A word from Sr Celeste:
My relationship with the Sisters of St Francis of Philadelphia began in the fourth grade at St. Charles grade school in Spokane. By high school I was spending time with the sisters on weekends creating bulletin boards. In my senior year, Sister Emma Holdener (whom many of you know) started a high school girls’ choir. I got to play the organ. It was a wonderful privilege. The seeds of ministry, which would later emerge in me, were planted then I believe. After graduating from Marycliff High School in Spokane, I joined in the novitiate in Portland along with seven other young women. We lived on Palatine Hill Road, a beautiful place to begin religious life. Later that year, we welcomed five postulants from Ireland. Some called us a wild postulant group as we were always looking for fun. All thirteen of us made it to profession on August 11, 1963. I would go on to teach elementary school in California, Washington, and Oregon. I carried with me a love of music and enjoyed the fun of school musicals.
In 1987 my own brother (Brother Didacus, OFM) and I went on pilgrimage to Assisi with other Franciscan sisters and priests. We gathered in the places where St. Francis and St. Clare had lived and walked. The Franciscan tradition was being revived at this time and the spirit of Francis awakened within me. I became acquainted with Franciscan scholars such as Fr. Joe Chinnici, Brother Bill Short, Sister Ilia Delio, and others of the Franciscan tradition. By 1999, when I retired from teaching, I received another opportunity to deepen my relationship with Francis and Clare. I took part in the “Franciscan Challenge,” a six week program sponsored by the Irish Franciscan Province. So, off to Rome I went! The blessings of these weeks poured my way! The days were filled with even more deepening of the Franciscan spirit through classes and daily visits to places that mattered to our tradition. Since then, I have had the opportunity to travel with three pilgrimages sponsored by the Franciscan Spiritual Center. Such abundance! Each was rich in blessings.
For many of the last several years after my first retirement, I was the director of music at Ascension parish in Portland. When I started there, it was a Franciscan parish and my brother was on staff. It was wonderful to work with the friars in a Franciscan atmosphere. Through music, I could “preach” the Franciscan tradition by the music choices we sang and by small blurbs on the worship aids. In 2002, the Franciscan Center moved to Lake Road and they needed a bookkeeper. I said to myself, “Self, you can do that! I know how to balance a checkbook.” (I didn’t anticipate the learning curve that would soon be upon me.) Surprisingly, I was hired. Then, I found my niche to musically spread God’s extravagant love through Taizé. With a faithful team, Hoa Nguyen and My Phuong Vo, we began Taizé services once a month at the Franciscan Center. The Taizé pray-ers crowded into the little chapel in Milwaukie each first Friday. During the pandemic we “met” on Zoom. Now on the campus of beautiful Marylhurst Commons we continue to meet on the first Friday of each month. This summer we met outdoors (and the birds accompanied us!) The number of participants has grown and our group of musicians expanded. The First Friday evenings at the Franciscan Center have become a contemplative experience by adding a labyrinth walk and a simple supper. It has become three hours of community gathering to pray with their hearts and voices and feet. All are welcome!
The Franciscan Center serves a diverse population and offers many opportunities to deepen a relationship with our Divine Maker. St. Francis spent his lifetime with the questions, “Who are you, God? And who am I?” This is what we explore at the Center through spiritual direction, prayer opportunities, classes, and programs. I invite you to join in our mission of peace, presence, and community by giving of your treasure during the Season of Franciscan Giving.
Pace e Bene!
Sr Celeste Clavel
Click here to read more stories in the Season of Franciscan Giving series.