Last week Amy & I received a letter from the Sisters of Saint Francis in Rochester that Sister Carlan Kraman passed away in April. She passed away peacefully while surrounded by her beloved Sisters.
Sister Carlan was my Spiritual Director for four years. When I first started as the pastor of the Presbyterian church in Plainview it was important to me to set up a support system for my ministry. Part of that support system was to find a Spiritual Director. I called Assisi Heights and asked for a Spiritual Director. They put me in touch with Carlan. The first time I met her she asked me in a gruff manor, “What do you want in Spiritual Direction?” I explained to her that I wanted to grow in my relationship with God and have a place to process what was happening in my congregation. “That sounds good,” she replied. “Let’s get started.”
And so we did. What developed between us was more a spiritual friendship than spiritual direction. On two Fridays a month I would drive over to Assisi Heights and visit with Carlan. Often she would do most of the talking. She would share what was going on in her life, with the Sisters of Saint Francis, her opinions (often critical) of the Catholic church and events of the world. For Carlan sitting down and reading the “National Catholic Reporter” with Minnesota Public Radio playing in the background was enough to satisfy her very creative mind.
Sister Carlan was a gifted writer. She taught English in a secondary setting for thirty-two years. It was important to Carlan that Mother Alfred Moes received credit along with the Mayo Brothers for the start of the Mayo Clinic. She wrote a terrific biography of Mother Alfred called, “Odyssey in Faith.” She gave me a copy which I proudly have in my library.
Because of Carlan’s work St. Mary’s Hospital had a display acknowledging the role of Mother Alfred and the Franciscan Sisters in starting the Mayo Clinic.
Sister Carlan and I remained friends after I stopped seeing her for Spiritual Direction. I frequently would lead retreats at Assisi Heights with people from the Presbyterian Church. While there I would find Carlan at the cafeteria. Even though she didn’t know I was coming, she would greet me with enthusiasm and quickly start a conversation with me about the issues of the day.
It was a honor for Amy and me to have Carlan read Scripture at our wedding. Like me she dreamed and prayed for the day when the walls between Catholics and Protestants would come tumbling down.
Carlan loved being a Franciscan, and she loved her Franciscan Sisters. She enjoyed telling me stories when we were together about Saint Francis. Because of her I’ve read many biographies about Francis and think of him as an important part of my own spiritual formation. When one of the Sisters at Assisi Heights celebrated her Golden Jubilee or passed away, Carlan would take time to share with me the significance of her life.
In concluding a beautiful obituary about Carlan, Sister Mary Lonan Reilly wrote,
“Bon Voyage, Sister Carlan, dear. You who loved to travel and to explore new vistas must be overwhelmed as you are immersed in the many marvels of Eternity. Not the least of these must be really experiencing our loving and faithful God and singing (on pitch according to the notes” ‘Forever I will sing of the goodness of our God.’
Indeed, bon voyage, Carlan. You shared the goodness of God in many, many ways. The earth is richer because you traveled upon it.