Consecrated Life Series: Franciscan Sisters of John the Baptist
By: Special to The Catholic Post
“True joy we experience only if we center on the Lord — He must increase, I must decrease.” — Mother Vaclava Ballon, foundress and superior of the Franciscan Sisters of John the Baptist (pictured above at their Peoria Heights motherhouse)
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the ninth in a series featuring religious communities and other forms of consecrated life around the Diocese of Peoria in honor of the Year of Consecrated Life. The celebration will run through Feb. 2, 2016, the World Day of Consecrated Life.
PEORIA HEIGHTS — Not many people would think that there are any similarities between John the Baptist and Francis of Assisi. Their lives were so different. Our community, the Franciscan Sisters of John the Baptist, established in Peoria in 2006 by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, is unique in combining Franciscan and Baptistine spiritualities.
The establishment of our community was the result of an intensive renewal in striving to live an authentic religious life in our previous order. Through this renewal God revealed to us the plan He had for us from all eternity. He wanted us to prove our love for Him by leaving everything again. For those of us who responded, it meant leaving the security of the well-established life in a congregation of pontifical right and starting from the very beginning.
God in His love inspired us to choose the lifestyle of John the Baptist, which is a life of total trust in Him: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given you besides” (Matthew 6:33). The life and ministry of John the Baptist exemplifies the self-emptying nature of consecrated life: “He must increase and I must decrease.” John understood that as Jesus increases in our lives we are not humiliated but glorified in Him.
Our charism of “trusting God in profound humility” means to point to Him, in good times and in hardships. In joy and through tears, it is always the Lord who is to be the center of our attention.
APOSTOLATE OF PRESENCE
We live out Franciscan spirituality in poverty, simple lifestyle, and working “with our own hands” for our livelihood. Having recognized the voice of His Bride, the Church through our bishop, we place ourselves at his disposal and receive our mission from him.
We serve in the field of health care and diocesan ministries, with future plans for a teaching apostolate. We witness to Christ by our consecrated life wherever He needs us.
We could say that our apostolate is an apostolate of presence. Our convent is on a rather busy street in Peoria Heights. We take care of our own property and this is a wonderful tool for evangelization, since people see us and stop by just to talk or ask for prayers.
We have believed in the sainthood cause of Venerable Fulton Sheen since the very beginning, so when we were looking for a patron for our new community, without hesitation we chose him. We were inspired by Fulton Sheen to make a daily Holy Hour, which we offer for priests and seminarians. It seems that he “arranged” for our community to be entrusted with the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Museum at the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria in 2008. Interestingly enough, Venerable Fulton Sheen was called the “John the Baptist of the 20th century” by his contemporaries.
Community life has a significant role in our life of consecration. We attend daily Mass as a community and pray together the Liturgy of the Hours, rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet. In addition to our meals in common, we spend time together in recreation every day. It deepens our relationship with each other and ultimately with the Lord.
Although we are still discovering the depths of the charism God gave us, one thing we know for sure: our true joy comes from sharing in the suffering of Christ.
For more information about our community, visit us at sistersofjohnthebaptist.org.
Franciscan Sisters of John the Baptist
FOUNDED: October 2, 2006 (Feast of the Guardian Angels)
FOUNDRESS/SUPERIOR: Mother M. Vaclava Ballon, FSJB
MEMBERS: Six, all serving in the Diocese of Peoria
CHARISM: Trusting God in profound humility.
APOSTOLATES: Health care, diocesan ministries