Two members of the Sisters of St. Francis order in Clinton will celebrate their anniversaries, and one will profess "First Vows" on Saturday, July 29, at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Clinton.
Sister Yvonne Gehant and Sister Michael Marie Burns will celebrate anniversaries of their entry into the congregation, called a Jubilee, and Sister Emily Brabham will profess the initial vows.
Bishop Thomas Zinkula will preside at the Mass.
"I am looking forward to celebrating the Jubilee Mass with the Clinton Franciscans. This will be my first visit to Clinton as the bishop of the diocese, and it will be a pleasure to honor the many years of professed religious life of Sisters Yvonne and Michael Marie and a delight to witness Emily profess first vows," he said in a news release.
Gehant, who celebrates 70 years of religious life, was born in West Brooklyn, Illinois, and transferred to Mount St. Clare Academy in Clinton her senior year of high school. During that year, she decided to become a nun with the order.
"What influenced me to join the Sisters of St. Francis was the good example of the Sisters at Mount St. Clare Academy when I was a student there," she said.
Gehant spent many of her years of active ministry teaching students at the junior high level. She began teaching sixth-grade students at St. Francis de Paula School in Chicago and later taught in California, Rochelle and Macomb, Illinois, serving as principal for 12 of those years. In Clinton, Gehant taught at Sacred Heart School and at Mount St. Clare College.
For an additional 28 years, she served in various capacities at Mount St. Clare College as an English instructor, business office manager and assistant in the office of the academic dean. She directed the Mount St. Clare Elementary Tutoring Program from 1991 until it closed. For 19 years, Gehant was the general secretary of the St. Francis order, and she served in that capacity until 2008 when she retired.
Sister Michael Marie Burns celebrates 60 years of religious life. She was inspired to become a nun when she was in the first grade. In her youth, she walked Pershing Boulevard every day to St. Boniface Grade School where she met many Clinton Franciscan Sisters, including her first-grade teacher and inspiration, Sister Mary Lacy.
As she discussed her many years of caregiving, teaching, ministering on campuses, mentoring in religious education and her new endeavor as a spiritual director, she said, “I am very happy. I didn’t look at other congregations 60 years ago, but this was the right one. How lucky can you be?”
The Clinton native began her ministry teaching elementary students at St. Francis de Paula School in Chicago and at parochial schools in Vail and Akron, Iowa, and Riverside, California. She served as a campus minister for college students for 10 years, first at the University of California in Riverside; California State College, San Bernadino; and the two community colleges in Riverside and San Bernadino, and later at Viterbo College in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
She earned a master’s degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University, and at St. Bonaventure University, she completed a second master’s degree in Franciscan studies. For the next 18 years, she ministered as religious education director at three different parishes in Illinois and Indiana. Her final nine years of full-time active ministry were spent as a caregiver, house manager and qualified support professional at Sophia House Esperanza, Chicago, a residence for people with developmental disabilities.
Burns resides at The Canticle, where she serves as a member of the Liturgy Committee. She is also a member of the Spiritual Life Committee for L’Arche, Clinton, and leads a monthly prayer service for residents of Mercy Living Center South. A certified spiritual director, she is available for individual spiritual direction.
"It’s as if God allowed me to know when to move and when to stay," she said of her different ministries. "When I began all those years ago, I saw rules as rules but over time and especially with college students ... They came to help me understand people aren’t made for the law, the law is made for the people ...”
Sister Emily Brabham is the daughter of Linda and Dale Brabham of Sherwood, Oregon, and will profess vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for the first time July 29.
Brabham has been in initial discernment for four years. She has participated in the life and mission of the Sisters and the inter-community programs for pre-novitiate and canonical year while she directed the youth ministry for the parish of St. Francis Xavier in LaGrange, Illinois. She lives at the Franciscan Dwelling place in Chicago.
"The gift of the Clinton Franciscas is an indescribable joy that I thank God for every day ... I seek to serve God’s people and live out the mission through peacemaking and active non-violence while embracing the conversion of heart," she said.