary Ann thank you

There is a great quote from St. Francis of Assisi, the patron of our Franciscan Community:
“Start by doing what is necessary
Then do what is possible;
and suddenly you are doing the impossible”

This quote connects the virtues of faith, hope and love with so much of my life!
The faith my immigrant parents had to come to the U.S. with so little, to work hard and provide my sisters and me with a future that would never be what it is today if it were not for their faith and courage to do what is necessary
The faith I have learned though doing the everyday challenges and invitations of life, working, building relationships, studying, praying, teaching, learning, serving correcting papers—doing what is necessary
The faith I have witnessed in the many students I’ve had like Evelyn, the daughter of a single immigrant mom, who in spite of being diagnosed with cancer her sophomore year, going through treatments throughout her junior year managed to maintain her high academic average and become valedictorian of her class with a full ride to Georgetown where she is studying to become a pediatrician. Doing what is necessary

Then do what is possible—

Having hope that no matter what things will work out is no easy thing! I learned from my Franciscan Sisters that it is possible to discover God’s will in one’s life! I learned this from the Sisters I have been blessed to know and who have walked with me through our formation when we were younger and to this day; that it is possible to live this life and be happy! That it is possible to become a teacher or a nurse practitioner, or bursar, vocation director or administrator and God will be with you guiding you in ways you never expected.
Having hope is discovering that when one prays it is a lot about waiting to see how Jesus will respond. Having hope is watching my students at our San Miguel Cristo Rey school in Tucson, come to believe that they will be able to achieve their dream of being the first one in their families to graduate from college because they are first generation children of immigrants.

and suddenly you are doing the impossible

This is all about the theological virtue of love—any of you juniors or seniors remember the theological definition of love??? An act of the will/a choice
It is in choosing to love that one finds true meaning in one’s life. I experienced love, acceptance and support of my high school friends who are here today! The times we spent together growing up here will always be in my heart, you were with me when my Dad died, you helped me get through what seemed impossible.

Read more: Francisan Sister Mary Ann thank you

Franciscan Sister Attends Bi-Annual Suzuki Convention

Recently, Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Marcus Steede (cello teacher), Emma McAlister (Holy Family Conservatory of Music violin teacher) and her friend, also a music teacher,  drove to Minneapolis, Minnesota for the bi-annual Suzuki Convention. There were at least a thousand students (all school age), parents, and teachers from all across the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America—even Alaska.
Besides many excellent lectures and concerts there were master classes by out-standing teachers on violin, cello, harp, flute, piano, guitar and recorder. Sister Marcus shares her thoughts on the experience.

There were many first rate sessions but a few were truly exceptional. Carnival of the Animals by Saint Saens, a set of ten pieces representing various animals was performed by elementary and middle school students as piano duets accompanied by a small ensemble. The music was superb, played with energy, enthusiasm, and humor. For instance, one piece made fun of piano players. The two boys began and it sounded terrible so they stopped, one boy stomped across to the other piano and turned the music over (it was upside down). Then they began again—not much better, the second boy stood up, shook his finger as if to say, “That was your fault!” Finally all was fine and they continued to the end.

For the first time ever there was a cello ensemble of students from Canada, South America, and all over the U.S. The three pieces they performed were in different moods—one was slow, gentle and elegant; one was a fast, energetic classical number; and the last was contemporary, wild and jazzy. It sounded like rock and the kids really got into it.

Of all the wonderful lectures I was really impressed with one titled “Celebrating Black violinists and Composers.” According to the presenter, a very talented young violinist and her six-year old daughter, there were black composers as early as the 18th century of the same caliber as Mozart and Haydn. She, Rachel Barton Pine, would talk about the composer and his music; then her daughter would play the piece. Rachel has done much research and has hundreds of pieces written by black composers.

The icing on the cake was the pipe organ played on Sunday by a fantastic organist. After Mass he performed a Bach postlude—so exciting! The convention, as always, was informational, illuminating and entertaining.

Franciscan Sister’s Family History Centers Around a Table

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Natalie Binversie reflections on the life and ministry of Sister Mary Jane Mertens. Read her entire reflection here: Franciscan Sister Mary Jane Mertens Reflection.

The family farm where Mary Jane grew up was located two miles west of Kiel. When Mary Jane was nine years old her Grandpa and Grandma Mertens came to live with Mary Jane’s family. In a Jubilee reflection Mary Jane wrote, “The family table in our kitchen was the center of much family history. It was there that we shared, not only food, but our stories and lives. Lots of laughs could be heard. Arguments were settled by looking it up in the encyclopedia that her mother had saved from her teaching days. Many rosaries were prayed kneeling at the kitchen chairs around the table during Lent and during times of special need. After supper Dad and the older boys did the milking and the rest of us cleaned up and had play time. Then the table became a school room for us to do our lessons.”

Mary Jane and her siblings walked the two miles to Church and to School. This is most likely where Mary Jane developed a great love for walking. If they hurried, however, they sometimes got a ride from Sister Lucy and Sister Marie Bernadette Dorn’s Dad who was going their way.

Mary Jane met the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity when she went to Saints Peter and Paul School. In all of her growing up years, she always wanted to be a Sister. When she was in the eighth grade her mother said to her, “If you want to be a Sister, we had better go to see what it is like.” After getting a tour of the Motherhouse and meeting with Mother Generose, Mary Jane came home with application papers.

Are you in need of seeing what it is like to be a Franciscan Sister? Call or text Sister Julie Ann at 920-323-9632 or click here for possible discernment options: FSCC_Fall Retreat Banner_2018_8.5x11_ENG

Blood Sisters Prepared Franciscan Sister for Religious Life

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Community Director Sister Natalie Binversie reflects on the life of Sister Joanne Plain. Just like St. Clare, she was blessed with blood sisters who supported her call to religious life. To read the entire sharing, click here: Franciscan Sister Joanne Plain Reflection .

Margaret Mary Plain was born on August 23, 1932 to Frank and Gladys (Cleary) Plain in Oconto Falls, Wisconsin. Margaret Mary was baptized at Saint Anthony Church in Oconto Falls on August 28, 1932 and confirmed there on April 18, 1945 by Bishop Bona. All of her siblings were girls. The oldest girls in the family were twins. Jean died when she was 4 months old and Joan died when she was two months old. Margaret Mary was the fourth of nine children. As she wrote in a Jubilee reflection, the name Margaret Mary was never used unless she was in trouble. Her nick name was Momie.

Momie attended St. Anthony School which was staffed by the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. She was impressed that a group of Sisters were always on the playground during recess playing baseball and volleyball. Momie and her sisters would help carry the Sisters’ things to the Convent in their wagon. Momie found school studies challenging. Since the students were usually in double grades her sisters would report back to her parents. The Sisters and her parents supported her as best that they could. This impressed Momie deeply.

When Momie told her Mom that she wanted to be a Sister, her Mom was reluctant. In a reflection on her vocation story, she wrote:
My mom was just like so many other moms – she didn’t want to see her little girl grow up. When still in eighth grade, I told her that I wanted to go to the Convent with my classmates, she thought I was too young. If she lived in the era of the TV hit, “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire,” I would say that she used one of her lifelines. Mom contacted her Reverend Brother who worked in the Southern Missions. He gave the decision that became my “final answer.” If I didn’t like it, he said, I could always come home.


Franciscan Sister Teaches 19 Years in Peru

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Community Director Sister Natalie Binversie shares on the life and ministry of Sister Maria Jose Scharinger. To read the whole reflection, click here: Franciscan Sister Maria Jose Reflection Here are comments on Sister Maria Jose’s many years of serving in Lima, Peru.

Sister Maria José found all of her years in religious life enjoyable and rewarding, however, the 19 years in Peru meant the most to her. She was always deeply grateful to God and to the Community for giving her this missionary opportunity. Not only did Sister Maria José treasure the Peruvian experience, the people who knew her there also valued all she was and did. In one of her formal yearly evaluations the Principal of Maria Reina School, Mr. Eduardo Pecol, wrote, “Sister Maria José is an excellent English teacher. She is creative, exercises common sense, is careful and clearheaded. She considers her and the school’s success as synonymous and welcomes new assignments as opportunities to prove her abilities. Sister Maria José has the ability to grasp a situation and draw correct conclusions. She reaches sound decisions promptly, is not easily disconcerted and is discreet.”

Another Principal, Maria Isabel Quinones, affirmed Mr. Pecol’s evaluation and added, “She is not just deeply involved with her students’ reality, but also with the school and her colleagues, trying to assist them whenever they need her. We can say that she is a role model. She projects her humbleness through her classes and many other virtues and values that are part of the Franciscan Charism. In other words, we can say that she shows through her daily actions the coherence that the Franciscan and Marianist Congregations proclaim.”

Franciscan Sister Presents 6 Thinking Hats

On a recent Thursday afternoon Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Marcolette Madden presented the Workshop Six Thinking Hats. Sisters who were interested in learning about a practical and positive approach to making decisions and exploring new ideas were exposed to Dr. Edward De Bono, a world-known expert in creative thinking.

The main idea is have a group only wear one hat at a time when considering a problem. The wearing of the hat is metaphorical. At any one time, everyone will wear the same color, in other words, look at the problem at hand from only one perspective, the perspective indicated by the hat color. Team members helped demonstrate the concepts which encourages parallel thinking focusing on looking in the same direction.

Hats represented:

White Hat: Information-what information do we need to know?

Red Hat: Emotions-how do I feel about this issue now?

Black Hat: Caution-What are the risks involved in this project?

Yellow Hat: Positive-What are the good points of this proposal?

Green Hat: Creativity-what alternatives do we have?

Blue Hat: Focus-What is the purpose of our meeting?

May we look for ways to use this kind of discernment in daily living.

Franciscan Sister Professes First Vows

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Sister Natalie Binversie shares her breakfast comments to Sister Mary Teresa on her First Profession of Vows. Later at 2 p.m., the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist Sunday liturgy was celebrated with her public profession of vows with clergy, Community and family present. We will be sharing more pictures and a podcast in the near future of this graced moment for our Church.

Good morning, Sister Mary Teresa and everyone present for this momentous day, celebrating your First Profession of Vows. Sister Mary Teresa, this occasion was in God’s plan from the beginning of time. The day of your birth, August 3, 1993 was followed by another significant event, your Baptism on September 5, 1993. God had a significant role for you to fulfill in your life. God called and you responded. Today you publically profess your “Yes” to God. Through your profession of the Evangelical Counsels of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, you are proclaiming in your own words that, “Religious Consecration is Baptismal Consecration lived more deeply.”

The title that you chose at the time of your Reception was “Daughter Zion.” The model for you to look to in order to embrace and live this title is Mary, the Mother of God. She is Mother, Daughter and Spouse. She is the model of perfect relationship. She is the model for the baptized, the model for all religious, especially for consecrated women religious.Today we also celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. The Scripture readings for the Liturgy this afternoon will be a sacred reminder of what needs to be born in each person’s life every day which include:

  • Someone who leaps with joy before the presence of the Lord making us want to live our relationship with Jesus with greater ardor and fervor.
  • Someone to prepare the way of the Lord and to give us knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins.
  • Someone who turns attention away from distractions and preconceptions so that we will behold the Lamb of God as the true desire of each heart.
  • Someone who models that there is no greater joy in life than for Jesus to increase and for me to decrease, especially as regards self-reliance, self-assertion and self –importance.
  • Someone who is a burning and shining lamp whose radiance gives light to one’s path and courage to one’s heart, making each of us want to live for others.
  • Someone committed to the truth that we are willing to lay down our life for the Truth-become-flesh, Jesus Himself, witnessing that all true happiness comes through sacrifice.
    -Father Peter John Cameron, O.P.

St. John the Baptist prepared the way and continually pointed to Jesus. This is the message of the Liturgy today. Sister Mary Teresa, by living your life as a Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity you will follow the example of St. Francis of Assisi who showed us how to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. You are assured of our prayers for the grace of perseverance and we pray that you will see this example in each of your Sisters in Community as we together will carry out the work of John the Baptist to prepare the way for the Lord. Welcome to our Community! Along with your Sisters, family and friends, enjoy the many blessings of this day!



Franciscan Sister Presents to Omaha Serran Club

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Renee Mirkes shares with Nebraska’s Omaha Serrans on her ministry of NaProTECHNOLOGY.

On April 9th, I had the privilege of addressing one of the three very active Serra Clubs of Omaha about the work of the Pope Paul VI Institute, particularly how its women’s health science of NaProTECHNOLOGY and its natural system of family planning, the Creighton Model FertilityCare System, provide an antidote to all the moral fallout in our culture from the contraceptive mentality.

I’ve never been so enthusiastically applauded on two scores: first, that I, a religious Sister, am actively involved on a national scale in doing this kind of work in the Church and, second, that the city of Omaha houses the headquarters for NaPro and FertitlityCare. I was reminded of the many, many holy, committed Omaha natives with whom I have the privilege to rub elbows every day. Pictured above is the president of the OSC-West (left) and members of the organization who were responsible in booking me as a speaker for April’s meeting. Dear people all!

Franciscan Sister Presents at Florida Catholic Medical Association Meeting

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Renée Mirkes comments on her participation in a Florida Catholic Medical Association Meeting. Sister Renée directs the Center for NaProEthics, the ethics division of the Pope Paul VI Institute, Omaha, NE.

I [Sister Renée Mirkes] had the privilege of giving two lectures at the Florida Catholic Medical Association meeting in Venice, Florida in the last months. The keynote lecture, entitled The Domino Theory Revisited, recounted the moral fallout from the first domino of contraception. The second lecture discussed the ethics of various applications of the revolutionary genetic editing tool–CRISPR-Cas9.

The best part of the whole experience was working with the marvelous physicians pictured here who comprised the planning committee for the event. They are an inspiration in today’s healthcare world!