Sister Francetta Brown
“So stand your ground, with truth buckled round your waist, … wearing as shoes on your feet the eagerness to spread the Gospel of peace … .” (Ephesians 6:14-15)
“St. Paul would find Sister Francetta well-armed – a woman of faith, with truth and integrity manifest in her openness and sincerity. And assuredly the record of her ministry shows her eager to spread the Gospel of peace,” said Sister Alexa Suelzer in her commentary for Sister Francetta Brown, who died Feb. 13.
The ninth of 15 children, Agnes Veronica “Bonnie” Brown was born Jan. 5, 1919, in Loogootee, Ind., to John and Emma Mae Draime Brown. She attended elementary schools at St. John, Loogootee, and St. Benedict, St. Joseph and Assumption, Evansville, Ind. She graduated from secondary school at St. John, Loogootee. After graduation, “Sister Francetta went to Chicago with the dream – she later confessed – of getting out on her own and finding the right man,” shared Sister Alexa. That dream obviously soon changed.
On Feb. 2, 1938, Sister Francetta entered the Congregation. She professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1940, and 1946, respectively. She earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in mathematics from Indiana State University.
In 1940, Sister Francetta went to Corpus Christi, Oklahoma City, Okla., for her first mission. She then spent two years at Maternity BVM, Chicago. Sister Francetta’s great love for ministry among African-Americans started with her next mission at St. Patrick, Fayetteville, N.C. She spent part of a year teaching at St. Sylvester, Chicago. Then from 1946 to 1957, Sister Francetta taught in Indianapolis at St. Bridget, a totally non-integrated African-American school. For the next three years, she taught at St. Peter, Linton, before moving on to secondary education.
As a high school teacher, Sister Francetta taught in Indiana at Reitz Memorial, Evansville; St. Simon, Washington; the Aspirancy, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods; Ladywood, Indianapolis; and Our Lady of Providence, Clarksville. She taught a portion of one year at Marywood School, Orange, Calif. Sister Francetta’s ministry at the secondary level also included serving as principal at Ladywood and Rivet High School, Vincennes, Ind.
In 1983, Sister Francetta’s ministry focus changed, and she served for two years as the assistant director of development at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. From 1985 to 1991, she served St. John the Baptist Parish and School in Montgomery, Ala., in a variety of ways including teacher, pastoral associate, CCD director and librarian. From 1991 to 1994, she served as librarian at St. John-Resurrection School in Montgomery. In 1994, Sister Francetta retired and served as the coordinator of St. Rose Academy, Vincennes, alumnae/i. In 1999, she returned to the Woods, continuing her activities as alumnae coordinator and volunteering in several capacities at the motherhouse, including the Mission Advancement office.
“Sister Francetta was easy to be around, easy to live with,” continued Sister Alexa. “Those in charge, I believe, could always count on her to be accommodating, to change her schedule or forego her own interests to relieve a tight situation. She was flexible in her service of love, mercy and justice. Firm in her own views, she was nevertheless tolerant and understanding of those who were not like-minded.”
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Francetta was celebrated Feb. 16, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by two sisters, Sister Joanna Brown, SP, Jasper, Ind., and Frances Reinhart, Lakeland, Fla.
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