by Sr. Joan Jurski, OSF
One of the things I treasure about being a Catholic are the feasts we celebrate. They seem to give rhythm to life. As a Franciscan I’m drawn particularly to the feasts of Mary. The month of August has several feasts dedicated to Mary. One, August 2 is dedicated to St. Mary of the Angels. Who cannot like Mary and angels? The feast is connected to the chapel of Mary of the Angels in Assisi . The chapel is also referred to as the Portiuncula (little portion). At the beginning of the 13th century, St. Francis of Assisi was immersed in his personal conversion. Once Francis heard the voice of rebuilding the “church” he set about repairing neglected chapels in Umbria. One was the chapel of St. Mary of the Angels. He began to repair the Chapel, however, there was a problem since the place and land belonged to the Benedictines.
The Benedictines, good men that they were, were willing to give Francis the chapel and land. Francis however, declined the offer. Rather he said he would rent the place for a basket of fish from the Tescio river. I wonder what kind of fish flourished in those waters? Francis felt poverty prevented him from owning the property. Interestingly enough this rent to the Benedictine Order is continued today. Franciscans offer fish to the Benedictines. I doubt a basket is still used.
This history leads me to share with you the origin of the Portiuncula on our property in Sylvania. Perhaps you have seen it. It is a replica of the original Portiuncula that still stands in Assisi. The original sits inside the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels. Our Portiuncula here in Sylvania was built in thanksgiving for favors received. In 1929, during the Depression days, Mother Adelaide built the first permanent building on campus, St. Clare Academy. It was a tough time financially, but it was important for the young women who came to Sylvania to be educated. Sister Laurentia, the treasurer at that time informed Mother Adelaide there was no money to pay the mortgage. Mother insisted on a trip to Chicago where the finance company was located. She had the Sisters praying to high heaven for some kind of monetary relief… She did make a promise if the trip to Chicago was successful she would have a Portiuncula built on the grounds. The trip was successful. Mr. McDonald lessened the amount needed and graciously gave the two Sisters money for lunch when they left. Wonder where they had lunch in Chicago? As you drive our grounds or walk about know that miracles happen. Stop in and rest in the Lord in the chapel. Pray for us and for all who will pass this way. Amen.
(Photo by Maegen Anders)