Sr. Francene Horan reflects on 71 years of religious life, service

Sr. Francene Horan
Sr. Francene Horan

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Mercy Sr. Francene Horan

Age: 88

Lives in: Whitestone, N.Y.

Years in religious life: 71

Francene, my earliest memory of you goes back about 50 years. We both lived at our Brooklyn motherhouse, the Convent of Mercy. I traveled across town each day to work in the Diocesan Educational Television studio; you cared for about a hundred young children who awaited foster care and adoptive services while living in a wing of the large building that housed the sisters. Although the work was demanding, you handled it with love and found lots of opportunities for laughter.

Please describe your experience of that ministry. 

In the 1950s I was fortunate enough to be assigned to the Convent of Mercy where we provided complete care for 110 children between the ages of two and seven.

Who were your collaborators?

I was assigned to work with Sr. Patrice in a dormitory that held fifty five- and six-year-old boys.

I also taught kindergarten and went to St. John's University after school one day a week and on Saturday mornings. We all had to pursue a degree appropriate to our assigned ministries. It was a busy schedule but God gave us the health and ability to enjoy this work that Catherine McAuley had started in Ireland.

What were the challenges?

Oh, there were many challenges! We started the day getting the children up, dressed and to breakfast. We then returned to the dormitory to change the sheets, make the 50 beds, clean the bathroom, get the dormitory in order, and deposit the used sheets in our laundry.

Did you have many lay helpers?

We had some part time lay staff who helped out each day after school hours. We had many who were truly wonderful, but also some who couldn't be counted on. These were the ones who would unnecessarily call in sick, forcing us to come up with an alternate plan.

What else kept you on your toes?

Meal time had its challenges. We were on deck for breakfast, lunch and supper. If the children didn't like the menu they found ways to get rid of their food, giving it to another child or even stashing it on the floor, under their chair or table. They were clever little ones!

What other ministries did you have as a member of our Mercy community?

My ministries included the following:

  • St. Brigid Elementary School
  • executive director of Convent of Mercy
  • executive director of Angel Guardian Home
  • formation director of Sisters of Mercy
  • member of the Leadership Team Sisters of Mercy
  • director of Employees Assistance Program of Mercy First

Where and with whom did you spend your childhood?

My childhood was a very happy one. I had loving parents, an older brother and sister and a twin sister. We lived in a small community in Hollis, Queens and I attended St.Gerard Magella Elementary School. This was where I was introduced to the Sisters of Mercy and it wasn't long before I knew I wanted to be a Sister of Mercy myself.

What other schools did you attend?

After graduating from elementary school I attended Mercy Juniorate High School, St. John's University and Fordham School of Social Work.

Did you have any role models -- heroes or heroines?

My parents were not only my role models, but were also my heroes. They taught me the meaning of love and the value of faith and family.

And you, Francene, have passed those along to many others. Can you name any positive changes in religious life since Vatican II?

There have been many wonderful, positive changes in religious life since Vatican II. One was that we could have closer relationships with our families and friends. We could visit them; attend special occasions, such as weddings and christenings, and share in their happiness at these times. We also gained the opportunity to be involved in parish works and events.

Please describe and comment on your current living situation. 

My current living situation is ideal. The convent is beautiful, bright and airy. Our rooms are attractive and very comfortable. More important is that we have a wonderful group of sisters who enjoy attending the Eucharist and praying together, as well as interacting with each other in different ways each day.

Do you have a favorite author?

Although I read a great deal, I don't have a favorite author. I enjoy a variety of books. In addition, I enjoy musicals and my favorite TV programs include "Jeopardy" and "Wheel of Fortune."

What else would you like us to know?

That I am grateful to God and grateful to be a Sister of Mercy. I hope I have been a source of encouragement to others and pray that I will be able to continue this mission of mercy.

[Mercy Sr. Camille D'Arienzo, broadcaster and author, narrates Stories of Forgiveness, a book about people whose experiences have caused them to consider the possibilities of extending or accepting forgiveness. The audiobook, renamed Forgiveness: Stories of Redemptionis available from Now You Know Media.]

Editor's note: We can send you an email alert every time Sr. Camille's column, Conversations with Sr. Camille, is posted. Go to this page and follow directions: Email alert signup.

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