Winter, 2008

“In a mystery that exceeds our understanding, God was
placed on earth, and man was placed in heaven.”
-Saint Peter Chrysologus

Dearest Friends,

May the Lord give you His peace!

The times we live in are difficult ones; we’ve seen how faith in God, and a reflection of His generosity and love, truly makes a difference in other people’s lives.

Whether we’re caring for a young girl who needs our support after just giving birth, or assisting those who are elderly, or ill, or in the hospital, there is meaning to our giving, and great love and joy given to its receiving. How precious life is; how meaningful it is to share this gift with others!

It’s sad to see some people losing sight of this precious exchange. Pope John Paul II taught us that “Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self.” A selflessness that chooses life no matter how inconvenient, a choice to carry on, no matter how hopeless a situation, these point to the real meaning of life.

We, Sisters, hope to continue to serve God and His people, celebrating the gift of life with the poor, the sick, the elderly, the unwanted, and so many others. Our Savior generously gave us His entire self. We have no better recourse but to imitate Him by trying to do the same. “Life is worth living,” eternal life is worth striving for!

May we pray for each other and continue to support one another, every step of the way to our unending life with God!

United in Jesus and Mary,

Sr. Lucille
and all your Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal


Sr Joseph

We use the term “Community Servant” for what most religious communities call “Superior,” but the phrase “Spiritual Mother” says more, and the exchange of love expressed in the eyes of Sr. Joseph and Sr. Lucille in this first vows photo perhaps says it all!
First Vows
At vows the bride crosses a threshold into the life of the Bridegroom. And the Divine Bridegroom lives out His poverty, His chastity, and His obedience in her threefold “yes” so that we can begin to say with Saint Paul, “The life I live now is not my own; it is the life of Christ living in me.” Our six newly professed “brides” are pictured here offering their vocation to Our Lady - our beloved Mother and our model of consecrated life. Pictured are: (front, l-r) Sr. Monica Ward, Sr. Ann Kateri Hamm, (center) Sr. Bernadette McAteer, Sr. Mary Pieta Geier, (back) Sr. Joseph van Munster, Sr. Maria Teresa Hellberg.
Sr. Lucille
(above, left) In every child we glimpse the eternal beauty and innocence of the Christ Child. Sr. Lucille and some of the sisters had the joy of attending the Baptism of Sr. Lucille’s grandnephew, Matthew Vincent Braccia.

(right)“Be prepared to put your life on the line in order to enlighten the world with the truth of Christ; to respond with love to hatred and desregard for life; to proclaim the hope of the risen Christ; in every corner of the earth.” - Pope Benedict XVI to the young people (including 5 of our sisters!) who gathered for the XXIII World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia.


The tumor which had begun in his throat was growing at an astonishing rate. It had taken over the whole right side of Bill’s face and was forcing its way out of his mouth. His appearance was disfigured almost beyond recognition and still the volleyball sized tumor continued to grow. In his last months, he could no longer read or write; he could not work or walk or speak; he could not so much as scratch his chin. What Bill could do was suffer and pray.

Our friendship with Bill stretches back over almost a decade and began when he was staying at the Padre Pio shelter, run by our friars, in the South Bronx. At the heart of the shelter the red glow of the sanctuary light is always visible through the chapel’s glass doors, as a standing invitation to the men. Bill was always happy to join us in the chapel, always happy to pray, and always happy to move the conversation along to anything other than the possibility of him becoming a Catholic! Eventually Bill was able to move on from the shelter, but he remained very much a part of our “extended family” and the shelter Christmas party was a happy reunion for us each year.

Then came the diagnosis. Shortly thereafter, the miracle of terminal illness happened for Bill. He could no longer resist Jesus’ invitation. The Eucharistic Lord he had come to know during his days in the shelter Bill needed and desired now more than ever. He asked to be received into the fullness of the Catholic Faith. A little band of sisters and friars prepared Bill for the sacraments, and at Mass at his bedside he received the source of life and goodness - the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. Alive with sanctifying grace as he waited to die, Bill’s final Advent was upon him. It wasn’t long before he was admitted to the hospital again, and his mission would come into sharper focus.

It should be known that Bill didn’t wait to become Catholic to make friends with the Saints. Saint Pio and Blessed Mother Teresa were in his circle of friends long before that! Knowing this, early on we brought him a relic of Padre Pio with a holy card of his stigmatized hand. Pressing it to his tumor, in a garbled whisper, Bill said, “This is my stigmata.” Before receiving one formal instruction in the Catholic Faith, Bill had an understanding of the redemptive value of suffering from the inside out.

Well past his prognosis, Bill lived on. Still and silent, he was immersed in the mystery of his cross.

If our meaning lies in our productivity - in academic degrees, stocks and salaries, then Bill’s life was now utterly meaningless. If our property and possessions prove our worth - then Bill was of no worth (and neither am I for that matter). But we are not left to produce our own meaning or to somehow manufacture our own value. Our dignity is inscribed on every cell of our body - beginning when we were just one cell, unperceived, in the womb of our mother. And this dignity cannot be erased by sickness, old age, poverty or anything else. And so too for Bill, every cell of his diseased body was impressed with the fingerprints of God. And every minute, every fraction of a second of his God-given life was of inestimable value. Who can calculate the worth of suffering in union with the Savior of the world?

In the last “conversation” I had with him I begged him to pray for me (as I always did). “I want to be like you, Bill,” I told him. He shot me a look with his left eye (his right eye had been long since closed by the tumor). “I mean it,” I said. I bent down, kissed the tumor on his face and said goodbye to him for the last time. I couldn’t have been closer to Jesus if I had been at the manger in Bethlehem.

William Johnson died on December 28, 2007.

“Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”

Sr. Clare Matthiass, CFR


Food Pantry

(above, left) When taking the first step into the convent on the road to becoming a sister, everything is new from the Divine Office to living in community, to serving the poor, and it’s all “on the job training!” Our four candidates (l-r) Patricia Gonzalez, Jill Bohacik, Kelly Oslin, Renee Myrick, are pictured here working hard in the food pantry at Our Lady of Guadalupe Convent.

(right) Our weekly “Pater Noster” food give-out takes on a special character at Christmas time with music and lights, hot chocolate and cookies, presents, and of course, a larger quantity of food for each family - including a ham for Christmas day. Everything we give away - right down to the last candy cane - was donated by you, our very generous friends. We are so grateful to God for every single individual who assists us in our work!

(above, right) What wells up in the heart of a woman who has perceived the summons of God? The mystery of God’s desire for us can only provoke awe and amazement. Clothed in the Holy Habit of Saint Francis, our four novices have two years of intense preparation for vows before them to learn to orient everything they are and everything they do toward the Divine Bridegroom. Novice Directress, Sr. Agnes (center), stands with our newly invested novices: (l-r) Sr. John Paul Spinharney, Sr. Chiara Rose Fedele, Sr. Rita Benedicta Traphagan, and Sr. Emmanuel McCabe.

(left) Thanksgiving Day was the perfect time to serve our inaugural meal in the “Father Solanus Kitchen” at Our Lady Queen of Angels Convent. Servant of God, Fr. Solanus Casey, lived a spirituality of gratitude, simplicity, and cheerful loving service. Sr. Catherine and our candidate, Patty, are pictured here serving with a smile! Pray for us, Father Solanus Casey, that we will follow in your saintly footsteps!