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Retired Missioners:

Sr. Adela Gross, OSF - Previously in Peru

Sr. Adela is Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN. She previously served in Peru from 1966-1977. Sr. Adella describes her time living the Franciscan life as not being easy, but it has been rewarding. It has led her to inner peace and joy.

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Sr. Ange Mayers, OSF - Previously in Venezuela + Mexico

I am Sister Ange Mayers, a Franciscan of Little Falls, MN whose home parish is Immaculate Conception Church, New Munich.  At this time as I’m putting closure on mission in San Rafael, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, I want to share what this ministry/call to mission has meant.  
     In Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela 1989-1992, the ministry/mission was based on the model of Basic Christian Communities:  Comunidad de Base. This method of forming basic Christian communities was the way of putting into practice the teaching of Vatican II in Latin America.  It brought neighbors together, it invited those who felt alienated from the church to have a sense of belonging, it developed leadership skills and it addressed the needs of the neighborhood. It was a living out of the Gospel of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish.   

      In 1994-2010, while doing cross-cultural ministry among the Tohono O’odham of Southwestern AZ, I learned that no culture is better than another.  Each culture is blessed with gifts to share with other cultures.  They are expressed in food, language, rituals and customs.  It is our responsibility and privilege as missioners to learn what these gifts are.

      In 2016-2020, in San Rafael, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, ministry was two-fold:  Organizing a children’s camp for those specifically who live on the margins, those who are not involved in the community. The second, was tutoring English to youth and adults.

       In our daily lives, conflict and division exist all around us!  As Franciscans we are called to follow in the footsteps of St. Francis by being instruments of peace. Pope Francis, in his more recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti: On Fraternity and Social Friendship, calls us to see the value and meaning of forgiveness. “Forgiveness and reconciliation are central themes in Christianity and, in various ways, in other religions.”  Each one of us is called to be an artisan of peace, by uniting and not dividing, by extinguishing hatred and not holding on to it, by opening paths of dialogue and not by constructing new walls.”  This, we can bring to mission, to our daily lives.

Sr. Anita Jennissen, OSF - Previously in Peru, Colombia, Africa, + Mexico

Sr. Anita is Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN. She previously served in Peru from 1962-1970, Colombia from 1971-1977, Africa from 1982-1984, 1986-1991, 2002-2004, Kenya 2004-2005, and Mexico from 2005-2008. Sr. Anita says of her time as a Franciscan that the beauty in it is how the spirit of Francis is that he taught through his life and example that we are brothers and sisters with all of God's creation.

Sr. Audrey Jean Loher, OSF - Previously in Peru, Venezuela, + Guatemala

Sr. Audrey is Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN. She previously served in Peru from 1964-1974, Venezuela from 1979-1986, and Guatemala from 1995-1997. 

Sr. Carmen Barsody, OSF - Previously in Nicaragua

Sr. Carmen is Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN. She previously served in Nicaragua from 1990-1997.

Sr. Carol Schmit, OSF - Previously in Venezuela

Sr. Carol is Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN. She previously served in Venezuela from 1977-1984.

Sr. Carol Virnig, OSF - Previously in Peru + Bolivia

Sr. Carol is Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN. She previously served in Peru from 1977-1980, and Bolivia from 1980-1987.

Sr. Carolyn Law, OSF - Previously in Venezuela + Nicaragua

Sr. Carolyn is Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN. She previously served in Venezuela from 1985-1990, and Nicaragua from 1990-1993.

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Fr. Danny Ohmann, MM - Previously in Tanzania

Fr. Danny Ohmann is a Maryknoll Father. He lived in rural Tanzania from 1964 until 2016. While there he served both the Sukuma people and later the Watatulu people. He spent about 25 years with each tribe. His primary focus was on helping those who were seriously sick and with education. 

The Watatulu elders felt that education was unnecessary, because boys were meant to herd cattle and girls were meant to have babies. They felt neither of these things necessitated education, and thus opposed it. Fr. Ohmann, through his relationships with the people, was able to help a number of students receive an education. In 2015 he had 31 students in Catholic Boarding Schools, 9 girls and 22 boys. He even started the Watatulu Education Fund in 2002 to help fund their education.

Emma Meyer - Previously in Honduras

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To read more about Emma, you can find more of her story in our newsletters. Look in Winter 2021, and Winter 2022. 

Emma Meyer - Previously in Honduras

My heart was set on fire for mission when I went on a three-week mission trip with FOCUS to El Salvador during the summer of 2019. I saw a third-world country for the first time with my own eyes and encountered the people there. Through prayer (especially reading the parable of the rich, young man) I felt the Lord calling me to serve His people in Central America and specially through Farm of the Child in rural Honduras.

Farm of the Child or "the Finca" still continues to serve through the pandemic. As a children's home, we are providing kids with a safe, nurturing place to grow up. The Finca also operates a community clinic and K-9 school for about 100 kids. The clinic has remained open throughout this time serving our neighbors in socially distant ways. School moved online and missionaries transitioned from roles of teaching Kindergarten and English to tutoring children.

My initial one year commitment to the Farm of the Child was filled with laughter, tears, fun, struggles, and grace-filled moments where I could see the Lord at work. Because of this I extended my time of service for an additional year and continued living and working at Farm of the Child until December of 2022 before returning home to Minnesota.

If you want to learn about Farm of the Child and Emma's experience you can visit their website: https://www.farmofthechild.org/

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Fr. Herb Gappa, MM - Previously in Tanzania

Fr. Herb Gappa is a Maryknoll Father who was stationed in Tanzania for a number of years. He worked with the local people to help build their faith community with the goal that they would be able to support themselves.

Sr. Grace Skwira, OSF - Previously in Peru, Thailand, + Mexico

Sr. Grace is Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN. She previously served in Peru from 1971-1980, Thailand from 1980-1981, and Mexico from 2010-2014. 

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Sr. Janice Wiechman, OSF - Previously in Venezuela + Mexico

My name is Janice Wiechman.  I am a Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN.  I was born and raised on a farm close to St. Rosa, Minnesota in the St. Cloud Diocese.  I am the eldest of 11 children of Rose and Al Wiechman. I am presently living and ministering in San Rafael, Mexico.  Four of us Franciscans went to San Rafael in 2003.  We have ministered in the Parish of San Rafael which is a parish containing 50 villages, about half in the mountains and about half on the plains.  Over the years, we have worked with catechesis, with visiting the elders and sick, with youth activities, with Bible study and leadership formation.

While visiting the towns in the parish, we discovered that the young teen girls wanted to study beyond 9th grade but did not have a way to do so.  There was only one high school in the parish and it was located in the central village of San Rafael.  There was no transportation from their villages to San Rafael and often a lack of finances.  So, with help from our Congregation and many donors, we built a house with three dormitories and study room where the young women could live with us and go to the local high school. Close to 60 girls have lived at our house and graduated from high school now.  When they graduate, we work with their families to support those who wish to continue to study in college.   Some have graduated as nurses, a lawyer, soon a primary teacher, some psychologists, some in forestry and some in administration.  Thanks to the support of many, many people, we have been able to support the young women on a journey they otherwise would not have been able to take.  Thank you.

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Jason and Inge Becker and Family - Costa Rica + Minnesota

To read more about the Becker Family, you can find more of their story in our newsletters. Look in Winter 2020.

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Jerry Hansen, MKLM - Previously in Tanzania

Jerry Hansen grew up on a farm east of Sauk Rapids, MN. After High School, he joined the military serving in Viet Viet Nam (1966-67) as a machine gunner with the 101st Airborne Division. Following his time in the military, he spent seven years working in East Africa as an agricultural volunteer with the Maryknoll Fathers.

Jerry is an avid writer. He is the recipient of the 1990 Loft-McKnight Award for Peotry, and a 2009 Bush Artist Fellowship in Poetry In addition to the books Blessed Are the Piecemakers, The Medicine of Place, The Kontum Madonna, and Without Dividend in Mind, he is the author of the multi-media play, The Wedding of Tomorrow and Sorrow.

Jerry Hansen seen on left.

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Sr. Joan Gerads OSF - Previously in Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, Thailand, + Ecuador

It is estimated that 90% of Latin America’s baptized Catholics have no real church or parish home due to the shortage of priests and church facilities. Parish Neighborhood Renewal Ministry (PNRM) has a solution for this challenge: We take the church to the people in their own neighborhoods.

Parish Neighborhood Renewal Ministry was founded in 1975 by Sister Joan Gerads, a Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, Minnesota, and Maryknoll Father Tom Maney. For over 40 years, Sister Joan trained missionaries to create Base Church Communities as a means to bring the Gospel to very poor, remote areas of Latin America. Currently, PNRM primarily works in Ecuador and Venezuela. By identifying leaders and engaging people in their own neighborhoods, PRNM has allowed the development of hundreds of small groups of faith-seekers to grow stronger in their relationship with God and with others.

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Fr. John Schweiters, OFM - Previously in Brazil

Fr. John Schweiters, OFM is from the Melrose-Freeport area of the St. Cloud Diocese. He’s a Franciscan Missioner in the Amazon region of Brazil and is part of the Franciscan Custodia Sao Benedito da Amazonia. COVID has caused many challenges in the past year, and along with the loss of some community members, many of them have been sick for extended periods of time. However, Fr. John is hopeful, and in a recent letter to the Office, wrote, “I´m very moved by the “missionary spirit” that continues to prevail in the whole Diocese, and the generosity you report from the people.  Thanks so much for all you do to encourage the people to look widely and beyond, and be reassured that we who benefit from such generosity will remember you always in prayer.”

Sr. Joanne Klinnert, OSF - Previously in Venezuela + Nicaragua

Sr. Joanne is Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN. She previously served in Venezuela from 1988-1990 and Nicaragua from 1990-1994.

Sr. Karen Niedzielski, OSF - Previously in Africa + England

Sr. Karen is Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN. She previously served in England from 1976-1977, Africa from 1988-1994, and Kenya from 2004-2005.

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Br. Larry Kenning, MM - Previously in Boliva

Brother Larry is a native of St. Augusta, MN who served with the Maryknoll Brothers in Bolivia for over 40 years.  He was able to work with youth at the Language school in Cochabamba where he was known for his gentle presence. He was also able to able to help those less fortunate, often by giving them food out of his own garden.

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Liz Mach, MKLM - Previously in Tanzania + South Sudan

Liz Mach is a recently returned Maryknoll Lay Missioner

I [Liz Mach] am sure that if many of us had a preconception of all that was going to happen during these months of COVID-19 we might have made other choices in our lives. I am probably no exception. I moved back home to Minnesota after 44 years of living in Tanzania, East Africa as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner. I came into quarantine, people living in isolation and unable to visit and socialize with the extended family I am blessed to be a part of and was so looking forward to reconnecting with on my return home from the missions. Once again in my life-God's plan-not mine.

But one thing I have learned well in mission-there is always a new trail to follow and challenges to meet. And so, I find myself living in the USA, still vitally linked to Maryknoll as I work part time for them. But I have also found new ways to keep my heart in mission. I volunteer as a nurse with the SSJ Sisters program for health clinics in the Twin Cities. It allows me to connect with our immigrant communities and using my nursing skills. It puts me in contact with other like-minded folks and gives me strength.

And, as the vaccine has become available it has allowed me to reconnect, visit and enjoy my family once again. I am so grateful for this-even though it did not happen on my timeline!

Sr. Loretta Denfeld, OSF - Previously in Venezuela and Mexico

Sr. Loretta is Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN. She previously served in Venezuela from 1984-1986, and Mexico from 2010-2011.

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Marty Roers, MKLM - Previously in South Sudan + Kenya

Marty seen in back, photo from Maryknoll.

Sr. Mary Kenneth Zirbes, OSF - Previously in Peru

Sr. Mary is Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN. She previously served in Peru from 1962-1966.

Mary Lauer, MKLM - Previously in Tanzania

Sr. Maurita Bernet, OSF - Previously in Venezuela +Mexico

Sr. Maurita is Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN. She previously served in Venezuela from 1975-1984, and Mexico from 2010-2011.

Sr. Michelle L'Allier, OSF - Previously in Africa + Nicaragua

Sr. Michelle is Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN. She previously served in Nicaragua from 1993-1997, and Africa in 2012.

Sr. Noreen Bentfield, OSF - Previously in Africa

Sr. Noreen is Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN. She previously served in Africa from 1986-1994, 1996-1998.

Sr. Patricia Forester, OSF - Previously in Venezuela + Mexico

Sr. Patricia is Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN. She previously served in Venezuela from 1975-1980 and Mexico from 2003-2016.

Sr. Rose Mae Rausch, OSF - Previously in Venezuela + Mexico

Sr. Rose is Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN. She previously served in Venezuela from 1976-1985 and Mexico from 2003-2008 .

Sr. Ruth Lentner, OSF - Previously in Nicaragua

Sr. Ruth is Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN. She previously served in Nicaragua from 1992-1994.

Sr. Shirley Mueller, OSF - Previously in Africa

Sr. Shirley is Franciscan Sister of Little Falls, MN. She previously served in Africa from 1991-1994.

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To read more about the Indonesian mission, you can find more of the story in our newsletters. Look in Winter 2020. Or stop in and purchase his book at our office.

Fr. Virgil Petermeier, OSC - Previously in Indonesia

During my first year in theological studies at Fort Wayne, Indiana (1971), I heard God calling me to join my Crosier brothers as a missionary in Papua, Indonesia. I volunteered to do my pastoral internship there. I finally realized God had been calling me to international mission ministry for many years already, and in many ways. During my elementary school years I loved to read the Maryknoll Magazine from cover to cover. Later, at Crosier Seminary, I recall being enthralled by vacationing Crosier missionaries’ from Papua telling their stories to the whole student body. Their Indonesian and Asmat artifacts, displayed in the seminary’s small museum, always deeply interested me.

     From 1974 to 2010 I fell in love with the rainforest people and my Crosier community in the Diocese of Agats, Papua, Indonesia. I served several parishes as a pastor. Then the Crosiers asked me to help train new Indonesian Crosiers. Bishop Alphonse Sowada, OSC also asked me to coordinate diocesan pastoral planning and finally help him as his Vicar General. Thereafter, my Crosier brothers [confreres] elected me as their community leader, a ministry I fulfilled until I returned permanently to the U.S. in 2010.

     From 2010 until 2020 I contributed to the life of the Crosier community at Onamia, MN while also developing and directing the Crosier Associates, a group of lay people who felt called to live Crosier spirituality in their own lives.  God also called me through my long experience of living in the world’s largest Muslim country, Indonesia, to participate in the St. Cloud Christian-Muslim Interfaith Dialogue Group. My former Indonesian experience prompted me to write a book, Encountering God in a Rainforest: Crosier Missionaries in Papua, Indonesia. It was published in early October 2021.

     Since late February 2020, I have been living and serving with my Crosier community in Phoenix, AZ. While continuing interfaith dialogue, I also serve as a spiritual director. Ministries with Veterans and the Hispanic community surrounding Crosier Village here are parts of my present mission too. 

Fr. Virgil is pictured here wearing a traditional Indonesian headdress.  

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