The St. Joseph's University Chapel in Philadelphia was filled with strains of Bach and Brahms at this year's AMA Concert, dedicated to the memory of Sr. Francis Joseph. It was Sr. Francis Joseph who, in 1981, established the U.S. chapter of the congregation's lay volunteer program, the Associate Missionaries of the Assumption (AMA).
Violinist Jason DePue, accompanied by pianist Elena Jivaeva, performed music from Sarasate, Bach and Brahms. As is typical at each AMA concert (theorganization's annual fundraiser), a former AMA is invited to share her/his experience of volunteering. This year's speaker was Monica Shea Glick.
Monica served as an AMA in Ponferrada, Spain, from 1993 to 1995, where she taught English in the Assumption school and helped with the parish music ministry. She participated in the Assumption European Pilgrimage in 1994 in Belgium, where she met Sr. Nuala [now provincial of the U.S.] and Christine Franquin [another AMA alum]. In 1996 she went on pilgrimage again with the Assumption Sisters, this time in England. From 1998-2000, Monica lived with five other women in the faith community for young adults sponsored by the Religious of the Assumption : the Cana Community in Worcester. She worked in campus ministry and music ministry at Assumption College and helped prepare and lead student volunteers on trips to Baltimore and Mexico. She also served as an adult ESL teacher at St. Peter's Parish.
We reprint below what Monica shared withthe audience at the concert:
What Sr. Francis Joseph's Life Has to Say to All Ages
Thanks to all of you for coming here today Assumption Sisters, lay affiliates, AMA volunteers, friends and community members. Thanks especially to St. Joseph's University for hosting this event. I am honored and humbled to be here, speaking on behalf of AMA, and in remembrance of Sr. Francis Joseph.
I'd like to take you back to about 1983. My mom took my brother and me to the Social Justice meeting at the convent on Bowman Avenue. I rang the doorbell, and a curly-haired Assumption Sister answered "Come on in, honey."
Ten years later, that sister was my director as an AMA volunteer in training. By then, I thought I knew her pretty well. She was good at facilitating dialogue, good at getting things done, and dedicated to working for justice. So, in the fall of 1993, I was sitting at the dinner table in my AMA placement city of Ponferrada, Spain. The sisters all Spanish - asked me, "So, how's Francis Joseph?" I responded she was doing great, running a successful program, wishing for more sisters, but basically doing fine. Then I asked, "How do you know Sr. Francis?" They told me, "Everyone knows Francis Joseph!" They told me about her efforts towards the Beatification [of Mother Marie Eugenie], and her time in Europe; and I realized that she had touched a lot more lives than I had known. Today, I'd like to share my thoughts on why Sr. Francis Joseph is a role-model for a holy, faith-filled life in all stages of life.
First, I'd like to speak to the young adults here: previous AMA volunteers, or AMAs preparing for service. Your life at this point has both a defined purpose and some room for questioning. Which values, learned through your experiences, will you claim as essential for life? Which will you leave behind? Let Sr. Francis Joseph be your role model. At your age, she pursued her goals vigorously. She completed her B.A., and began her teaching career. She took pride in her work, and therefore gained confidence and satisfaction. This was balanced, on the other hand, by her hunger for holiness. As a young adult, you can follow this example. Identify your goals, apply yourself, and take pride in your work. Gain satisfaction from utilizing your talents with discipline and dedication. At the same time, seek holiness and faithfulness to your personal vocation, whatever that may be.
For young adults, Sr. Francis Joseph also offers an excellent model of a balance between humility and dignity. Volunteers can fall into one of two traps. One is arrogance: "Boy, its a good thing I'm here to help these poor folks move up a couple of notches." The other trap is humiliation: "I'm just a middle-class American who doesnt know much about suffering in the real world, so I'll take whatever direction anyone hands me." Anyone who knew Sister Francis Joseph knows she was humble enough to work hard, listen to direction, and treat missionary work as an exchange among equals. We also could see that she had a healthy self-respect, and a matter-of-fact awareness of her own capabilities. She was able to speak her mind, with consideration for the other person. She wouldn't have denied her talents or achievements, but she would have claimed her work was for God's glory and for the love of His kingdom.
So, how is Sister Francis Joseph a role model for people my age? I'm a 42 year-old woman, a teacher by profession, married ten years, with three children. I see the headlines in women's magazines, and I see images of women in the media. Here's the message: if youre a woman, your youth is your life's peak. Youthful energy beats the wisdom gained from aging. So, according to popular wisdom, Sister Francis Joseph peaked in around 1941. We can enjoy a good hearty laugh, because here's the real timeline: in her early twenties, she began her teaching career. In her mid-thirties, she professed her final vows, in 1955. In her forties, she earned advanced degrees in theology. She worked to establish the Maryville Housing Project in Manila, recognized by the Philippine government for its success. In her fifties, she continued her remarkable life of service and achievement wherever in the world she happened to be. She headed the cause to beatify Mother Marie-Eugenie in 1975, and lived to see her canonization in 2007. She did all of this while being faithful to her religious vocation praying the office, living in community, doing her chores, doing All for Christ. Her life changed dramatically with each international move, with each new role; but she had faith to sustain her through each challenge. She was not afraid of aging, changing, growing.
At 42, my life is dramatically different from when I was 20. I would take back my 20 year-old knees and hair, but other than that, I feel life gets better every year. If I try to be faithful to God in prayer and in living out my own vocation, He blesses me with wisdom and direction, as He certainly did for Sister Francis Joseph. May God bless each of you with courage on your own journeys, and may you remember our friend Sr. Francis when you need inspiration.
Finally, Id like to leave you with a scripture reading. There was a reading at Mass several Sundays ago that reminded me of the work of Sister Francis Joseph, and of the Assumption Sisters. From the Book of Revelation: "After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their handsthe one who sits on the throne will shelter them. They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them. For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." God bless Sister Francis Joseph, and may she rest in peace.
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