Our mission and charisms proceed from deep gratitude for the goodness and love of God which is poured out for us through Christ’s redemption on the cross. Our mission is to make known God’s merciful love so that all may be reconciled and brought into communion with God. We are compelled to proclaim the good news of salvation through the witness of our consecrated and communal life as Franciscan contemplative penitents committed to prayer and works of mercy.
Our community was founded in 1988 to renew the contemplative dimension of the Franciscan penitential form of life of the early friars and sisters of the Third Order Regular. Following our Seraphic Father St. Francis, we embrace the Third Order charism of penance by living a life of evangelical conversion in a spirit of prayer, poverty, and humility. As we daily contemplate Christ’s gracious gift of love offered on the cross and intercede for the needs of all mankind, we seek to give to others the mercy we have received. Under the patronage of our Sorrowful Mother and with the Eucharist as the focal point of our daily life, we live out our mission of standing with Mary at the foot of the cross, offering our life with Christ as a holocaust of love for the salvation of souls.
Our life of prayer and intercession as well as our commitment to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy flows from our charisms of crucified love, mercy, poverty, and contemplation. We are particularly dedicated to serving the poor, the sick, and those in need of renewal of faith. Our contemplative-active rhythm of prayer, work, and ministry is lived out in three possible settings: monasteries, hermitages, and mission houses.
Penance is essential to our life and mission as Franciscan Sisters of the Third Order Regular of Penance. It is penance that frees us from self-oriented preferential love and instead inclines us to give ourselves fully to love God and neighbor. Our life of ready penance is a response of love and gratitude to God who first loved us (1 Jn 4:10). Penance and prayer together are the heart of our response of love for God and neighbor. As St. Francis said in his First Letter to the Faithful, “All who love the Lord with their whole heart, and love their neighbors as themselves,” shall “bring forth fruits worthy of true penance. Our life of penance and ongoing conversion bears fruit for others most fully when we “offer our bodies as a living sacrifice” in union with Christ our beloved spouse and Savior, making ourselves a holocaust of love in reparation for our own sins and those of the whole world (Rom 12:1).
Therefore we give ourselves to the traditional forms of penance: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Our consecrated life of poverty, chastity, and obedience, which we freely embrace, is in itself a form of penance. Our community in a particular way lives out the charism of penance through fasting on Wednesdays to pray for the renewal of religious life and on Fridays to pray for world peace. We also perform spiritual and corporal works of mercy and embrace a simple and austere lifestyle, careful to use only what is necessary for our life, upholding moderation in the use of all things such as food, clothing, decor, and money. Furthermore, we use these goods without personal ownership.
Saint Francis assures us that when we faithfully persevere in the life of true penance and conversion, God makes His dwelling place within us—the essence of religious life—and we become spouses and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ, abundantly fruitful for the glory of God and the salvation of the world. Our life of penance is full of the hope which will not disappoint, for to those who follow the Gospel counsels and beatitudes the promises of God are great: “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all else shall be added to you,” and “Blessed are the poor, for they shall see God” (Mt 6:33, Lk 6:20).
Christ Crucified was the center of our Seraphic Father St. Francis’ spirituality and life. Christ appeared to him several times fastened to the cross. St. Francis’ ardent prayer to appease “Love not being loved” was realized in an extraordinary way when he was given the stigmata while praying intensely on Mt. Alverna in the last few years of his life. From then on he bore in his body the wounds of Christ Crucified.
Our charism of crucified love is our love response to the Father of Mercy for all He has done for us in sending us His Son. Standing at the foot of the cross we receive the love and mercy flowing from His pierced heart and in turn are strengthened to give that love to our sisters in community and those we encounter in our ministries. As sisters, when we help to carry one another’s burdens, we learn from one another the true meaning of our charism of crucified love. We embody our charism of crucified love and mercy through uniting our sufferings with our Beloved Crucified and all those who suffer throughout the world.
Our community regularly prays the Rosary of Seven Sorrows and the Stations of the Cross, in which we contemplate the mystery of Christ’s love in His suffering and death. We also have a devotion to the Sacred Heart and renew our consecration to the Sacred Heart together every month. We are blessed during prayer in our chapel to have before our eyes a beautiful depiction of crucified love which enables us to ponder the love and mercy gushing forth from His heart every day.
St. Francis was a man inflamed with God’s mercy. He would often speak of the Lord’s mercy and demonstrate this mercy to his brothers in community. He said, “the mercy of God is infinite and even if our sins were infinite, the mercy of God is greater than our sins.” He often interceded for sinners with tears, imploring Divine Mercy for them.
This charism of mercy springs forth from crucified love. As penitents with Mary at the foot of the Cross, we open our hearts to receive the merciful love of Christ Crucified as St. Francis did, allowing it to convert us and transform us into vessels of His mercy for others. The more we receive God’s mercy, the more we desire others also to know His merciful love. It is our mission to bring God’s mercy into the world, incarnating the selfless and compassionate love of Christ. “With great trust, we beg the Father of our Crucified and Risen Lord to open the floodgates of His mercy, so that all may be reconciled and brought into communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in this life and forever in heaven” (Constitutions 1).
We venerate our Lord’s Divine Mercy by daily praying together the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, praying the novena during set times each year, as well as celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday. We also have time at Night Prayer to extend mercy and forgiveness to one another. As part of our mission to make known God’s merciful love we embrace the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
St. Francis’ greatest love was “Lady Poverty”. He, in a sense, espoused himself to this characteristic of our Lord. Poverty is knowing our desperate need for God and being aware that without Him we are nothing. We are dependent upon Him for every moment, every breath we take. Poverty frees us from the illusion of self-sufficiency and shows us our true identity as children in the arms of a loving and merciful Father, receiving everything from His hands. This charism enables us to place all our hope solely in the things that will last for all eternity. Along with St. Francis we have a particular devotion to our Lord’s poverty in the crib, the cross, and the Eucharist.
Our material poverty is an outward manifestation of our spiritual poverty. It is evident through the concrete choices we make as a community in regard to the simplicity of our housing, furniture, clothing, food, and forms of recreation and travel. We gladly consider ourselves as poor members of God’s family, God’s anawim. This is clearly expressed in our Constitutions: ”Faithful to our Franciscan way of life, we embrace with joy the consequences of our poor lifestyle” (Constitutions 31). ”Following Francis’ example of Gospel living we renounce worldly wealth, prestige and power. As lesser sisters, freed from self interests, we give ourselves to God and neighbor, ready to do the humblest of tasks with joy” (Constitutions 30).
St. Francis spent half of his time devoted to prayer in hermitages and the other half preaching and performing works of mercy. He knew the value and efficacy of prayer and witnessed to it by the way he lived his life. The founding grace of our community is to renew this flow from prayer to work or ministry and back to prayer. We seek to foster the same spirit of unceasing prayer which permeated the lives of the early Franciscans.
Our life of prayer is the foundation and source for our life—”All we are and all we do flows from our intimate relationship with Christ” (Constitutions 6).
“Poverty and contemplation go hand in hand for Franciscans. Only through a life of prayer do we come to know the merciful love of God and are drawn to desire Him alone. The contemplative life inspires and strengthens us to live the Mystery, which we contemplate, the merciful love of God made manifest in the Poor Crucified” (Constitutions 19).
We have an hour and a half of silent prayer during Eucharistic Adoration every day. We strive to have our prayer permeate the whole day, contemplating with our Lady His mysteries in our heart. Every Wednesday morning and one full day once a month is set aside for prayer. In the spirit of St. Francis we refer to them as “hermitage mornings” or “hermitage days”. We have hermitages on our property that are available for our use during these more intense times of prayer.