By Sister Ann Carmen Barone, OSF, Vice President for Mission and Ministry
The world is my cloister
a. A place, especially a monastery or convent, devoted to religious seclusion.
b. A square enclosure surrounded by covered walkways.
For Francis of Assisi the world was the place that was his home, the sky served to expand his vision, and the dirt and stony paths shaded by trees were his walkways. And those walkways led him to meet Christ at every turn.
Francis sought out time for prayer and reflection and that led him back to proclaiming the good news of God's love to whoever shared the path. Franciscans continue to embrace the world and its peoples, our sisters and brothers. The invitation to turn to God is given in our own backyards, in neighborhoods and farther afield.
The Sylvania Franciscans have an interesting history that sought to partner and collaborate in this missionary call from South America, to Central America, to Africa.
Below is just one of the stories. (Read more stories here.)
Honduras, Central America 1979–1983, 1983–1985
Sister Ethelbert (Ethel) Solnick used her skills as a medical technologist and her "hobby" in her mission work. She was "bitten" by a fascination with becoming a radio amateur when she became friends with a patient in North Platte, Nebraska.
He began teaching her about the equipment, the techniques and the requirements for getting licensed. Several transfers to other places of ministry put her dream on hold until she was stationed in Sandusky, Ohio.
Sister Jeanne Stack knew someone with experience in the ham radio world and encouraged Sister Ethel to dust off the dream. Finally Sister Ethel took on a new "name" (WB8GWE) and read the letters as confirmation that God Wants Ethel.
She was able to hone her professional skills and creativity along with her experience as a ham radio operator to serve the people in Leonardo Martinez Valenzuela's Hospital. There she created a microbiology lab and hit the air waves seeking needed supplies, financial donations, and the means to deliver supplies quickly and cheaply.
Those who knew her as quiet and shy had no idea how strongly she could speak out for anything that could help improve health care for those in need. She laughed that had turned into quite a "ham" and one newspaper headline identified her as A "Ham" with a heart.
When she moved to La Lima Cortes, Honduras in 1983 she wrote home, "Our hospital is light years away from hospitals as you think of them. In Scripture we hear of the poor who take the gleanings after the harvest. Here the poor can't get to the fields. We have to bring supplies to them." (Read the the bulletin published in a 1980 Toledo newsletter.)
Later she went on to write, "We all love life and want to be healthy. The people of San Pedro Sula are equally deserving of the gift of life."
Connecting to today
Truth is stranger than fiction. Would you believe that we at Lourdes University have had a more recent connection with the people of Honduras?
In March 2013 as part of a Spring Break outreach project, 8 members of the Lourdes community (1 faculty, 1 alumna, 6 students) volunteered through International Samaritan to travel to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. They spent the week getting to know the families who live and "work" in a local garbage dump community.
The students did manual labor, worked with children in a local school, and some who had a nursing background volunteered at the Richard Flasck Medical Center.
The project was spearheaded by then-senior Michael LaValley. Both Mike and Aileen Santry, now alumni, served as the student leaders of the project. Thanks to them and the rest of the team – Holly Baumgartner (faculty), Karl (Joe) Beer, Xavien Cohen, Eucinia Liddell, Francisca Rodriguez and Anna Stoiber (alumna) – for their generosity of heart and pocket.
This generosity necessitated some careful planning. Each visitor has to pay $40, in American money, to leave Honduras. Our faculty leader was wise enough to collect and keep the needed sum after the team members funded several surgical procedures and purchased much needed commode for the school. The team will not be taking simple pleasures and comfort for granted.
Read more stories about the Sisters of St. Francis