ARCHBALD – For nearly 100 years, the Little Sisters of Saint Francis have spread joy, hope, happiness and a love of the Gospel wherever they have gone.
As the religious congregation prepares to celebrate the centenary of its founding in 2023, many of the Catholic sisters who minister to the poor and marginalized in the United States gathered for Mass at Christ the King Parish in Lackawanna County on Oct. 1, 2022.
“Today is a big day for us because we are launching the centennial celebration of our foundress, Mother Kevin Kearney, who founded the Little Sisters of Saint Francis in Uganda, East Africa, in 1923,” Sister Lucy Marindany, LSOSF, said.
The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant and homilist for the Eucharistic celebration.
Two sisters, Sister Nancy Kamau, LSOSF, and Sister Julietha Mduma, LSOSF, currently live in the convent at Our Lady of Czestochowa in Eynon and serve local missions that benefit many people in the Scranton area.
Sister Nancy serves as the National Superior of the Little Sisters of Saint Francis and oversees communities in six other parts of the United States, including Binghamton, N.Y., Williamsburg, Va., Milwaukee, Wis., Los Angeles, Cali., Brooklyn, N.Y., and Springfield, Mo. She is also the Director of Development of ASEC (African Sisters Education Collaborative) at Marywood University, which raises funds to provide tuition for religious sisters in Africa to do undergraduate and graduate work to deepen their service of the Church locally and abroad.
Sister Julietha serves selflessly in pastoral ministry at Saint Joseph’s Center.
“We have Sisters working in diverse situations and we are grateful to God for the gift of our vocation that enables us to go out and do ministry following in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi,” Sister Nancy explained.
Many of the Sisters who work in the other parts of the United States attended the Mass in Archbald. That includes Sister Rose Mary Nakhumicha, LSOSF, who works in colonial Williamsburg.
“I work with the disabled, both mentally challenged and physically challenged, as a medical person,” she said. “I enjoy the work in the community.”
Sister Mary Jane Athieno, LSOSF, who works in the Binghamton area, said it is a blessing to help to the poor and underprivileged.
“I do pastoral care in five different nursing homes and work with the homebound. I also do church ministry in my parish,” she explained.
In 2016, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints officially accepted the Cause for Beatification of Mother Kevin Kearney and she was declared a ‘Servant of God.’ That begins the lengthy process to sainthood.
The current Little Sisters of Saint Francis pray for Mother Kevin’s cause daily and work to follow her loving and caring example.
“When she came to Uganda, she really worked tirelessly in Uganda helping so many people. She never got tired. She was always working,” Sister Lilia Kagendo, LSOSF, explained.
During the Mass celebrating the centenary of the founding of the Little Sisters of Saint Francis, the Sisters in attendance renewed their vows and offered a brief hymn of Thanksgiving in response to their renewal.
The Sisters also presented the Gifts of the Mass in a reserved, traditional African procession accompanied by a hymn in Swahili.
“The dance was to give Glory to God for his wonders that he has done in our lives, in our ministries here and back in Africa,” Sister Mary Jane explained.
Father Brian J.T. Clarke, Pastor, Christ the King Parish, works closely with the Little Sisters of Saint Francis who work in the Diocese of Scranton. He said they wonderful partners, friends and companions.
“They pray regularly for the intentions of people who are sick or in need or have struggles in their lives and people are drawn to them because of their goodness and their clear openness to help them,” he said. “We are incredibly blessed to have them in our community and are very grateful that they respond so willingly and without any hesitation to the needs of our people.”
During his homily, Bishop Bambera also noted the gift that the Little Sisters of Saint Francis have been to people locally and around the world. He specifically mentioned their ministries of caring for the sick and suffering, helping the poor and marginalized, and teaching the young and old about life and faith rooted in the vision of Saint Francis of Assisi.
“Saint Francis often encouraged his followers, ‘Start by doing what is necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible,’” Bishop Bambera said. “Sisters, may our loving God sustain you in the work that you do – a work that to many may seem impossible – but to those with eyes of faith, a work that flows through your hands from the heart of Jesus, our life and our salvation.”