Sister Fran Stacey’s eyes became teary as she shared photo albums of memories, especially when the images were of El Salvador and the people she served there. “It makes me homesick,” she explained. “I liked all of my ministries, my time in Chile, in El Salvador, and on the Provincial Council of the former St. Ignatius Province.”
She was born in Los Angeles in 1946 to Eric G. Stacey and Frances Stinett Stacey, who were Episcopalians. She was introduced to the motion picture business by her father, a producer and director for Warner Brothers. She and her brother Eric often worked as movie and TV extras. Called “Geanie” on the set, she was 3 years old in 1949 in her first movie, “The Girl From Jones Beach,” starring Ronald Reagan and Virginia Mayo.
Her early education was at Campbell Hall, an Episcopalian school in North Hollywood. As a student at Providence High School in Burbank, Sister Fran met the Sisters of Providence. She was a junior at Providence High School when she converted to Catholicism. After graduation in 1963 she attended the University of Portland, and in 1964 she entered the Sisters of Providence. She professed final vows in 1972.
For 18 years Sister Fran was a member of the former Sacred Heart Province, and then transferred to the former St. Ignatius Province. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in social science from Seattle University, a master’s degree in theology from the University of Notre Dame, and a master’s degree in applied behavioral sciences from Whitworth College (now University).
Studied Spanish so she could live the language
Sister Fran’s varied ministries included teaching at Providence High School and being a consultant for adult education for the Diocese of Spokane. In Montana, she was a parish services consultant for the Diocese of Great Falls and the director of campus ministry at the College (now University) of Great Falls. She was formation advisor for Bishop White Seminary in Spokane and became a provincial councilor in 1989.
She also studied Spanish, not to just learn the language but to live it. “I had taken three years of Spanish as a student at Providence High School, but I went to Chile to make Spanish a part of who I am. I accompanied families in Chile as a listener,” Sister Fran explained. ”Sometimes, people just need someone to listen. I was blessed by my listening skills and, please God, they were, too.”
Her Spanish language skills were a blessing when she volunteered as a Witness for Peace in Nicaragua for two weeks in 1989. And when the call went out for Sisters of Providence to pioneer a mission in El Salvador in 1995, she was ready.
Found many ways to help the poor of El Salvador
El Salvador was just recovering from a divisive civil war in which oppression of the poor was a major factor when Sister Fran and the other sisters arrived in La Papalota. Some Catholics sided with the rich and property owners, and others sided with the poor. Over 30,000 of the campesinos were killed. One of the heroes of this conflict was recently beatified Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated while celebrating Mass. This had a tremendous impact on the sisters as they worked with the campesinos in the base communities.
Sister Fran helped the people in any way she could: taking them to the doctor, getting medical supplies from the United States, home visiting, interceding for the people in official situations, starting a fund for the education of young people, and working with liturgies for the parish priest.
She is grateful to the Providence sisters for all of their support, but especially for the Providence Scholarship Program for the young people of El Salvador. Many of these students have now graduated from college as lawyers, teachers and engineers and are vital members of their communities.
After 16 years of service in El Salvador, Sister Fran decided to return to Seattle in 2011. The Provincial Council members who came from Seattle for the many festivities and celebrations in her honor saw how she was much loved and appreciated by all.
Every day a celebration of life
How the memories flow: of the Easter Masses and the pilgrimages to bring white crosses to the Wall of Remembrances in honor of the martyrs, of sitting on the roof for two or three days when the River Lempa broke, and of the associates who joined the community. “Oh, and the community gave us money to get a truck, and we took people to places they needed to go and also to the beach. It was only 30 miles away and many of the children had never seen it,” she recalled.
Returning to her photo albums, Sister Fran opened one that bears witness to her longstanding relationship with Sister Alexis Melancon, “a dear friend from the beginning. She was my freshman homeroom teacher and is a major person in my life,” Sister Fran explained.
“Amen, Alleluia” was the theme for her 25th jubilee celebration in Spokane. As for this 50th celebration, “I don’t know that it has a specific meaning,” Sister Fran said. “My experience is gratitude to God for so many extraordinary experiences through the years. I think every day is a celebration of life for me. Here at St. Joseph Residence, I feel surrounded by people who are meaningful to me. I am so grateful. Every day is like a little jubilee. I guess I hope I can keep giving something back.”