Alive with Franciscan joy

Answering Mary Oliver's question with God's call

Thursday, February 5, 2015


"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

by Sister Laura Zelten


Forty years ago I couldn't have imagined what God had planned for my one wild and precious life.  Each day has opened like a flower: mostly beautiful and graceful and pleasing, only occasionally interrupted by a thorny and unpleasant one.

Being called to consecrated life was right for me.  I've never doubted or regretted it. I have been blessed!  This Year of Consecrated Life and next Sunday's World Day for Consecrated Life have been an opportunity to look back with gratitude for all the people who have been signs of God.  Most recently, I was reminded of the blessing of my teaching years.  At Christmas Eve Mass, a woman asked me if I ever taught at All Saints School in Denmark, Wis. Yes, I said.  She responded, "I knew it. When you engaged the children on the meaning of Christmas it all came back to me.  Your smile, enthusiasm, and your way of being spoke of my days in first and second grades.  And over 30 years later I was happy to remember you as my teacher."

Another blessing has been my missionary work in Nicaragua. Crossing cultures is a privileged experience, one I will never take for granted. Yes, I left a piece of my heart in Nicaragua but I also brought the hearts of many back with me.  I will never forget the hospitality and love I experienced living with the people of Muelle de los Bueyes. They demonstrated love and radical hospitality each time they gave me a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice or provided me with a hammock so I didn't have to sleep on the floor.

My one wild and precious life continues to be a walk with others on their life journey.  As a Sister and spiritual director, I continue to be invited into the joys and sorrows of others.  Again, another privileged place of holiness.

As a Sister of St. Francis of the Holy Cross, I was formed to be deeply rooted in the example and teaching of Jesus and that has been a special gift from God.  God's invitation to live the evangelical counsels -- poverty, chastity and obedience -- has challenged me each day to live with an undivided heart and embrace God's radical call, to leave all things behind and to dare putting myself totally at the service of God and God's people.  Yes, God's plan for my one wild and precious life is to live as a Sister of St. Francis of the Holy Cross and I am blessed to be called "Sister."

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The Tapestry of Advent

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Advent 2014

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What is the seed from which our vocation grows?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

FERTILE SOIL: Sister Marietta Samz tends to our herb gardens at the Motherhouse.

by Sister Laura Zelten

In parish ministry, one of my favorite responsibilities is preparing couples for baptism.  It is such a joy to meet the new baby and to see the parents' happiness in welcoming this new life.

When I think of my vocation as a Sister of St. Francis of the Holy Cross I start with my own baptism.  Being welcomed into my mom and dad's family and the parish family made for fertile ground where my vocation to religious life grew.  I know that because of my baptism I have been called to serve where people are celebrating life and where people are hurting.

I have experienced God most strongly in these rough and challenging situations.  As a missionary in Nicaragua, I walked with people who struggled daily to have life's basics but, at the same time, welcomed us missionaries in the most beautiful and simple ways.  As we traveled on horseback through the jungle from one Christian community to the next, we were invited to their tables and always served the best of what they had.

Recently, a friend and I we were discussing how life unfolded for us, and she said, "Laura, you always wanted to be a Sister."  Sue was partially right, I did know at early age that God was calling me but I didn't always know what I was being called to. My discernment was about being faithful to the stirrings in my heart.  I could have married or remained single and still have responded to God's invitation, but my life as a religious Sister made the most sense to me.

As a Sister of the St Francis of the Holy Cross I serve with a community of joyful women who have dedicated themselves to a life of prayer, simple living and Gospel justice.  Our prayer life gives us the strength to reach out to our brothers and Sisters who are impoverished, voiceless, enslaved and living in the shadows.  We do this through our ministries in parishes, schools, retreat centers, and homeless shelters.  My Sisters teach in schools, religious education programs and adult formation programs (English and Spanish). I am blessed to be a part of a community women who have heard God's call and continue to serve others in faithful love.

During National Vocation Awareness Week pay attention to how is God calling you.  How are the parables, teachings, and words of Jesus shaping your life?  What are the experiences in your life that, with God, you can look at and see a deeper meaning that will guide your future?  God is asking us all to be open to the gifts that have been given to us in baptism, to be open to a deeper message of our life experiences, to be open to God's call to serve.

I invite you to connect with my community and me at or on Facebook or Twitter @gbfranciscans.

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Giving up noise for Lent

Monday, April 7, 2014


"Then the Lord said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, the Lord will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind ... but the Lord was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake -- but the Lord was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire -- but the Lord was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound." (1 Kings: 19: 11-12)

by Sister Laura Zelten


I am not the type of person who gives up something for Lent. Instead, I usually try to add on something that will help me be aware of God's presence in a more profound way.

This year, I decided to turn off my car radio. I spend a lot of time on the road so this is significant time in silence. Besides perfecting my driving attentiveness, this quiet time has become a meaningful and prayerful experience. Without the noise, I focus on the silence and the beauty that is all around me. I hear God's voice in a distinct way. I reflect more on what I heard, sang or proclaimed during the morning prayer, especially the Gospel.

Even though I hadn't intended to give up for Lent, I am grateful for the gift of silence and contemplation added to my day.

Praying your Lent is filled with God's graces!


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Forgetting Yourself for Jesus

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

WorldDayConsecratedLifeby Sister Laura Zelten

I came across a book titled "Forgetting Ourselves on Purpose." I thought it was a great description of vowed life. It's exactly what we do as women and men religious.

As the Church celebrates World Day for Consecrated Life on February 2, we recognize and give thanks to Sisters, Brothers and Priests who, through their baptismal commitment, have dedicated their lives to the mission of Jesus. We religious are seized with an overwhelming, all-consuming desire to give ourselves directly to Christ and the Church.  Our call requires us to step outside the safety of the crowd, beyond the normal route Christians generally are called to travel.

The Church invites people who are generous, adventurous, committed, and single-minded to become consecrated disciples who are willing and capable of forgetting themselves on purpose. Why? To be God's visible instruments of service to those in need and to the Church.

Whether or not you are called to consecrated life, be passionately ambitious in finding where Christ's love inspires you to forget yourself on purpose.

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Endings and beginnings: A great time to give thanks

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

MosaicRoundCropby Sister Laura Zelten

The end of the year ushers in the beginning of the new. It gives me time to reflect on the gifts I have received during this past year and it brings light to the future. Some people like to set resolutions. I like to keep my options open for God's call.

Reflecting on this past year, I am so grateful for the many doors God has opened. I feel especially blessed by the return of my nephew Jeff to our family. Having him back in our lives is a gift. He and Heather have brought us oneness as family and such joy.

I am blessed to be part of a Franciscan community that is strong in its commitment to living simple lives and being rooted in prayer and Gospel values. Through dialogue and respect for one another we tackled some tough decisions during our Chapter this summer. We are truly committed to one another and our Church.

I am grateful for the gift of medical technology. Because of modern medicine I have two new knees on which I can stand up straight and walk again. The doctors, therapists, and my good friend Kathy have been patient and firm in getting me back on my feet! What more could one ask for in life.

So I say "Praise be you my Lord" for all that has been, and I pray for openness to the future of 2014. May you and yours be blessed during this New Year!

The mosaic seen here is one of eleven integrated into our Motherhouse. Each speaks to a different element that St. Francis of Assisi honors in his Canticle of the Creatures.


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Advent: God's love beyond human imagination

Monday, November 25, 2013

AdventWreathLineartby Sister Laura Zelten

"God's extravagant love."  These words of Sister Urban Schumacher come to mind as I think about Advent.  Yes, this is how I would describe Advent.

Advent comes with the extravagant promise of an unconditional love. When we slow down and live the season we discover an awareness of a God who loves us beyond human imagination, and we discover a new awareness of the presence of God in our midst every day. Advent presents new and energizing challenges of what it means to live as God's holy people.  Advent invites us to wait with joy, it promises peace and is a season of wonder.

May your Advent days be filled with quiet prayer, reflection, and daily practices to help you discover the extravagant promises of our extravagant God.


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Seeing God at a distance

Monday, September 16, 2013

ON A CLEAR DAY: The Basilica of St. Clare of Assisi and the surrounding Italian mountains are easy to see on a clear day. Imagine how Clare must have pondered God as she roamed this region.

by Sister Laura Zelten

On my morning walk there's a hilltop from where I can see a very long distance. One recent morning as I stood at the top and looked west over the city I could see farther than I had ever remembered. The air was crisp and the sky so blue. It was an amazing site. I was in awe and wonder of God's presence.

It came to me that discernment can be like the weather -- on clear days it is easy to see far out but on days of fog and rain it is much harder to find the horizon. Yet, we trust God is present. Like seeing on clear days, discernment requires us to clear away all those obstacles and distractions so that we can better understand the issues before us. By learning to see what is truly there, we can focus on life-enhancing thoughts, feelings and actions.

  1. What obstacles are in the way of my truth?
  2. How can I see past the distractions along my life's path to what really matters?

One answer is contemplative meditation. Take time each day to look into the distance and see where God is calling me or to find a person such as spiritual director who can help me through the days of fog and rain to know where God is in my life.

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Being an instrument of peace

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

by Sister Laura Zelten


Pope Francis is calling for this Saturday to be a day of prayer and fast for peace in Syria. As I heard the President speak this past week my heart was sad. I can't imagine that military force is the answer to peace. And I must admit I don't have all the facts or answers. But it made me think about how I am called to be a person who speaks peace in a world where violence is very visible. As a Franciscan my life is based on the Gospel and the Rule of St. Francis:

"Within themselves, let them always make a dwelling place and home for the one who is Lord God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so that, with undivided hearts, they may increase in universal love by continually turning to God and to neighbor." (Chapter 2 of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis)

Do I pray for peace daily? Do I respond in a nonviolent way to the violence around me? Are my words and actions of peace? May we pray with undivided hearts that for love of our neighbor we may find a peaceful way to end the conflict in Syria and see the face of Christ in our brothers and sisters around the world.

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Summertime Simplicity

Friday, June 21, 2013


Zelten_Laura_Sister2012-100pxby Sister Laura Zelten

Summer is one of my favorite seasons. In March as I took my morning walk I made the comment, "I just want summer to come so I can walk in my t-shirt and shorts."

I love these days of summer with warm sunshine and beautiful flowers. This year my favorite spot is the garden in our yard. I love to be out there with my hoe and just soak in all that is growing around me. It feels good to "clean up" the weeds from in between the tiny plants or to mulch around the tomatoes.

There's something about the pace of summer, a slowing down and getting away from the stress of ordinary life. It's a time when many families take their vacations or start their weekends "up north." As Sisters, many of us take our silent retreat during the summer months. The days of summer are the optimal conditions for contemplative living. We give ourselves permission to slow down, be still, and savor life. It is time to simply stand in the middle of the garden of life without doing something. It is a call to live with greater mindfulness of the love that surrounds life and of the very gift of life from our loving God.

This summer may you find a sense of gratitude for summer's restoration of spirit and a perennial need of summer days to maintain spiritual vitality.

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