By Tim Johnson
FORT WAYNE — They come to the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in the spirit of prayer and evangelization — the same mission as the Catholic Church. And Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Father Cyril Fernandes, pastor of St. John the Baptist Church, Fort Wayne, and the St. John community welcomed the 10 Franciscan Sisters Minor who will be living there in Providence House and ministering in the community.
The sisters have varied backgrounds. Sister Mary Clement Turcotte, a native of Boston, was the first to join the Franciscan Sisters Minor. She has been a sister for 48 years. Sister Margaret Rose Cronin, a native of Riverside, R.I., has been in religious life and the consecrated life for 30 years. She was the fourth Franciscan Sister Minor.
Sister Mary Clare Smith of Riverside, R.I., is a widow with six children and 20 grandchildren. She was the third woman to join the community, and she is not the only grandmother of the 10. Sister John Marie Flood, a native of Woodsocket, R.I., is a mother of four and a grandmother of 10. She is a novice.
Sister Stella Francis Belonger, of New Bedford, Mass., entered the Franciscan Sisters Minor after graduating from high school and has been part of the community for six years.
Sister Marie Veronica Goins, a native of Rochester, N.Y., has been a religous for five years. She entered after the experience of college and work.
Sister Tina Audrey Bloomer is a native Hoosier, but raised in Massachusetts. She has been a religious for six years and entered the Franciscan Sisters Minor after experience in travel and college.
Sister Celeste Marie Carey, a native of Queens, N.Y., has been a religious for 17 years and is one of nine children.
Sister Karolyn Grace Wertner, a native of near Gettysburg, Pa., has been a religious for five years and entered the community after graduating from college.
Sister Pia Felicity Guilherme, a native of New Bedford, Mass., has been a religious for seven years and is a novice reentering the community. She is the fifth Franciscan Sister Minor.
The sisters have already made a striking impression on the neighborhood. One young girl greeted the sisters at the welcome reception in the Pursley Activity Center, Saturday, Oct. 2, after the Mass celebrated by Bishop Rhoades. The young elementary girl has hopes of becoming a sister and already pretends she is a sister wearing a imaginary habit.
At the Saturday evening Mass, Bishop Rhoades told the people of the St. John the Baptist parish community, “I am very happy to be here at St. John the Baptist Church to celebrate this Mass in which we officially welcome the Franciscan Sisters Minor to St. John’s Parish and to our diocese. The sisters have shared with me how warmly they have been welcomed by Father Cyril and by the parishioners of St. John’s. I myself, in the past nine months, have experienced wonderful Indiana hospitality as your new bishop. Thank you for showing that hospitality to these women religious whose lives are consecrated to Christ in a special way as they follow the holy rule of St. Francis of Assisi.”
October 4 is the feast of St. Francis, and Bishop Rhoades added, “So I also extend prayerful best wishes to the sisters for their community’s feast day.
“As you probably know,” he said, “the Franciscan Sisters Minor live a life of prayer, of quiet witness to the Lord, and of evangelization in the spirit of St. Francis. They take the holy vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, as well as a fourth vow of dedication to Mary Immaculate.”
He said, “I am very happy that the sisters have settled here in our diocese and here at St. John’s Parish.
Bishop Rhoades said, “Their presence is a gift to us. They are an example and an incentive to all of us of greater fidelity to the Gospel. They have chosen to follow the Gospel in a pretty radical way, like St. Francis did.
Bishop Rhoades said, “Their prayers for us are also so very important. And I expect that their prayers and their evangelizing labors will bring many non-practicing Catholics and unchurched people to the Church. As the sisters pray daily for us, let us also pray for the sisters.
He added, “At this Mass, we pray for them in a special way that they may be faithful to their vocation and, in imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, be totally devoted to the Lord. Mary is the perfect model of the consecrated life, of consecration to God the Father, of union with God the Son, and of openness to the Holy Spirit. May she intercede for our Franciscan Sisters Minor and for Father Cyril and all of you who have welcomed the Sisters to St. John Parish.”
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