This year, for the first time, 13 associates celebrate their 30th anniversary of the Franciscan Sister & Associate Relationship! However, before associates became “official,” one became the first associate before 1986. In the article below, we honor Gail Martinson, whose shares her story with all of us. —AS Geri Dietz
My story begins in 1970. When I was in high school I asked my parents if I could go to Little Falls and told them I was seriously considering life as a Franciscan.
I remembered as a young child feeling the love and kindness of the Franciscans as well as experiencing that Franciscan connection when visiting, traveling and praying with my life mentor, Aunt (Sister) Evelyn Ziegelmeier.
In 1970-71 I was a boarder at St. Francis High School—an experience I will treasure forever—and I became still more connected with the sisters.
I returned in 1974, feeling that the Lord was leading me back to the Franciscan Sisters. They accepted me with open arms and made a place for me in a house in Brainerd, Minn., with Sisters Mary Pat Burger, Mary Wentland, Sylvia Schik and Juanita Mauer. This was another place for me to experience the Franciscan influence and relationship.
The community was considering a new program for the laity called “the associates.” I was blessed to become the very first Franciscan Associate! Because I was so new, Community Minister Sister Camillus Weier met with me and told me she didn’t know what to do with the first one. We laughed and she was so kind to me. The sisters were so generous and loving to me as an associate. Sister Mary Pat was the one I connected with: We prayed, fished, played and shared thoughts and questions. The sisters and I prayed as a group morning and evening. I was encouraged to keep a journal (which I continue to do). I lived with them 1½ years, returning to St. Cloud in 1976.
In 1984 I earned my Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) license and worked in hospital nursing and homecare with a special interest in elder care.
By the grace of God I met my husband—a born-again Christian, member of the Evangelical Free Church and father of three living on a farm in Benton County. We were married and had three more children. For 40 years we have been active members in this church; on November 6 we will celebrate 40 years of marriage with our six children, their spouses and eight grandchildren.
When I return to Little Falls, it feels like coming home. The grace of God continues to lead me as a Franciscan Associate, living to serve God and humanity.