Song commissioned for 125th anniversary is alive in our hearts today

by Sister Mary Kabat
published Fall 2018

In 2006, we celebrated the 125th Anniversary of our Community. It was quite a busy time – we were preparing for our 2005 Chapter which would include electing leadership for the next four years. We were building a new Motherhouse and doing all the necessary fundraising visits, auction and bazaars. But that didn’t stop the committee of Sisters Jeanne Vander Bloomen, Donna Koch, Marilyn Herr, Mary Jo Kirt, Jackie Capelle and I from planning a yearlong celebration.

With additional assistance from Sisters, Associates, lay employees, Crosiers and friends we held a balloon kickoff, entered a trophy winning float in the city of Green Bay’s 150th anniversary parade, planned a pilgrimage including reenactments and remembrances at sites where our founders and we have served, invited former members and spouses to share the occasion with us and prayed and feasted together at a Founders Day Mass and dinner.

At one committee meeting the idea came up – “What if we had an original song written for our anniversary?” At first that seemed beyond anything we could accomplish. But we thought, “Why not!” If it was to become a reality, we knew just the person to ask – Cathy Tisel Nelson from Rochester, Minn. We had been singing for years Cathy’s beautiful songs based on the words of St. Francis and St. Clare such as “What You Hold,” “Gaze upon Christ,” The Blessing of St. Clare,” and “In the Footprints of Jesus.” Her music brings the Franciscan spirituality to life and allows it to fill the heart and soul. I found a phone number on her website, had a delightful conversation and made our request, and Cathy said, “yes!”

We shared with Cathy our history, constitutions, mission and desire that the song be one of praise, thanks and joy. We shared with her our charism rooted in the Cross, Word and Eucharist, our passion to serve the needs of others and our love for creation especially the sunsets we saw over the bay. And we asked that the song be within the singing range of the average person and have an easy to remember refrain. And Cathy Tisel Nelson wrote for us “Deo Gratias,” a song which expresses our history, our charism, our mission, our life. We continue to be so grateful to sing it again and again.


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"Deo Gratias"

  1. We are people on a journey, with a dream of Gospel love, born of Father Daems and Francis, and Sisters strong in faith. As we strive to follow Jesus, their vision lights our way. For the gift of our great heritage, we lift our hearts in praise:
  2. Rooted in the Cross of Jesus, and in God's abiding Word, by the Eucharist we are strengthened, transformed by God' great love. We live simply, with compassion, our joys and sorrows share. For the gift of our community, we lift our hearts in praise:
  3. God is everywhere around us, in each star and flow'ring tree, in the golden light of morning, in sunsets o'er the Bay. In each person, friend or stranger, God's presence is revealed. For the gift of God's indwelling, we lift our hearts in praise:
  4. As we move into the future, we are filled with hope in Christ. We will work to build God's kingdom of justice, peace and light. We will life the poor and lowly, and welcome all with love. For the gift of call and mission, we lift our hearts in praise:

REFRAIN: Deo gratias, Deo gratias, thanks be to God! Deo gratias, Deo gratias, thanks be to God.

Copyright © 2006, Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross

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