Sister Fran Wilhelm, OSU: “The night I entered, I knew I was where I belonged.”

Following graduation she knew what she wanted to do with the rest of her life – become a sister, an Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph.

She hadn’t been taught by Ursulines since that half year in kindergarten way back in Waterflow, but she had a family tie to Maple Mount. Two aunts on her mother’s side were Maple Mount Ursulines – Sister Ancilla Marie and Sister Mary Edgar.

Seven-year-old Maylín Roblero was glad to see Sister Fran when she came to discuss Maylín’s progress in the first grade at Burns Elementary School with her mother, Antonia Gabriel.

Her first calling to religious life came as early as the third grade, but she shared it only with her closest friends. She kept the dream alive until she suddenly abandoned it her junior year in high school. But the calling returned.

“In my senior year I felt this unrest and felt I had to go try it out,” Sister Fran recalls. “I talked to my parents, my pastor, and my Ursuline aunts, and chose the Ursulines of Maple Mount.”

She continued, “After high school graduation I applied for entrance to the novitiate at Maple Mount, and Mother Laurine wrote offering me the option of going to college one semester at the junior college first – since I was so far from home – and then enter the novitiate in February after going home for a visit. That’s what I did.”

And it proved to be the best decision in her life. She recalls with an obvious pleasant memory, “The night I entered, I knew I was where I belonged.”

Appropriately, her first teaching assignment took her back home to Waterflow, New Mexico. Did she request the assignment? “No I didn’t request it, but when Mother Immaculata told me, I just jumped up and down!”

Her first assignment wasn’t easy. She was given 27 fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth graders at Sacred Heart School. “I was having a hard time controlling them,” Sister Fran recalls. “And after two months they switched me to 47 pupils in the lower four grades. We all got along much better for the rest of the year.”

The next year she taught second graders at Blanco, New Mexico, for one year, before moving on to Farmington, New Mexico, for an 11-year stay at St. Thomas Grade School, teaching fifth and sixth graders for one year, first and second graders for one year, and then music for nine years.

The Centro Latino staff consists of, front row, l. to r., Allen Shreve, Sister Fran Wilhelm, Connie Caceres. Back row, Ruth Bittel, Mary Ann O’Bryan and Sister Rosemary Keough.

While at Farmington, Sister Fran earned her degree in elementary education and a minor in music from the College of Saint Joseph of the Rio Grande and began studying Spanish.

She left Farmington and taught music for two years at St. Joseph School in San Fidel, New Mexico, and for two years at St. Catherine School in New Haven, Kentucky, which would prove to be her last teaching assignment in the United States.

In 1966, Sister Fran expanded her horizons to South America where she began teaching first graders in the Ursuline Sisters’ mission school in Caracas, Venezuela.

After two years in Caracas, Sister Fran studied Spanish at a language school in Bolivia for two months and began teaching second and third graders at a Jesuit Mission school in Santiago, Chile, one of five Ursulines on the staff there. She remained in Santiago for six years.

Next stop was Medellin, Colombia, to study in the Pastoral Institute of the Latin American Bishops for one year, learning to work in parishes rather than in schools.

While in Medellin, Sister Fran met Marilyn Kramer of Charismatic Missions from La Puente, California. Kramer invited her to California to be speaker at the state’s first Charismatic Convention. While there, Sister Fran was invited to go on a crusade to Taiwan and Korea – which she did – and then returned to California to work in charismatic missions for six years.