Category Archives: updates

She Persisted – Praying with Gospel Women

Today’s Gospel tells the story of the syrophoenician woman, whose persistent faith led to the healing of a loved one. I was inspired by the Gospel, and by current events, to create this video reflection praying with persistent Gospel women.

The women speak out and act for healing, for justice, for compassion, and for love.

Grant me justice

Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs

I will be made well.

They have no wine.

May they inspire us, strengthen us, pray for us, be with us.

May be be blamed for persisting as well, for the sake of the Gospel

#ShePersisted

Constant One – Video Prayer

I’m spending a few days of private retreat at the ocean.   Sometimes you just need to step away and renew your spirit, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to do so these days.

This morning as I was watching the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean (a favorite past time of my mother who I was communing with this morning through memory and action), I reflected on the amazing love of our creator. Sometimes it is easier to recognize God’s loving presence in the midst of it all than at other times, but looking back, God is there, one with us through it all. Later, as I was taking a long walk on the boardwalk while the sun continued to rise, the song “Constant One” by Steffany Gretzinger came into my heart and mind, step by step, which led me to make this video prayer, pairing her music and words with my photos and video of the sunrise this morning.

Constant One – Lyrics

In the moment I am hiding
Your love, it seeks me out
You hold me and You know me
From the inside out
From the inside out

Constant One
Endless is Your love
Like a river can’t be stopped
You’re faithful
Constant One
Who is like You, God?
Your mercy’s like the sun
Always rising
Over us

It’s amazing
How You take me just for who I am
In the valleys and in the mountains
I’m always in Your hands
I’m always in Your hands

Constant One
Endless is Your love
Like a river can’t be stopped
You’re faithful
Constant One
Who is like You, God?
Your mercy’s like the sun
Always rising Over us

There is no place that I could run
That You won’t chase me down
You won’t chase me down
There is no place that I could hide
That I will not be found
I will not be found

Constant One
Endless is Your love
Like a river can’t be stopped
You’re faithful
Constant One
Who is like You, God?
Your mercy’s like the sun
Always rising
Over us

(Bethel Music, Steffany Gretzinger, The Unfolding album, 2014)

My October Lessons

It’s been a while since I’ve written in this virtual space. My life the past few months has been very full with unbloggable happenings and twists and turns which have kept me otherwise occupied, many of them good, some of them a bit more complicated.

October in particular was a doozy.  Lots of travel for nun meetings and conferences, and sprinkled in between more dramatic close to home happenings, such as accompanying a loved one with a serious illness and, oh yeah, my house caught fire, meaning that in between my scheduled travel I’ve been living here and there since we can’t get back home just yet.  Most recently, I ended up with a nasty cold that got a bit more serious given my asthmatic tendencies, but thanks to modern medicine all will be well.really-480
Nonetheless, to be quite honest my prayer of late has been simply one word …. “Really?”

And that is without watching much cable news or following the sad collapse of our democracy and civic sensibilities. Or watching from afar the destruction of the makeshift refugee camp in Calais, France, and the heart breaking situation of the 1,300 children left behind. Or my exacerbation that our apparently increasing obsession with hate and division and polarization keeps us from attending to the broken threads in the fabric of our society or focusing our creative energy on maybe, I don’t know, mending them rather than setting them on fire in the name of being right.

So essentially for the past three weeks, I’ve been an itinerant person without my own bed. I’ve returned to the days when I need to figure out where to do my laundry, and had the fun experience of trying to get the smoke smell out of my clothes, and the new experience of having to move my belongings around with me.  There is a lot of uncertainty ahead, and lots of hard work, and challenges, and difficult situations.

But there has also been much to give me perspective, and even, dare I say, to inspire me and give me hope.

For one thing, I am inspired by the amazing response of my displaced elderly and infirm Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace who showed such resilience in being uprooted at 7:15 am in the morning of October 12th by a serious house fire. I am filled with gratitude and awe at the incredible response of our caregivers and staff who got every sister and staff person to safety, managed to get their medication and medical charts, and find temporary homes for them the same day. Not to mention the emergency responders who not only contained the fire but acted with compassion and were present to our sisters. Then there is the wonderful outpouring of support, from our neighbors and sponsored ministries, from our sisters and associates across the congregation, from other religious congregations, the community at large. People are good. If you focus on the negative spin of our never ending electoral cycle, you might be forgiven for forgetting that simple truth, but people are good.

Even more than that, I have the marvelous gift of community which continues to surprise me and teach me in ways I would never imagine what it means to follow Jesus. I am safe, we are safe. We have the resources and support we need. We have access to medical care and ways to find temporary roofs under which to lay our heads. We can get the help we need to restore our home and come together as community in one place. But even in our current scattered reality, we are one. We are together. We are a community for mission.

So when my prayer starts out with that one simple word … “Really?” … the next set of breaths is a realization that life may be chaotic and hard to predict, but I have so much to be grateful for and such incredible support and love to nourish me as I navigate it all, as we navigate our shifting reality, together.

Not everyone is as lucky, not everyone who is homeless has the resources they need to see them through. Not everyone who is sick is able to just go to a doctor and get medication to make them feel better. Not everyone who is concerned for the common good has the right to vote.

I have all these things, and that gives me a responsibility to face the next day, to take the next step, and to keep hoping that, for one thing, November will be better than October has been!  It leads me to believe that things can and will get better, that our responsibility is to show up, to care for one another, and to face whatever comes together.

Which perhaps is why I loved this Facebook post by Kid President:

Yesvember.png

Let’s give it a go … and see what we learn from November, hopefully a little less chaotically!

 

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.

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.

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 – 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
not.
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

Quiet

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

In Memory: Sister Joan

I have just returned to the States after a visit to our CSJP community in the UK. One of the sisters I was pleased to have the opportunity to spend time with during my visit with was Sister Joan Ward. This morning, I heard that Sister Joan passed away in the early hours today.

IMG_2408I first met Joan when I was a novice spending four months with our community in England. Sister Alexine, who I lived with in London, arranged for the two of us to spend several weekends travelling about with Joan who was an expert in our Congregation’s founding story.  In fact, here is a picture that Alexine took of Joan and myself at the grave side of our founder Margaret Anna Cusack (Mother Francis Clare) in Leamington Spa on one of those weekend pilgrimages. (I wrote about this particular 2007 pilgrimage trip on my old blog –you can still read that post.)

Joan was a dedicated researcher who cherished the story of our founders and early community. I myself will always cherish those special weekends. Joan, Alexine and I went to Grimsby on the east cost of England where our first sisters ministered with the poor. I will never forget going to the Grimsby library with Joan and looking at original census records that listed our early sisters. (In fact, thanks to the way back machine which is my old blog, I have also recorded that experience for posterity!)

In addition to being a community historian, Joan was a dedicated community member. In her younger days she was novice mistress. She was dearly loved across the congregation and so committed to our mission. We had our community assembly in the UK this past Saturday, and Joan was there, attentive and present to our conversations about the vitality of religious life.

I had dinner with Joan this past Sunday. We talked about religious life and our congregation and vocations.  “I don’t worry about vocations,” Joan said. “I never really have. It is all in God’s hands.”  Given that one of my roles these days is as congregation vocation director, and given that my thoughts are often preoccupied with vocations, I took Joan’s hand and said to her:  “Joan, I need you to do something for me. Please pray for me, in my role as vocation director, that I don’t worry about vocations.” She promised me that she would indeed pray for me, and I have absolutely no doubt that she will.

Rest in peace Joan. I am so grateful that I had the chance to get to know you. You have been such a tremendous gift to our congregation! Please pray for us and for those who God will send our way as future Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace.