FRANCISCAN MISSIONARY OF MARY VOCATION
LIFE: A GIFT FROM GOD
“Meeting the Lord gets us moving, urges us to leave aside self-absorption.” (Evangelii Gaudium 265) The story of consecrated life is about those who have met the Lord and set forth on a journey. They have responded to a call to incarnate the Good News, taking on Jesus’ way of living and acting towards God and Others. (cf. Rejoice 5)
Yesterday and today, we understand our Franciscan Missionary of Mary (FMM) vocation is a gift from God which is lived fully only to the extent that we enter into the life of the People to whom we are sent.
Seven Sisters from Canada, Ireland and France arrived in Worcester, MA, in November 1903, answering a request for ministry among the many immigrant families from Canada. Early accounts tell how these FMM walked the way of the poor with their own inadequate housing and need to beg food. With their new neighbors they set about praying, learning a new language, seeking survival and integration in a new land. In 1904 Bishop Harkins invited Franciscan Missionaries of Mary to the Diocese of Providence. Their YES to this new call brought them to Woonsocket to a houseful of children whose parents worked in the mills. Soon they opened an overnight shelter for motherless little girls. Educational and religious instruction followed. Between 1906 and 1908 new insertions began at the invitation of Bishops in New York, New Bedford and East Boston.
In 1909 FMM were invited to respond to needs of Italian immigrants in Federal Hill: visits to the sick, industrial school for girls, day care for children of working mothers, and Montessori Pre – School with Sr. Maria Isabella, FMM who had been trained by Maria Montessori in Rome This new insertion dedicated to Our Lady of Charity finally moved to a location on Bell Street.
The adaptability, poverty and simplicity of these Franciscan women led them to Fall River in 1910 to accompany Portuguese immigrants, and in 1917 to the Fruit Hill section of North Providence. One of the early ministries of the Sisters was selling handwork by poor women from workrooms. Mary of the Passion had begun these workrooms while in India. The Sisters, called Commissioners, travelled on foot around different cities, overcoming language barriers and selling workroom linens and embroideries.
Eventually a printing press opened at Fruit Hill with Sisters undertaking this demanding work of communication. Presses in France, Canada, Congo, Japan and Netherlands had preceded. These Printing Presses realized Mary of the Passion’s strong conviction that communication was fundamental for Evangelization.
At Fruit Hill Sisters also prepared children for reception of the Sacraments. Other Sisters cared for farm animals and worked a large farm to raise food. From the late 1920’s American young women desiring to become FMM, entered the community in Fruit Hill for their initial formation in this new way of life. New immigrants continued to arrive and invitations came to the FMM from the Archdioceses of San Francisco, St. Louis, and the Dioceses of Gallup, Cincinnati, Tampa, El Paso, and Las Cruces.
Sisters were also sent to people crying out to be accompanied and valued in other places in the world. Sending and receiving in mission actively undergirds every FMM’s life.
Being consecrated in the FMM way of life means commitment to living the Joy of the Gospel, with a Eucharistic vision that holds sacred the relationship among all peoples and with the earth. This Eucharistic vision develops as every FMM prays daily before the Eucharist. The FMM calling is held together throughout life by each one’s unconditional YES to God, following the example of Mary of Nazareth. FMM continue to walk with those who are poor. Coming from different countries, they live and pray together in franciscan communities marked by the Joy of the Gospel, ministering among those experiencing hope and suffering.
Today, ministry in North Providence means accompanying Elderly Sick FMM and Participants in the Day Center for Elderly; embracing the challenge to discover God’s path in our work with lay collaborators; providing sacred space for those seeking God through Scripture, prayer, secular living of the Franciscan charism, and art;
communicating the importance of all Creation through development of the Tree Project; and giving voice to the wisdom, cultures, sufferings and search for God by peoples in all parts of the world through continuing formation courses for FMM, research and writing in collaboration with and Ecumenical collaboration.