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A Mosaic of a Sister of Mercy

October 30, 2011

By Sister Anne P.

Sister Frances de Chantal was like a mosaic of a beautiful woman sculpted in tesserae of bright colors. Each piece showed a part of her—Sister of Mercy devoted to Our Blessed Mother; lover of children, especially the poor; beloved family member; extraordinary teacher, principal, administrator; musician; poet; happy extrovert; friend to all; universally loved. The most repeated pieces represent her compassion, her dedication and her genuine concern for the people of St. James Parish, Steelton, Pa., where she ministered more than 30 years.

Most people saw only a small part of the mosaic. Frances didn’t discuss her talents and activities. Quick and decisive, she could write a poem in an hour and prepare a school production in a week. She was tireless in working with children, often spending evenings in the convent making bracelets or cookies or other treats for youngsters who rarely received goodies. She planned and directed children’s programs, being sure to include everyone, singers and monotones, dancers and the clumsy, perhaps remembering her own vocal solos at similar events in grade school. Her Christmas and Easter pageants rivaled professional productions.

Frances was much like Catherine McAuley, retaining intimate ties with family and friends. Her Jewish audiologist took pictures for her of Christian sites when he visited Israel. Her cardiologist, a former student, brought balloons to cheer her when he came to attend her in the hospital. For 18 years, Frances cared for her mother and moved her into the convent for the last two months of her life.

She was considered the rock and guru of the family. She shared Ukranian family traditions like the Christmas Eve meal and the Easter morning breakfast, which she prepared herself. One grand-niece immortalized her beloved great-aunt on Facebook by reciting memories with her friends who shared with their friends, whose friends carried on the thread.

Being a Sister of Mercy was primary for Frances. Her “ABCs of Mercy” indicate deep reflection on her vocation.

Her mosaic was a circle around Our Blessed Mother. She joined the community on Mary’s birthday, Sept. 8, 1952, and died on Oct. 7, 2011, the feast of the Holy Rosary. Like Mary, despite her many gifts, Frances was humble, directing attention to others, not to herself, so when Our Lady came to lead her home, they could say together, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

That is the last piece in the mosaic of Frances life.

A. B. Cs OF MERCY

A – ADVENTURE OF MERCY

B – BAGGOT STREET – FIRST MERCY CONVENT

C – CATHERINE – BRAVE HEARTED FOUNDRESS

D – DUBLIN – WHERE THE FIRST CONVENT WAS ESTABLISHED

E – ENDEAVORS TO HELP THE POOR

F – FOUNDATIONS SPREAD THROUGHOUT THE WORLD

G – GENEROSITY OF CATHERINE SHOWN IN THE FACT THAT HER INHERITANCE WAS COMMITTED ENTIRELY TO THE POOR OF DUBLIN

H – HOSPITALITY – A GREAT VIRTUE PRACTICED

I – IRELAND – BIRTHPLACE OF CATHERINE McAULEY AND THE SISTERS OF MERCY

J – JOY – PERMEATED THE EARLY COMMUNITIES

K – KITTY’S FOLLY – CATHERINE’S PLAN FOR THE MISSION OF THE BAGGOT STREET PROPERTY

L – LOVE – THE UNIFYING BOND BETWEEN SISTERS

M – MINISTRY OF THE COMMUNITY TO THE POOR, SICK, AND IGNORANT

N – NURTURE BY PRAYER AND AN INNER LIFE WHILE SERVING GOD’S PEOPLE WAS A PRIME VISION OF CATHERINE.

O – OBSERVATION OF THE LAW OF CHARITY WAS A MAJOR GOAL OF CATHERINE.

P – PITTSBURGH – FIRST UNITED STATES FOUNDATION

Q – QUAKER HOUSEHOLD – THE CALLAGHAN’S COOLOCK ESTATE WHERE CATHERINE REMAINED FOR 20 YEARS

R – RESPECT FOR WOMEN’S TALENTS HELPED SHAPE IDEALS OF CATHERINE.

S – SIMPLICITY OF LIFE IS A MARK OF A SISTER OF MERCY.

T – TEACHER – EACH SISTER IS A TEACHER BY THE EXAMPLE OF HER LIFE.

U – UNITED STATES FOUNDATION – 148 YEARS AGO

V – VOWS – 3 EVANGELICAL VOWS AND THE SERVICE OF THE POOR, SICK, AND IGNORANT AND PERSEVERANCE UNTIL DEATH

W – MARY FRANCES WARDE -TRUE AMERICAN PIONEER

X – EXPLORATION OF MOTHER McAULEY’S LIFE.

Y – YEARNING FOR A CLOSENESS WITH THE DIVINE BRIDEGROOM

Z – ZEAL AND MORE ZEAL FOR THE LORD’S CHILDREN MARKED THE FIRST SISTERS OF MERCY.

(Compiled by Sister Frances de Chantal, R.S.M. – 1979)

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