Frances Acosta believes the world needs more people who live like St. Francis. “It’s living the gospel in everything you do,” says this Franciscan Associate from Yonkers, New York. “Looking at people in the way Jesus would look at them.”
As a member of the Third Order Secular Franciscan community, Frances vowed to pattern her life after Jesus and St. Francis of Assisi. As co-director of the Franciscan Associate program in the East Coast region, she lives and serves others in the spirit of Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.
She does this in myriad ways. As the new campus minister and chairperson of the theology department at Sacred Heart High School in Yonkers, Frances helps students and teachers alike to discover the Franciscan way of life. This fall, she is leading a Franciscan retreat for teachers; for the week leading up to St. Francis’ Oct. 4 feast day, she is hosting an education program on his Transitus — his passing from life on earth to eternal life. She also plans to help students and teachers at the Sacred Heart grade school learn more about the lives of Sts. Francis and Clare. “My hope is to really bring the Franciscan tradition into the walls of the school… and to the entire campus,” she says.
As a theology teacher, Frances strives to help students experience God. “Faith is an experience,” she says. “It’s a conversation with God, and the students have to continue that conversation.”
Frances describes herself as a sower of seeds. “My job is to plant the seed and hopefully watch it grow,” she says. “This is a time when students are trying to identify who they are, so I’m hoping to have them look in the mirror and see Christ, and if they can see Christ, then I did my job.”
“I do believe I was put in this job for a reason and put there at this particular time when I feel the most rooted in my life,” she says.
Two years ago, Frances founded Stella Mundi Franciscan Ministries, where she carries out the mission of Sts. Francis and Clare by providing spiritual direction to and retreats for people of all ages.
Frances grows in her faith by spending time with members of her Franciscan communities. Each month, she gathers both the Secular Franciscans and the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities who live at the Wartburg in Mount Vernon, New York to share in community and conversation. “I look forward to being with the sisters and sharing and crying and laughing together, and being able to assist them,” she says. She hopes to extend this Franciscan ministry of presence: “We’re looking to expand this ministry outward beyond the walls of the nursing home.”
In the silence of the basement at her home, Frances spends many hours praying and writing. “My favorite form of prayer is that conversational one-on-one through writing,” she explains.
“Frances embodies everything there is to be Franciscan,” says Sister Helen Hofmann, congregational Franciscan Associate program director. “And, she just loves sharing everything she has that is Franciscan with others.”
Frances’ Reflections on Hope
I think the center of faith is hope. When I think of St. Francis and walking in his footsteps, he always looked toward Jesus, he always looked toward God and through that came forth his servitude and how he looked at people and how he looked at the world. So to be able to look at the world and people through the eyes of Jesus, there has to be hope in everyone and to relay that hope, you have to give people encouragement, love, and mercy, most of all. Because people are very hard on themselves and they don’t realize how much Jesus loves them.
Frances Prays Hope
Blessed am I —
O Praise be you my Beloved- that you continue to bless me with such honors of the day surrounded by the love of friends and family.
How blessed am I —
To be rooted with such faith and hope, leaping daily to the unknown. Keep me forever in your heart and may my words praise your name. That what I say and do is always your name. May the seeds I plant daily in others through words and deeds fall on good soil so that they may enjoy the harvest of heaven.