Herald News, The (Joliet, IL)

August 3, 2001

Pole a constant reminder to work for peace

125th anniversary: Frankfort honors Franciscan Sisters
Author: Denise M. Baran-Unland

FRANKFORT -- In celebration of their 125th anniversary and their recent annexation to Frankfort, the village presented the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart with a special gift: a peace pole.

A ceremony was held Thursday night to dedicate the gift, an 8-foot, 4-sided wooden pole with the prayer, "May peace prevail on earth" inscribed on each of its sides.

The pole is in the Franciscan Sisters' new Peace Garden.

The garden is open to the public.

"We are very pleased and proud to have the Franciscan sisters as part of the village of Frankfort," said Raymond E. Rossi, Frankfort mayor.

"We committed a couple of months ago to spending the money for the Peace Pole, and they have beautiful grounds for it; it's very rustic back there.

"However, we certainly needed the sisters' help in coming up with the word "peace," in several different languages."

Sister Kathleen Hook, the congregation's vicaress, said that the Peace Pole prayer is written in English, Spanish in honor of the Spanish sisters within the Frankfort community, Portuguese in honor of the Franciscan sisters in Brazil, and in German because the community has its origins in Germany.

The Peace Pole is only one item in an entire garden on the Franciscan Sisters' grounds that promotes peace.

A statue of St, Francis will also occupy a position in the new peace garden, as well as a peace walkway, made up of bricks, inscribed with the names and/or messages of donors to their building renovation project.

Although much of the landscaping is still in the planning stages, Hook said that the public is welcome any time.

It is the sisters' hope, she added, that visitors will leave refreshed and at peace, with a renewed commitment to be peacemakers in a world that so often seems to be opposed to peace.

The Sisters of St. Francis of Millvale, Penn., also has such a pole, which Sister Mary Elizabeth Imler, the general community leader, visited last year during a retreat at the Millvale congregation grounds.

Also, Imler said, the Felician Sisters in Chicago have a Peace Pole on their grounds, which gave her the notion that perhaps such an item would be a positive addition at the Frankfort congregation, as well.

However, Imler does not wish to see the dedication of Peace Pole only to be a "nice little ritual" that was once performed and is now forgotten.

"We want it to make a difference in reminding others that we're all brothers and sisters and that we should figure out a way to live together," Imler said. Formal stand

Hook said that last year, her congregation decided to take a formal stand to promote peace and that the peace pole will be a reminder of their commitment to pray for peace around the world.

"Just as war begins in the mind and heart of each person, so does peace," said Hook. Such a stance, Hook maintains, is in keeping with their Franciscan heritage.

"Everyone knows that St. Francis believed in peace," she said, referring to Francis' prayer, which begins, "Make me a channel of your peace."

St. Francis also believed in keeping in tune with the workings of the Catholic Church, something that the Franciscans Sisters believe in, as well.

Recently, the United States bishops have formally declared their opposition to the death penalty

In keeping their promotion of world peace, the Franciscan Sisters have also publicly declared their opposition to the death penalty.

At 5 p.m. any day there is an execution anywhere in the United States, the sisters ring a bell.

The bell is a special one.

It was a gift from the Rev. Wilhelm Berger, who founded the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Germany 125 years ago.

This particular bell was rung in the city of Gengenbach every time there was an execution.

As a result of the Kulturkamph (where people were no longer allowed to freely practice religion), the sisters needed to immigrate to the United States.

Berger purchased the bell from the city of Gengenbach and presented it to the sisters to take with them to this country.

Such a stance against the death penalty is consistent, Imler feels with the Franciscan Sisters' history of being pro-life.

"I often speak about peace and this question just tears at my heart: Do I just pay lip service to peace, or could I really welcome and embrace anyone with love?"

Those who are kind and loving, Imler thinks, are easy to love.

But can we strengthen our hearts to be loving to someone who is not so loving, she asks.

Can the balance be kept between unconditional forgiveness and justice.

Only God, she feels, can show how to love this deeply.

Ultimately, as Hook herself has discovered, a person opposed to the way of peace set forth by Christ, will only be hurting him or herself.

"Brooding over things doesn't get you anywhere; there's a better way to live," Hook said.

"Personally I try to live in the most peaceful way I can with the women in this house.

Scripture says that we fall seven times a day.

If I have hurt anyone, or if anyone has hurt me, I must be willing to extend peace immediately."

For more information about the Peace Garden, contact the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart at (815) 469-4895.

The Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart will celebrate the group's 125th anniversary and dedication of its newly renovated Motherhouse.

An open house will be held in honor of the two events from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday.

The group began in 1866 when the Rev. Wilhelm Berger envisioned Sisters who would serve in the spirit of St. Francis of and St. Clare of Assisi, with also a commitment to the ideals of St. Francis de Paul.

Three women in Seelbach, Germany, made up that first community.

When the religious climate changed for the worse, the Sisters were forced to disband or leave the country.

In 1876, they came to this country, settling first in Avilla, Ind., then in Joliet, and finally in Frankfort, its present location.

The Sisters serve in hospitals, clinics, social service agencies and support programs for pregnant teens.

They minister as teachers, administrators, and religious education coordinators, as well as providing spiritual direction and retreats and serving as pastoral associates.

They sponsor the Portincula Center for Prayer in Frankfort and St. Anne's Maternity Home in Los Angeles.

They co-sponsor seven hospitals, 15 long-term care facilities and more than 40 clinics in Indiana and Illinois through Provena Health.

As part of Catholic Healthcare West, they co-sponsor St. Francis Medical Center in Santa Barbara.

The Sisters also serve in Belize and Brazil.

Peace Poles Peace Poles are usually 8 feet tall and must be constructed from material that is environmentally sound, such as hard wood, plastic, or metal. In the United States, most Peace Poles are made from western red cedar. A Peace Pole has "May peace prevail on earth" written on each of its four-six sides, usually in different languages.

There are more than 200,000 Peace Poles in 180 countries all over the world, including such places as the Pyramids of El Giza, the Magnetic North Pole in Canada, and the Allenby Bridge between Israel and Jordan. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and religious leaders Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, and the Dalai Lama have dedicated Peace Poles. At noon, people all over the world take a moment to pray, "May peace prevail on earth." Individuals can order Peace Poles by contacting Peace Pole Makers USA by calling (231)-334-4567, or e-mailing them at info@peacepoles.com. You may also visit their website at www.peacepoles.com -- All information from www.worldpeace.org/activities 125 years of service

Copyright (c) 2001 The Herald News (Joliet, IL)

Detroit Free Press (MI)

August 25, 2000


Correction: A photo caption in Friday's The Way We Live section, with the article about the Discovery Learning Center, should have said the person pictured showing children how to add ribbons to a dried flower wreath was Sister Ann Mahany.

Article Text:

Neighborhood children began to gather at the garden in August, when the tomatoes were ripening, like red water balloons ready to burst.
"Can we taste them?" the curious youngsters asked two Franciscan sisters tending the garden in a yard on Detroit's near west side.

The sisters picked the tomatoes, put them in brown paper bags and gave them to the children to take home.


They thought that would be the end of it. But the children remembered the tomatoes and the garden. That winter, they knocked on the sisters' door, wondering when it would be time to plant again.

From their youthful enthusiasm and the sisters' commitment to sharing, the Children's Organic Garden was born.

The Garden is one facet of the Franciscan Project Inc., a nonprofit organization the sisters formed in 1997. Based in a 1919 brick house on Vinewood, the project also includes a reading program for children and adults, and a community lending library.

Through these programs, the Franciscans have come in contact with more than 100 children, parents and grandparents in this neighborhood of brick and frame two-family flats.

Not far from the intersection of West Warren and West Grand Boulevard, roughly 1 1/2 miles northwest of Tiger Stadium, it is an area where books, like homegrown tomatoes, are in short supply. A nearby public library branch closed several years ago and the local elementary school does not have a lending library, according to Sister Patricia Mary Hackett.

The sisters vowed to change that.

Sister Patricia Mary, a native of New Jersey, and Sister Ann Mahany, originally from California, arrived in Detroit in 1995. Both had lived in many cities around the country during their years as Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement, a Roman Catholic congregation of women. Disciples are inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, who lived among the poor and taught about the interconnections between God, people and nature.

The sisters wanted to start a project in a central city, "in a neighborhood where we could empower people to recognize their own inner strengths and gifts," Sister Patricia Mary says.

They had narrowed their search to Chicago and Detroit when they met Thomas Gumbleton, auxiliary bishop of Detroit. He urged the sisters to locate in his parish, St. Leo.

Following his suggestion, they found the house on Vinewood, where they established the Franciscan Project as a faith-based way to address the root causes of poverty, violence and injustice.

"Literacy does that because it opens the doors to increased education and potential employment," Sister Patricia Mary says. "Without literacy, you really can't open those doors." They found interested professors to help set up the program, to train literacy volunteers.

"All the pieces just fit together," Sister Patricia Mary says.

They canvassed the neighborhood to gauge reaction to and support for the project and were pleased by the response. But they admit to being startled when 60 children signed up to work in the garden in 1998.

The sisters meet with neighborhood children each week all summer to plant and weed, water, hoe and harvest.

During their weekly meetings, the sisters are helped by other adult volunteers, including master gardeners. They teach the children about organic techniques like composting, about butterflies or pollination, or show them a craft project like how to decorate wreaths with dried flowers from the garden.

The sisters serve a nutritious snack, and the children leave with something to take home. As the summer progresses, the children also keep a journal about the garden, which gives them practice in writing.

One recent evening, 10-year-old Emma Haile had just picked a dark green cucumber and was looking forward to taking home a potted pumpkin seedling, grown at the garden, to plant at her house.

Emma has been part of the Children's Organic Garden project for three summers. "I like to spend time in the garden and with the flowers." After a thoughtful moment, she added, "I like to make my community look cute."

The garden is next to the Discovery Learning Center, a new brick building that stands where the dilapidated garage once did. Inside, the book-lined room is headquarters for the tutoring program and also the lending library.

It has been built and stocked through donations, book drives and grants. Even the furniture and office equipment were donated.

"It's through the grace of God," says Sister Patricia Mary. The center serves 30 families for tutoring; 23 families are signed up to participate in the lending library.

Among those who volunteer at the Franciscan Project are Ford Motor Co. salaried employees through the automaker's Business Leadership Implementation, which encourages community service.

Larry Snowden was in that program and one day found a flyer about the Franciscan Project on his chair at work. He visited and told others.

"Once the word got out about the sisters, a lot of people were asking to do something there," says Snowden, now on the Franciscan Project's board.

Ford volunteers helped build 11 raised beds, brought in topsoil, put in the white picket fence, arbor and gate, and constructed a brick walkway and a greenhouse. Asking coworkers for donations during coffee breaks, they raised $1,400 for a chain-link fence around the garden, which is 90 by 100 feet. Brooks Lumber donated seeds, lumber, fertilizer and other materials. English Gardens stores have given plants, and other businesses have made donations as well.

With the gardening season wrapping up, the most immediate need is for tutors. The literacy program gears up in September, and the list of children awaiting help is longer than the list of volunteers.

"We have 10 now. We could use 30 or 35," Sister Patricia Mary says.

The Franciscan Project also invites adults who need reading assistance to come for tutoring, although it's hard for them to admit they need help, according to Leighann Jardine. This week, she is completing a year working at the Franciscan Project through Americorps Vista volunteer program.

Jardine, 22, of Grand Rapids, says she will always remember one first-grader who came for tutoring last fall. He could not recognize even the most basic words and was painfully shy. Within a few months of working with a tutor, he was reading sentences and "he really opened up," Jardine says. "That will stick with me."

Sister Patricia Mary says that although some people warned her when the sisters moved to the neighborhood to expect problems, there haven't been any. The only theft was a garden hose cart, she explains in her steady, calm voice that still has traces of a New Jersey accent. Words come out quickly, as though there is not enough time to say and do all that needs to be said and done.

People who know the two sisters say that is, in fact, how they operate.

"The two of them have taken on enormous responsibility and have made something fantastic out of virtually nothing. They seem to be so dedicated to the community that they find ways to make things work," says Bob Bricault. The former Wayne County extension agent met Sister Patricia Mary when she took the master gardener course.

Snowden believes the neighborhood is reaping benefits, visually and spiritually, from the Franciscan Project.

"The sisters really understand life and what it's about and what they need to do," Snowden says. "They're not working out of a book. They're working from the heart."

Copyright (c) 2000 Detroit Free Press

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

August 19, 2002

Author: Renee Stovsky

* Sister Marylu Stueber, archivist for the Franciscan Sisters of Mary in Richmond Heights, is painstakingly writing the history of the order.

A wooden wheelchair. A manual Underwood typewriter. The red and white cords from a nun's habit. An old-fashioned hospital eye-equipment cart. A set of convent dishes.

Each artifact tells a part of the history of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, a religious congregation of women in the Roman Catholic Church. And thanks to the diligent efforts of archivist Sister Marylu Stueber, a detailed history of the organization, headquartered in Richmond Heights, is painstakingly taking shape.

Stueber had no idea she would become so intimately involved with preserving and recording historical data when she entered the Sisters of St. Mary convent, 1100 Bellevue Avenue, in 1963. A native of St. Louis, she had just graduated from St. Louis University School of Nursing. Due to her own physical disability, she believed she had a great affinity toward others facing medical challenges.

In 1940, Stueber's mother had contracted German measles while she was pregnant, and her daughter was born with eighth-nerve deafness. Stueber spent a year at St. Joseph's Institute for the Deaf in 1945, then was sent to a regular school, where she painfully learned to endure the taunts of her peers.

"In those days, we wore hearing aids that had big boxes across our chests," she recalled. "I used to fall and break mine on purpose so the kids wouldn't make fun of me."

And indeed, Stueber spent 10 years happily practicing her profession, including a stint at St. Mary's Hospital, now part of SSM Health Care, adjacent to the motherhouse. But after enduring bouts of phlebitis and encephalitis, in addition to her hearing problems, she felt unable to provide adequate care to her patients. Instead, she began preparing nursing policy and procedure manuals for the Joint Commission for SSM Healt h Care, which her congregation sponsors.

"I learned to be very precise when I was doing management engineering, compiling statistical reports on things like average patient stays in our various facilities," says Stueber, 62.

In 1976, the nation's bicentennial, Stueber was sent to Dayton, Ohio, to attend a conference on archiving. "The bishops decided, since the whole country was so focused on history, that it was time for us to get in touch with our roots and compile our congregational histories as well," she recalls.

Stueber worked from a closet behind an elevator in the administration building on the convent grounds.

"I froze in the winter and fried in the summer," she laughs. "But I love history, and I fell into this kind of work well. In nursing, you learn how all the systems of the body work together. This kind of work is all very interrelated, too."

Bavaria to St. Louis

Through trial and error, she began soliciting material on the history of the Sisters of St. Mary, an order that traces its St. Louis roots to Nov. 16, 1872, when Mother Mary Odilia Berger of Bavaria, who had headed the Servants of the Sacred Heart in Paris before the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, arrived here with five companions. The women were named Sisters of St. Mary by the local citizenry, who saw them coming and going from their convent, adjacent to St. Mary of Victories Church, as they ministered to the sick.

By 1980, Stueber had acquired a room in the building's basement in which to store her articles, photos and growing collection of artifacts. She made up a computer program, with the help of the information systems data center, to organize her growing files of historical research and an oral-history program conducted among the sisters.

Still, she found the task daunting.

"I was trying to keep up with the present, and I was already more than 100 years behind in sorting out the past," says Stueber.

In 1986, Stueber attended a national meeting of the Society of American Archivists in Washington and realized how valuable it was to interact with her professional peers in trying to develop a coherent system to categorize information. She came back determined to develop a local archivists' group.

In 1987, she sponsored the first meeting of the St. Louis Area Religious Archivists and has been the backbone of the organization ever since. Today, the group represents 30 religious congregations in the St. Louis area as well as groups such as the Vincentian Fathers in Perryville, Mo.,and the Dominican and Ursuline sisters in Springfield, Ill. Although most of the members are various Roman Catholic denominations, other organizations, such as Concordia Seminary in Clayton, have become involved as well.

As things turned out, the networking effect has been enormously helpful to Stueber. That's because, also in 1987, the Sisters of St. Mary reunited with the Sisters of St. Francis of Maryville, Mo., a congregation begun in 1894 by one of Mother Odilia's followers, Sister Mary Augustine, to form the Franciscan Sisters of Mary. So Stueber inherited the job of researching and preserving the past of the Sisters of St. Francis as well.

What to save?

Much progress has been made in the field of archiving; a software program called Minaret, for example, helps enormously, says Stueber. And despite her own health problems - to deal with continued hearing problems, she has had a single-channel implant and a multiple-channel cochlear implant in the past seven years - Stueber has become a local leader in the field.

Last month, Stueber began assisting the SSM Health Care archivist, Greg Prickman, in transferring SSM Health Care entity information, which she faithfully has kept for several decades, to the newly established SSM Health Care archives. She also recently has been contacted to handle research on St. Mary's Infirmary, the first hospital of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, which is now being considered for a historical site.

And as St. Louis Area Religious Archivists celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, it is drawing interest from as far away as Chicago, where archivists hope to develop a similar group.

One of the dilemmas of keeping an organization's history intact, of course, is trying to discern what is important enough to save for future generations. So as Stueber files away precious photos of such things as Mount St. Rose Hospital - established here in 1900 by the Sisters of St. Mary as the first tuberculosis sanitarium west of the Mississippi - she also keeps tabs on things such as the pigskin presented to Sister Mary Ellen Sloan, a huge football fan, when she assumed leadership of the order in 1977.

And then there is the convent's rotary-dial telephone, which Stueber also has tucked away among her artifacts. In today's world of cellular telephones, it's already starting to look like a valuable relic.

* * * * *

Sisters of St. Mary: A record of accomplishments

The Sisters of St. Mary was founded in 1872 in St. Louis by Mother Mary Odilia Berger of Bavaria, who had headed the Servants of the Sacred Heart in Paris before the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, and five companions. Work with the sick became their special ministry. Fourteen years later, part of the order formed a new congregation, the Sisters of St. Francis of Maryville, Mo., headed by Sister Mary Augustine. The two reunited in 1987 to become the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, headquartered in Richmond Heights. Here are some of their many accomplishments:

* In 1877, the Sisters of St. Mary opened its first hospital, St. Mary's Infirmary, in St. Louis. Included in the care were orphans at St. J oseph's Home in St. Louis and unwed mothers at Lowell in north St. Louis.

* Hospitals in St. Charles and Chillicothe, Mo., were opened in 1885 and 1888 respectively. The Sisters of St. Mary also nursed in the St. Louis Quarantine Hospital and in the hospitals of the Missouri Pacific and MKT Railroad companies.

* The Sisters of St. Francis established St. Anthony's Hospital in Oklahoma in 1898, opened a school of nursing there in 1907 and opened St. Joseph's Hospital in Maryville to care for the sick, the elderly and the orphaned. Like the Sisters of St. Mary, they also staffed railroad hospitals and took charge of several Wabash Railroad Co. facilities.

* The Sisters of St. Mary established Mount St. Rose Hospital in St. Louis in 1900. It was the first tuberculosis sanitarium west of the Mississippi. The sisters also established hospitals in Jefferson City in 1902 and Blue Island, Ill., in 1904.

* In 1916, the Sisters of St. Mary opened a school of nursing for lay students in Kansas City.

* In 1920, the Sisters of St. Mary acquired ground in Richmond Heights for a new hospital, St. Mary's, and the motherhouse. By 1924, the St. Mary's Group of hospitals - St. Mary's Infirmary, Mount St. Rose and St. Mary's in Richmond Heights - became St. Louis University Hospital.

* In 1933, Firmin Desloge Hospital replaced St. Mary's Infirmary in the St. Mary's Hospital group. The infirmary was reopened as a hospital for blacks. The St. Mary's Infirmary School of Nursing for Negroes operated there from 1933 to 1958.

* During the Great Depression, the Sisters of St. Mary opened St. Mary's of the Ozarks Hospital in Arcadia Valley and a convalescent home, Villa Marie du Lac, there.

* In 1947, the Sisters of St. Francis opened St. Joseph of the Pines Hospital in North Carolina.

* In 1956, Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital was opened with the Sisters of St. Mary accepting operational responsibility for it.

* In the 1960s, the sisters entered into new phases of health care by setting up a detoxification center at St. Mary's Infirmary, treating migrant workers at a clinic in Wisconsin, and treating poor, pregnant women in St. Louis through mobile clinics.

* In 1986, the SSM Health Care System was established.

Copyright (c) 2002 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

April 9, 2001

Author: Theresa Tighe

* The Franciscan sisters said that they wanted to free up their assets so that they could more effectively fulfill their mission: "No place too far, no service too humble, no person too lowly."

The great, rounded, red-brick wall, like those found at European monasteries, says this is a place of religion. And for nearly 80 years, it was.

Three sprawling brick buildings built over those years and 40 acres of orchards and gardens formed the motherhouse in Ferguson, of the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. At its height, some 200 nuns and women training to be sisters lived there.

The sisters are gone now. The building and grounds, near the intersection of Florissant Road and Brotherton Lane, became too large, as the number of nuns dwindled.

In 1999, the last year the sisters lived on the property, 20 sisters rattled around in buildings and grounds the size of a private-school campus. Thousands of dollars a month for utilities made the buildings expensive to maintain. Sister Monica Marie Laws, the order's general superior, said, "We are not about putting money in empty buildings and a lot of property."

She said the sisters wanted to free up their assets to fulfill their mi ssion: "No place too far, no service too humble, no person too lowly."

When the nuns put their motherhouse on the market, they began praying for a buyer. The ground is in Lambert Field's flight path. They had had problems even trying to lease space in the buildings.

But the sisters found a buyer and a use of which they approved when the Ferguson-Florissant School District bought the property for $3.95 million. The buildings, which are unsuitable for classrooms, will be leveled, and a new high school will be built on the land, as soon as the school district and the airport work out details. The airport is picking up the tab for the new school. It replaces Berkeley High School, which will become airport property.

When the sisters left, they moved their cemetery to Resurrection Cemetery in south St. Louis County from the grounds on Brotherton Lane. In the past few years, vandals had knocked over tombstones and broken stone angels' wings.

There are now 136 Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in 15 states. Many teach. Some work in prison ministry. One works in an AIDS hospice. Others do pastoral work in parishes. Some do massage therapy. Some live in homes, some live in apartments, and some live in convents on parish grounds. Others live in retirement housing or get nursing-home care at the Cardinal Carberry Campus in Shrewsbury.

The order's headquarters is now in an office park in Kirkwood - an office space much like any company's, except the sisters' was built around sacred images taken from the old motherhouse. Stained glass showing scenes from the life of St. Francis line the conference room's wall. Stained glass showing Our Lady of Perpetual Help greets visitors at the front desk, as does a life-sized, wooden Tao cross, a cross with a rounded top beam that is a symbol of Franciscans.

On a recent day, Sister Monica and three other nuns - Sister Marlene Geppert, Sister Carol Beckermann and Sister Loraine Brzozowski - met at the old motherhouse, like family members gathering at the old home place to reminisce. The first three nuns are in their 50s and members of the order's leadership team. Sister Loraine is 80 and, theoretically, retired. She still works in the library at Our Lady of the Pillar's elementary school in west St. Louis County.

The sisters were pleased to see that daffodils and tulips still peeked through the ground in the courtyard and that the sign on the door still read: "Peace to all who enter."

They laughed at memories of hiking up long skirts to play baseball and to bale hay. Sister Marlene said that because she was a farm girl, she did the relatively easy work of driving the tractor. Sister Monica remembered the hard dirty work of baling the hay. Sister Monica also remembered apple fights. Until the 1960s, the sisters made wine and jelly for the table and molded butter for Easter gifts. The orchards produced apples, cherries, peaches and pears.

Going up the stairs, Sister Carol found a ball of dust. "This would never have been allowed," she said, picking it up. The others agreed, laughing and remembering their days on cleaning duty.

Upstairs at the infirmary, the letters were falling off a sign that once said: "Mary, help of the sick and elderly, pray for us."

Sister Marlene said: "It's sad. It's falling down," and the others grew thoughtful. But the mood only lasted a moment.

All of the sisters agreed that the move had to be made.

Sister Loraine lived at the motherhouse the longest of the four of them: 20 years. This was the place many women first entered the order and made their vows. Sister Loraine said of the move, "This gave us the opportunity to go out and to be with the people. It is a Franciscan way of life. To be God's presence."

Copyright (c) 2001 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Post-Standard, The (Syracuse, NY)

October 1, 2001

Author: Renee K. Gadoua Staff writer

Take one part experience in chocolate-making. Mix in generous portions of creativity, enthusiasm and energy. Sweeten it with the faith and tradition of a religious community.

The Franciscan sisters hope those ingredients perfect their recipe for NunBetter, a new candy-making business they started on Syracuse's North Side.

"Some communities make altar bread. We make candy," said Sister Jane Bourne, wiping a tiny spot of chocolate from her light green jacket.

Bourne oversees the candy production at the Wilson Convent building of the Franciscan complex on Grant Boulevard in Syracuse. Her helpers are volunteers - mostly friends she drafted to help - and about 25 retired religious sisters who live at the center.

"This is my retirement job," said Bourne, who also helped start The Gingerbread House, a day-care center and preschool in the former Franciscan Academy. She formerly served as religious education coordinator at St. Margaret's parish in Mattydale.

"I do most of the creative side," she said. "Candy is being made all the time."

NunBetter looks more like a school cafeteria than a scene from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Trays of chocolate-covered pretzels line the counter. Neatly labeled boxes of candy are stacked on the table. Baskets of clean, clear molds fill green baskets in floor-to-ceiling cabinets.

It's quiet in Bourne's factory: A microwave beeps softly, and laughter occasionally breaks the silence as someone hands the boss a piece of candy to fix.

Bourne came by her sweet skills naturally - two siblings run chocolate-making businesses. They offered plenty of business advice.

"Some of our recipes are secret family recipes with a few things thrown in," Bourne said. "I use my sister's butter cream recipe."

One key to her efficiency may come from Bourne's inability to eat chocolate.

"I'm allergic to it. It doesn't appeal to me one bit," she said as she retied ribbons on a candy bar.

"That's good, she doesn't eat up our profits," said Sister Mediatrice Hutchinson.

Hutchinson considers herself the administrative brains behind the venture. "I generate the environment. I don't get too involved. Jane won't let me get involved."

But Bourne is quick to point out that the whole community of the Sisters of the Third Franciscan Order is involved.

Discussions began in January, after a group of religious sisters approached the community with ideas about starting a business. After several group meetings, the Franciscan sisters agreed to a $2,500 loan and space in the convent to launch NunBetter. The doors have been open since Sept. 17, and the grand opening is Thursday.

The Franciscan sisters plan to sell their products by mail as well as at their storefront. A Web site is in the works, and NunBetter will deliver baskets to local hospitals. Profits will go toward the mission of the Franciscans.

The venture fits into the Franciscan tradition of adapting with the times, Hutchinson said.

The Third Franciscan Order is an international women's religious order founded in 1860 and based in Syracuse. It is named for St. Francis of Assisi, a 13th-century monk known for his work with the poor. In 1869, the order founded the hospital now known as St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center. Franciscans are best known for their work in health care, education and social services.

"Our charism has always been to serve the marginalized and the poor," Hutchinson said. "We're looking at being able to support those sisters who are working in areas that can't afford to give them a living wage."

Bourne said NunBetter's low candy prices fulfill the Franciscan mission as well.

"Our hope is to be able to offer this service to people who might not be able to afford it," she explained.

Candy prices start at 25 cents for a tiny chocolate book. The high-end merchandise includes a 5 1/2 -ounce box of chocolate peanut butter cups for $10. A get-well basket filled with a stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh and candy runs $25.

Some older members of the community were skeptical about the project at first, Bourne conceded.

"They thought, "Oh my gosh, running a candy store in our house?' It's so different for them," she said.

But as the business started, interest grew.

"Now the older sisters will buy a box of candy before dinner to share with the others," she said.

Copyright (c) 2001 The Herald Company