In April we celebrated Mother Katherine’s feast day a little early (her feast day is St. Catherine of Siena, April 29th). During the beautiful dinner we each honored her with words of affirmation. This is a tradition that we do on every sisters’ individual feast day. Because she is the Reverend Mother, it is an event for the whole community. The way we honor one another in these dinners is a beautiful support for our fraternal life together. We love you Mother Katherine and are so grateful for the many ways you pour yourself out for us and for the Church!
The Franciscan Sisters of Renewal from NYC stopped through on their travels for a short visit. Because we are similar in our Franciscan spirit and in the timing of our founding we call eac hother “cousin communities”. We had a wonderful time with our cousins! They taught us a beautiful song and sang for us as well. We also had a come and See going on at that time. Click on image to enlarge.
It is a tradition in our community for those in leadership to wash the feet of the Sisters in a simple ceremony on Holy Thursday every year. This is a tradition that comes from the Franciscan model of servant leadership. In our community we are each called to be “a lesser sister”, “never seeking to dominate or seek power over another” (TOR Rule #25). Also during this ceremony, we receive from our Reverend Mother our “obediences”- our assignment for the next year (beginning in August).
On Good Friday we keep silence and solitude all day outside of the Stations of the Cross and the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion. It is a time of deep intimacy with our Crucified Spouse, being with Him in His agony and death on the cross. We also place a relic of the true cross on our altar and use it for veneration. In the evening we have the option of watching the movie The Passion of the Christ.
Easter in the monastery is a beautiful celebration. We all attend the Easter Vigil at various local parishes and then return home for a small party.
The next day we have Mass here and a large dinner following. We have time together and to rest in the afternoon before having a Holy Hour with praise and worship and Evening Prayer before our festive dinner. It is a time of much festivity and joy as we celebrate that day and the seven days following our Lord’s defeat over sin and death. He has conquered!
The Sisters at Heart of Mary were blessed to minister with over 50 Franciscan University students during the University’s spring break in the downtown Steubenville area. The students helped the Sisters deep clean Samaritan House, our downtown thrift store for the poor, as well as built shelving in the basement for the extra donated clothing… a huge transformation! We are so grateful! They also evangelized on the streets of the city, and helped repair buildings for those in need. We also hosted them at our Motherhouse where they were able to transform our library into an organized space and deep clean parts of our property. It was such a blessing for us to be a part of this and what a beautiful witness they are in giving up their spring break to be of assistance to others!
We welcome our new Holy Father Pope Francis! We have been flooded with joy ever since the Habemus Papam announcement. At the motherhouse we all gathered in our conference room after we heard the “white smoke” announcement and watched the Habemus Papam announcement together via live streaming on the internet. It was quite a memorable experience. Afterwards we all gathered in chapel and prayed for our new Holy Father Pope Francis. Seeing the lights come on in the upstairs of St. Peter’s Basilica as we all awaited to see our new Holy Father was a similar experience to watching the sanctuary lamp be lit at the Easter vigil when Jesus returns to the tabernacle. The Vatican has been like an empty tabernacle. And now the Bridegroom has returned! We celebrated the joy of our new Holy Father Francis Thursday night (the day after he was elected) by throwing a little party. We had decorations, flowers,and chocolate in the middle of Lent (a huge exception) but worthy and all in honor of our new Pope. We had a slide show of our new Pope running in the background while we ate and then ended our time by re- watching together our Holy Father’s first appearance in St. Peter’s square (this time with subtitles). We are so thrilled that he chose the name “Francis” and have been exuberant with joy!
At the end of February three of our Sisters from Greccio House in Gaming, Austria accompanied students from the Franciscan University Gaming campus to Rome and Assisi. They were present in Rome during the Sede Vacante. Part of their role on this bi-annual trip is giving tours, assisting in liturgies, and being present to the students. Pictured to the right is Sr. Maria Teresa giving a tour outside of San Damiano Church in Assisi.
In February and March three different teams of sisters visited campuses throughout the country. Sr. Faustina and Sr. Della Marie took a road trip to the east to Boston University, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Catholic University, and Maryland University. They spoke at different events and met with many women that are discerning a vocation. Sr. Maria Pio and Sr. Maria Clare went to Florida State University for a week (pictured) and helped out with a women’s retreat and various other outreaches to the students alongside the Brotherhood of Hope. Sr. Della Marie and Sr. Maria Pio also spent a few days at Ohio University and Ohio State.
In early February we hosted a Vocation Discernment Retreat. We had seven women join us for a weekend of prayer, talks, recreation, and just “hang out time” with us. It was a blessed opportunity to get to know them and we continue to pray for all of the women who have visited us, that the Lord would continue to lead and guide them according to His will.
In January on the way to a retreat in Maryland, our Sisters visited with students from Saint Patrick School in Carlisle, PA. Our sisters spent the morning with the children by attending Mass with them, speaking to all of the students in grades 3-8 (in small groups). They also had lunch/recess with their Kindergarten and 1st graders. It was a very blessed day! Click on image to the right to enlarge.
Three of our Sisters were blessed to attend the March for Life in January in Washington D.C. Pictured to the left (from l to r) Sr. Mary Catherine, Sr. Veronica, and Sr. Maria Pio. They got there in time to attend the Vigil Mass at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. We thank the Lord for all of those who braved the cold that day and stood up for life!
On January 26th our four candidates, Molly, Amanda, Meaghan, and Jenny Lynn entered postulancy. The postulant entrance takes place during evening and is a simple ceremony in which they receive a Tau cross symbolizing a deeper stage of discernment on their journey. St. Francis had a particular love for the tau cross as it was a sign of penance and conversion during his time. His signature would often include the tau cross. It has become a widely recognizied symbol of being Franciscan. The next stage of their discernment journey will be novitiate.
Sr.Rita Clare joined Franciscan University students as an advisor on a mission trip to Jamaica the first week of January. While there they shared with the youth an “inculturation night”, exchanging songs and dances representing their different cultures. They also did street ministry- praying and evangelizing with the people in the streets. They visited and brought the Eucharist to the home bound, and also a Mustard Seed community consisting of mentally disabled children. They presented two Life in the Spirit missions to parishes. They led a three hour praise and worship session with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for the Jamaican people. The confession lines were unending…praise the Lord!
We wanted to share a glimpse of our Christmas celebrations with you. Christmas Eve has always been a special time for us. We begin the evening with the beautiful prayer of the Church from the Liturgy of the Hours and then move into a festive dinner. After dinner we attend Christmas Eve Mass at Franciscan University. When we come home it has been a tradition for us to open handmade gifts made by our “Advent Angel”. Before Advent we receive the name of a Sister that we are to pray for in a special way during the Advent season and following year. We secretly decorate her door during the Advent season and create a gift for her to open Christmas Eve. The gift is usually very simple… a creative way of presenting a spiritual bouquet for the sister.
On Christmas Day we have a tradition of visiting those in the local nursing homes and hospitals. It is one of the greatest blessings of the whole day… to see Him as he truly was that first Christmas Day, little and poor, born into much suffering. Many of those we visit and sing to are significantly moved. Some have told us that we were the only ones that visited them that day. We also are privileged to bring them Holy Communion and be present as Christ is born before our eyes once again in their very souls.
The Saturday before Christmas we hosted a Christmas party for all of those in downtown Steubenville. It is a yearly tradition that is part of LAMP ministries coordinated by sisters that live in our dowtown mission house, Heart of Mary. All of our sisters came that day to join in on the ministry.
We had over 100 guests attend. For some of our guests this would be the only Christmas party and/or meal that they would get to enjoy. So many children came wearing their special Christmas attire. The day began with offering a fun craft for the adults and kids- decorating Christmas cookies. At the same time we had many games including “pin the star on the Nativity Scene”. Afterwards, Sr.Veronica gave a catechesis on the birth of Jesus and there was also a Christmas puppet show. A delicious dinner was served provided by some very faithful volunteers. We raffled off three Christmas dinners for people to take home. We were so blessed by the many volunteers from all over that showed up to help with the party. After dinner the children were presented gifts purchased for them by the local parish. Throughout the day the atmosphere was enhanced by our sisters singing Christmas carols. We receive so much from these precious people… they show us who we really are. Blessed are the poor.
In Advent, we are called afresh to “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”But an honest examination of our lives reveals that the way of the Lord has not been sufficiently prepared – the paths of our hearts are still far from straight! It can be tempting to give up entirely, to say,“Lord, my life will never be good enough for You. My heart is not ready for You. Please stay away. I am ashamed to let You enter in and see me as I am.”
It is in that moment that we must think about Bethlehem and take comfort. For Christ chose to come to earth at Bethlehem, where there was no room for Him in inns too preoccupied with other clients, rather than at Nazareth, where in Joseph’s house all had been made ready for His coming, all was clean and empty. Christ chose the loneliness and inconvenience of a friendless place to the warmth of a family home. He chose the bare, ugly, uncomfortable furnishings of a stable-cave to those lovingly crafted items back at Joseph’s house. And He did this to show His affinity for cramped, poor, uncomfortable places.
So if our hearts are, despite our best efforts, often rather full of things and people other than Christ, if they seem shabby and inconvenient residences to offer the King of kings, we can take comfort and think that, perhaps, they remind Him of Bethlehem and the first glances his infant eyes stole of the world He had created. And we can ask his Mother and ours to rearrange our hearts, to make them cozier and more suitable for Christ’s coming, as she surely did that cave in Bethlehem. May your Advent journey continue to be blessed, leading you to Bethlehem.
The week after Thanksgiving, Sr. Elizabeth and Sr. Maria Clare took a road trip to Indiana and Missouri to speak to two high schools and two colleges. They spoke to Notre Dame High School in Missouri and Guerin Catholic High School in Indiana about vocations. They also visited the campuses of Ball State and Southeastern Missouri where they spoke on the dignity of woman and the Eucharist. We continue to hold all of those they ministered to in our prayers!
Thanksgiving was a time of deep gratitude for all the blessings that the Lord has given to us. We began the day with Mass, the highest form of gratitude and thanksgiving, celebrated by Fr. Dave Morrier, T.O.R.
Six of the Sisters’ families joined us making our Thanksgiving Day a very special time of fellowship. And of course, the day included the INFAMOUS TURKEY BOWL. The Turkeybowl football game has become a tradition over the past couple of years. This year, the families joined in the game. We also had many sister and guest spectators. There will be a video of the game coming out soon! Stay tuned!
November 9th-11th we hosted 12 women here for a Vocation Discernment Retreat. It is always such a joy for us to host these retreats. The openness and eagerness of the women renews our own call. May they know of our continued prayers! You can find information about these retreats on our Vocation Visit page.
On November 3rd some of the Sisters were blessed to attend the ordination of Fr. Jonathan McElhone, T.O.R. and Fr. Ronald Hurl, T.O.R. We also had the privilege of having the two newly ordained priests celebrate one of their first Masses at our chapel on Monday and Tuesday following their ordination. Thank you Lord for their yes! “O, how great is the priest! … If he realized what he is, he would die.”~ St. John Vianney
On October 20th we had our annual Day of Recollection. We hosted around 150 people here for a Mass, lunch, talk, and Holy Hour. Bishop David Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh was our main celebrant and homilist. He gave a beautiful homily that will be available soon on our homiles page on our web site. After lunch, Fr. Joe Freedy, the Vocations Director for the Diocese of Pittsburgh gave a very powerful and moving talk on Freedom in Christ sharing a little about his own conversion. We will also have that available soon! We closed with time before our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction. Thank you to all of you who came! We thoroughly enjoyed your presence! Click picture on left to enlarge.
On October 14th, we hosted all of the women religious in the Diocese along with our new Bishop Jeffrey Monforton for Mass and a meal (graciously provided and served by the Diocesan Catholic Women’s Club). It was a joy to have our Bishop here for the first time as well as meet and share with our fellow religious sisters in the Diocese. It was also a time to celebrate and honor the Sisters with significant anniversaries. We celebrated Sr. Jean in this year of her 50th Anniversary of profession of vows. Click on the image to the right to enlarge.
On the evening of October 11th, the men at Franciscan University who are part of the priestly discernment program came for a social, talk, and prayer with the Sisters. It was a huge joy to host these wonderful men who are open to a vocation to the priesthood. Sr. Agnes Therese gave a powerful talk on the Father (which will soon be available on our “Talks by Sisters” page!) after we socialized a little and then we closed the evening with some praise and worship and Night Prayer. The new men in the formation program were also presented rosaries that the Sisters made for them. Please keep them in your prayers!
Sr. Maria Pio and Sr. Maria Clare went to Florida State University the weekend of October 5th-7th to minister with the Brotherhood of Hope to college students on their campus wide retreat entitled “King of the Mountain”. Sr. Maria Pio gave a talk called “Base Camp: Forming the Fellowship”. It was a wonderful weekend filled with the power of the Holy Spirit moving many hearts to conversion. They were blessed to be a part of it!
We had a wonderful group of women here September 21st-23rd for a Vocation Discernment Retreat. It was a time of prayer, growth in self-knowledge and discernment, getting to know one another, as well as recreation. It is always a joy for us to host women who are discerning. It renews us in our own vocation and brings new life into the monastery. The number of women inquiring about religious life is on the increase and it shows that the Church is experiencing a new springtime in religious life. You can find information about these retreats on our Vocation Visit page.
On September 15th, we celebrated our titular feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. It was a very blessed day beginning on the Eve of the Solemnity with a prayer meeting and praise and worship. Fr. Boniface Hicks, O.S.B. celebrated Mass for us the morning of the 15th and gave a beautiful homily which will be available on our homilies page soon. We had some prayer time in the morning followed by a festive lunch. After lunch we Skyped our Sisters assigned to our house in Austria and had a wonderful time with them. It was a gift to all be
“together” on our titular feast! In the evening we had a special Marian dinner. Each table was decorated beautifully after a particular title of Mary, such as “Our Lady of Guadalupe”, “Star of the Sea’, “Ark of the Covenant” etc. We each brought a Marian quote, poem, or song that was meaningful to us and shared this at dinner with the Sisters at our table. We were blessed by many of our Sisters sharing with the whole group their original Marian songs
Fall has begun and our Sisters are transitioning into their new assignments. Pictured to the left are Sr. Elizabeth, Sr. Mary Catherine, Sr. Joan Paule, and Sr. Jean Marie with students in front of Santa Chiara, our mission house on campus at the Franciscan University. Sr. Monica and Sr. Maria Teresa have returned to our Gaming, Austria mission house along with “newcomers” Sr. Miriam and Sr. Sarah Rose. Sr. Mary Ann and Sr. Rita Clare have joined Sr. Carrie Ann, Sr. Veronica, and Sr. Sophia Grace at our mission house in downtown Steubenville, Heart of Mary. The rest of the Sisters are at Our Lady of Sorrows Monastery in Toronto, OH.
Now she appears to be on the sidelines, but in the eternal perspective she is positioned on the front lines. Crossing over the threshold of eternity on August 6, 2012 as she professed temporary vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, former professional women’s football player and NCAA Division I basketball player, Sr. Rita Clare Yoches is now the most fulfilled she has ever been in her life. “I was running nowhere on the treadmill of life doing all the physical workouts you could possibly do, always looking for the next thing to satisfy me. Yet I was empty and longing and wanting more. ”
She was hit like a ton of bricks with a homily one Sunday at Mass in 2003 that brought her to confession and changed her life. That homilist, Fr. John Riccardo, whose words she claimed literally saved her life, preached a powerful homily during her profession Mass here at Father of Mercy Chapel. “I do not know any choice of life more radical in the world’s eyes, more absurd, more idiotic, more nonsensical, more a waste than to do what you are doing. You remind us again that when a person is found by Him everything else melts away.”
Bishop Gilbert Sheldon celebrated the Mass which was concelebrated by 14 priests, 4 of them coming all the way from Sr. Rita Clare’s home diocese of Detroit. Her family and some close friends were also in attendance. Fr. John spoke of how her friends back home are baffled by her happiness. “Such is the person whom Jesus,
King of Kings and Lord of Lords, proposes to and invites to be His bride.” When mentioning her athletic ability and how she used to brag about her bruises, he said, “Now all that aggression, mindful that grace builds on nature, God is asking you to employ for no less a task than to save the world.” Please keep Sr. Rita Clare in prayer as she embarks upon this task with the help of her Divine Bridegroom.
On August 11th, the feast of St. Clare, our three postulants entered the sacred time of novitiate. They received a new name along with the novitiate habit and veil. Malbri is now Sr. Teresa named after St. Teresa the Little Flower, Anna is now Sr. Anna Rose after the prophetess Anna in the Old Testament, and Katie is now Sr. Mary Gemma taking her name after St. Gemma. We feel so blessed to have such beautiful new sisters! Please continue to pray for them during this sacred time of concentrated discernment and prayer. To learn more about this stage of religious life please see our formation page. You can also visit our Facebook page for more pictures.
On Sunday August 12th our four new candidates arrived. We would like to introduce Jenny Lynn Pelzel from Texas, Amanda Ciccioppo from Harrisburg, PA, Meaghan Boyd from Nova Scotia, Canada, and Molly Jameson from Maryland. Please keep them and their families in prayer during this transition. Thank you Lord for bringing us such wonderful young women! They are each such a blessing to us. We will soon post their vocation testimonies so you can get to know them better.
We celebrated Sr. Jean Daugherty’s 50th jubilee of profession of vows on Sunday July 8th, one day prior to the actual date of Sr. Jean’s Golden Jubilee. Bishop Emeritus Gilbert Sheldon was the main celebrant, and joining him were a number of other priests including some of our own T.O.R. brothers! The homilist for this celebration was Father Jim Mormon, T.O.R. who spoke beautifully on Sr. Jeans life, and commitment of vows in light of the Gospel and readings from the liturgy. Five of Sr. Jean’s 7 siblings were present along with many of her nieces and nephews and grand nieces and nephews. Following our liturgical celebration in which Sr. Jean renewed her vows, we had a reception where a video put together by the Sisters on her life was shared. It was a beautiful day, a day of great thanksgiving for the 50 years in which Sr. Jean has lived as a bride of Christ.
Sr. Carrie Ann and Sr. Miriam went to the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, Ireland from June 10th-17th. It was a week-long celebration of liturgies, workshops and sessions of catechesis on the Eucharist, priesthood and our Catholic faith in general. The demand for workshops was so strong that even showing up half an hour early didn’t guarantee entry as the sisters found out the hard way! The Congress gave many people hope in a country where abuse scandals and cover-ups have dampened the morale of many Catholics in recent years. While the scandals were referenced during the week, and the papal legate did penance publicly there at the request of Pope Benedict, there was also a strong sense of hope, unity, joy and looking toward the future. The Archbishop of Dublin said at the closing Mass at which 80,000 people attended that “we go away from here committed to build a Church of communion and service after the model of Jesus Christ. It is Jesus present in the Eucharist who will be food for the journey of purification and renewal to which we commit ourselves”. The sisters led a holy hour in one of the 34 host Churches around the city of Dublin that had their own programs and events supporting the main Congress events.
During the weekend of June 1-3 we gathered as a community for a Charismatic Retreat entitled “Reforged in the Spirit.” The weekend included renewing our Baptismal Promises, testimonies and talks by our sisters, a time of praise and worship and empowerment as well as various other things! Over the weekend we were blessed to have Father Joe Freedy from the Pittsburgh Diocese come to celebrate our liturgies giving us such wisdom to pray with in the context of his homilies.
On Saturday, one of our T.O.R. brothers, Father Bradley LaPage joined us along with Mark Nehrebas for a time of empowerment and prayer ministry during which we had Eucharistic adoration with a Eucharistic procession. It certainly was a time of renewing the graces of Pentecost and our week long silent retreat!
The Bishops of the United States have officially launched the “Fortnight for Freedom”, a special time to pray for the preservation of religious freedom in our country. During this time our community is praying an extra Mercy Chaplet at the 3:00 hour everyday as well as extra times of intercessory prayer throughout the two weeks. Please join us in praying for our country!
June 17th-22nd Sr. Joan Paule and Sr. Maria Clare taught at a Vacation Bible School held at Holy Family Parish serving all of the Steubenville parishes. They taught ages 4-12 with the theme being the Mass and the gift of the Eucharist. There was a celebration Mass on Friday, the last day of the school. They thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of sharing the faith with the children.
Come Holy Spirit! Pentecost Sunday was the culmination of an eight day silent retreat for the community. We were incredibly blessed! Fr. Boniface Hicks, O.S.B., joined us for the entire week, giving us conferences every day to prepare our hearts for the great feast of Pentecost. His talks were beyond inspiring… simply breathtaking. He gave us a fresh and invigorating perspective of our charisms and way of life. The theme for the retreat was, “The Holy Spirit and the Consecrated Life.” We had Eucharistic Adoration all day and had much time to be with our Beloved Bridegroom in the chapel, in His beautiful creation on our outside grounds, and in the solitude and silence of our rooms. We had four other priests join him in giving spiritual direction to the Sisters during the week. We thank Fr. Gregory Ross, O.C.D., Fr. Jim Mormon, T.O.R., Fr. Vit Fiala, O.F.M., and Fr. Thomas Nau for their service to us. We were so blessed to be surrounded by such holy priests!
On the Eve of Pentecost we were able to celebrate for the first time the extended Vigil Mass of Pentecost that the Church introduced with the new translation of the liturgy. It began with a candlelight procession into the chapel. The liturgy is similar to the Easter Vigil. It begins with four Old Testament Readings, each followed by a Psalm. The Gloria follows, then there is a reading from an Epistle preceding the Gospel. We had some time of praise and worship following the Vigil Mass. On Sunday we celebrated Pentecost again with another beautiful liturgy. You can find more pictures on our Facebook page. Sunday evening we had more praise and worship preceding the Liturgy of the Hours and had dinner together sharing with one another the graces of retreat. It was an incredibly blessed time for the community. God is so good!
The summer is always a wonderful time of being reunited with our Sisters that come home from the mission houses. We welcomed home our Sisters that are assigned to our house in Gaming, Austria in early May. We had a special dinner together with the whole community as we celebrated the Lord’s Day. Our Sisters from Austria came bearing gifts: a beautiful icon of the face of Christ painted by our very own Sr. Monica, as well as Austrian chocolate… a long time favorite of the Sisters! Our Sisters from the other mission houses are also at the motherhouse for part of the summer. We have had many wonderful times of simply being together as a community.
On May 5th, we had our annual Open House and May Crowning. It was a joy to welcome between 250 -300 people among our family, friends, and neighbors. The day started at 1:00 PM and included many different types of activities: tours of the monastery and Father of Mercy Chapel, face painting, outdoor games, making religious articles, storytelling for the little ones, a vocation program, T-shirt and religious articles available for purchase, and just hanging out with the Sisters. It was a very enjoyable day ending with the greatest act of thanksgiving, the Holy Mass, offered in Father of Mercy Chapel. During Mass our postulants crowned our Lady. More pictures can be found on our Facebook page.