We, Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, commit ourselves by profession of vows to:
Manifest God’s universal compassion through inclusive non-dominating relationships of love.
Trust in God’s Providence and live in a manner that affirms the right of all to a just share of the earth’s resources.
Discern together the voice of the Spirit that has called us to be one in our diversity.
In the spirit of Francis, Clare, and Elizabeth Hayes, we promote ever-widening circles of communion as we:
Open ourselves to a life of continued conversion in response to the call of the Gospel.
Identify with the victim, the poor and the marginalized in seeking a peace built on justice.
Reverence creation, acknowledging the right of all God’s creatures to enjoy its blessings.
Address the need within ourselves for repentance, forgiveness and healing while promoting a message of reconciliation.
Sunday, November 30, 2014 marks the beginning of the Year of Consecrated Life. St. Clare of Assisi reminds us that: “Among the other gifts that we have received and continue to receive from our magnanimous God and for which we must express the deepest thanks, there is our vocation.” (Testament of St. Clare of Assisi) During this special year which invites us to Wake Up the World, we remember and give thanks for our vocation.
Remembering our invitations to religious life.
FROM THE BEGINNING
Born into a devout Catholic family, in Mountmellick, County Laois, Ireland my mother a daily communicant and my father a quiet, peaceful man, religious practices including the daily praying of the Rosary was part of my childhood menu. Educated by the local Presentation Sisters who acquainted us with their Postulants and Novices – girls from their near-by Secondary School surrounded at home and in school with religion, thinking of becoming a Religious one day was easily imaginable. It became my desire and goal.
While still quite young, a Bishop from China came to Ireland to visit the various schools promoting mission work. Even though ours was only a Primary School, he spoke to us. From that day on, I was determined to be a Missionary, go to China despite the fact that I didn’t know anything about it or where it was located. It was far away and that was sufficient to satisfy my longing for missionary work, at that time.
When I was in Secondary School, a Missionary Franciscan Sister came to our town seeking girls interested in Religious Life: this was my opportunity to become a missionary. My application was accepted and October 4th of that year, 1936, twenty-two of us went to Bloomfield Juniorate Mullingar, Ireland, to begin preparation for Religious Life. August 1937, we were given two weeks’ vacation with our families. When it was time to go to Rome, four of us were given the bad news that we were to remain in Ireland until later. Instead of us, four older girls had been recruited and the Roman Convent was not large enough to accommodate all. What a disappointment and shock!! Fortunately, February 1938 brought good news. Several of the newly professed sisters were needed for ministry in Egypt and a few Postulants were leaving the Community. The Sister who accompanied the Postulants came to Bloomfield and she brought us to Rome, on her return. Rejoice! Rejoice! No one realized the joy and happiness in my heart that day.
July 2nd 1940, we pronounced our vows. December of that year, three of us were chosen to go on the missions, disappointment again, not to China but to the missions in the U.S. “But hope springs eternal”. We were delayed, however, in getting on our way. The voyage of the Italian liner on which we were to sail was cancelled; the ship was sunk later-World War 11 had begun. We went to Lisbon, Portugal where a smaller ship was available and we embarked. The trip was an eventful one: mid-Atlantic we encountered a severe storm, suddenly, about 2:00 am a huge wave struck the liner turned it on its side and all the passengers were thrown from their bunks and everything was in disarray. Immediately, another larger wave struck from the other side, righting the ship – lucky for all of us! The Captain told us it was the closest to sinking he had ever been. The older Sister with us, said, “Sisters, get dressed, we will go down with our Habits on us”! She must have thought that God wouldn’t recognize us in our night attire if we sank!. It was quite stormy sailing for some time, after that. Unexpectedly, another ocean surprise and trauma awaited us. Coming close to New York our port of entrance, the liner was speeding to the amazement of everyone. Having docked safely, the Captain had the explanation – we had been chased by a German submarine. God was surely on our side all the way!
My first assignment on the missions was the Bronx, New York taking the census of the Parish, making the Altar Breads for Church, starching and ironing the guimpes we wore in those days. Next year, 1941 Elementary Education became my responsibility for the next thirty-eight years beginning in Chester,
Pennsylvania and continuing in Mount Alvernia, Massachusetts; Little Falls, Minnesota; Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; Milton, Massachusetts; Belle Prairie, Minnesota and Seminole, Florida. They were delightful years and a marvelous experience. My longing for China had evaporated.
A whole new world opened before me in 1979. The Pastor with whom Sister Eileen Hurley and I worked in Seminole petitioned Sister M. Angelica, then Provincial, to allow us to join him in Grove City, Florida, to where he had been assigned by the Bishop to initiate a Parish. Grove City was certainly a misnomer for the place, a real grove but no city. Angelica and her Council acquiesced to Father’s request. August 1979, I was in the Grove. Two years later, September 1981, the Grove had disappeared replaced by Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.
Monica’s classroom days were ended, Parish work and my responsibilities differed greatly from my school days and my new ministries were : Director of Religious Education; R.C.I.A; Moderator of the Third Order Franciscans; preparing Liturgies for the installation of members into the various Church Groups; readying Documents for people desiring to have their cremains interred in the Memorial Garden; filing all transactions and reports accurately; arranging flowers and decorating the Church for special occasions; keeping Church bulletin board captions current, attractive and inspirational; from time to time aiding with the Sunday collection and recording the individual contributions into the computer. Forty years passed unnoticed in that rewarding and fulfilling atmosphere.
Most grateful for God’s Call to Religious life, presently, I am a very happy, relaxed, retired person living in our beautiful, comfortable, recently refurbished Convent, Newton, MA. keeping myself busy. Again, the Eucharistic Liturgy begins the day and trivial things follow – knitting and/or crocheting for the poor, reading and continuing my artistic work of making all-occasion cards. Since all work and no play would make Monica a dull girl, I play two or three games on the computer and access the internet daily to keep in touch with international events so:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit finds joy in God my Savor” Luke 1:46
Sister Monica Hayes M.F.I.C.
“HOW DID I GET HERE?”
As a young girl I was fascinated by the wonderful sisters who taught me in grammar school. They were outstanding teachers and I loved to spend time with them. I found myself playing school as “Sister Bernadette” (the movie “Song of Bernadette” was newly released) and wishing that I could be a sister. As I graduated from the eighth grade Sr.Wendrona, CSJ, told me that she believed I had a vocation to religious life. I smiled and said: “yes Sister!” Off I went to a Franciscan High School.
I loved the Franciscan spirit of the sisters at my high school but with a little money in my pocket from a part-time job and a new boyfriend, I forgot all about my eighth grade teacher’s prediction. I had decided to be a high school Spanish teacher. During my college years, every now and then I felt a little tug at my heart saying that maybe God was asking more of me but I dismissed those thoughts very quickly. I had developed a love for travel and surely that was not part of religious life. During the semester break of my junior year of college I went on a college- sponsored trip to Europe that brought us back to school two days late for the start of the second semester. As I walked into my first class I was so surprised to see a Franciscan Sister there. I recognized the modified habit from my high school days and immediately began a conversation with her, catching up on the news about my former teachers.
As the weeks went on I noticed even more of the sisters studying in the library. Alas, those thoughts about becoming a sister began to resurface as did Sr. Wendrona’s little nudge. There were many questions to be asked and answered. I had a strong faith but did I really want to be poor and obedient? Did I want to have a family of my own? As I grappled with these questions a missionary priest came to our parish to ask for financial assistance for his ministry. During his homily he spoke about religious life and vocations and said: “it is not that there are fewer vocations but there are fewer people who think they might have a vocation and are willing to say, ‘I will try.’ ” At that moment, in that church, I said “yes”!
Forty-two tears later, I live a full life as a Missionary Franciscan Sister. Through my life in community and ministry I have experienced God in profound ways as a teacher, administrator, care-giver for people with HIV/AIDS, pilgrimage leader and spiritual director. I remember with deep gratitude the sisters from St. Clare High School who modeled for me a Franciscan way of Gospel living. Their love of God, each other, their students and all of creation continue to inspire me and call me to deepen my commitment to this way of life.
During this year of Consecrated Life may we remember with St. Clare that: “Among the other gifts that we have received and continue to receive from our magnanimous God and for which we must express the deepest thanks, there is our vocation.”
Sr. Marie Puleo, M.F.I.C.