Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Community Spirit of Franciscan Sisters

SHS members visit Heritage Room
of Franciscan Sisters on Lourdes campus;
decorative features, tile, arabic lamp; top right,
Gaye Gindy & Sandy Gratop with
sister Rosamond (red dress/white jacket);
nd mingling. 
The Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio, are a remarkable group of women.  They built their first Mediterranean-style building on a beautiful plot of farmland and forest in Sylvania a few years after Mother Mary Angelica was called from Minnesota to Toledo in 1916.  They decorated everything they built with tiles, murals and art they themselves created.  They used imported lamps and furnishings from the Holy Land; brought in more nuns with special expertise in health, education, social work, and environment; had sculptors build beautiful statues of St. Francis of Assisi, who founded the order in the 12th century, one adorned with his beloved animals.  They created special places for the nuns to meditate and pray; two beautiful chapels, one a replica of the chapel of St. Francis of Assisi; lovely gardens; and a higher education institution, Lourdes College, all on the evolving and stunning campus.

Sister Rosamond talks about Heritage 
 Room focusing on the history and 
work of the Franciscan Sisters, 
on  Lourdes University campus. 
Photo, Sandy Gratop.
They continue to expand, growing the college into a fine University; buying and managing properties to house students and others; adding modern assisted-living homes for the elderly nuns and for people living in the area. They have a range of volunteer projects that they develop in partnership with other community groups and institutions, putting into action their mission of "embracing peace, serving the poor and marginalized, and showing reverence for human dignity and the gifts of all creation."

These nuns are not simply "old school."  They are contemporary, creative, energetic.  They understand leadership and marketing. They understand and are fully engaged in the world they live in and want to make it better for all people. They go nonstop.  They grasp new opportunities; welcome change; reach out.

Now they have created a "Heritage Room"  to preserve their own history, share it with others, and prepare for their 100-year anniversary in 2016.  Historian Gaye E. Gindy, co-author with Trini L. Wenninger of "Sylvania" (Images of America Series, Arcadia publishing), is helping the Sisters tell their story. 

SHS Members at the 
 Heritage Room. 
Photos: Sandy Gratop
Gaye told me she is now into the 1920 census to track the membership of the Sylvania Franciscan order and its parishioners.  "Very difficult," she said, "because most of the names are Polish and handwritten by the census taker, nearly impossible to decipher:"  Gaye's plowing ahead with her research and writing; the second volume of an 8-volume series about Sylvania and area history is due out soon.

About 20 members of the Sylvania Area Historical Society (SHS) gathered for a tour of the Heritage Room last week.  Sister Rosamond, a spry 60-something whose knowledge is vast and whose enthusiasm is contagious, gave a lively talk sprinkled with lots of her own memories and good humor.   The Heritage Room has artifacts, documents, memorabilia, photographs, and original art, all nicely exhibited, along with three large video screens, always running, focusing on the history of the Franciscan Sisters who built the order and made Lourdes University and the campus what it is today.

The Franciscan sisters are an integral part of the Sylvania community.  This community has a strong sense of place, many talented people, and involved citizens who care about its past, present and future.   It's a good place to be.
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