Snowflakes & Prayer by Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

Snowflakes are usually a large part of our lives during January and February. They are the most delicate of objects. Alone they last only seconds here on earth.  But together they can bring an entire city to a standstill.  That surely gives us some idea of how community prayer can be very strong.

Scientists tell us that no two snowflakes are alike.  They are as different as our own fingerprints.  We know each of us is unique. But sometimes we forget that our uniqueness does not stop at our fingerprints.  Each of us is truly one-of-a-kind.   And that includes our relationship with God.  The best way for you to pray is deep down, who you are.

As a child I wanted to BE the Little Flower of Jesus or St. Francis.  I cannot BE them.  I can admire them, but I must be the best Sharon I can because no one else can do that.

To use a theatrical example, there was only one Elvis Presley.  Like him or not, there was only one.  Today there are conventions of Elvis look-alikes, sound-alikes, move-alikes.  Hundreds of people there try to BE Elvis Presley.  It just doesn’t work!

How do you talk to God?  Do you always use someone else’s words? Are you like John Alden, who was speaking sweet words to Priscilla Mullins for his friend, only to have her say to him “Speak for yourself, John”?

Rogers Group, depicting the courtship of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins: "Why Don't You Speak for Yourself, John?" (1885) -- linked from Wikipedia

Open your heart to the One who loves you as if you were the only person on the earth!  Just talk to God.  God is waiting for your unique words.  It doesn’t even have to make sense to anyone.  God knows,  understands and delights in what you say.  And you will grow in knowledge of the love God has for you.  Yes, join others in prayer, but be sure to keep your very personal relationship with God strong by personal prayer.

Peace, joy, & everything good,

Sr. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

Sr. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF has a background in education, child development, and family ministries.  She has worked as a teacher, school administrator, and as Director of Family Life Services for two dioceses.  Sr. Sharonlu has long been an advocate for children and puts her heart into helping parents build and sustain healthy family relationships.  One of her most memorable ministries has been with the people of Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota, where her heart still lies.


Sr. Sharonlu will be presenting a Coffee Talk about Resurrection Mysteries on Sunday, March 11 after 9:30 a.m. Liturgy in the Convent Chapel.  Mark your calendar and come spend a morning of prayer and inspiration at the Burg!  We’ll have coffee and donuts.  There is no fee, but donations are appreciated!  Please do RSVP:  812-933-6437 or

Here’s what the talk is about:

Resurrection Mysteries: New Prayers for the Rosary.  The resurrection of Jesus is sometimes lost from sight during days of bereavement.  We think even less often of the people who were raised from the dead during Jesus’ earthly sojourn.  During this session, we will look at other resurrections and see how they can help us understand the passage of our loved ones to the Heavenly Kingdom.  These resurrections will be presented as an alternative to the other mysteries of the Rosary.

That’s not all!  On Sunday, February 5th, Sr. Patty Campbell will lead a coffee talk about Noticing Our Guardian Angel!  Follow this link for more information on our Coffee Talk Series!


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Peace & Good Questions for YOU!

“And each one should confidently make known his/her need to the other.”
~ St. Francis & St. Clare

Won’t you take a quick minute to help guide us in the way of your needs and interests?

Your participation in the following polls will help us focus our blog content and retreat/workshop offerings!  You can select multiple answers to let us know all the topics you might be interested in.  Is there something you’d like to see offered that isn’t listed here?  Write it in!  Thanks SO much!

Peace, Joy, and Everything Good to you this day!

Pray as Yourself, by Sr. Sharonlu

Our Lady of Fatima's View of the Oldenburg Hills (photography by A. Roesler)

Every relationship with another is unique. And that is true of each person’s relationship with God.  Our need for God is universal; we all have it.  But our response to God is always personal and one-of-a-kind.

I found this out myself during a prayer before a meeting.  The leader of the prayer said we would say the Our Father.  However, he would say a phrase, and we in random order would give our thoughts on that part of the prayer.

He began, “Our Father”, and hesitantly one of the group said, “You’re more like a mother.”  Another said, “You protect me,” and another offered, “Your love for me keeps me feeling safe.”

Those were just a few of the thoughts, and there were about 15 people in the group.

As soon as there was a very long pause, the leader went to the next phrase, “Who Art in Heaven” and so on through the entire prayer.   Saying that prayer usually takes 15-20 seconds, but it took us close to 20-25 minutes.

Interesting remarks were heard afterward.  One woman offered that she would never say the Our Father the same again.  A young man in the group said he had no idea what varied kind of thoughts the same words could draw from people.

During World War II there was a holy woman in Europe, (I forget which country) who was bedfast.   People would come to her to get some direction for their spiritual lives.  One person said to her, “Since I’ve been coming to see you, I say almost 50 Our Fathers a day!”  “Oh, my,” the holy woman replied, “I find it hard to pray the Our Father one time, there is so much in it.”

Taking the time to really think about the words you are saying will give you a nudge into saying words that are yours.  Or you may end up praying without words, just with feelings of awe or gratitude or praise.

Remember the definition of prayer is: lifting your mind and heart to God. 
It doesn’t mention words at all!

When Jesus told us to pray always, I think he meant we should really think about our prayers.

My prayers are with you.

Peace and Joy, and Everything Good,

Sr. Sharonlu

Sr. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF has a background in education, child development, and family ministries.  She has worked as a teacher, school administrator, and as Director of Family Life Services for two dioceses.  Sr. Sharonlu has long been an advocate for children and puts her heart into helping parents build and sustain healthy family relationships.  One of her most memorable ministries has been with the people of Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota, where her heart still lies.

Just as Sr. Sharonlu shows how our relationships with God are diverse, so are our relationships with one another!

The Oldenburg Franciscan Center Arches aglow at night. (The normal softness of the lamplight is brightened by the camera!)

Join Sr. Olga on Saturday, February 18th (9:30am – 2:30pm) to grow in peace and find hope in diversity.
  We all face various interpersonal challenges in our daily lives. In this workshop, Oldenburg Franciscan Sister Olga Wittekind (Jungian psychologist and PhD) will give tools and insights – using Myers-Briggs analysis – to help us understand ourselves better, appreciate others more, and strengthen our relationships with God. This is a great workshops for individuals, ministry groups, families, and couples!

$45 includes a delicious lunch by our wonderful caterer, Cathy Kerker!  Call Annette at 812-933-6437 or email to RSVP today!

Invite a friend, family member, or come on your own.  You never know what wonderful new connections can be made!

Remember, God is a healer, a peacemaker, and a life-giver who lovingly embraces us all and wants us to learn to embrace each other in the same way!

Find the event on Facebook!  Also, friend OFC and share us with your friends!

I Do, I Do, I Do

I Do, I Do, I Do.

Not too long ago by my reckoning time, I was taking a class at Purdue University.  The professor was highly regarded and the class was titled Marriage and the Family.

He entered the room and announced his name and proudly proclaimed: “I am well qualified to teach this class since I have been married three times.”  Needless to say, I believed that three marriages did not qualify anyone as an expert on marriage.

Then, he surprised us by saying he had used the same ring all three times.  (Cheap?)  And then he added, “Same girl, too.”

His entire talk that morning was to bring out the fact that the commitment to marriage must change.

“My first marriage, he said, consisted of looking at each other, longing for each other, and basking in the delight that marriage provided.  It was a lovely, lovely time.  The honeymoon or infancy of marriage.”

But just as infants grow and change and have new needs almost daily, there comes a time when the married couple are no longer two in one.  Another “intruder” has entered their lives.  The happiness brought by a child’s birth brings other responsibilities, other restrictions on the couple’s time and finances.  There is less time for being alone together.  Years pass, and perhaps there are other bundles of joy to join them.  Each of these new additions changes the tone and complexity of family life and therefore marriage.  My professor had to look at his commitment to the girl he married, and say “I do” with a different vision of love the two of them entertained at the start of their relationship.  Whatever came up in the care of children, in health matters and new interests, the marriage commitment had to be renewed.  Thus, came the second “I do.”

Children grow and become adults and move away from the family home.  For a couple to find themselves without the immediate care of children sometimes knocks the wind out of family life.  Oops!  Another “I do.”  The time a couple has together when the house is empty of children often comes while they are still involved in the work place.  It can happen that work fills up the time that was formerly required by children.  But he realized his commitment to his wife was in jeopardy if he did that.  So the two of them worked out a plan for couple time.  That was the big part of the third “I do.”

Love had been there all the time.  It was just the adjustment to the expression of that love that changed.  What a wonder marriage is!  And what a beautiful gift!

As St. Valentine’s Day approaches, I hope you’ll be inspired to renew your very own “I do” commitments to your most precious relationships!

Peace, joy, & everything good,

Sr. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF

Sr. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF
has a background in education, child development, and family ministries.  She has worked as a teacher, school administrator, and as Director of Family Life Services for two dioceses.  Sr. Sharonlu has long been an advocate for children and puts her heart into helping parents build and sustain healthy family relationships.  One of her most memorable ministries has been with the people of Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota, where her heart still lies.

Celebrate LOVE with us!  We invite all couples to join us for a romantic candlelight dinner & discussion on “Love & Marriage,” Saturday February 4th from 4-8pm!
  OSF Associate Carolyn Meyer and her husband Jim will offer a light-hearted view about their 31 years of marriage and the things that have brought them together and challenged them to grow.  Whether you are newly engaged, newly wed, in the ‘middle-age’ of family life, or celebrating your retirement years, come join us to honor your most precious relationship!  $50 per couple includes the program, dinner, and Mass (optional).

National Migration Week – A Reflection from Sr. Noella Poinsette

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As I was reflecting on of National Migration Week (January 8-14), I began to recall photos and memories from a trip to Latin America years ago. I fell in love with the people there in a very short time.

In the slideshow above, you see photographs from the first of a few trips I made to Mexico and Central America, and they were all experiences of openness and being welcomed into the lives of people who chose not to be strangers. These were experiences of profound generosity in the midst of their deep material poverty – but never a poverty of spirit. In fact, I have always said that our trip to Nicaragua was like walking into the Acts of the Apostles where all who came to the table were fed in body as well as spirit.

Once working at a small refugee camp on the Mexican/US border I met a woman named Teodora (Godbearer) who had walked 800 miles from El Salvador (the Savior). She was 8 months pregnant by the time she reached the camp. Along the long, arduous walk she was accompanied by her friend, Santos Santos (Holy Holy). Teodora and Santos faced all the hardships along the way because Teodora told me that she “wanted her child to be born in the light” rather than the darkness of  innocents being killed in the land of the Savior.  In some ways this is a contemporary Christmas story. And the photo of the woman (a woman in Nicaragua) with child and a cross behind them I have often used as a Christmas card.

One time while working at a border station with No Mas Muertes (No More Deaths) giving out water and bandaging bruised and bleeding feet, a young man asked me why I was doing this. Basically, it was simple – we are sisters and brothers.

My prayer for our country in this National Migration Week is that we will re-member ourselves as part of one family, that we will listen to the cries of the poor, that we will take action on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform.

This is my hope as a Franciscan and a woman of the Gospel.

Sr. Noella Poinsette

Sr. Noella Poinsette

Sr. Noella Poinsette, OSF is a music teacher and parish liturgical musician who devotes many of her ‘outside-working’ hours to social justice ministries.  She is a native of Indianapolis, IN, from a family of six.  When Sr. Noella told her father (at the age of 10) that she wanted to be a nun, he encouraged her with the comment that both he and her mother served other people and loved it.  (He was a city fireman and she was a nurse).  Sr. Noella has been an Oldenburg Franciscan for 46 years, and she still carries with her the work ethic, encouragement, and passion for social justice she learned from her parents.  She has volunteered with many organizations, including Common Ground after Katrina in New Orleans and served in ministry at Pine Ridge Reservation, St. Bonaventure University, and as Director of Covington, KY’s Refugee Program, among others.

The US Catholic Bishops’ theme for National Migration Week 2012 (Jan 8-14) is Welcoming Christ the Migrant.  Download materials at their website, including an information booklet and prayer card.

You can also visit Justice for Immigrants to send an e-postcard to the President and Congress asking that they continue to support comprehensive immigration reform.

Do you have any stories from working with migrants in the US or abroad?  Leave us a comment below and share your experience with others!  What are your hopes, prayers, and actions in support of justice for immigrants and Welcoming Christ the Migrant?

International Day Against Human Trafficking

St. Josephine Bakhita (photo linked from Wikipedia)

Yesterday – January 11, 2012 – was the International Day Against Human Trafficking. 

As a Franciscan Community, we seek to reach out to the world as instruments of peace, and so we continue to remember all victims today and help bring awareness to others that “there are over 32 million people enslaved around the world, and out of that number 80% percent of the victims are forced into sexual servitude. In the United States it is estimated that 50-75,000 victims are trafficked into America for sexual servitude and that is not factoring the 100,000-300,000 American children forced into prostitution under our noses.”  Quoted from istoptraffic.

It is important for us to be aware this is not just happening overseas.  In fact, thousands of young women and children are trafficked each year in the US at the Super Bowl alone – one of the biggest human trafficking events in the world.  This year, Indiana legislators are trying to make it more difficult for sex-traffickers to invade Indianapolis on February 5, 2012 for Super Bowl XLVI.  Still, it will take so much more to detect the crimes and protect the victims.

Yesterday, the Sisters of St. Francis in Oldenburg – and many religious communities across the nation – united in prayer for an end to sex trafficking.  The Oldenburg Sisters prayed the attached Prayer Service together, inspired by the life of St. Josephine Bakhita.  We share the prayer service and a prayer below, that you might join your prayers with ours and many across the world – that God hear our plea to help us bring an end to slavery.

Click here to open and read the Prayer Service to End Human Trafficking developed by the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center of Seattle, Washington.

We close with this prayer by Gen Cassani, SSND (used by permission), which we invite you to pray with us daily through the February 5, 2012 (the day of Super Bowl XLVI):

Creator of us all, our words cannot express what our minds can barely comprehend and our hearts feel when we hear of children and adults deceived and transported to unknown places for purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labour because of human greed.

Our hearts are saddened and our spirits angry that their dignity and rights are being transgressed through threats, deception and force. We cry out against the degrading practice of trafficking and seek ways for it to end.

Strengthen the fragile-spirited and broken-hearted. Make real your promises to fill these our sisters and brothers with a love that is tender and good and send the exploiters away empty-handed. Give us the wisdom and courage to stand in solidarity with them, that together we will find ways to the freedom that is your gift to all of us. Amen

Peace and Good,
The Sisters & staff at Oldenburg Franciscan Center

For more information about the Oldenburg Franciscan Social Justice ministry
visit their informational web page at Justice, Peace, & Integrity of Creation or write to Sr. Marge Wissman at

Additional facts about human trafficking can also be found at

For The Love of Nature – A History of the “Oldenburg Franciscan” Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count

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“From December 14 through January 5, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas take part in an adventure that has become a family tradition among generations: the National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. Families and students, birders and scientists, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists go out on an annual mission – often before dawn – to spy and count winter species. For over one hundred years, the desire to both make a difference and to experience the beauty of nature has driven dedicated people to leave the comfort of a warm house during the Holiday season.” (National Audubon Society)

Oldenburg Franciscan collaboration with the National Audubon Society began in 2007, when, after several years of leading nature hikes at Michaela Farm, Wayne Wauligman and Sr. Ann Marie Quinn, OSF, organized the first Oldenburg Christmas Bird Count.  The National Audubon Society accepted the registration and Wayne and Sr. Ann Marie were off and counting.  They have helped keep the Count on course since then, and on December 31, 2011 they held their fifth such count, with the dedicated volunteers finding 55 species within the fifteen-mile diameter circle. Twenty-seven of those species were found just on Michaela Farm!

Here are some of their findings:

  • For each of the past five years at least one Bald Eagle has been found. This species is in an uptrend.  (See images in our photo gallery, courtesy of Christmas-bird-counters and nature photographers Chris and Tracey Fox of Batesville, IN).
  • Bobwhite Quail have been difficult to find and are exhibiting a long-term decline in their range.
  • They found a colony of Red-headed Woodpeckers.
  • Ever hear of a Pied-billed Grebe?  Four were found.
  • They even found Ring-billed Gulls!
  • Twenty-eight Bluebirds were seen.
  • There were only 187 Canada Geese!

“From feeder-watchers and field observers to count compilers and regional editors, everyone who takes part in the Christmas Bird Count does it for love of birds and the excitement of friendly competition — with the knowledge that their efforts are making a difference for science and bird conservation.” (National Audubon Society)

Lunch at the Oldenburg Franciscan Center serves as a time to tally finding findings, share  sightings, and learn about birds from each other’s experiences.  Each of the citizen scientists who annually brave snow, wind, or rain to take part in the Christmas Bird Count makes an enormous contribution to conservation. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations – and to help guide conservation action.

For more information on the science aspect of the Count, follow this link to the National Audubon Society web page:

The Oldenburg Christmas Bird Count is only one of many nature hikes and conservation efforts that Wayne has led with the Sisters of St. Francis at Michaela Farm.  His collaboration with the Sisters began in 1993 at the invitation of Sr. Claire Whalen, OSF.  Since then, Wayne has held many more fun-loving and educational nature events.

Wayne says, “Some of my favorites include the time children, accompanied by their parents, learned about nature by seeing firsthand the exploding seeds of “Touch-me-nots” or Jewelweed, a female 10 inch praying mantis camouflaged on a Seedum flower head, and an uncommon Red-headed Woodpecker that flew right in front of us when I mentioned its name. On another hike I showed Sr. Claire a small frog called the Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) with a cross on its back.”

Wayne looks forward to continuing his treks!

About Wayne Wauligman:  Wayne is from Cincinnati and was educated by the Sisters of St. Francis at St. Catherine of Sienna grade school. In the fifth grade Sr. Mary Claude asked her students to write down and pass forward a career goal. He put down “dentist.”  He has now been a dentist in private practice for thirty-eight years in Cincinnati. In 1992 Wayne came to the Sisters’ Infirmary to personally thank Sr. Claude for her technique of imprinting his career. He also ran into two other sisters from St. Catherine’s, Sr. Mary George and Sr. Thomasine. The rush of memories was pleasantly exchanged. Shortly after that Wayne gave a showing of the birds of the Oldenburg area by bringing the Sisters trays of bird skins from the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History. That was the start of yearly hikes and natural history sessions at Michaela Farm.  Sisters Claire Whalen and Ann Marie Quinn have organized these events over the years.

Wayne’s daughter Whitney, a third year dental student, will soon join him in his general dentistry practice.  When not at his office, Wayne volunteers for various parks and natural history organizations as well as dentistry for the under-served.  He is currently the vice-president of the Cincinnati Dental Society.  He serves on the board of Oxbow Inc., a land trust and nature education organization in Lawrenceburg.  The Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas has kept him busy for the previous five years.  His wife Paula supports him in these endeavors, but “tolerates” is sometimes a good word.  He anticipates further years of dentistry with his daughter as well as his natural history volunteer work.

Wayne will be back at the ‘Burg on Thursday May 17, 2012 to teach about birds and butterflies and creating home habitats that are good for God’s creatures!  Wayne will also lead our Christmas Bird Count again next year on December 29, 2012.  Mark your calendars & tell a friend!

Finding God in Our Dreams

Have you ever thought of your dreams as messages from God?  They are!

If we pay attention, our day and night dreams can paint for us the story of our soul.  They can reveal to us our frustrations & fears, our loves, our hopes, and our passions.  Through our attentiveness to the images and patterns that arise, we can uncover God’s wisdom and discover new insights.  We can grow in peace and freedom and courage to follow God’s will – from dreams into life!

In the coming weekend of January 13-15, Sr. Olga will be offering her most popular retreat: Finding God in Our Dreams.  If you have ever wondered how paying attention to your dreams can help you become more aware of God’s movement in your life, this truly is a wonderful opportunity for faith exploration, and there is still a little time to join this year’s group!

Call 812-933-6437 or email to register. 

The following fees include accommodations (as described), materials, and meals:
$215 for a private room.
$195/person to share a room with a friend.
$125 fee for commuters.

While you ponder if this experience is right for you, check out this 5 minute video that we made with Sr. Olga last year.  It will give you a feel for the type of experience you might expect by making the retreat and working with her.  Just note: this year’s dream workshop is Jan 13-15!!

Just remember: this year’s retreat dates are JANUARY 13-15, 2012, and time to RSVP is running short!

Sr. Olga Wittekind is a Jungian Psychologist and Franciscan Sister from Oldenburg, Indiana.  She taught clinical psychology for 28 years at Marian College, Indianapolis, IN.  Sr. Olga is the director of the Oldenburg Franciscan Center where she provides counseling, spiritual direction, and facilitates workshops and retreats with a passion for fostering psychological and spiritual growth.  Sr. Olga is currently working on developing a six week continuing education seminar on Jung’s Red Book in collaboration with clinical psychologist Claire Sherman.  She’ll share more on that exciting development, soon!

Cum Grande Humilitate: A Retreat Experience with Fr. Murray Bodo, written by OSF Associate Chris Dickson

Fr. Murray Bodo

Fr. Murray Bodo at Oldenburg Franciscan Center

Cum grande humilitate!  This last verse of St. Francis’ “Canticle of the Creatures” clearly expresses our weekend retreat at Oldenburg with Fr. Murray Bodo, OFM. Cum grande humilitate, translated from the original Umbrian dialect, means “humbly but grandly!”

My first encounter with Fr. Bodo began in 1987 with a copy of  his book, “Through the Year With Francis of Assisi: Daily Meditations from His Words and Life.” I had no idea then who Fr. Murray Bodo was or of the importance his writings would one day play in my life. That book has now become a “loose-leaf” edition due to so many years of  daily abuse I have inflicted upon it.  (I still had no problems with having Father sign that torn, raggedy old book during the retreat.)

Knowing the special place I hold in my heart for Father’s gift of words, every birthday, anniversary and Christmas my wife Karen always surprises me with Fr. Bodo’s latest publication. Needless to say,  when we heard Fr. Murray was coming to Oldenburg to give a weekend retreat, we immediately decided it was a perfect gift to give to one another for Christmas. And what a Christmas present it was!

As I sat there at the Oldenburg Franciscan Center, I was mesmerized by the man – the priest – the monk, who, through his writings for the past twenty-four years, had shared with me his most intimate thoughts and visions of Saints Francis and Clare through his magnificent gift of prose. That weekend in Oldenburg, right before my eyes,  Father Bodo transformed from being a humble Franciscan Friar to becoming Francesco Bernardoni, the son of Pietro Bernardoni, a cloth merchant from Assisi. By the end of the weekend, I  could see in Father Murray Bodo the man Francesco might have become had he lived another thirty or forty years; kind, considerate, articulate, unassuming, and still burning brightly with that insatiable desire to share a life of intimacy with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Deep in the footsteps of Francis and Clare,  Father Murray transhumanced our group from high atop the mountains all the way down to our brother lepers deep in the valley.  I found his words of  encouragement to be warm, gregarious, comforting, and full of charm and wit.

Please have him return to us soon. In the meantime, may we all follow Fr. Bodo’s example and go together as brothers and sisters of Francis and Clare cum grande humilitate, “humbly but grandly” to rebuild His Church.

Pace e Bene my brothers and sisters!

Chris Dickson


Blog Editor’s Note:  Fr. Murray Bodo facilitated the referenced retreat at our Oldenburg Franciscan Center in November 2011.  Through his poetry, stories, and scholarly sharing, he guided us into deeper appreciation for St. Francis’ Canticle of Creatures, helping us to really feel the beauty of St. Francis’ lessons on gratitude and holy living.  Fr. Bodo is a renowned Franciscan poet, author, and scholar.  Read more about his life and inspiring works at!