BCU grad to enter Franciscan community
By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
June 5, 2003
A recent Briar Cliff University graduate will enter the Sisters of St.
Francis community in Dubuque.
Sarah Kohles graduated from Briar Cliff on May 24 and will join the
Franciscan community in late August. She graduated with a degree in theology and
was very active with the religious community at Briar Cliff. Kohles is
originally from Baytown, Texas so choosing Briar Cliff meant living far from
"I was a theology major so I knew I wanted to go to a small Catholic
school," said Kohles. "I got mail from Briar Cliff so I decided to
check them out. Partly, I decided that's where I wanted to go and my grandma had
always talked about sisters in the Midwest when I was growing up. I was kind of
aiming for something in the Midwest."
The Sisters of St. Francis live by the mission of being women of faith,
committed by obedience to the mission of Jesus: bearing witness to God's
merciful love, caring for the poor and oppressed and participating with others
in forming community. They prayerfully respond to the needs of the times and
move into the future impelled by the urgency of their mission.
"I like their values," said Kohles. "Their values fit who I
already am - joy, peace and the constant conversion. It means that they are
always looking at themselves. Is this where I need to be? They challenge each
other, hold each other accountable. I like that. They work to live out their
While attending Briar Cliff, Kohles formed relationships with many of the
Sisters of St. Francis that teach and work at the college. She formed a special
relationship with Sister Nancy Miller, who was the director of Campus Ministry
at Briar Cliff during her first two years.
"It took me until my sophomore year before I started talking to her
about this," said Kohles. "I wanted to talk to her. We started going
for walks and talking about sisters stuff and prayer stuff."
The process from entering the community until she says her final vows will
take about eight years for Kohles. She will enter on Aug. 28.
"The first time I knew was when I was 11," said Kohles. "I was
in bed for the night and turning over the day in my head. With out realizing it,
I was trying on the idea of being a sister. I was really comfortable with that.
Then I realized what I was thinking and I thought, this is crazy. Then I sat
with it anyway and there was kind of a peace there. But I didn't tell anybody
The first person she told anything about wanting to be a sister was a friend
of hers when they were juniors in high school.
The journey began for Kohles with inquiry which was a time of exploring a
possible call to religious life. She kept in touch with the vocations director,
Sister Janet May, and met with other Franciscans in the area, mainly at Briar
Cliff. She also made visits to Mount St. Francis in Dubuque and attended a
"Come and See" weekend.
The next stage was being an affiliate which was a time of discernment. This
was a pre-entrance stage where Kohles explored the Franciscan lifestyle. She
went to congregational celebrations, attended discernment weekends and had a
contact/companion sister. She also worked with Sister Janet to discern her
readiness for application as a candidate.
"I had to do all kinds of stuff," said Kohles. "I had to have
six recommendations from people, was interviewed by a few sisters from the
community and met with a psychologist."
Kohles will begin her job as the director of faith formation at St.
Columbkille Parish in Dubuque on July 1. She will live with some sisters in
Dubuque before and after she enters. During her candidate stage, she is
financially independent, has a job and pays rent. Her finances will not get tied
into the community until the novitiate stage.
"The candidate stage will last two years for me," said Kohles.
"I am right out of college and they haven't taken anybody right out of
college for a long time. It is mostly because I haven't had as many life
experiences. I haven't had as much of an opportunity to be independent - that is
why I get two years instead of one."
Kohles commented that one of the biggest changes for her will be that she
will not have the peer atmosphere that she was used to at Briar Cliff.