A Yorktown, Virginia woman recently recommitted to three more years of service with the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities as a Franciscan Associate, at the grand age of 97!
Genevieve Graham is the oldest member of the more than 250 Franciscan Associates who are located throughout the U.S. She joined when the program was first established in eastern Virginia in 2003. Associates are women and men who commit to the values of St. Francis of Assisi and assist the sisters in their ministries with the poor, the elderly and the young.
Graham said she heard about the program at a difficult time in her life. “I had just lost my best friend of 52 years, when a friend invited me to learn about the program,” she said. She and six other candidates completed a year-long formation process during which they learned about the life and values of Sts. Francis and Clare of Assisi. In 2005, the new associates celebrated their first three-year commitment ceremony and dedicated themselves to the Franciscan way of life and the mission of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.
Through their common Franciscan bond, members of the group strive to help others in need. One joint effort of the group is a monthly giving project which provides food and clothing for a single mother and her family of three in Kenya, Africa.
“I think I’ve been a Franciscan at heart all of my life,” Graham said. Like Francis, the patron saint of the environment, Genevieve is also concerned for the natural world and makes a daily effort to recycle and be frugal with natural resources. “I lead a very simple life,” says Genevieve. “If I was 50 years younger, I would become a (vowed religious) sister!”
At a recent recommitment ceremony at Our Lady of Mount Caramel Church in Newport News, which is celebrated by associates every three years, Genevieve joyfully exclaimed that she is looking forward to the next recommitment ceremony when she will be 100 years old!
The Franciscan Associate program is an engaging way for women and men to pray, grow, serve and share in the mission and spirit of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities while maintaining their individual lifestyles.