They are hoping to start a new religious congregation and, on Tuesday, three women from the Diocese of Buffalo took a big individual step in their formation as Marian Franciscan Sisters. They received their religious habits and new religious names as Bishop Richard Malone received them into the novitiate in a special Mass at Our Lady Chapel in St. Joseph Cathedral.
Nicolette Langlois chose the name Sr. Colette Caritas. Kristen Leaderstorf will now be known as Sr. Anne Florence. Lindsey Martin chose the name Sr. Lindsey Joan of Our Lady of Grace. Just before placing veils on the heads of the three women, Sr. Ellen McCarthy, SSJ and Mother Mary Ann Kessler, TOR, cut a portion of the women's hair to symbolize taking some of their beauty and offering it up to God.
"Your 'Yes' is what brings you and us here today," said Bishop Malone, who saluted them for being patient in their journey and for choosing to do the work of the 'new evangelization'. "Evangelization always means, by word and deed, touching people's lives and touching the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do so many important things, but the Church exists in order to evangelize."
"It's definitely a day I've been looking forward to with a lot of joy," said Sr. Colette, who is in a leadership role with the Marian Franciscans. "That formal step of moving into your religious vocation, in such a way that you take on the holy habit, is a very significant point because you take on what you've been longing to do."
On the very next day, the three women prepared to leave for Baltic, Connecticut to begin their canonical novitiate with the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Mother of the Church. It will be a year of prayer and study that is required in religious formation. The second year of their novitiate will be an active year of ministry back in Buffalo, where they hope to eventually open a coffee shop or a food truck to help serve as missionary disciples.
"We are a private association of the Christian faithful," according to Sr. Colette. "The next step would be a public association of the faithful which would happen at the discretion of the Bishop, and after that would come a diocesan rite community, and then, should we fulfill all the requirements and be deemed suitable, we would seek permission from the bishop to become a pontifical institute."
Bishop Malone commended them for their desire to begin a new congregation within the Diocese of Buffalo, and as the women wore their habit for the first time, he reminded them it is what St. Francis asked his followers to wear. "Filled with joy, strive to imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary and to be a sign of Christ wherever you go."
"I am so full of joy and gratitude," said Sr. Anne Florence as she wore a dark blue habit and veil for the first time. "The habit means a lot to us to be a witness of Christ out in the world, just by people looking at us, hopefully they'll think of him before they even think of us. So it's really a tool of evangelization and embracing the vow of poverty."
Sr. Lindsey Joan felt a sense of peace and excitement from wearing the habit. "It's a beautiful outward expression of what I've chosen to commit myself to and what lies ahead for me, what I represent and how I feel called to serve and love and to minister."
For the past two years, the three women have been living together in South Buffalo as postulants as they move toward a life of poverty, chastity and obedience to become worthy of this step into the novitiate stage.
The Marian Franciscans have their own distinctive charism to serve the church through the ministry of the new evangelization with three areas of focus; assisting existing entities in the church, offering ongoing formation to Catholics, and direct outreach to those who've experienced a crisis of faith.
"What we feel called to do is to serve the poorest of the 'spiritually poor' in middle class America," said Sr. Colette. "Our goal is to be that light of Christ to whomever we meet and bring that joy that we have in our hearts to the people that we meet so that they're filled with joy."
See more at www.MarianFranciscans.org .