IN THE BOOKS: As part of our 150th anniversary, our History Committee developed a book chronicling events in the world and our Community from 1990 to 2017. Appearing in our Heritage Room are, from left, committee members Sisters Christine Wochos, Nancy Langlois (chairperson), Agnes Fischer and Sharon Lasee. Sister Jacqueline Capelle was a member until her death on February 5, 2017. (Renae Bauer photo)
“History is not a burden on the memory but rather an illumination of the soul.”
~ Lord John Dalberg-Acton, English Catholic historian, politician and writer
By Renae Bauer
A history book is so much more than a collection of names, dates and events. Such a book can offer insights into who we are today through the examination of the past.
Having completed “The Journey Continues ... A History of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross (1990-2017)” for the Community’s 150th anniversary celebration, members of our History Committee shared stories of the book-writing process and what they learned about the Community.
“We had some very remarkable women; women who were open to where the Spirit was leading the Community,” says Sister Nancy Langlois, who chaired the committee and served as the primary author. In the midst of diverse educational backgrounds, ministries and personalities, “there was a deep sense of Community, of love for one another, a willingness to stand beside one another in all our endeavors, to support one another.”
“I appreciate how the Franciscan values of conversion, poverty, contemplation and minority were observed and put into practice when the Sisters met certain challenges over these 25 years,” says committee member Sister Christine Wochos. “They had a spirit of volunteerism, determination and perseverance when meeting these challenges.”
In the beginning ...
Talk of a history book began more than a decade ago at one of the Sisters’ formal meetings but wasn’t pursued until recently.
“As far as I can find, the first mention of updating the Community history was during Assembly of 2004 but then it didn’t get picked up until after Chapter in 2013,” says Sister Nancy.
When the project began in earnest, committee members were selected primarily based on experience: Sister Agnes Fischer is our archivist and Sister Sharon Lasee assists her with typing; Sister Christine had worked with the previous archivist; Sister Nancy had written other historical pieces and was willing, as she says, “to take a crack” at updating the Community history; and Sister Jacqueline Capelle had an interest in helping, which she did until her death on Feb. 5, 2017.
Structure and style
The book itself is divided into three chapters -- 1990 to1999, 2000 to 2009, and 2010 to 2017. Each chapter follows the same format: a summary of current world events; formal decisions made by the Community; how the decisions were lived out including in the areas of justice, peace and care for creation; the people who partnered with us to make dreams real; and how accomplishments were acknowledged.
“I like the parallel to the world and the society events,” says Sister Christine of the book. “I thought Sister Nancy did a great job with that. We really aren’t apart from the world, we are in it.”
Getting to all the details required untold hours of research -- scanning Community presidential addresses and Chapter minutes; examining financial records and statistics; reading administration reports and past newsletters; and tracking down awards and educational records.
“At times I felt like a gopher, scurrying here and there looking for information and asking questions,” says Sister Sharon. “But I looked forward to our meetings. We were an energetic group and worked well together and were willing to help each other.”
Time after time
While no official log of hours was kept, Sister Agnes Fischer estimates she worked about three hours a week on the project. Over the course of four and one-half years, that comes out to more than 700 hours, or approximately 18 weeks of full-time work -- for one person.
Of course, such a project isn’t undertaken because of the time it will require but rather to record what happened for posterity.
“The thing I tried to keep before me the entire time I was writing it was ‘How is God using us to respond to the needs of the times, and how were we responding?’” says Sister Nancy. “Who we are and what we do is God-directed, it’s not about us. It’s about what God is doing in and through us to meet the needs of God’s people.”
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