News and Events
In This Issue
The Franciscan Spirituality Committee now has a blog! All current and previous reflections can be found there.
Allegany Franciscans Website
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Did you know that a daily reflection is posted on our Facebook page, or that it is also shared with a Portuguese translation by our Sisters in Brazil? Take a look! 
Issue 3.16
August 26, 2015
Here is the schedule for Pope Francis' September 2015 Apostolic Journey
to the United States of America
In what ways are you participating in the activities
of this upcoming Papal Visit?
Remember to take pictures, write and share your experiences with all of us.
Bolivia Anniversary 

   In 1965, four sisters left New York to embark on a new mission in Bolivia, South America, where they arrived on September 7.  About 100 sisters had volunteered for the new mission and four sisters were selected. These included: Sisters Marie Patrice Gallagher, superior and principal of the school; Karen Burns and Rita Frances Guarasci, teachers; and Virginia May, a registered nurse who would operate a dispensary and clinic.
   September 7, 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany's arrival in Bolivia. The Fall 2015 edition of Allegany Connections (due out in September) will celebrate the good works of our Sisters who have served, and are serving, in the country. 
   Below, see photos of the plane that carried the first four Allegany Franciscans to La Paz. 

Vocation News
By: Colleen Brady, OSF 

Did you know?
On average, newly professed sisters knew members of their religious institutes for about 3 years while newly professed brothers knew members for about 5 years before entering their community. 
  • The average age of entrance for women is 32 years old; 
  • 33% of those in initial formation are between the ages of 20-29 and 29% are between 30-39; 
  • Racial/ethnic distribution is 57% Caucasian or White, Hispanic or Latino 21%, Asian 14%, Black 6%; 
  • Retention rate for women's congregations is 50%; 
  • Newer members are attracted to religious life by a sense of call and a desire for prayer and spiritual growth; 
  • New members prefer to live in a large (8 or more) or medium (4-7) community , with members of their own institute, of different ages and cultures; 
  • The average age at final profession in 2014 was 37 years old; 
  • In 2014 there were 66,000 religious brothers, sisters and priests in the US and 705,529 religious sisters and nuns worldwide. 
Look around to invite volunteers, students, employees, and relatives to consider religious life!            (2014 USCCB/CARA Profession Class Report)

Rediscovering Hope in Prison
By: Joanna Gardner, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Camden, NJ
Submitted by: Mary Lou Lafferty, OSF

   It was the second annual prison ministry gathering for volunteers in the Diocese of Camden's prisons. In the morning, guest speaker Sister Elizabeth Gnam, a Dominican who has worked in prison ministry for the past 26 years, told the group of 40 some of her stories.
   In the afternoon, former inmates shared their stories and experiences of prison ministry with the group. When the last of the three came to the microphone, no one in the room, least of all Sister Gnam, anticipated what he would say.
   Well-spoken, 38-year-old Julio Briones grew up in Queens and Union City. As a teenager he stayed out of trouble, avoiding the gangs and street life in spite of a difficult home situation. At 17, he joined the army to get away. He served for four years in Korea and Kuwait during Operation Desert Shield. "I came back broken," he said.
   At 25, he was arrested under accomplice liability - as an accomplice he may not have actually committed the crime, but he's as guilty as those who did for failing to act on knowledge of the crime. He was sentenced to 65 years in prison.
   For years he worked to lower the sentence, spending hours in the prison's law library, he said. The original 65-year sentence had been an error and was reduced to 39 years, with a minimum requirement of 25 years in prison. He was able to lower the sentence to 20 years and kept working.
   Five years after his arrest, as he anxiously awaited the results of his final appeal, he learned that instead of further lowering his sentence, the original 39-year sentence had been reinstated. He was told there could be no more appeals.
   Distraught, he resolved to kill himself. But first, he decided to go to the Catholic prayer service being led that night by Sister Elizabeth Gnam. She spoke to the group about hope.
"She said, 'No matter what, no matter how dark it gets, don't ever give up hope,'" he recalled. He looked in Sister Gnam's direction: "You have no idea how much those words meant to me."
   It was the first time the two had been in the same room together since the night Sister Gnam spoke to that group of inmates at Riverfront State Prison eight years earlier.
"You all change lives, you save lives," Briones said to the group of prison ministry volunteers through tears. "I shouldn't be here."
   Today, Briones is the director of business development for a home care company. He was recently married. The unexpected reunion with Sister Gnam might not have occurred, had it not been for the wedding. Briones received the sacrament of confirmation in prison, and while trying to obtain his paperwork, he was put in touch with Sister Mary Lou Lafferty, prison ministry coordinator for Catholic Charities, Diocese of Camden. She invited him to speak at the gathering just days before the June 6 meeting at Catholic Charities' Camden office.
   "I didn't recognize her right away," Briones said later of Sister Gnam. "It wasn't until she got up and started speaking that I realized it really was her. I never thought I'd see her again."
Briones says he made the decision that night in prison to "ask God to take over." A few months later, he received a letter informing him that his sentence had been reduced to 12 years plus parole. Shortly after, he would reconnect with an old friend destined to be his future wife. Her visits got him through the rest of his prison term.
   "I know there's something bigger than me out there," he said. "The whole experience strengthened my faith in ways I can't really begin to describe. Only time will tell."
   He spent two years on community release in a halfway house where he job hunted for a year and a half, turned down by fast food restaurants and everywhere else he applied because of his record. Finally, his current company decided to take a chance on him and he's been there ever since.
   "There are a lot of challenges for people coming out of the system," Briones said. "It's hard to get a job today under even good circumstances. Lacking an education and having a criminal record makes it that much more difficult."

 From the Archives
After the last installment of the e-newsletter, regarding the upcoming Archives Seminar about St. Clare's Hospital in New York City, I received a very interesting question:

"Are the Archives Seminars open to the public?"

   I was so happy to hear that there are members of the public who are interested in attending these seminars with the sisters! After some discussion with the Activities Department, we decided that, YES, this is a wonderful idea!
   Therefore, I would like to officially invite any interested parties to attend the Archives Seminars as guests of the Archives! If you are in the Allegany, NY, area, and are interested in attending the seminar on September 3rd at 10:15 AM about St. Clare's Hospital in NYC, please email to RSVP and receive further information on the seminar's location.
   If you are unable to attend this month's seminar, fear not! The Archives Seminars are held monthly. The topic and date of October's seminar will be announced in the next edition of the e-newsletter!

Pictured: Two sisters work in the pharmacy at St. Clare's Hospital, late 1950s.

Upcoming deadlines: 

September 1, 2015 - Fall edition of Allegany Connections
September 9, 2015 - First edition e-newsletter
September 2, 2015 - Second edition e-newsletter