Experienced leadership team will guide Franciscan Sisters into the future together

Sister Beatrice Eichten is looking forward to serving the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls as the 22nd community minister and president. She knows there is a lot of work to be done, but she is confident she can do the job. Because she’s done it before.

Franciscan Sister Carol Schmit hands Franciscan Sister Beatrice Eichten a copy of the community’s constitutions and Third Order Regular Rule during the Commissioning Ritual June 4. (Photos by Dianne Towalski)

Sister Bea began her five-year term as community minister after a transfer of leadership ceremony in Little Falls June 4. She previously served on the leadership team back in 1976 and was elected community minster twice, from 2001-2006 and 2011-2018. Since 2018, she has lived in Racine, Wisconsin, working as a consultant and facilitator for religious congregations.

“I think it’s a good time to be in leadership, it’s an exciting time,” Sister Bea said. “I’ve got a good team to work with and the sisters are ready to do the work that needs to happen.”

In addition to Sister Bea, the new team includes Sisters Michelle L’Allier, Mary Pat Burger, Janice Wiechman and Gert Brixius. Together they will be responsible for the spiritual and ministerial life and mission of the 132-year-old congregation.

The new team will continue the work of the previous team which included Sister Carol Schmitt, with three assistant ministers Sisters Carolyn Law, Charlene Grossman and Grace Skwira.

The community decided to elect five ministers instead of four to give them the ability to continue their current ministries and divide the workload among more people.

As the community gets smaller, the new leadership team will have to make sure they plan for the properties, the ministries, and the care of the sisters, Sister Bea said.

Sister Michelle, who will serve as first assistant minister, has also been in that position before. Her previous term was from 2006-2011.

“I’m excited,” she said. “I have confidence in the particular group of women that were discerned through the guidance of the Spirit, and have the complimentary gifts to serve at this time.”

One of her main areas of responsibility will be working with the community’s associates.

“I look forward to working with the men and women who are affiliating very intentionally, to share our values and bring them into the world, into their families and into the combined community.”

After the Commissioning Ritual, the assembly blessed the new leadership team.

Sister Michelle currently lives in St. Cloud at the Franciscan Welcoming House, and because the leadership team now has five members, she will be able to continue her ministry there.

Sister Mary Pat, second assistant minister, previously served on the Franciscan Sisters Leadership team then served as executive director of Franciscan Ministries and Services.

Presently she lives in St. Francis where she offers a Franciscan presence to the local parish.

Sister Janice, third assistant minister, served as a missionary in Venezuela. She most recently served as a missionary in San Rafael in the Diocese of Linares, Mexico. She returned to serve her community and is currently living at the Franciscan Welcoming House in St. Cloud.

Sister Gertrude (Helen), fourth assistant minister, served as executive director of St. Elizabeth Catholic Worker House and of Franciscan Ministries and Services and pastoral minister at St. Bridget Church, Minneapolis. She most recently worked in outreach to Franciscan Sisters and Associates in New Hope, Minnesota.

Crosier Father Kermit Holl presided at the transfer of leadership Mass. In his homily, referring to the event’s closing song, he said, “In all of this, the heavens tell the glory of God and all creation shouts for joy to the glory of the Lord. You cannot get any more Franciscan than that. Keep it so, Sisters Bea and Michelle and Mary Pat and Gert and Janice. Keep it so. Help your sisters and consociates keep it so.”

Author: Dianne Towalski

Dianne Towalski is a multimedia reporter for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

Leave a Reply