“Many parishioners take what they learn back to their homelands: Italy, Japan, Germany, the United States. I know our volunteer catechists will be continuing wherever they go. This is the fulfillment of my mission dream here in Panama.”
When Sister Fran arrived in Panama in 1987, St. Mary’s Parish was in the Canal Zone, and the Vincentian priests with whom she would work were in charge of San Vicente, a Spanish-speaking parish in Panama City, and St. Mary’s in Balboa. The boundary between Panama City and the Canal Zone was an international border as well as a street which separated the Zone residents from the Panamanians. Some of the folks from St. Mary’s stepped across the border to help with the soup kitchen at San Vicente. After the December 20, 1989, invasion by the U.S., there was a need at St. Mary’s for a Director of Religious Education (DRE).
When she accepted this ministry at St. Mary’s it was with the goal of working for justice and peace with the parishioners and having an outreach to the poor. She walked into an organized catechetical set-up with English-speaking volunteers from kindergarten through high school.
In 1999, there was a great exodus of Americans and others from the Canal Zone in anticipation of the turnover of the Panama Canal and Canal Zone in 2000. Yet by July, 2000, a large new influx of English-speaking people had arrived, canal workers, business people, and families of Panamanian and U.S. marriages. The turnover and mobility of St. Mary’s Parish are high. Yet, the return of these trained catechists to their countries of origin is what makes St. Mary’s a mission-sending church, fulfilling Sister Fran’s dream. Although retired as a religious education director, Sister Fran continues with pastoral work at St. Mary’s and home-visiting among those too ill to go outside.
Sister Fran was born and grew up in a family of ten children in Philadelphia, PA, which prepared her well for entering Maryknoll in 1944. After working at the Maryknoll Center and the novitiate in Valley Park, MO, she did parish and catechetical work in Houston, Texas. Then she began sixteen years at St. Therese School in Chinatown, Chicago teaching, assistant principal, and handling a multitude of extra-curricular activities. Sister Fran’s enthusiasm, energy and generosity are a hallmark of all her ministries in sharing God’s mission through the years.
In 2012, Sister Fran was assigned to the Maryknoll Sisters Retirement Community.