10 Years as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace

My novitiate classmate Sister Chero texted me this morning to remind me that ten years ago today we were received as novices and added “Sister” to the beginning of our names.

Then I wrote on my old blog: “Mostly I’m deeply happy and grateful to God for this invitation and the whatever it took to finally say yes. Not to mention this amazing community of friends I have found to journey with. Wow…”

Now, ten years later, I can only say that my joy and gratitude has deepened in ways I could not have even imagined then. I continue to be amazed at the joy, love, grace, and blessing that comes with being a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace.

To lead in fog, we must be led

I am spending this week steeped in the wisdom, presence, inspiration and challenge of my sisters in leadership at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious annual assembly. This is my fourth assembly, the second I have attended in my role as an elected leader of my own congregation (the first two I was here representing Giving Voice).  As one sister shared yesterday, this experience of contemplative listening and dialogue with 800 other sisters has been balm for my soul.

Yesterday, Sister Pat Farrell, OSF gave one of the keynote presentations, “Leading from the Allure of Holy Mystery: Contemplation and Transformation.” Pat was of course the president of LCWR during the kerfuffle with Rome. Her integrity and contemplative leadership helped us shift the narrative and reality of our relationship with the hierarchical church from one of conflict to one of faithful dialogue. I was particularly moved by this passage of her talk:

“This is our moment. The world around us teeters on the edge of both peril and promise. Breakdown and breakthrough tussle with each other. The path forward is hidden in fog. It is your time to lead. To do so you must learn to be led and to listen deeply. Together we will discover personal and communal processes for deep prayer and dialogue. We will be given what we need to tend the soul of our communities by nurturing contemplative spaciousness.”

In other words, to lead in fog, we must be led.

Yesterday, another sister shared an image that came out of her small group contemplative dialogue experience.

“When the redwood sits in the fog (rooted in contemplation) it absorbs the moisture within the fog and nourishes the entire tree and allows the moisture to reach the earth which nourishes other creatures. We (LCWR and our congregations) are a forest of redwoods focused on contemplation that the world may thrive.”

A northwesterner at heart, I immediately imagined this picture in my heart, which I took this summer on retreat in Oregon not of redwoods but evergreens in fog.


Truth be told, I have been feeling a bit lost in the fog of late. The fog of fear, hatred, and isolationism which seems to be taking hold among much of our body politic. The fog of grief and loss that is such a part of religious life these days, as our elders transition to the next phase of their journey with God.  The fog of uncertainty about exactly what the future holds for our communities which are in the midst of yet another period of transition and transformation.  Lots of fog.

This week in Atlanta has given me companions in the fog and given me a clarity in the mist. Contemplation is the way.  And so, once again, I recommit to my own regular contemplative practice, in my own life and in my life in community. As another group shared during our contemplative dialogue process, contemplation is essential to leadership.

I remember many years ago when I was discerning religious life, I felt like I was driving down a mountainous road in the dark, where my headlights only showed the way a few feet ahead. I felt an invitation to trust that when I turned the bend, I would see the next steps, and so it has been. At this particular moment, to be honest, I feel like the high beams would only reflect back to blind me. I cannot see the way forward. And yet, I feel called to stay on the path by my loving God.  Jesus is the way, even in the fog, and it is in the still quiet moments that the Spirit speaks. We need only to listen, to listen often, and to listen deeply.

Hoping with St Martha

martha1Today is the Feast of St. Martha. My latest Global Sisters Report column, published today, includes my musings on St. Martha as a model of hope.

Martha was indeed real, living in a world where some things just needed to get done, even if her sister Mary was too busy to help. She also lived in a world where the people she loved were suffering. I suspect there may have been times when she too wanted to hide under the covers.

Martha certainly had her own doubts about what was possible in such a world. When Jesus asked her to roll away the stone from her brother’s tomb, she warned him that the smell would be overpowering given that her brother had been dead for four days.

Yet Martha — worried, anxious and doubting as any real woman would be in the face of such stark realities — also listened to the hope and promise of Jesus. She made a home for hope in her heart. She helped to roll away the stone, and her brother Lazarus came out, ready to be unbound and free. We have a lot to learn from Martha, who in the end engaged in hopeful action in the midst of her own anxiety, worry and grief.

Read the whole column here.

Nuns on the Bus 2016

2016busgraphic.pngTomorrow I head to Madison, Wisconsin to join the first leg of the 2016 Nuns on the Bus tour.  I will join a group of ten Catholic Sisters from across the country. We will stop and visit with folks in Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, and Ohio, ending in Cleveland at the Republican Convention. Another group of sisters will then take the bus through the Northeast to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia.

Why are we going on the bus?  You’d have to have been in a deep sleep these last months to not be aware of the general cynical, polarized, and deeply divided nature of our nation’s political climate. There is such fear and hostility in the air, much of it cultivated and exploited.  And of course events from Orlando to Dallas to Baton Rouge seem to have both grabbed the nation’s attention and left a deeply divided society at an impasse. How do we bridge these divides, bring people together, and respond to the very real needs of individuals and families who are struggling?

The Nuns on the Bus will be driving over 2,400 miles this summer to meet with individuals, families, and communities in 13 states and 23 cities over 19 days. We are responding to the unhealthy political climate and divisive rhetoric of this election cycle by  engaging in dialogue about how we can mend the gaps in our society. The goal is to bring a politics of inclusion to divided places, change the conversation to mending the vast economic and social divides in our country, and counter political incivility with our message of inclusion at the Republican and Democratic Conventions and beyond.

Truth be told, I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone when I step onto the bus tomorrow afternoon. Many moons ago, when I was a low-level government worker in Portland, Oregon and long before I listened to the call to become a Catholic Sister, I was afraid of public speaking, and here I am embarking on a week long adventure that entails multiple speaking engagements each day!  Of course, I’ve gotten over much of that fear since then, learned some skills, and had a decade or so to grow into my nun identity. Moreover, I know that answering the invitation to join the bus is part of my deepening call to serve God and God’s people in need.

Of course, I also find inspiration in the example of Mother Francis Clare (Margaret Anna Cusack), the founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace who spoke out for justice whenever she could.

“But it did matter to me a great deal in view of our common humanity and in view of my love for the poor, that I should do all I could for those whom he had loved so well.”

“What misery has been seen–what crime has been committed, even in our time, by unjust pressure on the poor.”

“We read in the holy gospels that ‘Jesus went about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing all manner of sickness, and every infirmity among the people’ (St. Matt. iv. 23). And we also, my pilgrim friends, may go about the Galilee of this world, and preach ‘the gospel of the kingdom.’ It is a gospel of peace, it is a gospel of love, it is a gospel of mercy; it is a gospel for the poor, for the little ones, who live near to the Heart of God.”

I suspect she would have been at home with the Nuns on the Bus!

Please keep everyone involved in the Nuns on the Bus 2016 tour in your prayers this month. I will be writing from the Bus both for the Nuns on the Bus blog on the NETWORK website and for Global Sisters Report.

On Trust

trustThis morning, the prayer booklet I use for my morning prayer included a reading from Proverbs 3.  This was one of the readings that I used for my final vows liturgy, and it played quite a role on the retreat I took before requesting to profess my final YES. (The picture is one I took on that retreat, which I then included on the cover of my final vows liturgy program).

Today during my morning prayer, as I sat with this passage, my heart gave me this:

Trust in God with all your heart.
When all your heart is in the mix,
you open yourself to truly loving,
with all the beauty and challenge,
vulnerability and sweetness,
companionship and loss,
wanting so much to hold on
even as we move toward being able to let go.
With all your heart
you open yourself
to God’s love
to God’s plan
to the hope that points beyond itself
to the fullness of time.
Love makes it all possible,
God’s love for us
our love for God and
one another.
Trust in love.

Retreat Prayer – Love is the Way

I found myself in the company of the disciples on this retreat, sometimes caught by their bumbling attempts to get the message of Jesus, as told in the scripture.  For example, Thomas in the Gospel of John when he does not know where Jesus is going, so how can they know the way?

This retreat in many ways was simple, in the gentle ways that God was present to me and the movement of the heart.  Yes I bring my anxieties and worries and wonderings and vulnerabilities and insecurities and challenges and realities and unknowns to the mix. Yes I often do not get it. Yet my loving and persistent and patient God is there. And the answer is simple … Love. Love is the way.

Words again don’t do the movement of the heart justice, hence this video prayer set to “Perpetual Self” by Sufjan Stevens.

Retreat Notes – Love > Fear (reprised)

A while back I wrote about how Love > Fear. This equation was in my heart and mind during some of my prayer time this week on retreat. It was more of a movement within than something I can capture with words. Hence, this video prayer reflection set to “No Fear in Love” by Steffany Gretzinger. This video prayer is inspired by Ezekiel 36:26, and starring some objects I found on the beach.


Retreat Notes – Texture

I am back from retreat, slowly re-entering my day to day life, such as it is, where really every day is full of its own adventures, flavors and textures.

Speaking of textures, one invitation I experienced this week was to pay attention to the textures. Textures in the pictures I was taking of the beautiful landscape around the Trappist Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Oregon.


Textures in my life,  relationships, community. Textures in my deepening experiences of God’s love. Textures in my response to my ongoing call.

Some hard. Some soft.
Prickly or smooth.
Moisture on rock–sitting patiently
impervious, or maybe
Some will sink into the deep.
It is in the textures of life
where we touch, feel, and know
We are together,
incarnating in our world
the love that has been given
Gift for all.


Into the Silence – On Retreat


I went on my first silent retreat 11 years ago when I was in the initial stages of formation with my religious community. To be honest, on that first week of silence I did not quite know what to do with myself, which of course is why it was good that it was a silent directed retreat, meaning I met each day with a spiritual director. It ended up being an amazing time of quiet reflection, long walks, and prayer with our loving Creator God.


Now of course when the time for my annual retreat rolls around, I know what to expect.  Except that I really don’t, because each retreat has held its own challenges and wonderful surprises.

In our CSJP Constitutions we say:

We nurture our life of prayer
by reflective reading, particularly Scripture,
by periods of solitude and silence,
and by an annual retreat. (Constitution 30).

Retreat is a special time to reconnect with my loving God.  No email or Facebook. No meetings or to-do lists. It is simply a time to pray and reflect on God’s daily invitation to seek justice, love tenderly, and walk in the way of peace.

This morning I make my way to Oregon where I will spend the next week on retreat at the Trappist Abbey.  The last time I was there was just before I professed my first vows as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace. So much has happened since then!

I’ll be holding my bloggy connections and friends and their special intentions in my prayer this week.

Blessings of Peace