Life in Mother Marianne's convent

 UPDATED 8:59 PM HST Oct 14, 2012
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -

When Mother Marianne first entered the convent 150 years ago, she embraced a life of poverty, chastity and obedience - the life of a Franciscan sister. Very few of us can imagine convent life, let alone in the 19th century.

"I feels so privileged to walk in the footprints where she has been, where she was.  We live the gospel.  The daily life, we work, we pray, we give and we do service," said Sister Rosemarie Pelligra.

Morning prayer is the first common gathering of the sisters everyday where they are reminded of the Franciscan heritage. The sisters are also reminded of Mother Marianne's journey to Hawaii and her service on Oahu, Maui, and Kalaupapa. At St. Anthony's, Mother Marianne's remains rest in a reliquary flanked by 3 kahili, each feather a prayer.

"I’m sure it was hard for the people in Hawaii. We’re happy to have her here. We hope her burial place will be a shrine," said Bishop Robert Cunningham.

Much changed in the Franciscan order since Marianne's day. Sisters are not required to wear the habit, and can use their birth names.

"I went with the modified habit, now the contemporary, which is fine because I know Jesus loves me," said Sister Lorraine James.

Modest jewelry is allowed as are trips to the salon to style, perm or color their hair.

Though the average age is 80, most still work in the community as nurses and teachers. The most common misconception of the sisters is that the church pays them a salary. Most still work in hospitals and schools, pooling their paychecks to make ends meet.

“In the past there were hundreds of sisters coming in to input financially, but now there are fewer younger sisters and a greater number of senior sisters,” said Sister Rosemarie.

Once there were 200 in the convent, but now about 40. The sisters hoped Mother Marianne's big promotion will lead more women to the spiritual life.  

We would like to thank all at St. Anthony’s who allowed us an exclusive stay in their convents.

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