Given free rein to choose whichever religious orders I wished for the Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly article I was assigned last summer, I had to include a personal favorite, the Franciscan Sisters, TOR. This fairly new order is a beautiful fruit sprouting from Franciscan University of Steubenville, my alma mater, and I went to school with some of the sisters.
What is immediately striking about them is their joy.
Whenever I go back to the Steubenville area and see them around town or on campus, their peace and unusual joy is practically palpable. They move in an aura of goodness and bring with them a breath of heaven.
This year is the order's 25th anniversary. In that time, their numbers have grown to 37, serving in a motherhouse monastery in Toronto, and three mission houses, with talk of another opening someday at Ohio University.
The Franciscan Sisters, like many Franciscan orders, blend the contemplative and apostolic life. Their mission is somewhat broad; as their website puts it: "The heart of our life of ministry is to make known God’s merciful love, particularly among the poor, the sick, and those in need of renewal of faith." As Sister Della Marie Doyle, Vocations Coordinator, explained it to me, "Our ministries fall under the umbrella of evangelization and works of mercy. So there’s a wide variety of things that can be done."
What that looks like in daily life ranges from serving the poor in downtown Steubenville through a thrift-store and soup kitchen, to campus ministry at Franciscan both in Ohio and its campus in Austria, to tending the sick, and leading parish missions and retreats.
It all begins in prayer though: "As contemplative penitents committed to works of mercy, prayer is our primary ministry. Our life and mission flow from our life of prayer," the website states.
"Our work is an extension of our prayer," Sr. Della Marie adds. "But it’s necessary to have that time first where you’re just before the Lord and open yourself up and it helps you to really enter into your work in a more contemplative spirit."
Their hand-made religious articles are also worth checking out.