Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Green Bay, WI

Sisters embrace wisdom years through renewal & revitalization

WISDOM CIRCLE :  Contemplating and sharing their personal journeys are, clockwise from top left, Sisters Jane Riha, Laura Zelten, Francis Bangert, Charlene Hockers, Joanne Goessl, Madonna Swintkoske, Elise Cholewinski and Sally Ann Brickner. (Renae Bauer photo)

Nurturing the life within allows  for being present to others

by Sister Jane Riha

The renewal and revitalization of the spirituality embraced by our Franciscan community was one of the proposals presented to the Sisters at the General Chapter in May 2022. It was placed in the context of living with vitality even as the community is aging. It was affirmed by all of the Sisters as a direction for the community for the next four years.

“We revitalize and renew our Franciscan Religious Life and spirituality in the 21st century as individuals and as a community, in the context of our last generative years. Through a process of ongoing discernment, contemplative reflection and collaboration, opportunities will be provided for continued formation, integration and in-depth sharing.”

Renew, Revitalize, Our Last Generative Years

These three concepts encompass the core and focus of the direction.

  • The Chapter is consistently a call to renewing our life together as a Religious community.
  • We are continually challenged to interior conversion, internal and communal transformation, and the revitalization of our life as a community.
  • The last generative years encompass the last years of life. The last stage of life usually refers to the ages beginning in the 60’s and inclusive of all the years up to the completion of life. The Sisters were invited to accept the grace and beauty of this stage of life. It is a time of transition and standing at the crossroads of life. At this time of life, questions arise within the person such as: What are these years for? What should this time be spiritually? How can we look at aging as a new way to be generative?
Significance of the Spiritual Journey

The Sisters reflected on the shift during this time of life from active ministry in the workplace to retirement. There may be a deeper desire for interior work and a growing sense of being with oneself and others in new and significant ways. The shift from doing and having a role moves now to a deeper sense of one’s soul. Nurturing the life within leads to growth in becoming one’s authentic self, being truly present and being a good listener.

FRUITFULNESS -- Leaving our spirit behind

The call to live the paschal mystery is more keenly experienced with aging, loss, and illness. Jesus gave his life away and his life bears fruit in our lives. Successes, achievements, and our own importance will end. Each person’s life bears fruit long after life has come to an end.

BLESSING -- The full flower of maturity

One of the greatest gifts we can give during our wisdom years is to bless others. To truly see another person, to truly gaze in recognition of him/her is a great blessing. The blessing spoken of here is not simply blessing prayers but honoring and respecting others. The challenge is to not withhold blessing others as well as oneself.


The Sisters personally chose ways to commit themselves to this direction. Some of those commitments were to choose to live mindfully, to educate oneself about this stage of life, and to become part of a Wisdom Circle. A Wisdom Circle gathers once a month for contemplative sharing of their personal journey.

Suggested resources:
  • Forest Dwelling Program, Oblate School of Theology,
  • Wise Aging: Living with Joy, Resilience & Spirit , by Rabbi Rachel Cowan & Dr. Linda Thal, Behrman House,Inc.
  • Spiritual Essentials for Life’s Second Act -- Let This Be the Time,    by Janet Schaeffler, OP, Twenty-Third Publications
  • Our Greatest Gift: A Meditation on Dying , by Henri Nouwen, Harper Press
  • On the Brink of Everything,    by Parker J.Palmer,  Berrett-Koehler Publishers

Stay in touch -- This story originally appeared in the Sisters' newsletter. Subscribe to our FREE printed newsletter (issued five times a year) and our FREE e-spiritual reflections (weekly). We enjoy hearing from you so visit our “Send a Greeting to Sister” page and say hello. Thank you and God bless!

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