THE CAPUCHIN

 

St. Veronica Guiliani Monastery - Wilmington, Delaware

In 1985, Brother Ronald Giannone, OFM Cap., Fr. Thomas Hanley, personal representative of the Bishop of Wilmington, Delaware, and two Poor Clare nuns from the monastery in Langhorne, Pennsylvania visited the capuchin monastery in Uruapan, Michoacan, (Mexico). They met with Abbess, Mother Teresa Cacho, and with the President of the Federation of St. Francis and St. Clare, Mother María Inés Cacho. Bro. Ronald and his companions traveled to Mexico with the intention of asking the Sisters in Uruapan to consider the founding of a monastery in Wilmington, Delaware, where the capuchin friars have The Ministry of Caring, a service program for the poor.

As a follow up to the visit, Bro. Ronald wrote to Mother Teresa Cacho with the formal request for a new foundation from the monastery in Uruapan. Mother Teresa Cacho turned down his request. She felt that her sisters, though  large in number, were too young to assume such an important new mission.

 

Bro. Ronald was not about to take “no” for an answer. He approached the Minister General, Fr. Flavio Roberto Carraro, during his scheduled visit to the Capuchin New Jersey province. The Minister General decided to make a personal appeal, requesting the establishment of the new foundation. The sisters in Uruapan accepted this latest request as the will of God, expressed through the successor of St. Francis.

 

Fr. Ronald and his capuchin confreres, of the Province of the Stigmata in New Jersey, were looking for a prayerful community that would offer them spiritual support in their ministry to the local poor.

 

We started a novena to the Holy Spirit seeking Divine guidance. During the course of the novena, any sister who felt the desire to become a missionary, and wished to volunteer for the new monastery in Wilmington, was asked to write her name on a piece of paper. The piece of paper was to be dropped inside a closed urn, which had been placed on the floor before the Blessed Sacrament.

 

After nine days of prayer and reflection, ten sisters had volunteered to form the new community in Wilmington. We began immediately to make the needed preparations for the new foundation. Bro. Ronald invited Abbess, Mother Teresa Cacho, and the President of the Federation, Mother Inés Cacho, to visit the locale for the new foundation. After the visit, it was agreed that since the home was too small for ten sisters, only eight would come in the beginning. The other two would join them at a later date.

 

On December 12, 1986, the Feast of our Lady of Guadalupe, eight of us left our beloved sisters in the monastery of Uruapan and our dear Mexico, to become missionaries in a new land. Mother Teresa and Mother Inés  accompanied us. We desired to spend our last night in Mexico City at the feet of our dear Mother, the Morenita of Tepeyac, we asked for Her blessing and for special graces for our new foundation. The plane took off from Mexico City at noon. Our hearts were filled with deep emotion. The rest of the passengers in the plane, mostly US residents, looked at us with curious amazement. Imagine, ten nuns traveling as a group!

 

When we arrived in Philadelphia, we received a great surprise. A group of Capuchin Brothers carrying a large image of Our Lady of Guadalupe were waiting to drive us to our new home. Our Lady of Guadalupe bade us farewell in Mexico City, and now She was in Philadelphia to welcome us to our new mission.

 

The drive to our new home took about thirty minutes. The Capuchin Brothers showed us all around the new monastery, then they offered us delicious pizza for supper.

 

The first days after arrival, we were busy with new visitors, who came to welcome us. Everyone welcomed us with great affection. In the following months, the Capuchin Brothers decided to take us to the local parishes, so that people would get to know us and we would become acquainted with the surroundings of this new country.

 

We began diligently to study English. Ursuline Sister Dina gave us our first lessons. The Capuchin Brothers were also very helpful in our process of learning to speak English. Bros. Ronny and Andrew took turns giving us additional English lessons.

 

Soon enough we were given embroidery machines, plus the necessary materials, so we could work to earn our keep and become self-sufficient. We became the seamstresses for the Capuchin Brothers. We made their habits. We also started making liturgical vestments and altar linens. In addition to our sewing, we started cooking meals for the poor people who frequented the various programs of the Ministry of Caring.

 

Our first home was very small. We urgently needed to start building a new monastery. Bro. Ronald started in earnest to secure the needed funds for the new construction. He started a writing campaign. He approached charitable endowment foundations. He contacted many generous benefactors. He wrote to all the capuchin communities and to all the Monasteries of Poor Clares. Bro. Ronny even applied for a bank loan to finance the proposed construction. His unyielding tenacity paid off, and three years after our arrival, the construction of the new monastery became a reality. The new monastery would have private rooms, a workroom, recreation room, visitor parlors and a chapel.      

 

When the new building had to be attached to our original home, we had to vacate the premises for three whole months. We moved in with our Poor Clares Sisters in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. Our stay with the Poor Clares was a rewarding experience for all of us. We were required to speak English all the time, which helped us improve our conversational skills. It also afforded us the opportunity to learn first hand many aspects of the American spirit and culture. The Sisters welcomed us with great joy and great affection. We have fond memories of our stay with them, and remember them with deep gratitude.

 

Getting adjusted in our newly- built monastery was exciting, and a source of great joy. Everything was finished except for our chapel. We had to wait a little while longer for the chapel to be completed. The day to consecrate the chapel came, and it was celebrated with great jubilation. Thanks to our Capuchin Brothers and to our many benefactors, we now enjoy plenty of space. We have a sunny garden, where flowers bloom, especially in the spring, and we have many outdoor activities when weather permits.

 

In the spring of 1992, we made arrangements to travel to Mexico, to be able to apply for our permanent residence. We had fulfilled our required five-year residence in the USA. We were really excited at the prospect of being able to visit our families and our country. On the eve of our departure, the good Lord had a surprise for us. As the gospel says, “a voice was heard in the middle of the night: the Spouse is coming, go out to meet him.” Such call came for our dear sister María Cecilia Zaragoza. The Lord came suddenly for her on June 2, 1992. An aneurysm in her brain ruptured. It freed her soul to enter into eternal life.

 

Moments of confusion and inexpressible sorrow came upon us, while coping with such an unexpected situation. Sister María Cecilia was an only child. Her mother and her uncle were able to be present at the funeral here, in Wilmington, at the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul. Our trip to Mexico was delayed a week. We all had been deeply affected by the sudden death of our dear sister.

 

In 1999 our community received a special request from the Minister General of the Capuchin Order. One of our Monasteries in South Africa was in need of help, and he asked for one of the sisters of our community to go there as a Missionary, together with five other sisters from the Federation in Mexico. Although we were only a few, we accepted the challenge of extending the missionary aspect of our contemplative vocation sending our Sister María Guadalupe there, in support of our sisters in Swellendam, South Africa. They are now on the way of renewal in the Spirit of Saints Francis and Clare.

 

Happy and sad events are normal in our earthly journey. On October 24, 2004, our Sister María Concepción Guerrero, one of the pioneer missionaries in this country, was called to her eternal reward, after a long and painful illness.

It has been 23 years since we first arrived in this country. We have been able to master the English language. We continue our process of learning and assimilating this country’s culture while, at the same time; endeavoring to live, joyfully, our vocation of contemplative prayer, in petition for our brothers and sisters throughout the world.

After a long journey in striving to learn the history of this country, the nine Founding Sisters of this community were granted US citizenship, on December 31, 1999. It was an extremely emotional and joyful occasion.   

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