Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Green Bay, WI
Reflection for Sept. 5, 2021

Reflection for Sept. 5, 2021

Rebuilding the kingdom in our hearts

Encounter with ex-offenders  was an encounter with God

by Sister Francis Bangert

Sunday's readings surfaced memories of my struggle to understand the meaning of the "kingdom of God". Isaiah, James and Jesus teach a simple message of what it will look like. But it will demand a reversal in our thinking and practice.

It all began some years ago that my heart-eyes were opened. While ministering at our Franciscan Community’s "Wellspring, a Place of Peace for Women", I learned that the building next door was rehabbed as a residence for male ex-offenders. Hearing the stories of women who had painful experiences of abuse within families and hurtful male relationships, and their existing and unhealed fears, I became anxious about this new situation. So when John invited me to attend one of their meetings, I did. Sitting in a circle and using the AA method of introductions, each man stated his first name, that he was an ex-offender from jail or prison (often mentioning the crime) and how being in prison was the best thing that ever happened to him. It was there that he found how much he needed the Lord who loved him unconditionally. I was the last one to speak. What to say? I had never been in jail or prison. And then the words were given to me. “I’m Fran from next door, I’ve never been in jail or prison. But I have done some wrong things and never got caught."

And then I “saw”. I am a privileged person in many ways. I’ve looked askance at ex-offenders as "those people", dangerous and to be avoided, rather than seeing them with the loving eyes of their Creator — good persons who made some wrong choices. I needed to own my self-righteous and judgmental attitudes, my masks, fears, and narrow-minded vision. The Holy One showed me in that moment what “the last shall be first in the kingdom, and the first last” would actually look like. It was a turning point in my life, and an invitation to see "the other"  with the eyes of humility, compassion, love.

We Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross will gather this weekend at our convent to re-commit our lives to further the kingdom of God through the ministry of prayer, presence, and hospitality. How might you promote God’s kingdom this week? Praise the Lord, my soul!


Sister Laura
09/03/2021 6:42 am

Fran, thank you for this transparent, inspiring and challenging reflection. I appreciate your honesty and openness to listen and hear the truth of others

Fr. Bill Jacobs
09/03/2021 7:11 am

Thanks for the great & heartfelt reflection, Sister!

Good News! Some very kind folks from the Kalamazoo Area are giving me a ride home to the Green Bay Area this weekend. I'm most excited after three - plus years away. I hope to stop by...

Bless you good & wonderful Sisters!

Father Bill Jacobs

09/03/2021 7:38 am

Thank you, Fran, for sharing your 'conversion' story. If more 'homilies' were given from this disposition, we'd be a healthier, holier 'Church.' Your real-life story reminds me of the parable JESUS told his listeners when conveying to them the beauty, power, and need for 'true, heart-felt' prayer.

Luke 18:10-14 New Living Translation

10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer[a]: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

It also reminds me of how, in the beginning of every Mass, we are asked to consider this need for 'conversion' in our selves, and call out for Mercy and Grace in our preparation to 'hear' and 'taste' the Word-of-God with a contrite, broken - and thus, 'opened', humble heart.

Millie Hayes
09/03/2021 7:51 am

Sister Francis

I will share this eye opening message on FB. Thank you.

Dan Verstegen
09/03/2021 8:42 am

Wonderful sharing. I only hope and pray to have the same response.

09/03/2021 9:35 am

A wonderful reflection on our tendency to be judgmental as well as a call to look at all with humility and compassion. This is a beautiful connection to our missioning on Sunday - which is a call to prayer, presence and hospitality.

Kathy Matchefts
09/03/2021 10:20 am

Wow!!! This is powerful. Especially how masks & fears can also cloud our vision.

Thank you for helping me to learn to see “the other”

Loretta Derocher
09/03/2021 10:45 am

Dear Sister Fran, Thank you for your words of humility. Lord, help us all strive to see all people through the lens of your loving eyes and all consuming love. We thank you and praise in the name of your Beloved Son, Jesus!

With deepest gratitude for the Sisters of St. Francis,

Loretta Derocher

Mary K Maxson/Mary Pierre
09/03/2021 6:10 pm

Dear Sister Fran, What a lot to chew! Your openness to God's message about "the other" has given us much to digest and to nourish our minds and hearts. Thank you for sharing.

Dave and Lola Daniels
09/03/2021 8:13 pm

We know a person now in prison, soon to be an ex-offender. Your words will help us now as we visit him and after he is released. THANKS! Praise God for your words and insights!

Debbie Tahany
09/04/2021 8:30 pm

Thanks Sister Francis!

I've done something similar to your experience. It reminds me of "until you walk a mile in my shoes...".

Appreciate your willingness to share.


Lois Vandermause
09/05/2021 6:54 pm

Thank you for the heart tugging reflection. May we all be more aware of how close minded and judgmental we can be.

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