Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Hospital Sisters of St. Francis: Springfield, IL

On Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, I got an opportunity to visit with the Franciscan friars in Springfield, IL.  The friary is on the grounds of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis.  This is where the sisters have their motherhouse, retirement center, and the Chiara Center, a retreat facility that is much-appreciated by those who have been there.  Here are a few photos:

The statue in the cemetery reminds me of an experience
 in Assisi back in  1995.  I was looking for a statue of
Francis with the wolf of Gubbio for one of my sisters, and the
owner of the store showed me a small statue similar to this one
and then tried to convince me that the animal was really a wolf--
it just looked like a sheep.

There were several cemetery areas.  It made me think about all
the sisters who had dedicated their lives to caring for the sick.  How
many people living today are descendants of ancestors whose
lives were saved through the ministrations of the sisters?

Entrance to the Chiara Center

Entrance to the main church

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Advice from St. Clare (2nd Letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague)

Here are words of advice offered by Clare to Agnes.  The centuries have not weakened the power of that advice:

What you hold, may you continue to hold, 
what you do, may you keep doing and not stop,  
but with swift pace, nimble step, and feet that do not stumble 
so that even your walking does not raise any dust, 
may you go forward tranquilly, joyfully, briskly, and cautiously 
along the path of happiness,  
trusting in no one and agreeing with no one 
insofar as he might want to dissuade you 
from pursuing your founding purpose 
or might place a stumbling block in your way, 
preventing you, in that perfection 
with which the Spirit of the Lord has called you, 
from fulfilling your vows to the Most High.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Franciscans in Northern Wisconsin: Ashland, the Early Years

While the friars of the Province are familiar with it, not many others know about the book Heralds of the King by Fr. Marion Habig, OFM.  The book, published by the now-defunct Franciscan Herald Press, was compiled to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the friars' arrival from Germany.  It is a history of the Province up until 1958, and records many of the significant events and pioneer friars who helped make us who we are today.  I hope to publish occasional excerpts from Heralds of the King to help others appreciate the work of the friars who came before us.

Here is an excerpt concerning my hometown of Ashland, WI.  The church, while I was growing up, was placed under the patronage of St. Agnes.  When Holy Family Parish and St. Agnes were combined, the name was changed to Our Lady of the Lake.

St. Francis  Friary  and  Parish  in Ashland

The first settlers came to Ashland in 1854; but, as in the case of Superior, the town began to decline in 1857, and two years later only one family remained. Some of the former settlers returned in 1872, but in 1878 when Father Verwyst first visited Ashland it was only a poor hamlet with a few dozen houses. At that time it was served by only one railroad, the Wisconsin Central. By 1904, three other lines, the Northern Pacific, the Chicago and Northwestern, and the Omaha Railroad, came into Ashland; and the city had several large ore and coal docks, saw mills, blast furnaces, and other manufacturing establishments.

In 1855, Father Augustine Benoit offered up holy Mass for the first time in Ashland in an Indian wigwam; and from 1872 to 1878, Fathers Quigley and Schuettelhofer held divine services there occasionally. When the Franciscans came to Bayfield in 1878, Ashland became one of their mission stations. At that time there ,were 25 Indian and White families in the town who were Catholics. 

A small church which had been begun by Father Schuettelhofer in 1874 was completed by Father Casimir in 1879.  The following year he added a belfry. In 1882, Father Eustace Vollmer built an addition to the church, 22 by 30 feet, and added  a small room in the rear for the use of the priest. The latter was so small that two single bedsteads filled all the available space. Before this room was built, the visiting missionary friar often spent the night in a small, partially open compartment in the belfry, surrounded by sleeping birds and flying bats. A school was opened at Ashland in 1883.

By 1886 the parish in Ashland had grown to such an extent, that  the building of a new church of brown sandstone and a brick veneered residence was commenced. The latter was completed the same year and erected into a separate friary. The work  on  the  church, however, progressed rather slowly, since the contractor proved to be inefficient. A part  of  the wall,  being  out  of plumb, had to be torn down and rebuilt; and a part of the steeple collapsed. The work was then placed in the hands of a capable contractor;  and  in  1887 the church  was  roofed  and  its  basement was made ready. The basement was then used  for divine services while the upper part of the church was being completed.  Finally in  1888  the church was dedicated under the patronage of St. Agnes.

The teachers of the parish school are Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, who also founded an academy for girls. By  1904 the school was attended by 810 children, and the parish comprised about 640 families or 3,000 souls. It was a truly cosmopolitan parish, and in the course of time included Poles, Irish, Germans, Scotch, Bohemians, Lithuanians, English, Italians, Belgians, French, and Indians.  A new high school, called DePadua High School, was blessed, January 5, 1930.

Before 1904 the Poles had been  organized  into  a  separate  parish,  which in that year comprised about 1,500 souls and had 215 children attending its school. Since  the  number  of  Polish  families  was  increasing steadily, they had begun  already  in  1889  to  organize  themselves  with  a  view  to forming  a  separate  parish.  In  May,  1893, separate services for the Poles began to be held once a month in the basement of St. Agnes Church.  From about  1895  these  services  were  held  every   other   Sunday   and  on  holy   days   of   obligation.  

 Ground for a church and  school  of  their  own  was  purchased  in  1899  three blocks distant from St. Agnes Church; and in the fall of  the  following year, the school  and  the  basement  walls  of  the  church  were  built.  Holy  Mass  was celebrated  for  the  first  time  in  the  basement  on January 26, 1902, the feast  of  the  Holy  Family,  under  whose  patronage the church was to be dedicated.  The dedication took place on September  28  of  the  same year. The church  is  a  brick  structure,  128 by 54 feet, and cost $30,000. One of  the Franciscans  residing  at  St.  Agnes Friary is  the  pastor  of  this  parish.  And the  teachers  in  the  school are Franciscan Sisters of LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Franciscans in Africa: Article on the Year of Mercy Project

The St. Louis Review (the archdiocesan newspaper) has an article about the Sacred Heart Province's Year of Mercy project in the current edition.  To see the article, use this link:

St. Louis Review article

If you would, please pass this information along to your various contacts.  Thanks!

Peace and every good,
Fr. John Eaton, OFM
Director, Franciscan Charities

Disqus for Fr. John Eaton, OFM