by Manuel Casias
He sat quietly and unassumingly. Although he had a limited vocabulary, his shivers on one of the coldest days of the year spoke volumes.
A wandering little pilgrim at St. Felix Pantry in Rio Rancho, NM, named Juanito was cold, and the thin wind-breaker he was wearing was hardly sufficient enough to keep him warm. I just happened to walk by when I noticed him and immediately called out. “Who does this child belong to?” I asked. His mother, who spoke broken English, told me that he was her little boy. I did not ask if he had another coat at home; rather, I simply smiled and told her that a coat had just come in for little Juanito and we were waiting for him to come in and get it. Confused and surprised, Juanito’s mom said, with incredible humility, Gracias.
This story is not uncommon at St. Felix Pantry where clothing is also provided to many families in need. In fact, just as many families who get food weekly from the Pantry also receive much-needed clothing from the Pantry’s clothing bank. From my perspective, it is hard to imagine little Juanito and other children like him in our neighborhood being cold, especially if they live just down the street from the Pantry.
This event reminded me of one of New Mexico’s oldest stories about the Santo Nino De Atocha (the infant child of Prague, the wandering little pilgrim) who sits in an old historic pilgrimage site in Northern New Mexico. Throughout the years, people from all over this great state have brought the small statue of Jesus shoes, coats, and a variety of things to wear as he goes out into New Mexico’s countryside performing miracles nightly. In ministry, we often tell people to accept strangers as though they were friends. You never know when Jesus will pay a visit. Warm and smiling, the wandering little pilgrim Juanito is indeed a new friend of Felix.
Was it Jesus visiting the Pantry’s clothing bank, cold, shivering, and hoping that we would tend to his needs? We will never know. What we do know is that St. Felix Pantry reaches out to all of its neighbors, big and small, during their neediest moments.
For Juanito, he spent the rest of that day warm and well-fed as all children should during these cold winter days. This is the hope that St. Felix provides to individuals like Juanito and families in need throughout the neighborhoods it serves all year long. The miracle provided us this day was the assurance and confirmation that St. Felix Pantry continues to respond with compassion and the work we do every day has sacred purpose.
Annually, St. Felix Pantry makes clothing available to nearly 6,000 families whose households range from one member to several members where many of them are children. Just recently, St. Felix Pantry partnered with the Rio Rancho Baptist church, sending clothing to 60 families in Juarez, Mexico, which is approximately seven hours south of St. Felix pantry.
We serve a God without borders and boundaries. Some of the neighborhoods we serve are seven hours away.
After serving 14 years as President of Madonna University, Sister Rose Marie will retire at the end of June 2015.
The reception offered University administrators and staff, Board members, Felician Sisters, and friends the opportunity to share memories and rejoice in the many blessings and accomplishments that have been a part of Sister Rose Marie’s legacy.
Following the opening prayer, Andrea Nodge, vice president, University Advancement, welcomed the crowd to “an entertaining program about one of our favorite people.”
In her remarks describing Sister Rose Marie’s legacy of achievement, SM Christopher Moore, provincial minister, said, “Sister Rose Marie’s ministry here at Madonna is a beautiful incarnation of the spirit of our beloved foundress, Blessed Mary Angela, whose boundless love of God and surrender to God’s will in compassionate service and total availability is what each Felician Sister strives to imitate.
The Honorable Michael Talbot, Chair, Board of Trustees, said he came to know Sister Rose Marie as the principal and chief cheerleader of Madonna University. He noted the challenges facing higher education across the country and said, “Sister Rose Marie has been living her prayer life and it’s been a lesson for me.” He announced that a rose garden outside the Franciscan Center–The Sister Rose Marie Kujawa Rose Garden–would be dedicated in her honor.
In a video entitled “Remember and Rejoice,” individuals and groups from various segments of the University community expressed their appreciation to Sister Rose Marie and also took advantage of the opportunity to say goodbye.
Jack Kirksey, mayor of the city of Livonia, was last but certainly not least among the individuals expressing gratitude, not only for Sister Rose Marie’s accomplishments at Madonna, but also for her innovative community outreach programs, building partnerships and alliances.
Just before the conclusion of the program, when Sister Rose Marie took the podium, she said “These accomplishments are not mine alone. Rather, it is about all of us working together.” She continued, “This is an event of family,” and then credited her birth family, Felician family, Madonna University family, and Livonia family for the blessings of the past 14 years.
The Felician Sisters, being an international congregation, minister to people all over the world in many and varied ways. A current update to our Ministry page gives a link to our sisters in our provinces in Poland. The featured ministry for the month of January is our sisters in Kenya, a ministry of our Warsaw province.
Forty priests, sisters, lay ministers and staff gathered for a day of business and two days of conferences. Father Raymond F. Dlugos, OSA, from Philadelphia, PA, shared his reflections on “Maintaining Passion for Mission: Faith, Hope, and Love in Response to Disillusionment.” According to SM Lee Przybylski, the participants left for their missions uplifted by his words and with an increased feeling of camaraderie.
Sister Lee said that the previous bishop, Archbishop Murray Chatlain, joined the group for an evening of sharing. “All enjoyed his presence and words of encouragement to continue our work with the people in the North. He asked us to pray for the speedy appointment of a new bishop to lead the diocese.”
SM Celeste Goulet and Sister Lee enjoyed an extra day together. They took care of dentist appointments, enjoyed a treat at Tim Horton’s from SM Celestine Giertych, minister general, as well as an evening of praying and sharing together, and shopped for preschool needs. Sister Lee said, “It was a short but joyous time of being together in community.”
Lwanj pou Jezi! So much has been happening this past month while in the States. Because of your prayers and support, we can continue the mission in Haiti. During the month of August, we participated in a few Provincial meetings. We spoke with our sisters in the Central Convent in Chicago, where we experienced support as our sisters realized they are on this mission also. Next we went to Beaver Falls, our Provincial House, where we met for a meeting on the theme: Haiti: The Next Chapter. (more)
“This is a new world and much to get used to. I just got a computer for my office at work and it’s Windows 7 — many new things to get used to. Yesterday all was fine, but today I didn’t know how to turn it off!!!
I have to humble myself and ask soooo many questions. I was given a car that runs and gets me to work in about 15 minutes. Very little traffic, but the roads are uneven — hard to explain.
“My log cabin is a bit larger than my accommodations in Nicktown, but very comfortable”
We will he hearing from her with more news and adventures as she continues to get situated and wait for the new bishop to be announced.
Sister Mary Lee Przybylski