Franciscan spirituality guides them

By Monica Sawyn | For The Compass | February 13, 2014

Mancheskis are lay associates with Sisters of St. Francis of Holy Cross

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]STURGEON BAY — Arlene and Jerry Mancheski have always been good Catholics, but it took an 800-year-old saint to answer a longing in both their hearts.

Arlene and Jerry Mancheski (Monica Sawyn | For The Compass)
Arlene and Jerry Mancheski (Monica Sawyn | For The Compass)

“You know how you search (in your faith journey),” Arlene said. “We had both made a Cursillo way back when, and we stayed active, but you get to a point where you’re searching for more.”

They found the “more” through their now-deceased friends, Fritz and Elly LeRoy of Sturgeon Bay, who were Franciscan associates with the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Bay Settlement.

The LeRoys renewed their commitment every two years, and several times invited the Mancheskis to the ceremony and the dinner afterward. Without their realizing it, Arlene said, their friends were grooming them for an invitation to become associates themselves.

The Mancheskis began the two years of study required to learn about the 12th-century St. Francis, and about the way of life he wrote about in his rules for men and women. They met sometimes at their own home, and sometimes with the LeRoys who acted as mentors, studying from books provided by the Franciscan sisters.

“That’s when I really got into Francis, and learned to admire his way of living,” Arlene said.

Jerry agreed that until they began their study, he really didn’t know much about Francis, the simple friar who never became a priest, but who has inspired millions through the centuries, Catholic and non-Catholic, lay and religious.

“I just thought of Francis as someone sitting outside feeding the birds,” he said, and the two of them chuckled at the familiar image.

The Mancheskis, who became associates in 2001, talked about this new identity of theirs while seated at a table in the sun room of their country home. Tall, wide windows let in the bright light and reveal the beauties of nature that their patron St. Francis extolled in his now-famous “Canticle of the Sun.”

This is the same table where the couple sits every morning, and some evenings, to do the Liturgy of the Hours, using the Franciscan version that includes excerpts from the writings of St. Francis, St. Clare and other Franciscan saints. It’s one of the most cherished additions to their Catholic life since becoming associates — although prayer of some form has always been part of their lives.

They often attend daily Mass, and when their children were young, they prayed a family rosary at least once a week during Lent. Recently, they decided to resurrect the practice. They have six children, 14 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, so Arlene sent out invitations to all those who live near — and many do — and invited them to come home for a weekly Lenten rosary.

“There have been as few as two, and as many as 27, plus our former pastor, Fr. Tony Birdsall,” Arlene said. “One of my grandkids, who has a child of her own, says they can’t wait for Lent to start — and they come from Bay Settlement to do this.”

Both she and Jerry have made nearly yearly retreats at the recently closed Holy Name Retreat House on Chambers Island. She is an extraordinary minister of holy Communion at Corpus Christi and has brought the Eucharist to shut-ins “for years and years.” Jerry was until arthritis got in the way.

“Our spiritual life was always there, but we were not as involved as we are now,” Arlene said. “When we became associates, and studied and learned about what the sisters do — not just teaching — we learned that there are lots of things we can do, too.”

Besides a deeper prayer life, their Franciscan association has helped them develop a simpler way of life. Arlene says shopping doesn’t hold the fascination it might have at one time, and she’s not interested in acquiring the very latest of everything.

“It used to be, I had to have this or that, just to keep up with the Jones,” she said. “Or even get ahead of them,” Jerry added, with a chuckle.

Now, they don’t keep anything they haven’t used. They pack up clothes and household things often to give to charitable organizations. They sponsor four children in various Third World countries, contribute to a seminary where a cousin’s boy is studying to become a priest, and encourage their children to give to charitable organizations in their name rather than give Christmas presents.

“We’ve been blessed financially,” Jerry said. “There was a time when I was young when I had very little, and I wanted more. Now I have more, but I don’t want it like I did.” Instead, they see themselves as stewards for those less fortunate.

The Mancheskis are among 36 associates, most of whom attend regular meetings at the motherhouse in Bay Settlement. They helped with fundraisers when the sisters were building a new convent, and they participate in events there as part of the extended Franciscan family.

Jerry and Arlene wear the associate necklace with a Franciscan symbol, but it’s only an outward sign of the changing inner life that they pray will produce patience, kindness and generosity, and will, in at least some small way, make a difference in their world.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info”]Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Arlene and Jerry Mancheski

Parish: Corpus Christi, Sturgeon Bay

Age: Arlene, 77; Jerry, 82

Favorite saint: Arlene, Francis of Assisi; Jerry, Anthony of Padua

Words to live by: Arlene, “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.” Jerry, “Every day is a gift, every meal is a banquet.”[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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