The women behind Atlantic City’s Renewal

The women behind Atlantic City’s Renewal

Bishop Dennis Sullivan stands with Sister Joseph; Sister Agnes, Local Servant; Sister Chiara; and Sister Ann Kateri. In left photo, Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal at the Wedding of the Sea celebration in Atlantic City on Aug. 15.
Photo above by James A. McBride, below by Mike Walsh

ATLANTIC CITY — Just down the street from the noise, lights, and slots here on the Boardwalk, four young women have recently put down roots in a former rectory to prove that the city’s promise of money, pleasure and power are no match for prayer and charity when it comes to lasting peace.

Sister Agnes, Sister Ann, Sister Chiara and Sister Joseph — Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal — have occupied the former Saint Michael Church rectory, establishing their first home in the United States outside New York.

“We’re here to be a presence of Christ’s love, light and hope,” says Sister Agnes, the local servant (superior) of the Atlantic City convent.

Camden’s Bishop, Dennis Sullivan, was familiar with the Sisters and their work in Harlem and the Bronx when he was Vicar General in New York, and had been looking for ways to bring their gifts of charity and evangelization to South Jersey.

At the same time, the order was looking to expand and add to its work in New York, and England and Ireland. Thus, a match made in Atlantic City.

The Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, founded in 1988, is guided by the simplicity of their patron, Saint Francis of Assisi, and lives the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The five hours of daily prayer “nurture and support us,” says Sister Agnes.

The sisters, still settling in, have been introducing themselves to the local community, and were omnipresent at the Wedding of the Sea festivities on Aug. 15. Bishop Sullivan dedicated the convent, and the sisters opened their doors to festival-goers, sharing tours of their kitchen, dining room, chapel and library.

“You will be witnesses of the Gospel and spread the good aroma (of the faith),” Bishop Sullivan said in his address to the sisters at the dedication, held in Saint Michael’s Church, next door to the convent.

The four sisters were joined not only by diocesan clergy and faithful, but by their fellow religious sisters from New York, England and Ireland, and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal from New York.

Bishop Sullivan presented a painting of Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Clare of Assisi to Sister Agnes and Mother Lucille, Community Servant (Superior General) of the order, and a founding member. Afterward, he walked the convent’s halls and rooms, blessing them and asking for God’s graces on this new mission and hope for the faithful of South Jersey.

Sister Agnes and the three sisters with her are eager and ready for what lies ahead. “We want to share the joy Jesus brings us, and the joy of our love for him, to all,” she said.

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