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Sister Mary Frances remembered for faithful prayer life

Sister Mary Frances remembered for faithful prayer life - (06-07-2016)

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Benedictine Sister of Perpetual Adoration Mary Frances Soto, OSB, passed away on July 4, 2016.

She was born Jan. 3, 1934, in San Elizario, Texas, to Juan and Cecilia Carbajal Soto. Maria Francisca was the second oldest of 16 children, which included seven girls and nine boys. She grew up in Santa Rosa, Mexico, where she attended grade school in a building that her father helped build.

When Maria Francisca was 20 years old, she left for El Paso to work for a family as a housekeeper and a caregiver for children. In 1964 she moved to Los Angeles to work for another family. She then moved to San Diego. She was a member of the Legion of Mary, working to bring young Catholics back to the Church. She also sang with her parish choir and a mariachi group.

While attending church in San Diego, Maria Francisca spotted a pamphlet about the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. “One Sunday a friend asked me if I was interested in visiting their convent in San Diego,” she said. “We went and arrived just in time for the third Sunday procession.”

She was attracted to exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and it was the Benedictine Sisters’ devotion to it that was important to her during her discernment process.

Maria Francisca entered the Benedictine Sisters on Sept. 3, 1967. She made her first monastic profession on April 2, 1970, taking the name Sister Mary Frances. She made her final profession on April 8, 1975.

In October 1987 she deepened her religious commitment during the rite of Consecration of Virgins, at which Bishop Sullivan presided. She celebrated her Silver Jubilee in 2000, an occasion of much joy.

In 1991 Sister Mary Frances had a shocking experience that taught her to consider her life precious. One night, she and Sister Cecilia Rose Sprekelmeyer, OSB were driving home from the airport in a rainstorm. A tornado touched down, destroying a warehouse they were passing. The tornado lifted their car and a tractor trailer and tossed them in the air. A patrolman who later visited the scene reported that “whoever was in that maroon Pontiac should be dead.”

A steel girder had passed lengthwise from the back window through the front windshield. Before he arrived, Sisters Mary Frances and Cecilia Rose had been pulled - unhurt - from the vehicle and taken to a patrol station. It was a miracle indeed.

As a Benedictine Sister, Sister Mary Frances lived in the monasteries in St. Louis; Clyde, Missouri; San Diego; Tucson, Arizona and Mundelein, Illinois.

Sister Mary Frances’ works included preparing flowers for the altar, helping in the laundry room, the sewing room, as a sacristan and in the printery. Most of her time was spent in the altar bread shipping department where she worked from 1986 until 2010.

Two BSPA lay employees, Sheila Schieber and Rosalie Starkey, said she trained them and many newcomers in the altar bread-making process. Sheila and Rosalie would alternate baking Sister Mary Frances’ favorite lemon pie for her birthday each year.

A fellow Sister recalled, “When we worked together packing the altar bread boxes for shipment, I was struck by her quiet, prayerful dedication to what she was doing at every moment.”

Sister Mary Frances would sing for the Sisters in her low but beautiful voice. She had a good sense of humor but was shy with most people. She was dedicated and faithful to her prayer life and often prayed in the balcony at night in Clyde.

Sister Mary Frances spent much of her free time reading and taking long walks in the outdoors.   She said that she most enjoyed spending quiet time with the Lord in prayer.

“No matter how tired or sad I feel, I never leave his presence feeling the same way,” she said. “I am grateful for the gift of faith that keeps going even when all looks bleak in the world and for the infinite love the Lord Jesus has for me.”

She became a resident of Our Lady of Rickenbach, the Sisters’ healthcare facility in Clyde, in 2010. Sister Mary John Meyer, OSB spent much quality time with her, helping her pray the rosary, rip out seams in the sewing room and fold community laundry. In these ways, she could contribute to the good of all, in addition to her prayer. 

Sister Mary Frances was mostly bedfast and unable to communicate in her final year. The Lord’s mercy reached down to her on July 4 as she was surrounded by and being prayed for by her sister, Elvira Carbajal, and her two nieces, Evangeline Ramos and Cecilia Aguilar, fellow religious Sisters, staff members and hospice care.

Sister Mary Frances is survived by her sister Elvira; her brothers, Jesus, Juan, Antonio, Lorenzo, Santiago and their spouses; nieces; nephews and her monastic family. Her funeral liturgy and burial will take place July 6, 2016.