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Are you restless or hungry for more in your life? Are you seeking wisdom or looking for inspiration? The Gospel gave guidance to Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi as they followed in the footprints of Jesus some 800 years ago. The witness of their lives and values continue to inspire those of us on a spiritual journey today. Join Sister Michelle L’Allier and her guest, ordinarily on the first and third Tuesday of each month, for a time of shared reflection and conversation.

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Aug 8, 2022

Join Franciscan Sister Carmen Barsody as she shares her learnings from life in a Nicaraguan barrio and in the Tenderloin of San Francisco. In conversation with guest host Darleen Pryds, Carmen invites us from fear into freedom to do what we feel called to do in the world, that all may have life and have it to the full.


For a video version of this episode, see: 


From Sister Carmen’s interview:

“When I moved to Nicaragua I came to work in an ecumenical setting, which was even more expansive and more exciting. It was our community's choice just to move into a Barrio and live amongst the people, with the people, and allow our life to evolve out of that. Rather than to move into a community with an idea of we were going to bring something to them.   And I was very enriched by living in Nicaragua and also even more enlightened. Learned a lot more because Nicaragua had had much more direct intervention by the United States and the Contra war had just finished. I was in a country that, at the time that we arrived, more than 50% of the people were under the age of 15, because so many had been killed in the war.  And so much of our work there was just bringing people together again as brothers and sisters.”


“We worked a lot with women who were struggling to find their own independence, their own freedom to not be enslaved by their domestic partners. We worked on many realms, but most of the day to day is very much like what I am here with Faithful Fools, much of the day gets directed by who might arrive at the door or what need arises and needs a response, as well as working with some more formal meetings and intentional conversations and classes and things like that.”


In San Francisco, California: “We wanted to create a kind of container, an invitation, for people to walk and work together. One of the first opening acts we call it, was our street retreats. We created a day long retreat, in which people come into the community not to volunteer, not to have a tour, but to come into the community of the Tenderloin with the spirit of a retreat, a day of reflection. The mantra that we often use is "what holds me separate, what keeps me separated, as I walk the streets, what connects me?” It's really a sense of bringing ourselves into relationship with a place, with people, that we are encouraged to stay away from, that we're encouraged to not come into the Tenderloin. It's that part of the city you're not supposed to come into. But I think also in founding the Fools that we call it a place of practice. People come from many walks of life, many faith commitments or social values that they're wanting to practice. So this really becomes a place to say, what does it look like in direct relationship with people, what does it look like to live it out.”


“One of the things that we know as human beings is some of what gets projected onto communities like the Tenderloin of substance abuse issues or violence or abandonment or whatever is not exclusive to communities like the Tenderloin. They are something that many, many people know. And I think for me, I'm actually, it's easier to work in a community where there's an honesty about that rather than in communities where it's hidden or there's a silence, or we don't talk about it.”


“Lewis Hyde in his book, “Trickster Makes This World”, speaks of how a fool or a trickster does not change in different environments. You know, like sometimes you go amongst the wealthier and all of a sudden you've got this kind of persona that is different than if I'm on the streets. And I think a strong interior sense of self brings forth a constancy, an integrity of being, that doesn't change or doesn't place greater value on one person than another. … To me, that's who (Saint) Francis was. Francis was a fool. Francis really, no matter whether he was speaking to the Bishop or speaking to the people on the streets or in the community or from house to house, was steady in his being and how he wanted to be, even in its imperfection.”


“It's a hard thing for some people when they come to Faithful Fools. I remember one person saying I paid a lot of money to have this title behind my name, because here I'm just Carmen and it's who I just wanna be is Carmen. And even if people come with their gifts or their talents or their skills, we are all just fools. And that takes a while for people to realize. I remember for myself just a visual I would do very consciously, and still do, is if I'm in conversation with somebody, I just do a self-check to see whether I really have myself at the same level. And if I realize I've got a little bit more air than I want to have, I image myself on one of these barber stools and just kinda turning myself down energetically till I feel like, okay, now I'm really here. Now I'm really with this person in the place that I wanna be.  And I feel like that's how Francis, where Francis was most comfortable.”


“Even if you feel fear, be fearless and feel free to do what you feel called to do in the world.”


For a full transcript, please include episode number and email:



Faithful Fools Street Ministry: see:


Street Retreats:



St. Francis and the Foolishness of God by, Marie Dennis and Joseph Nangle

Trickster Makes This World, by Lewis Hyde

Foolish Wisdom: Stories, Activities, and Reflections, by Ken Feit, I.F. Joseph F. Martin (Editor):  


Francis of Assisi: “We must never desire to be above others, but, instead, we must be servants and subject to every human creature for God’s sake.” (verse 47; see also: 1 Peter 2:13)


Scripture reference: That all people may have life, and have it to the full (cf. John 10:10)


 Sisters Carmen Barsody and Michelle L’Allier with Heidi Mesa, 1997

Sister Carmen and Kay Jorgensen, with local companions

Carmen and Mercedes