We are pleased to be a part of National Catholic Sisters Week (March 8-14), an annual celebration that honors women religious. A series of events, sponsored by grants from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, will take place across the country.
For the seventh consecutive year, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities together with five communities of women religious participated in one of the country’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Saturday, March 11.
Photos from the Parade
Learn more about National Catholic Sisters Week >
Sisters to All
By Sister Caryn Crook
“Rooted in the Gospel we are sisters to all, serving with reverence, justice and compassion.” The Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities have expressed this mission statement in many ways since the congregation’s beginnings in Philadelphia in 1855. While the ways that we live and minister have adapted to the changing needs of the world and the Church over the past 162 years, our mission has remained strong.
The three courageous immigrant women who formed this congregation had little idea what would be accomplished when they said yes to God’s call. They began by providing lodging and food to immigrant women who were settling in the neighborhood. As more women took vows and joined the congregation, we expanded our ministries and established hospitals and schools. Franciscan Friars asked if the sisters could assist them in providing assistance to German immigrants in Syracuse. From these three courageous women would come six congregations of women religious, hospitals, schools, orphanages, nursing homes, retreat centers, and ministries to the poor and marginalized. Our ministries would reach far beyond central New York to other states, and Puerto Rico, Kenya, and Peru. Thousands of women entered religious life as sisters in this community; one, Mother Marianne Cope, was canonized a saint.
Today, we continue to help those who are poor find lodging, food, clothing and healthcare. We address the spiritual needs of people as chaplains in hospitals, long term care facilities, detention centers, and homes for the dying and as spiritual directors in parishes. Education also remains an important ministry for the congregation and our sisters are principals, teachers, and assistants as well as school social workers. Many sisters minister in parish settings as pastoral associates, faith formation leaders and parish outreach coordinators.
Among the social justice issues that we address are human trafficking, immigration and care for creation. We use social media to educate ourselves, supporters, policymakers and the general public about human trafficking, to help people recognize the signs that someone is being trafficked and to identify resource centers for victims. We monitor human trafficking-related state and federal legislation and issue calls to action when appropriate.
Part of our care for creation work involves addressing food insecurity — the lack of reliable access to regular sources of affordable, nutritious food. Sister Anne McNulty is the coordinator of an urban garden on the site of a former residential housing complex. Last summer, in collaboration with the Brady Faith Center, the farm provided healthy food for those in need living on Syracuse’s south side.
Our sisters continue to support those who come to this country in search of a better life for themselves and their children. Sisters Beth Niederpruem and Mary Reichelderfer work with Vive, which provides lodging, food, clothing, counseling, and legal assistance to individuals and families seeking asylum in the U.S. and Canada. Sister Suzanne Susany is an immigration attorney, working to ensure that newcomers to our nation have access to due process of law.
The Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities continue to seek women who want to grow in relationship with God, serve God’s people, and live our mission. When sisters trust in God and pool their spiritual, mental, physical, and financial resources, much can be accomplished.