As poor people in solidarity with the poor throughout the world, we “embrace the common law of work as a means of providing for our basic needs, to serve the common good, and to share with others in need” (Constitutions 93). We cherish our external works for the opportunity they give us to witness to and serve Christ and are grateful for our in-house works for the way they foster our contemplative life and allow us to serve our sisters in community.
Our external works include running a thrift store and emergency food bank for the poor in downtown Steubenville (called Samaritan House) as well as a bi-monthly soup kitchen, in addition to a variety of ministries at Franciscan University. Our work downtown enables us to establish relationships with the people there, witness to the Lord’s love for them, and enriches their lives spiritually and materially.
At Franciscan University, we foster the spiritual lives of the students and offer by our lives a testimony to the joy and peace that come in following God’s will. Oftentimes our ministry takes the form of a “ministry of presence,” which is to say that at times we minister to others by who we are more than by what we do. Furthermore, we seek always to be in positions of service, following our Rule, which exhorts us, “Let them never want to be over others. Instead they must be servants and subjects to every human creature for God’s sake” (T.O.R. Rule 19).
In-house works are a means of serving our sisters and supporting ourselves financially. Even more importantly, the simple work we do powerfully unites us to Christ, the poor man of Nazareth, and Mary, who served the Holy Family through her service in cleaning, cooking, and laundering.
In-house works include maintenance, administration, cleaning, development, cooking, finance, laundry, sewing, making religious articles, and distributing altar bread. Whatever we do, we strive to be “joyful, good-humored, and happy in the Lord” (T.O.R. Rule 20). Many of these works are very conducive to prayer, and enable us to develop our “contemplative ear,” being attentive to the voice of the Holy Spirit throughout the day.
Together our external and in-house works serve to unite us to Christ and His poor. We are attentive in any work we do to be certain that it does not “extinguish the spirit of holy prayer and devotion” and that we do not become possessive of it. Work is always only a means (though a beautiful means) to be drawn closer and be more conformed to Christ.