The Franciscan Sisters Third Order Regular of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother
This growing new Community’s Motherhouse is in Toronto, Ohio. The Sisters also have two houses in Steubenville, Ohio and one in Gaming, Austria. In this exclusive interview, Mother Katherine Caldwell and Sister Della Marie Doyle, Director of Vocations, give Regina Magazine readers an intimate look inside their Community.
August 15th, 2013 is the 25th Anniversary of our founding as a religious community. We are so grateful to the Lord for creating us and sustaining us as a community these past 25 years! This video describes our history and a little bit about our life of prayer, fraternity, and ministry that the Lord has inspired for the Church and the world. It was put together during this 25th year with the help of a dear friend of the community, Stephanie Stewart, who did most of the filming and editing. Thank you Stephanie and thank you to all who have made our life possible! With Our Lady, our “souls proclaim the greatness of the Lord and our spirits rejoice in God our Savior”.
Mother Katherine Caldwell, you are a founding member of this new Community. What is your foundation and mission?
As a Franciscan contemplative-active religious community, established August 15, 1988, we were founded to renew the emphasis of prayer that was so central in the lives of St. Francis and his early followers, and is so essential for the renewal of our Christian culture and Catholic faith today.
From our life of prayer flows the heart of our mission to make known God’s merciful love to the poor, the sick and those in need of evangelization and to renew the fullness of Catholic life through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, thus following the pattern of Christ and His servant Francis in preaching by both word and deed.
Twenty years ago the youth were formed by the culture of MTV, movies, television, and other distractions. This, coupled with poor faith formation, has led to a crisis of faith and moral decay.
Q. Tell us about the founding of your Community.
People often ask me why I was part of starting a new community. I must admit that if I was not 100% convinced that this was God’s call and will for my life, I would have given up years ago for it would have been much easier to join an existing congregation.
I can still remember when I received this call. While I had a love and desire to serve the poor, the grace of the contemplative life was so strong that I thought I was called to be a cloistered Poor Clare (given solely to a life of prayer), but God spoke so clearly in my heart that I was called to be a contemplative in the world that I could not doubt His call.
He then drew me to scriptures that confirmed this call. Later, I realized that these were the same scriptures given to Francis when he was discerning whether to be purely contemplative or to also preach.
THE SISTERS PRAY a minimum of five hours each day.
Q. Can you tell us a little about the Community’s prayer life?
It is the combination of a fervent life of prayer, at least 5 hours of prayer each day, works of mercy and a vibrant and caring fraternal life that makes our life a wonderful gift not only to our sisters, but I believe for the Church and for the world.
While we are blessed to hear about many answered prayers, people being touched by our caring presence or the hope our joyful sisterhood brings, we will only know fully in heaven the difference our consecrated life has made for the salvation of souls, our spiritual children.
I recently had a friend of the community do a little math to point out to me in a concrete way the amount of prayer that we are offering to honor and praise God and to pray for others. In one day our sisters (31 of us) offer 155 hours of prayer, 1085 hours per week, 4,659 hours per month, and 56,420 hours per year. All to glorify God and to make known His Merciful love! (Editor’s Note: The sisters have since gained six more members.)
By embracing the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience—forsaking the treasures of this world—we strive to give witness to the abundant love of God.
Q. Sister Della Marie, what sort of work do your sisters perform?
Our ministry and work flow from our life of prayer. Prayer itself is an apostolate for us. Some of the ministries we are involved in are: Serving those in need through a thrift shop, emergency food bank and a soup kitchen. We also serve on college campuses in evangelization, women’s ministry, leadership training, retreats, talks, and spiritual direction. Our Sisters also visit residents at a nursing home. Periodically we give talks and retreats at parishes or church groups. Our Vocation outreach consists in giving talks about religious life, discernment retreats, and presence at vocation fairs, local colleges, and high schools.
Q. Mother, can you tell us a little about your Community’s spirituality?
With grateful hearts, we recognize our consecration as the initiative and gift of the Father, our response of love to Christ whose love has captured our hearts and the Holy Spirit who has graced us to give ourselves to God who has given Himself totally to us.
By embracing the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience—forsaking the treasures of this world—we strive to give witness to the abundant love of God in this life, the priority of His kingdom, and the fullness of life and glory that awaits the faithful in heaven, when we will meet Christ our Bridegroom face to face.
Our life, rooted in our Catholic and Franciscan spirituality, flows from the dynamic love relationship within the three Persons of the Trinity, is centered in Christ, is animated and guided by the Holy Spirit, finds its source of strength in the Eucharist, and is modeled after Mary, especially under the title ‘Our Mother of Sorrows.’
“Despite our culture that is far from Christian, there is hope. The youth of our times know what emptiness is and they long for love, meaning, purpose, and truth.”
MOTHER KATHERINE CALDWELL: “I must admit that if I was not 100% convinced that this was God’s call and will for my life, I would have given up years ago.”
Q. Sister Della Marie, as Vocations Director, you are best placed to give us some perspective on vocations. What do you think draws young women to your order?
We are experiencing gradual growth and we are very grateful to the Lord’s generosity in blessing us with vocations. We are becoming more well known through social media especially Facebook and this has increased vocational interest. Also, I believe that the construction of our chapel in our motherhouse has given our community greater stability and space to welcome vocations. The size of our candidate classes are beginning to increase.
I believe what attracts women to our community is the authentic joy they see in our Sisters. This joy is a fruit of our life rooted in the Sacraments and in prayer, especially in daily Eucharistic Adoration. Our time of communal prayer brings unity and shared vision to our life in community and from this flows the witness of joy and the ability to see Christ and uphold the dignity of all those we serve.
The youth of today with internet available 24/7 on their phones have far greater moral temptation than 20 years ago especially in regards to pornography. Pornography is an epidemic that extinguishes the capacity of persons to give of themselves selflessly. Therefore, many are incapable of being in relationship with others; they are incapable of love, and they are incredibly lonely and lost.
Q. How would you characterize the formation of young Catholics these days – as opposed to 20 years ago? Any reason for hope?
The youth of our times are much more formed by social media than the youth of 20 years ago. There has been poor catechesis for a long time. I think this is changing and this will make a difference for the youth of today. Twenty years ago the youth were formed by the culture of MTV, movies, television, and other distractions. This, coupled with poor faith formation, has led to a crisis of faith and moral decay. The youth of today with internet available 24/7 on their phones have far greater moral temptation than 20 years ago especially in regards to pornography. Pornography is an epidemic that extinguishes the capacity of persons to give of themselves selflessly. Therefore, many are incapable of being in relationship with others; they are incapable of love, and they are incredibly lonely and lost.
Despite our culture that is far from Christian, there is hope. The youth of our times know what emptiness is and they long for love, meaning, purpose, and truth. There are many who are proclaiming truth to the youth and they are embracing it. The harvest is plenty and we need to continually pray for more laborers. Every Christian is called to be a witness and to labor for souls. The world needs Christians who are in love with Jesus and who are willing to lay down their lives for their neighbors. We need to be constantly in tune with the Holy Spirit, so we will know how to love in every circumstance and give witness to the Truth. The Truth will attract the youth of our times and will form them in Love.
Q. Mother, how can young women with an interest in your community learn more?
A good first step might be to read about how other sisters found their way to us and of course, Sister Della Marie, our vocations director is always available to speak with!
You can make a tax deductible donation to the sisters here
It is at the foot of the cross that we fully experience the love and mercy of our God flowing from the pierced Heart of Christ and find the strength to give ourselves totally to Him and His people in love.