MERIDEN – On the heels of the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis, two young women received names as new Franciscan novices that will forever root them to that historic transition in the Church.
The Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist welcomed Sister Marie Benedict Elliott and Sister Francesca Silver to the novitiate at liturgies on March 23 and April 7, respectively.
Mother General Shaun Vergauwen named the former Christine Marie Elliott for Pope Benedict after the postulant had referred at the ceremony to the "historic moment" the past few weeks had been for the Church. She described as a gift her experience with her community of each day’s unfolding of developments in Rome.
Mother Shaun said the former Mary Silver’s new name was chosen in honor of Saint Francis and Pope Francis in keeping with the historic moment. She also pointed out that Sister Francesca had appropriately chosen Saint Francis of Assisi’s "The Canticle of the Sun" as the opening hymn of the reception ceremony.
Sister Kieran Foley, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, whose motherhouse is in Meriden, said that members of her congregation keep the names they are given when they become novices. They may make suggestions, she added, but the names are given at Mother Shaun’s discretion.
Sister Marie Benedict is the daughter of William and Angela Elliott of Fairfax, Va. As a child, she also lived with her parents and brother Jonathan in Botswana, Jordan and South Africa as her father’s work with the U.S. Agency for International Development included assignments in those countries.
She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in government and foreign affairs from the University of Virginia, then worked as a volunteer at the Love of Christ Children’s House in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Nyumbani Children’s Home in Nairobi, Kenya.
After returning to the United States, she served internships at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development and at Bread for the World, an antihunger group based in Washington, D.C., which focuses on policy related to food distribution and hunger. Sister Marie Benedict then worked for three years as the Director of Care for Creation for Franciscan Action Network (FAN), also based in Washington, D.C. FAN is a coalition of Franciscan communities who address U.S. policy issues related to justice, peace and care for creation.
As a canonical novice, Sister Marie Benedict will spend the next year intensifying her understanding of religious life as lived through the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience within community life.
Sister Francesca is the daughter of Chris and Marty Silver of Kingsport, Tenn.
She received a Bachelor of Science degree in outdoor education with an emphasis on natural history and minors in biology and writing from Northland College in Ashland, Wis.
After college, she worked as a teacher and naturalist in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in Townsend, Tenn. She led groups of students, from fourth grade through college, on three- to five-day residential outdoor experiences and citizen science activities and backpacking trips. Also while living in Townsend, she was a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, where she taught religious education and was on the parish council.
During her postulancy and before, she taught toddlers at ESPN KIDS Center in Bristol.
During the coming year, Sisters Francesca and Marie Benedict will join three other novices in learning about the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience as lived in their community.
The novitiate also provides multiple opportunities for the novices to serve their religious community daily, a critical part of their formation as they strive to give themselves entirely to Christ and the Church.