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Sisters of St. Francis prepare to leave St. Stephens after 90 years

Posted at 1:47 PM, May 13, 2021

BALTIMORE — The Sisters of St. Francis came to Kingsville in 1931 from Philadelphia.

In 1962, they moved into the convent that's still being used today.

Unfortunately, the five sisters who currently live in that convent have to move out before July because St. Stephen's needs more space. The school has expanded quite a lot over the years, and they really need a Parrish Center to host events and have other activities.

"The sisters here went through a process of discernment, I believe. We prayed about it a lot. We shared about it, and we realized that God is calling us to something, to another place... to something else and when we do that, something else is going to happen here. We don’t know what that is. It’s all in God's plan and because we love all of these people so much we only want what’s the best for all of them here," said Sister Angela Defontes.

Sister Angela has been the Director of Religious Education at St. Stephen's for 29 years. It started off as a children's program and grew into so much more. Over the years, Sister Angela added a spiritual oasis for adult faith scripture studies as well as helping people going through bereavement or a separation.

Sister Angela is from Baltimore and didn't think she would come back to the area after she left and now she can't imagine leaving this convent. She's not going far though. All five sisters are moving to a new home in Lutherville-Timonium and Sister Angela is still going to help with adult ministry at St. Stephen's.

"These have been very happy years for me. I feel very blessed to have been here and be able to engage with and walk the faith journey with all of these people here at St. Stephen’s."

Sister Angela came to St. Stephen's after working at Catholic High for nine years. Sister Rose Mary Eve Holter gave her a call and asked if she would be interested in coming to Kingsville.

Sister Rose Mary has been teaching at St. Stephen's since 1980. She was even a student herself, from first grade until 12th grade. St. Stephen's School only goes until eighth grade.

Sister Rose Mary focuses on music ministry for children and does retreats for people of all ages. One of her favorites is the 'in the heart of God's extravagant love' retreat based on the theological perspective of Franciscans.

"Once I get in front of those children or a retreat group it’s just different. You enter a different time. It’s like a holy now. Something happens and everything I prepared gets put aside and this sacred moment comes," said Sister Rose Mary. She added, "it’s more than a job. Being a Sister of St. Francis more than a job. As the sisters were growing older, the sisters were very aware that it was a matter of presence. That was most important, our presence. Not what we do, our presence and the quality of that presence."

Sister Rose Mary was resistant to leave the convent and St. Stephen's since this is what she's known for so long but feels comfortable knowing another adventure is ahead. "We have all been open to what’s the next thing we’re being called to," said Sister Rose Mary. She added, "it’s just a whole thought of taking our gifts. Here's what can I do. Here’s my gift, my passion. What can I do? And that’s how are sisters have lived."

The sisters are being honored with a Celebration of Gratitude Mass on Sunday, May 16 at 2 o'clock in the afternoon followed by another ceremony to show the sisters how much they're loved and appreciated. For more information, click here.