New ‘Deepening the Mystery’ seminar energizes participants

October 22, 2010 by

Sisters Pat Francis Centner, left, and Mary Hubert McQuinn talk about the just-completed "Deepening the Mystery" seminar at Manna House of Prayer in Concordia.

Sister Pat Francis Centner hoped to find answers to the questions she was asking herself “as a woman religious today.”

It was different for Sister Marie Orf. She was finishing her term on her congregation’s Leadership Team and felt a need to re-energize and reflect on her life as a woman religious.

But for Sister Evelyn Mee, as much as anything, it was just a month away from Baton Rouge, La., where life is still marked as “before Katrina” and “after Katrina.”

Yet each of these three sisters said they completed the 30-day “Deepening the Mystery of Religious Life” seminar at Manna House of Prayer accomplishing what they hoped for — and much more.

“We’ve been changed, each in our own way, by God in our time here,” said Pat, a Franciscan sister who lives in Prairie Village, Kan. “I want to take things I’ve learned here and integrate them into my life.”

The three sisters, along with Sister Mary Hubert McQuinn, echoed each other as they sat down to talk about their experience in this first-ever seminar, designed and presented by the staff at Manna House.

They were among 16 sisters who came from congregations across the eastern U.S. to take part.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia who staff Manna House hoped the intensive program would “make a significant contribution in awakening our awareness of both the mystical and the prophetic nature of consecrated religious life,” explained Sister Bette Moslander.

A part of that, added Sister Janet Lander, was just by providing “30 days to step back and refocus. Women get into their stride in ministry and works, and can lose sight of their original reasons for choosing religious life.”

Sister Marie Orf: "If we just keep saying 'yes' to Christ, he will take us with him."

And, noted Sister Marcia Allen, it was an opportunity to see the “traps of complacency and workaholism; we get so caught up in what we do that we forget who we are.”

That was one of the most important messages Marie Orf heard. As she prepared to return to her Sisters of the Precious Blood congregation in O’Fallon, Mo., she said, “I don’t want to go back the way I came; I want to be a lot more than do.”

Mary Hubert, also a member of the O’Fallon congregation, agreed: “I just want to go back and live what we’ve seen here: quiet service and love. I hope I can quietly re-enter my community and live by example.”

The women praised the Sisters of St. Joseph and lay staff at Manna House, both for their hospitality and service and for the example they provided by living what they teach.

But, Marie added, that doesn’t mean that the 30 days at Manna was a vacation. “It was work!” she said. “You had to be open to new ideas, new thoughts, new points of view. It was worth it, but you had to be willing to work at it.”

Yet it was a different kind of work — and one Evelyn very much appreciated five years after Hurricane Katrina dramatically changed her life.

“The worst of the storm missed us, but we took in the sisters who were forced out of New Orleans,” recalled Evelyn, who is a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph. By the time the hurricane and flooding were over, her congregation had lost their New Orleans Motherhouse, novitiate building, infirmary and two smaller houses.

“It’s been five years, but for us, everything changed. I really needed 30 days of silence and prayer.”

Sister Evelyn Mee: "I going away with a much deeper appreciation of Jesus as a human; he, too, had to take that leap of faith."

The Manna staff worked out a individualized program for Evelyn, in which she took part in the first intensive week of the “Deepening the Mystery” seminar, then had a personal retreat with spiritual direction. Her free days coincided with the group’s, so she was able to remain connected with the program.

Pat Francis Centner had withstood a very different kind of storm before her month at Manna House.

She had spent the last 10 years caring for her mother and providing pastoral care in a parish. After her mother’s death, she said, “I was looking for a way to take time to discern my own vocation. When I got this brochure, everything was tied in to my questions as a woman in religious life today.”

That’s exactly what Bette Moslander and the other staff at Manna want to hear as they look back on the inaugural “Deepening the Mystery” program.

“With this, we were dealing with contemporary issues, and we challenged them,” Bette said. “But it seems they found the value we were hoping for in that challenge.”

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For more about Manna House…

The inaugural “Deepening the Mystery of Religious Life” seminar was from Sept. 13 through  Oct. 21 at Manna House of Prayer in Concordia, Kan.

For information about other workshops and retreats at Manna House, go to


3 Responses to “New ‘Deepening the Mystery’ seminar energizes participants”

  1. Fr. David J. Centner, OCD on November 14th, 2020 2:51 pm

    My brother Christopher sent your link on our family Facebook site. I suspect Sr. Pat Francis and I are cousins, and it is good to know that besides Sr. Barbara Centner (Mercy in Chicago) there may be another religious related to me. My dad (from northern Kentucky) had a relative, Fr. Alexis Centner OP, from the Cincinnati Province who died in Kansas. Please assure Sr Pat Francis of a place in my prayers.

  2. Jean Befort on November 3rd, 2010 9:14 pm

    What an amazing opportunity to integrate one’s life, having the opportunity to look back, see where one is, and than to move ahead in a more intentional way!

    Lovely summary of the “Deepening of the Mystery”, Sarah! Thank you!

  3. D. Otter on October 25th, 2010 8:41 am

    Very interesting and animating! Congratulations.

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