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Edition No. 122 — April 16, 2020 
Anna’s Place 
Franciscan Hospitality Center
Operating on Divine Providence

Cathy McGowan SSJ and Maggie Gannon, OSF
The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia founded Anna’s Place, a Franciscan Hospitality Center 10 years ago. Today,  Sister Cathy McGowan   SSJ  and Maggie Gannon, OSF, along with staff and volunteers reach out to the Chester Community and offer hot lunch, bingo, crochet/art/flower arranging and computer classes. Most recently they added ESL (English as a second language) classes in response to the needs of many who live in Chester.  

Anna’s Place serves as a welcoming, hospitable gathering place where guests are met with respect and genuine care. The number of guests who attend classes and activities reflects their desire to gather in an environment where they feel the love and care of staff and volunteers. Since the coronavirus changed life as we all knew it, we have seen miracles every day in the generous goodness of others—who learned of the need and responded—no hesitation, just a loving reaction.

On March 16th, Anna’s Place “officially” closed and would no longer offer the services our guests had come to expect. However, Anna’s Place opened on March 17th with a different identity which reflected the needs of the community. Anna’s Place now offers bags of food, toiletries, and whatever else is available to those who arrive on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  We do not require residency certification or have age restrictions. All those who come to the door are provided a bag of food. Many of our guests are from El Salvador or Guatemala and because they do not have citizenship, they would be unable to receive help from other service sites in Chester.

We are grateful to our Sisters on the 4 th  floor at Saint Joseph Villa who fixed gift bags early on for our guests.  Sister Nancy Roche SSJ  helped us get food from St. Katherine Parish in Wayne and the Sisters at Assumption Hall gave us a donation to buy canned hams for Easter.

Anna’s Place operates now on Divine Providence and for the past month there has never been a time when we did not have food for our guests.  We have left at the end of the day and there was no food, however, before our guests arrive the next day food or donations come in. We are able to provide food for between 60-75 people a week. There is no doubt these days have been filled with worry and anxiety, but we would be remiss not to acknowledge the joy and comfort that has been our daily blessing at Anna’s Place. 
Pictured from left: Nancy Roche SSJ and Cathy McGowan SSJ
Together we embrace the cross: paschal mystery during pandemic
By Sister Colleen Gibson SSJ
Reprinted with permission from Global Sisters Report
Read  Sister Colleen Gibson SSJ’s  latest article in the Global Sisters Report: Together we embrace the cross: paschal mystery during pandemic.

A little over 40 days ago, I reflected on these pages about the signs and symbols of our faith lived out during the Lenten season. "The refrain of 'repent and believe in the Good News' rang in my ears." I  wrote   on the Friday after Ash Wednesday, "That is the good news of Lent, each step is another opportunity to be marked by the cross, to receive the grace of God not in vain but in the glory of the moment." Little could I have known then the opportunities that this Lenten season would present to be marked by the cross.
Contemplative Spiritual Ministry 
Sister Joannie Cassidy SSJ
Aware that God’s love is present and active in the lives of all persons and all creation, there is a need and a hunger to deepen the sense of the sacred and relationships with God. The Contemplative Spiritual Ministry, made possible by a Mission Fund grant, is a creative way of reaching out and serving communities where need and adversity is constant.

In this year of ministry,  Sister Joannie Cassidy SSJ  is responding to these unmet needs. She offers weekly opportunities for meditation, sharing the state of one’s heart, yearly retreat days as well as monthly spirituality presentations to the faculty and staff members of four of the Catholic Partnership Schools in Camden and Pennsauken. In addition, she conducted retreat days for St. Martin de Porres School in Philadelphia and monthly faculty/staff presentations at LaSalle Academy.

This Contemplative Spiritual ministry includes the offering of spiritual direction. As an itinerant spiritual director, she sees individuals monthly at the Catholic Partnership Schools. Meeting each person on site has made this spiritual opportunity available and accessible. 

In these past weeks, the Covid -19 pandemic has taken us to the edge and the center as we move through these very challenging times. We seem to be living at the edge where chaos, brokenness and suffering exist and the awareness of the deep center of our existence where the God who is Love is present.
We seek to find the Heart of Love and to be present to one another even in social distancing and being at least six-feet away from one another during this time. Offering spiritual direction and connecting by phone or Facetime with directees, when many are feeling uncertain, afraid, grieving and wondering what this unthinkable time means and what is to come, has invited an accompaniment and deep listening for the God of hope and love. Praying with art, poetry, photography, nature, scripture and music have been consoling for many. Here are a few personal pieces shared:
With Stone Rolled Away
Stepping outside
I breathe in deeply
and exhale slowly.
The confines of time and space
shape the contours of my being
with every rise and fall of spirit released.
Quarantine Time...
Distilled reality
shifts remnants of what matters most.
Wordless conversations
carry movements and moments.
Stillness Hovers
A longing for encounter…
the Sacramentality of Presence
The tomb called Essence awaits
With stone rolled away
I enter and embrace
life and love renewed.
    Holding Hope as we offer love and receive love
            (Photo taken at the Mount, Holy Week 2008)
We hold one another in heart and prayer
knowing that the One who is Mystery
our loving God, holds us now in this time.                                                   
Artwork, Photos, and Poetry
Joannie Cassidy SSJ                             
While keeping their distance under lockdown,
sisters adjust with grace
See how the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia, and other congregations around the world, are adjusting during the COVID-19 pandemic in  Global Sisters Report
Still at Work
Sister Ruth O'Neill SSJ continues her ESL classes with our Vietnamese friends.
"With the help of God's grace and in fidelity to our founder's expressed wish, we live and work lovingly among all persons with a special preference for those who are poor, which calls us wherever we are to be in union with them."
                                        — SSJ Constitutions #21
Editor, Sister Carole Pollock SSJ | 215.248.7269 | |