Sr. Francis Scanlon, CSJP
Sr. Francis was the Senior Boy's Cottage house mother.
My father was busy preparing our farm in the west of Ireland for the spring crops one magnificent day in May of 1936, when I arrived. My childhood was spent in a faith-filled family on a farm where all our food was grown. Life growing up was both physically and spiritually healthy. One was constantly in tune with the divine as we watched the changing of the seasons, the birth of the animals, and the planting and harvesting of the crops that would eventually end up on the family table or be shared with our less fortunate neighbors.
My father, Frank, being a true Seanachi, drew many ramblers to our fireside where candles or oil lamps burned into the wee hours. My mother, Rose, was a professional seamstress and made all our clothes on her hand-operated sewing machine. There was plenty to keep her busy clothing my sister Rosaleen, my three brothers, Mike, Kevin, and Aidan, and myself.
When our teacher, Mr. Guicken, became aware of my intention to become a Sister in 1950, he quickly introduced me to Cabra, Co. Down where his daughter Annette Marcella, was preparing for the American Missions. The following two years of Junerate were spent in preparation for religious life and the study of American History. Then we were off to America on a magnificent three day maiden voyage on the United States liner. The next three years of Novitiate were spent in Englewood, New Jersey.
Some of the events that are most prominent from these first years were: the constant drilling during the construction of the new Palisades Parkway; the death of our novice mistress, Sr. Rita, and the fire that destroyed the boys home on our grounds. Our first outing in the United States was a trip to Stella Maris in 1953 where we silently hid our legs and arms that were blistered from the strong summer sun. We offered them up and were grateful that the constant changing in and out of our habits had somewhat shortened our day in the sun. Another simple, but fond memory was a day at our Mother House in Glendola where I was overjoyed to see real cows. Reception and profession days were particularly awesome for me as my father, mother, sister and brothers and their families visited.
My first mission assignment arrived and the real world began. Five years were spent in Cathetical with every summer at Cardinal Stritch College in Milwaukee, preparing for the opening of our new orphanage, St. Josephs Village. Many years were spent caring for the underprivileged children there. I continued on to the North of Ireland where the De La Salle Brothers were in search for qualified childcare workers for their new group of chalets where boys from the war torn areas were in great need of homes. Much suffering and family deprivation was experienced. Civil unrest continued and many of our boys lost their innocent lives.
I returned to a group home in Newark, New Jersey and after my long ministry of 25 years with children, I decided it was time for a change. Sr. Jerome invited me to Elberon, a woman of true Celtic tradition, where hospitality reigned. Her 20 years ended abruptly with a broken hip. Sr. Kathleen continued the Stella Maris ministry of vocations, workshops, Sisters Retreats, etc. With her death in 1997 after 20 years of dedicated service, our community decided that Stella Maris would become a full-fledged Retreat Center. The entire original building was overhauled after the new chapel and conference room were dedicated in 1994.
So life for me has been enriched far beyond my expectations as the daily living this particular ministry brings and unending stream of Gods people generally seeking a greater solace than this world gives.
My sincere gratitude to my family, community, and wonderful friends for a gifted life. I never cease giving thanks to my God.
Slan Agus beannact!
Reprinted from the website of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, on the ocassion of Sr. Francis' fifty year jubilee celebration held on April 26, 2003. http://csjp.org/sjp