November 11, 2016

New film captures history and lives of Franciscan sisters in Oldenburg

With the help and input of Franciscan Sister Margie Niemer, left, Jeannine “Andy” Murphy created A Sign of the Cross, a film that captures the lives and the 165-year history of the Franciscan sisters in Oldenburg. (Submitted photo)

With the help and input of Franciscan Sister Margie Niemer, left, Jeannine “Andy” Murphy created A Sign of the Cross, a film that captures the lives and the 165-year history of the Franciscan sisters in Oldenburg. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

When Jeannine “Andy” Murphy drove to Oldenburg with three friends from high school, the Indianapolis writer thought the trip would just be a fun time to connect with one of their old teachers.

Instead, that visit three years ago led Murphy on another journey that would change the direction of her life—deepening her faith and leading her to create her first film, A Sign of the Cross.

That film about the history and the lives of the Franciscan sisters of Oldenburg will have its television debut at 4 p.m. on Nov. 13 on WFYI-Channel 20 in Indianapolis.

As the narrator of A Sign of the Cross, longtime Indianapolis news anchor Debby Knox captures the theme of the film when she delivers these words about the early days of the 165-year history of this Franciscan order: “No one could have ever imagined the future accomplishments these sisters would provide for generations of families and communities, not just in a small town in mid-America, but in an expansive commitment that reached all corners of the world.”

For Murphy, it’s a story she felt compelled to share after that visit with Franciscan Sister Lavonne Long, who was a high school English teacher for Murphy, a 1960 graduate of Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis. Initially, Murphy considered writing a book, but as she walked around the grounds of the Franciscan motherhouse in Oldenburg, she thought, “This is such a visual story.”

So Murphy enlisted the help of Knox and a film crew, working together with them on the project that took 2 1/2 years to complete.

“I don’t consider myself a filmmaker, I consider myself a writer with a good story,” Murphy says. “I hoped it would be a graceful, intelligent film that would show the world what this humble group of women is all about. There’s something magnetic about them in their goodness and their kindness. They are what we should all try to be—intelligent, kind, caring, with a character of goodness, a character of service, a character of humility.”

Actually, Murphy asked the leadership team of the Franciscan sisters in Oldenburg four times before they finally gave her the green light to pursue the film project. In the end, they appreciated her persistence—and the final product.

“We were very taken by the way she captured our history,” says Franciscan Sister Margie Niemer, counselor on the leadership team of the order. “I thought it was well-done, and it will be inspiring for others to see. We’re celebrating 165 years of our history this year, and so this is very nice. All the sisters who were involved found it to be a pleasant experience.”

For Murphy, it was a faith-changing experience.

“When you spend time with these sisters, and you see faith being lived, it has an impact on you,” says Murphy, a member of Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis. “It brought me closer to prayer.

“You walk away thinking these women have it right, and maybe we should lead our lives like them. My hope is that this film will keep the presence of these women in people’s minds.” †

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