This year’s theme, “Becoming a Sacred Flame: Francis, Clare and John’s Gospel,” will highlight three key figures for Franciscans: Francis, founder of the Franciscan Order; Clare, who, along with Francis, founded the women’s Order of St. Clare; and John, author of the fourth Gospel, which emphasizes Christian love, a cornerstone of the Franciscan life.
To be honored, a religious community’s leadership team must nominate a member and explain how a member fulfills the criteria, which are:
• Spark enthusiasm for the charism.
• Allow their ministry to be a light to the world.
• Exemplify a passion that ignites others for a cause or ministry.
• Embody the spirit of their congregation’s founder.
• Live the love expressed in the Gospel of John.
• Live as “word made flesh,” empowering others to become more.
• Exhibit a passionate love of life and people.
“Sr. Marilyn was chosen because of her enthusiastic response to whatever ministry is asked of her,” said Sr. Donna Koch, community president. “She has a love of Francis and Clare and her enthusiasm shines through in her leadership with our lay associates. Her passionate love of life and people is exemplified in her role as chaplain at St. Vincent Hospital and her commitment to the Gospel empowers others to grow to their full potential.”
For Sr. Marilyn, being a sacred flame involves the ongoing development of one’s self to receive Christ before inviting others to believe.
“I need to be nurtured and enlightened,” said Sr. Marilyn. “I have to be convinced myself first before convincing others. But it doesn’t begin with one and end with the other; it’s a back and forth.”
She experienced this “back and forth” during her three decades as a Catholic educator and now as a hospital chaplain and director of her religious community’s associates (lay men and women who join the Sisters in prayer and ministry).
“In the humdrum of everyday life we don’t always see the difference we make,” said Sr. Marilyn. “But, whenever I meet a former student, my heart races. They might talk about a significant moment in the classroom or a fond memory from school. Or I might see someone in the elevator (at the hospital) and they will say, ‘Do you remember my mom? She was a patient here four years ago, and you were with our family when she was dying. Your presence made a difference.’ All of that happens and you don’t know it.”