Between July 31 and August 3, 2014, 60 Associates from across Brazil, Jamaica, and the United States, as well as 30 Sisters, gathered at St. Elizabeth Motherhouse in Allegany, NY to spend time together in celebration, retreat, prayer, and reflection.
Hospitality, joy, and inclusivity are truly hallmarks of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany. This was evident in the warm welcome extended to all the Associates by the sisters and staff of St. Elizabeth Motherhouse, the site of this festive 25th Anniversary. To facilitate the various cultures coming together, there was simultaneous translation of all the events and the readings, prayers and music during the liturgies blended the three languages of English, Portuguese, and Spanish.
A DVD presentation of the history of the Allegany Associate Program compiled from interviews of our early foundresses explained the program's beginnings from concept to reality. The "Litany of Naming" honored the Founding Mothers of the Allegany Congregation and Associate Program. Congregational Minister, Margaret Mary Kimmins OSF, explained that "Jubilee" makes us aware that this is not simply a celebration but a special path on our spiritual journey.
A clear interpretation of Incarnational Theology/Spirituality was presented during the morning session of the day-long retreat; and the afternoon was devoted to showing how Francis is a model for Social Justice and Compassion in our time, using events from his life.
To make this once in a lifetime event truly an associate celebration, each of the seven groups in the United States and the two regions (Brazil and Jamaica) were invited to prepare a prayer or service for a designated session during the weekend, to decorate a banner to express their unique identity, to introduce themselves and to speak about how they live out our Franciscan charism, as associates, through their ministries.
To highlight the diversity and unity of our international associate program and to get to know one another better, a fun-filled entertainment night with an exchange of gifts was held. After celebrating our associate past and present, it seemed only fitting that we should discuss how we would like to see the associate relationship evolve and so we were invited and challenged to open the Portiuncula of our hearts, to establish goals, and to envision a future that very well may look different. The responses were brought to the Associate Advisory Committee for their consideration.
At the closing Liturgy a tree and plaque were presented to the Motherhouse to recognize the deep roots of the Associate Program in Allegany and in gratitude for the Associate program. Because it was such a special blessing to have so many associates and sisters from all over the Allegany world present at the gathering, the events of the 25th Associate Anniversary were videotaped for a DVD that will be available for those who could not attend and for the congregational archives.