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Follow Sylvania Franciscans as they blog about living their mission of joyful service to all people. Each week you can read a new entry from the personal journal of a Sister and how she applies Franciscan values to her ministry and the impact they have on the community where she lives. If you like what you read, comment back. We’re always looking for a good conversation.

Ordinary Times Really Aren’t So Ordinary

By Sister Lois Anne Palkert, OSF

With the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord this past weekend we bid farewell to the Christmas Season and welcome Ordinary Time, the weeks that reflect the normal monotony of life, where most of life is immersed.  As a result, I don’t pay too much attention to my ordinary daily tasks, performing many of them by rote, blinding me to the extraordinary nature of my life. 

In his book The Catholic Imagination, Andrew Greeley reminds us that Catholic tradition offers human beings a deeper and a more expansive vision of life:

“Catholics live in an enchanted world of statues and holy water, stained glass and votive candles, rosary beads and medals. These Catholic paraphernalia are mere hints of a deeper and more pervasive religious sensibility which inclines Catholics to see the holy lurking in creation. As Catholics we find our houses and our world haunted by a sense that the objects, events, and persons of daily life are revelations of grace.”

The world is, in fact a sacrament-revelation of the presence of God made visible in the humblest of objects. What seems ordinary in our day-to-day living is not ordinary at all: everything is “enchanted”.  The stories of our lives seen in the light of the “sacramental imagination” are gifted with meaning and importance, from our first breath to our last.

In her book Mortal Blessing:  A Sacramental Farewell, Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, writer, professor and associate director of the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University, describes the rituals she and her siblings devised, quite unconsciously to deal with the consequences of a broken hip their mother sustained as a result of a fall. The break would ultimately lead to the death of their mother 48 days later. 

In her book, O’Donnell refers to an essay: “Sacraments” by Catholic fiction writer Andre Dubus. Dubus, wheelchair bound –the result of an accident, describes in detail the ordinary process of making sandwiches for his school age children. His limited range of motion required him to develop elaborate methods for accomplishing simple tasks. These ordinary actions, performed slowly and deliberately took on the quality of ritual, providing him the opportunity to ponder both the practical ends they accomplished and the greater meaning that lay beyond them.

Dubus’ ordinary task of feeding his children and each our daily ordinary tasks are a kind of sacrament, an outward sign of God’s love. As a student of the Baltimore Catechism, I dutifully memorized the definition of sacrament and could name all seven. O’Donnell’s experience of caring for her mother led her to propose that “there are seven times seventy sacraments to infinity.” Did not Francis of Assisi recognize all of creation as an outward sign of God’s presence and love?

During the 48 days she cared for a dependent parent, O’Donnell was able to experience and recognize the sacred in the mundane. The “Sacrament of the Pie” became a daily ritual. She and her siblings would process to their mother’s room each evening with the pie of the day which was ceremonially uncovered and fed to their mother, who would savor each bite. After eating the slice of pie their mother would pronounce with delight: “Dee-LISH-OUS.”

To O’Donnell and her siblings the ritual “was Eucharist by another name, food for the body and the soul that originates in the infinite generosity of God who came to live among us, that we might have life”.

The sacred ritual “served to circumscribe the sacred relationship between mother and child, embracing our shared past even as it unfolded in the present moment,” said O’Donnell. “Through the agency of pie, I was offering my mother everything I had unconsciously withheld from her for years: understanding, compassion, forgiveness and yes, even love. Her “delicious” served as “Amen” acknowledging:  I know, I forgive, I’ve always loved you.”

During these days of “ordinary time” may we, like Francis of Assisi, be attentive to God’s presence in each daily event and circumstance.

  1. Re: Ordinary Times Really Aren’t So Ordinary

    Sister Lois Anne, did you teach at Sts Peter and Paul school in Detroit Mi in the 1960's? It's been

    --Susan Bienias Szymanski

  2. Re: Ordinary Times Really Aren’t So Ordinary

    Hello Sister Lois Ann, You were my 8th grade math teacher at Ss. Peter and Paul's in Detroit. Thank


  3. Re: Making the Christmas Story Personal

    Great reflection and prayerful practice to engage in. Thanks for providing a prayer path for us all

    --Sr Julie

  4. Re: Episode Two Recap: Lifetime Series - "The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns"

    In this episode, I felt that the women's youth and emotional outbursts were really on display. I kep

    --Sr Judy Zielinski

  5. Re: Lifetime Launches Sisters Reality TV Show

    Sr. Judy, I so appreciate your perspective. I watched about 1/2 the show and decided to go to bed! T

    --Sr. Sharon Derivan

Meet the Sylvania Franciscan bloggers. We invite you to join us helping the Christian community commit themselves to works that reverence human dignity, embrace the poor and marginalized, and respect the gift of all creation.

Sister Lois Anne Palkert
Health and Human Services

Sister Lois Anne has had the opportunity to serve in a variety of ministries, initially as a teacher in Detroit and Toledo.  She transferred her teaching skills into formation ministry in Sylvania, then to Lourdes College where she was Director of the Lifelong Learning.  She then moved into parish ministry and served as a Director of Faith Formation and as a Pastoral Associate in two rural parishes in Minnesota.    From education she transferred to healthcare ministry and currently serves as the Director of Mission Services at St Joseph Regional Health Center in Bryan, Texas.

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Sister Julie Myers
Religious Vocations

Why did you come to religious life….why do you stay?  As Vocation Minister for the Sisters of St Francis, Sister Julie addresses these simple questions that hold deep meaning and more in her blogging and in her monthly “Letter from the Vocation Minister” found on the Vocation link of the Sister’s Website.  We are all called by God to be our best selves and to serve God in ways far beyond our imagining.  Sister Julie has lived her calling as a Franciscan through the ministries of Vocation Minister, Physical Therapist Assistant, and as Sacristan for the Motherhouse Chapel.

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Sister Nancy Surma
Health and Human Services

Sister Nancy is a native of Detroit and was taught in grade school by the Sylvania Franciscans. Her early years were spent teaching and administering at the junior high and high school level. Life took a turn, as it so often does, and she served as administrator in four different Catholic colleges and universities, earning a doctorate in higher education administration along the way. She currently works for Sylvania Franciscan Health, the Sisters’ sponsored health and human service ministry, in the world of mission integration. Sr. Nancy lives with three other Sisters in a house that is filled with laughter and love.

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Sister Ann Carmen Barone

As Vice President for Mission and Ministry, Sister Ann Carmen Barone is responsible for developing consciousness of the Franciscan mission and for ensuring its implementation and integration into the community of Lourdes. Sister Ann Carmen also supports the other Vice Presidents and the President in their mission-related activities.

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Sister Karen Zielinski
Health and Spirituality 

Karen J. Zielinski, OSF, is a Sylvania Franciscan who has lived with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) since 1975.  She writes, speaks and consults regularly on issues relating to spirituality and health. Her recent book, Hope and Help for Living with Illness (Franciscan Media) discusses chronic disease and coping strategies and is addressed to both caregivers and patients.  Karen also writes a blog on spirituality and wellness--Soul Sister-- for the National MS Society website.

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Sister Nancy Linenkugel
Franciscan in the Marketplace

Sister Nancy Linenkugel has served in healthcare administration, education and leadership for the Sylvania Franciscans.  She is an accomplished cello player and a member of the Washington D.C.-based Medical Music Group, made up of doctors, nurses and medical professionals from around the country.  Sister Nancy is currently the chair of the department of health service administration and director of the graduate program in health services administration at Xavier University in Cincinnati.  She has served on the Sylvania Franciscan Leadership Team, was president of Chatfield College in Cincinnati, president and CEO of the Providence Health System and Providence Hospital in Sandusky, Ohio, and vice president of St. John Medical Center in Steubenville, Ohio.  

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Sister Sharon Havelak
Justice and Peace

Sister Sharon is an artist, educator and long-time peace activist, who currently oversees All Good Things, a store/gallery/gift shop featuring art by the Sisters, handmade soaps and lotions, and Fair Trade products.* She also serves as the coordinator of the Sylvania Franciscan’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation efforts, and teaches art history at Lourdes University. She keeps her creative juices flowing by painting on silk scarves.
* All Good Things gallery is located in our Sylvania Franciscan Village and many of the items are sold on our website.

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Sister Pam Nosbusch
Hospice Chaplain

Sister Pam is native of Hopkinsville, Kentucky.  She is a Chaplain with Gentiva Hospice in Nashville, Tennessee and is a Board Certified Chaplain with the National Association of Catholic Chaplains.  Previous ministries include Theater Arts and Music Education and Pastoral Associate in Catholic parishes.

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Patrick Mills
Spiritual Enrichment

Pat is a husband and father living in Sylvania, Ohio. He has worked many years for Owens Corning in Toledo and elsewhere. He leads programs there for recruiting and developing talent early in their career, primarily for engineering and operations. As Pat and his family moved around the country, he has been blessed to fellowship in Cursillo, Christ Renews His Parish, bible studies and liturgical music ministry. He presently serves on the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania Associate Advisory Board, Chairs the Associate Spiritual Enrichment Committee and is a member of the Expansion Committee for Feed Lucas County Children. Pat is a pilgrim on the journey.

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