A word from Katherine:
Like so many, the story of my association with the Franciscan Spiritual Center starts with a person: Sr. Mary Jo Chaves.
When I met Sr. Mary Jo, I was a determined “none” — a person leading teams of scientists and engineers firmly planted in the secular world. I met her in a secular context and, of course, I missed the meeting where everyone introduced themselves.
So I went for months not knowing that she was a Sister or a spiritual director (or even that there was such a thing as spiritual direction).
And that was fortunate because up to that point, my only experience with Christianity had been in the fundamentalist church I grew up in, the one I had soundly rejected as a teenager when it was my turn to be baptized.
By the time I figured it out, we were already friends. Without my knowing it, Sr. Mary Jo was preaching the Gospel to me, without using any words at all. She just opened her Franciscan heart to me, the way she does, and my own heart responded.
She became a friend I’d meet for lunch at Bob’s Red Mill every so often over the years. I loved our conversations and it didn’t really matter what we talked about. I always left feeling like my soul had been fed as well as my body.
Then in 2011, I came to understand that I did have a deep, abiding belief in God. Even more, I realized that I felt so much gratitude that I wanted to praise and worship this entity that was increasingly important to me. I wanted to get to know God, and I wanted to go back and re-read the Bible stories, this time with people like Marcus Borg as my guides.
I remember going down to Powell’s Books to buy a Bible and a copy of Borg’s Reading the Bible Again for the First Time and choosing used books because I wasn’t committed enough to invest in new ones.
Of course, I turned to Sr. Mary Jo, and then to a spiritual director she recommended at the Center, to help me deal with this unexpected awakening. These holy conversations nurtured and sheltered the light that was growing inside, helping me redefine some words like “sin” and “discipleship” while finding new ones like “companion” and “Incarnation.”
In 2013, I was baptized into the Catholic Church. In 2014, I made the first of several pilgrimages to Assisi through the Franciscan Spiritual Center. I still remember walking up one of the steep streets with her. I remember one chilly Hermitage Retreat at Alton Collins Retreat Center where several of us were resting in front of the San Damiano Cross after the Taizé service. One of the other Marys tucked us all under afghans as we rested in the company of Jesus.
So this place has been an important part of my spiritual journey, a place I want to shelter and nourish for others who feel a stirring inside they may not be able to even name. I’ve been happy to serve on the search committees that hired our last two Executive Directors: Larry Peacock, who charted a course through the pandemic to a new home at Marylhurst, and now Christine Naylor, who is finding new ways to draw people to the Center.
As Board Chair, I urge you to reflect on how the Center has shaped your spiritual journey, and how you hope it will continue to sustain you. If you have already contributed as you can, then I thank you for your support. If you have not yet done so, I encourage you to help us accompany the people who come through our doors so that through Peace, Presence, and Community we can continue to share the Good News in words and in action.
Franciscan Spiritual Center Board Chair
Click here to read more stories in the Season of Franciscan Giving series.