Sr. Francelita shares her correspondence, a vital aspect of her ministry.
One must not think that a person who is suffering is not praying. He is offering up his sufferings to God, and many a time he is praying much more truly than one who goes away by himself and meditates his head off, and, if he has squeezed out a few tears, thinks that is prayer.-St. Teresa of Avila
Perhaps one of the most powerful ministries of the Felician Sisters happens in quiet moments of contemplation — the ministry of prayer. While prayer is an integral part of the lives of all Felician Sisters, many who are physically unable to participate in external ministries focus their energy and dedicate their days to active prayer for their sisters and for the intentions of the world.
Sr. Noel Marie Gabriel, director of clinical services for the Felician Sisters of North America, describes the ministry of prayer as “a ministry of spiritual power and energy. We call our sisters who have the ministry of prayer and redemptive suffering our ‘powerhouses of prayer,’ because they’ve turned their physical energy into a spiritual energy of prayer.”
The Felician Sisters are a contemplative-active community, which means that their prayer life nourishes and directs their life in ministry. “Without the prayerful support of the sisters,” said Sr. Mary Christopher Moore, provincial minister of the Felician Sisters of North America, “there would be no ministries in which to serve. The ministry of prayer is the backbone of all we accomplish as Felician Sisters.”
For some, the idea of leaving an external or “active” ministry can be humbling. Women who once spent their days ministering in schools, parishes, dioceses, food pantries, homeless shelters, and other social services find themselves having to step back and focus on the contemplative nature of their vocation.
“We always talk about active ministry — active sisters and retired sisters — and that never sat well with me,” said Sr. Mary Andrew Budinski, local minister of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Convent in Livonia, MI, “because we’re all active until we take our last breath — and prayer is the most active ministry.”
In the isolation of care centers and convents, many sisters themselves don’t realize how important their role in the ministry of prayer truly is. Sr. Andrew said, “I keep telling the sisters, when they say, ‘Oh, I can just pray for you.’ I say, ‘Do you know what a grace that is for the world?’ These sisters who are praying are really involved and they are suffering. I say to them, ‘Sisters, you’re touching the whole world with your pain, with your prayers.’ There is a lot of ministry going on within these walls.”
Sr. Mary Raymond Kasprzak, who currently resides at Blessed Mary Angela (BMA) Convent in Buffalo, NY, has found joy in her ministry by caring for those who are caring for her. “I did a lot of listening at the rehab centers,” she said, “because sometimes people, when they were taking care of you, they just needed to talk about things.”
Sr. Mary Francelita Machnica, also a resident of BMA Convent, describes her ministry as a reciprocal relationship, saying, “It is part of my life to serve others and to pray for others, because I can’t get along without them, and they can’t get along without me. We complement each other by praying for each other, even if I can’t help them in any other way. Prayer is the highlight of my life.”
“Our ministry of prayer is important to all of us, but especially to our elder sisters who physically cannot contribute to active ministry,” said Sr. Noel. “That’s their giving back, their continuing to care for others.”
Unfortunately, sisters in a ministry of prayer rarely get to see the impact they have. They must persist largely without relying on external reassurances. “Perhaps the greatest joy for a sister in the ministry of prayer is to learn that her prayer has been answered,” said Sr. Noel. “When we hear that a person is grateful to the sisters, we’ll go to them and say, ‘You prayed for this person, and she had an answer to her prayer. She sent a thank you note for being prayed for,’ because that spiritual energy goes far.”
Without Prayer nothing good is done. God’s works are done with our hands joined, and on our knees. Even when we run, we must remain spiritually kneeling before Him.-Blessed Luigi Orione
The Felician Sisters receive prayer requests every day, and they do not take on these intentions lightly. “Our sisters pray much more than we even realize — when you ask for prayer, you’ll get prayer,” said Sr. Noel. “We have daily prayer intentions for the needs of the world, for peace and justice needs. We have special intentions every day that we pray out loud. We pray for our sick by name. We pray for people who ask us for prayers. We say their names out loud in our common prayer in the morning and evening, so they’re consciously, audibly remembered.”
The Felician Sisters in a ministry of prayer continue to persevere in praying for the needs of our world, but they also remember to give thanks. “Because sometimes God gets tired of listening to my woes,” said Sr. Mary Ursuline Hilinski, resident of BMA Convent,“and so I stop telling him my woes and I just tell him what makes me happy — and he likes that.”
The ministry of prayer is the backbone of all we accomplish.-Sr. Mary Christopher Moore