November 2009: SISTER FRANCIS KUO
Sister Francis Kuo always knew that she wanted to be a Sister. She prayed for guidance and one day, after receiving Holy Communion, her prayers were answered. “In my prayer, I saw a bright light and envisioned a Sister dressed in a white habit,” Sister Francis said. Now she had to find them.
The story begins
Born on January 12, 1920, in Beijing, she was named Mary (Chuang Cheng). A few years later, the family, which numbered six children, moved about 100 miles from Jinan to live and work on a farm. In early 1940, she visited her brother who was a patient at St. Joseph’s Hospital (Jinan). Missionaries from the American Province of the Hospital Sisters had arrived there in 1925, built a hospital, and welcomed Chinese women in their Community. “Seeing the Sisters dressed in their hospital attire (a white habit), I was home,” Sister Francis said with a tear in her eye. She entered the Community on March 25, 1944 and two years later at her First Profession, she was given her religious name. “There were three in my class and Sister Clementia, our superior, had three favorite saint names: Francis, Clare, and Theresa,” Sister Francis said. With a chuckle, she said “I guess I got the big name of the three!” Her memories of working at St. Joseph’s included times when she would “hold a flash light for eye surgeries since there wasn't a focused light.”
On May 12, 1948, she and 22 other Chinese Sisters fled Jinan with the approaching threat of the Japanese Communists. The Superior knew that the Sisters would be safe at the Motherhouse in Springfield and hopefully could return to China when the conditions improved. “We arrived in Springfield on June 6 and found how things were so different – food, language, and culture. While it was very difficult to leave China, I trusted in God and in the obedience that I vowed as a Sister. We always kept hope to return home and care for our people. However, things did not improve and America became our home. We did not have contact with our family for 30 years – no letters or phone calls. I prayed every day for their safety and for peace,” Sister Francis explained. She was able to return to China in 1979. “So many things had changed and there were improvements with new buildings and businesses,” Sister Francis said. Her most recent visit was in 2006.
A life of service
Sister Francis served at St. John’s Hospital (Springfield) as a nurse from 1951-58 and returned in 1971 to serve in the histology department until 1994. She also served at St. Joseph’s Hospital (Chippewa Falls, WI) in nursing from 1960-63 and St. Vincent Hospital (Green Bay, WI) in histology from 1964-71. “I met Sister Francis at St. John’s in the 1980s as I was one of the lab managers,” said Larry Hardy. “Personally, I have grown very fond of her – she is a cross between a little mothering and a little grand mothering for me. She is one of those people who enriches everyone she meets,” Larry added. An avid gardener, she has quite a green thumb and she's quite a chef-known for pot stickers and other ethnic dishes that Larry and others enjoy.
“In the challenges of our life, remember that God is with us. I pray that my story will inspire people to walk with faith because our journey will lead us to God and heaven,” she concluded.