Pope Francis’ suggested New Year’s resolutions

It’s that time of year again…we hear everyone asking us about our New Year’s Resolutions. Looking back on 2014 did you grow in your faith?For 2015 do you have a plan to grow in your relationship with God? My hope and prayer for the new year is to put spiritual growth at the top of my New Year’s Resolution list…what will be at the top of yours?

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(CNS/Paul Haring) (CNS/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — When Pope Francis met before Christmas with Vatican employees, mostly lay people with families, he asked them to do 10 things. The list sounded remarkably like suggestions for New Year’s resolutions:

— “Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, because this is the backbone of everything we do and everything we are.”

— “Take care of your family life, giving your children and loved ones not just money, but most of all your time, attention and love.”

— “Take care of your relationships with others, transforming your faith into life and your words into good works, especially on behalf of the needy.”

— “Be careful how you speak, purify your tongue of offensive words, vulgarity and worldly decadence.”

— “Heal wounds of the heart with the oil of forgiveness, forgiving those who have hurt us and medicating the wounds we have caused…

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God Meets Us in Everyday Living: The Lady in the Grocery Story, by Sally Meyer

As I watched 2 people in front of me move through the checkout line, I didn’t notice anything unusual about the cashier. She was elderly with white hair, and had clear, blue eyes. When I got to the front of the line, she looked me square in the eye and gently asked, Do you have everything you need?” It was as if she really wanted to know the answer.

Her question touched me. Cashiers don’t normally ask that like that. Usually the phrase is something like, “Did you find everything?” It didn’t take long for me to answer. I looked directly back at her and said, “Yes, I do have everything I need.”

God finds a way to find me. And that day he met me through the woman in the check-out line.

What was it that stopped me in my tracks? What was it that made me feel like there was an urgency to her question? As I reflect back, it was eye contact. Her question meant something important because she looked at me. Then there was her voice.   There was a calmness and care in it, seeming to reach right out to me-as if I were important. I couldn’t help but think that this is how Jesus would look at me and speak to me if he were right here with me. It was in that precise moment, where the gentleness of voice, and the look of compassion, made me fully aware of God’s presence.

Questions continued to surface after that encounter. What does it mean for me to be grateful? Am I being grateful? Thanking God for all I have been given and acknowledging all the goodness in my life is important and something that is not to be taken lightly. But I can’t help but think I am being called to reflect more deeply on the cashier’s question. God’s love and care for me were affirmed in her words. How am I being called to use my own thankfulness to love others with more gentleness and compassion?

As I think about the most challenging times in my life, it is sometimes hard to imagine that God was there in all of it. Feeling grateful is difficult in hard situations. It’s easier to become angry, resentful, or depressed about what I do or don’t have. But God reaches out to us and meets us in all of our situations, messy or not. He is in the middle of all of it. We are not alone. The cashier behind the counter reminded me of that.

What are you thankful for? Who are you thankful for? Do you have everything you need?


Sally Meyer is a 6th grade teacher at St. Jude School in Indianapolis.  “Visiting the Oldenburg Franciscan Center has become one of my favorite ways to deepen my faith.  It is in such a welcoming place that I am able to practice being open to the Spirit, and in turn, write about finding God in my everyday life.  I hope readers can take something meaningful from my writing.

Really?, by S. Noella Poinsette, OSF

Salt makes everything taste good.
– Really?

Maybe if I went to bed earlier,
read more,
went to the beach every week

Maybe if I ate anchovies or stuffed myself at eating contests
then maybe I’d believe
God is Good
and Perry too
As he watches his National Guard
Push kids back.

Sure, violently
push them back
into the horror they’ve fled.

Maybe if I spent a slew of money
on a vacation
and stopped writing and creating

My eyes would be blind
to the gift of love
and blind to the fire brewing in intolerance.

They should just go back where they came from
And pull themselves up
By their bootstraps.

Then I could compose
Beautiful music
In peace, quiet, and luxury.

Then I could believe in Peace
and the lie of “Give me your tired, your poor.”



S. Noella Poinsette, OSF.  S. Noella is the pastoral associate for outreach & social justice at St. Francis DeSales and Our Lady of the Lake in Holland Michigan.  She is also a musician and composer.  She wrote this poem during a poetry workshop at Oldenburg Franciscan Center, following a writing prompt about “This I Believe” while reflecting on current events related to immigration.

Reflection for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, by S. Maureen Irvin, OSF

First Reading: 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
Second Reading: Romans: 8:28-30
Gospel: Matthew 13:44-52

Today’s readings seem to be about what we really value and what sacrifices we might be willing to make to attain something of great worth. God gives Solomon the opportunity to ask for anything he wants. What would we request in that situation? Would we ask for something for ourselves or something to help others? Good health? Money for a new home or car? College tuition for the kids? World peace? A cure for cancer? A forgiving heart? Wisdom? Solomon asks for an understanding heart so that he can rule the people well and fairly. Each day we have many opportunities to ask God for special gifts or for something we or our world needs. Let us consider how our values influence these requests.

In the Gospel parables, Jesus tells us about a person who sells all to purchase a field where a treasure is buried. Another sells every possession to buy a fine pearl. What is it that we find most valuable? Can others tell by the way we live what we truly value? Do we value our faith and our relationship with God enough to make even small sacrifices? Will we give of our resources to aid those who are poor? Will we give of our time to visit or call someone who is ill or homebound? Do we take time for private prayer daily and church services at least on Sunday? Do we make known that we disapprove of unkind, racist or prejudiced comments made by friends or family? It’s a matter of what we value and how much we value it.

Loving God, the values we try to live by are based on the qualities we see in You and those lived by Jesus in the Gospels. Help us to be true to what we believe and to what we really value. May our lives speak loudly of our values, even when we don’t say a word about them. May we not be afraid or ashamed to stand up for what we value, even if we are alone or in a minority. Help us, also, to respect the values of others, especially when they are different from our own. May we value You and Your will above all else. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Maureen Irvin, osf
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg


Reflection for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, by S. Barb Piller, OSF

ordinarytimeFirst Reading: Is. 55:10-11
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 65:10-14
Second Reading: Rom. 8:18-23
Gospel: Mt. 13:1-23

As I drive through the hills country of Oldenburg I find myself praying the words of Psalm 65: “You have visited the land and watered it; greatly have You enriched it.” To my untrained eye, the corn and beans are looking great. The soil seems rich and brown. Tomato plants are showing signs of red and yellow. It seems to be a time of blessing. While rejoicing in this growth all around, I am aware that Earth still groans in labor pains as the second reading states. Mother Earth has been hurt by our misuse of her gifts. I ask myself what I can do to mend any of the hurts I/we have caused.

I am part of this planet Earth. How have I used the gifts God has given me? In spite of the possible misuse of gifts, God continues to bless us in the good times and the hard times. God is with us when we experience inner storms. God is with us when the “seeds” of goodness we try to plant miss the mark or fall on hardened hearts. This Sunday’s readings provide us with the reminder that Christ is the real “sower” of seeds. God is the real source of the grace we experience, the richness in our lives.

Good and gracious God, I thank you for the reminders in nature of your constant, watchful care. Help me to hear the groans of creation and find ways that I can respond. I ask for the grace to be open to receive the seeds of goodness that you want to plant in me, in us and in our world. May your word fall on “good ground”, on open minds and hearts. Let us be people who trust in you during the good times and hard times. With gratitude for all your gifts I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Barb Piller, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg


Reflection for Corpus Christi Sunday by S. Bernice Stenger, OSF

corpuschristiFirst Reading: Dt: 8:2-3, 14b-16a
Second Reading: 1 Cor. 10:16-17
Gospel: Jn 6:51-58

Today we celebrate Jesus Christ and all of us–THE BODY OF CHRIST. We are many parts but all one Body! In our readings today we hear how God provided manna for the people in the desert, a food that they had not seen or experienced before. We have Jesus giving us the saving bread of HIS OWN BODY, food never heard of or experienced before. And we who have been baptized into the Body of Christ are called to be food–bread for our hungry world. If we all live the gospel of love daily the world would experience something never before known. Daily we pray in the Our Father, “give us this day our daily bread.” If we believe this prayer, we shall see with new eyes God’s daily provisions for us. And we in turn will give of ourselves for the sake of others. We will come to know in a deeper way our relationship to all others and all that exists and our responsibility to care for one another, for together we make up the Body of Christ. How will you be “bread” for others today?

God our Father, I ask for the grace to truly understand my role in being part of the “Body of Christ”. Help me to come to know the truth St. Teresa of Avila expresses in her prayer and invitation to me. “Christ has no body now on earth but yours; yours are the only hands with which He can do HIs work. Yours are the only feet with which He can go about the world; yours are the only eyes through which His compassion can shine forth upon a troubled world. Christ has no body on earth but yours.” I ask for the grace to be the Body of Christ this week. So be it. Amen.

Bernice Stenger, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Reflection for Pentecost, by S. Marj English

First Reading: Acts 2:1-11
Reponsorial Psalm: Ps. 104:1, 24, 29-34
Second Reading: 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13
Gospel: John 20:19-23

The images of Pentecost are mystical, and Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “mystical” as spiritually significant or symbolic. Locked doors, Jesus’ breath, a noise like a strong driving wind, tongues of fire, are all symbols from these Pentecost readings.

Let the symbols prompt our reflections and prayer today on these readings.

From the Gospel: Locked doors, symbol of security and protection from harm; Jesus’ breath, a symbol of life. The disciples were hiding in fear of what might happen to them in the light of Jesus’ plight, yet Jesus found them and stood in their midst offering them peace and breathing on them the Holy Spirit. Locked doors did not hamper Jesus from entering into the disciples’ post-resurrection world; then think of the intimacy of being breathed on. Perhaps Jesus was making a point: you can hide from me and others but I will find you and give you peace. I want to be intimately related to you, involved in your lives especially when you are perplexed, troubled, and fearful.

From Acts: a strong driving wind and tongues of fire. Think of the noise of a strong, driving wind that comes with tornadoes; often survivors of tornadoes describe the sound of a train. We know the devastation of a strong driving wind, or being in the path of a train. Perhaps this symbol helps us sense the power and fluidness of the Spirit that transforms landscapes, perhaps the landscapes of our souls, and the souls of the disciples. Sometimes the old must be torn down for the new to come. The disciples’ world was certainly being turned upside down by the passion, death and resurrection events of Jesus’ life and now Pentecost. The disciples were given tongues of fire for proclaiming the Good News, and they were being commissioned to spread it like a wild fire.

May these mystical images of Pentecost kindle again in you the life of the Spirit.

Spirit of the living God, help us open ourselves to your love, care, and direction. When we are frightened, perplexed, fearful, help us trust that you are with us in very intimate ways, unlocking the doors of our hearts and blessing us with peace. Help us take seriously our own commission to be like a strong driving force and tongues of fire sharing the Good News with our very lives.

Marj English, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Reflection for the 6th Sunday in Easter, by Associate Pat Browne

First Reading: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
Second Reading: 1Peter 3:15-18
Gospel: John 14:15-21

This week’s readings offer us many challenges. We are asked to listen, be aware of the miracles in our lives, and accept the word of God just as those in the town of Samaria did. Peter’s letter encourages us to keep our consciences clear so that those who would defame our way of life in Christ might be disappointed, and those who seek to understand the reason for our hope, may find truth. The Gospel states that if we love Christ, the fruit of that love will be obedience to the commands he gave us. But all three readings assure us that we are not left to our own devices to meet these challenges. Even as Jesus tells the apostles that his physical presence on earth is about to end, he lets us know that we will not be left alone as orphans. As Jesus left the material world he did not abandon us, but rather sent us the spiritual presence of God in the person of the Holy Spirit. How wondrous is our God!

Loving God, we thank you for sending your Holy Spirit to dwell within us and to be our advocate. As we face the challenges of faith, hope, and obedience to your commands help us always to trust in His assistance, and be open to your ever present grace. Help us to be light in the world, and to spread the good news of your love for us in all that we do.

Pat Browne, Associate
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Easter, by Associate Judy Hillman

EmmausFirst Reading: Acts 2:14, 22-28
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 16, 1-2, 7-11
Second Reading: 1Peter 1:17-21
Gospel: Luke 24:13-35

Have you ever gone for a long walk after experiencing a tragic event or death of a loved one, and just kept reliving the last days before the event happened?  Two of the followers of Jesus certainly found it helpful.  And Jesus must have found a need to walk after waking up alive!  He was dead and buried for at least two days.  So Jesus found two fellows who were just as stunned and shaken by the Good Friday event.  So they walked and they talked – for seven miles!  And it actually was Jesus who did most of the talking.  It was almost as though Jesus needed to review for himself the path chosen for him by his Father. “…starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the Scriptures that were about himself.”  Imagine, if you will, the fire and animation in Jesus’ own telling and realization of what his mission had been.  By the time this little group reached Emmaus, the two followers of Jesus caught his spirit and fire.  And they issued the invitation, “it is nearly evening, come stay with us.”  Then it happened.  At the meal their guest broke, blessed and shared bread.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.

Dear God, as we live through our own cycles of life, death and resurrection, grace us with friends who are willing to walk, talk and listen. Anoint our retelling of our stories with the same graced spirit and fire as Jesus had in his sharing on the road to Emmaus,” …that we may have faith and hope in God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory.”

Judy Hillman, Associate
Oldenburg Sisters of St. Francis

Spring Fashion and Art Show 2014

On Friday, April 11th, we held our first ever “Spring Fashion and Art Show” to celebrate beauty, community, and raise awareness for our ministries at Oldenburg Franciscan Center and Michaela Farm.  Thanks to the collaborative support of Goody’s, Guys and Gals Quarters, Margaret Mary Health Weight Management Services, Oldenburg Academy, DJ Mark Volz, Artists S. Sandra Schweitzer and S. Michelle Corliss, and several generous individual partners, it was fabulous event!  We love these pictures, courtesy of our photographer, Yenny Ho!

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