On the Journey

We St. Louis Vocation Directors thought we were pretty clever when we called our recent Nun Run a Convent Camino.  We did it with great intention, because the invitation to Come and See where we live, to share prayer, meals and conversation about religious life, is more than a tourist run, it’s a pilgrimage, an opportunity to get at the heart of what makes Sisters tick.

And so we gathered this past weekend, beginning at Mercy Center Friday evening, moving to Ursuline Center Saturday morning, and then to Mary the Font Solitude in the afternoon. Sisters of 8 Congregations joined young women discerners in lively conversation, prayer, meals and fun.  There were no dull moments, as topics of community, prayer, ministry, vows, and “Women of Laudato Si” invited honest sharing and questions.

I think all would say this CAMINO was spent in great company, with attention to the sacred as well as appreciation of the gifts Religious Life and the varied charisms give to our world.  May the journey continue!

 

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Call Me

Backlit with Joy has been silent for the last few weeks—sorry!  Personal and family challenges usurped precious writing time; unexpected health needs required full attention for a while.  It’s good to be back, and what better time than Advent, season of listening, expectation and hope.

As I begin my Advent pondering, I’m aware of many health professionals I’ve met in the past few weeks. Hospitals are a bit chaotic, and doctors’ offices can seem like caves where one waits stoically with other nameless individuals in various stages of crisis.  The health system in this country is not at all easy to navigate.  But I’ve been deeply moved by individual doctors, nurses or receptionists who take time to listen and don’t succumb to the assembly line push.  How reassuring it’s been to hear someone say, “Call me. If you have a question or concern, call me.”

There’s a spark of God in those who give personal attention to others, a God who is never rushed, always present.  Isn’t it good to know that in this age of impersonal, detached communication, our God says, “Call to me, I will answer you. . . . When I hear your voice, I will listen to you” (Jeremiah 3).  I’m grateful for those who image that action in their own lives, giving compassionate attention to others in the midst of busy schedules.  This Advent, I want to practice being more like them.

Life-giving Vine

A couple of Saturdays ago, four of us Ursulines visited a local vineyard for their autumn festival. It was a rustic place with picnic tables set among many trees.  There was good food, wine tasting, and great camaraderie. Having lived in Italy, I’m always  delighted to see grapevines loaded with fruit at harvest.  They remind me of Jesus’ passion for his mission, “I am the vine, you are the branches,” . . . “You have not chosen me; I have chosen you.”  The vines also stand as vivid symbols of how we  are connected, one to another, in a relationship never diminished but only strengthened by struggle, suffering and a share in the Cross.

The Sonoma County fires in California last night touched our Ursuline family.  Ursuline sisters, colleagues and friends in Santa Rosa have lost homes, property and possessions. Recent hurricanes and earthquakes have affected people we know and love.  Illness and bad news continue to break into our lives and those around us.  But these are not the last word.  We, God’s people,  are a community that stands in solidarity with one another.  Those who endure heartache and pain are supported by a communion that gives strength.  Prayer, words of encouragement, and an attitude that no one ever stands alone bring hope.  St. Paul said: “With Christ I hang upon the Cross, and yet I am alive. . . or rather it is Christ who lives in me.” The Vine is our source of life, as we reach out in love to one another.  How marvelous!

One Day’s Remarkable Links

We recently welcomed freshmen from Ursuline Academy, St. Louis, to our province offices. It’s always fun to introduce them to who we sisters are. After a brief tour, they met with us in small groups, and could ask questions. As always, one asked me what I like about being a sister, and I said one thing I love most is being connected to people on every continent whom I can call “sister” and “friend.”

The international Ursuline links we have are truly remarkable.  In just one day last week, we received photos of children from our school in Jakarta, Indonesia where Ursuline leaders from Rome are visiting. There was news of a new mission school in a rural area of Senegal, with a picture of the Ursulines and their teaching team, dressed in the glorious colors one finds only in Africa. Later that same day, we made contact with Ursulines in Puebla, Mexico, anxious to know they are safe after the earthquake, but understanding how they suffer with their people who have lost so much.

The new freshmen at Ursuline Academy have the whole world of high school ahead of them.  They also have a global network of Ursuline sisters, collaborators, and schools ready to embrace them into this family that is alive and serving every day.

 

 

Finding the Light

Hurricanes, tropical storms and earthquakes have been constant in our lives these last days and weeks.  For those living in stricken areas, it has been terrifying.  How many millions have lived in darkness, without electricity?  And for others, there’s been a sense of helplessness and horror at having to simply watch from afar.

In the midst of all the chaos, we’ve marked two feasts of Mary, mother of Jesus—-her birthday on September 8, and today, the feast of her Most Holy Name.  I learned last week that sometimes Mary is likened to the moon. That’s because the light of the moon is only a reflection of the light of the sun.

Perhaps what we can best do in response to the suffering of these days is learn from Mary to rediscover our light. Mary stands with us at the foot of the Cross. She leads us to Jesus, true Light of the World, and helps us trust at all times in him. Reoriented by that light, we will have all the more to reflect and share with those in need.