In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “The reversal of proportions is one of God’s mysteries. The great-the mighty-is ultimately the small. And the tiny mustard seed is something truly great. So it is that the Resurrection has entered the world only through certain mysterious appearances to the chosen few. And yet it was truly the new beginning for which the world was silently waiting.”
Mother Shaun Vergauwen’s beginning was in Allouez, Wisconsin a small village of many Belgian descendants. She knew the people well, not only through Church and school but also through the Belgian Hall and through her work at her mother’s restaurant, Melody Café. She entered the community of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in La Crosse, Wisconsin and in her time with them taught in Wisconsin and Iowa schools until she was asked to serve as the Dean of Students at Viterbo College in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Meanwhile she was pursuing a degree. Having become a licensed marriage and family therapist, she is the foundress of the Franciscan Life Center, Meriden, Connecticut, and the Franciscan Life Center Network. Mother Shaun served as the Vicar General of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist from its founding in 1973 until she was elected Mother General in 2005. A small community but reaching people throughout the world, their motherhouse is in Meriden, Connecticut with Sisters in various apostolates serving in the Holy Land, Rome, Assisi, Florida, Indiana, Virginia, Michigan, Idaho, Oregon, and Vancouver, B.C.
Mother Shaun’s work with college students and Sisters in Formation made clear to her what the youth of the 60’s were waiting for, and the Vatican Document Perfectae Caritatis, made clear what the church was asking of religious life.
In an unexpected reversal of proportions, Mother Rosemae Pender and Mother Shaun Vergauwen founded the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist. Having lived in the aura of Vatican II and inspired by the document Perfectae Caritatis they formed a community in the spirit of St. Francis to rebuild the church person by person, instilling anew the mission of religious life: first and foremost, follow Christ; secondly, share in the life of the Church particularly as brides to the bridegroom; return to the original charism of the institute, be faithful to vows in a common life of sisterly love; understand and adapt for the people and the conditions of the times. There was a special mandate to superiors which Mother Shaun has heeded to this day: “Superiors therefore should devote great care to the formation, especially the spiritual formation, of their subjects, and also to the promotion of their higher studies.” Missioned to study by Mother Shaun, the Sisters in the alumnae choir tonight and many other Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist have earned their degrees from Holy Apostles College and Seminary.
For her witness and clarity of expression on religious life especially as she continues to live it in relationship to Mother Rosemae; her daily prayer before the Blessed Sacrament; her availability to her Sisters both personally and administratively; her belief in the dignity of each person; her support of the value of education as preparation for dialogue with the men, women and children of the current times; her tireless creative vision for collaboration in the Church,
Holy Apostles College and Seminary proudly and gratefully bestows
the Doctor of Humane Letters,
Mother Shaun Vergauwen, F.S.E., Co-Foundress and Mother General.