This Amazing Ursuline Family

The worldwide family of Ursuline sisters and all who share with them the charism of St. Angela never ceases to amaze.  Stretching to every continent, it is rooted in local cultures, engaged in mission, and always seeks to embrace the Gospel with new life and energy.

This was so very evident to me these past 2 weeks as I assisted with the provincial chapter of our Caribbean Province. Coming together from Barbados, Venezuela and Guyana, the sisters met at our community house in Georgetown, at the northeast tip of South America. They serve in schools, have an orphanage for girls, and minister to the poor in all three regions.  Centered on the theme of our approaching general chapter, A Global Community Moving Into New Life, and like every other province in our Roman Union Ursulines, they looked together at their life and mission, discerning what to deepen, what to let go of, and what part they play in the global Ursuline family.

Our sisters from Venezuela shared heartbreaking stories of the situation in that country, where people wait in long lines outside grocery stores, only to arrive and find no food left. Concern  for justice and peace becomes all-encompassing when it’s friends and neighbors who are starving and leaving their homeland.

There is nothing like the beauty of this region.  Calypso music and the cadence of Caribbean accents blend to fill the soul with joy, especially at Christmas time!  Orchids in the garden, rain forests and rivers observed from on high—all are gifts of God’s creative genius.

We celebrated the end of chapter with Bajan songs and jokes, rhythmic dancing and a little good wine.  The commitment of our Ursuline family in this little province and around the world makes us realize how very blessed we are!

 

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No Duplicates

Visiting Ursuline high schools is something I get to do each year, and for me it’s a perk of my service as vocation minister.  Last week I was at Ursuline Academy of Dedham, Massachusetts, then the Academy of Mt. St. Ursula in the Bronx, NY.  The girls were delightful, very animated and engaged, even though excited about upcoming pep rallies and Christmas preparations.

The workshop is centered on the conviction that each person is created by God with unique gifts, goodness and beauty and is invited to be and do something special for this world.  “I have called you by your name; you are precious to me,” we read in Isaiah.  I try to help students believe that.  Each one has the ability to discover who she is, her strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, gifts and talents.  There’s no need to make comparisons with others, because we are not meant to be duplicates.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, every person can believe in who she is and learn just how best to share her gifts with others.  It’s called “vocation.” When found, it brings the deepest happiness.  My hope is that these students are on the road to know their own unique passion and place in life, and that they will transform our world as well.

Celebrating Sisterhood

Sunday, November 25, is the 483rd anniversary of the foundation of the Ursulines by St. Angela Merici.  This gentle, holy, Italian woman had the courage and “Spirit” to begin a new way for women to give their lives to God while remaining engaged with the people and needs of their day.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday and Foundation Day shortly after, I am mindful of the many Ursulines I’ve encountered in recent months—only a “sampling” of the wonderful sisters who live out Angela’s charism today. Added to this group are the many, many committed colleagues who share Angela’s legacy and spirit with us: co-workers in ministry, associates, alums and friends. We are blessed! Thank you, God, for our long history. Thank you, for the sisterhood we share with so many today!

International renewal group–“tertians”–in Rome

Ursuline Leadership Team, Slovenia

Provincial Chapter, St. Louis

Ursulines around the world

 

Among the People

I’ve been in Rome to participate in an Ursuline commission at our international “headquarters” which we call the generalate.  It’s been a time of intense work, but life in la bella città provides opportunities for beauty and delight at every turn. Being among ordinary people, whether Ursuline, Italian, or the Universal Church, is always wonderful.

Our commission is made up of 7 Ursulines of 7 different nationalities.  It’s great to see the richness of diverse experiences of Ursuline life lived on various continents.  Language can be a challenge, but we managed well and found that listening together to the Holy Spirit helped us discern the way forward.

Sunday, the 14th, I joined 70,000 others in the piazza of St. Peter’s Basilica for the canonization of Oscar Romero. Romero, assassinated in 1980 while saying Mass in El Salvador, remained among his people, even when his life was threatened.  He said, “If they kill me, I will rise again in the people.  May my blood be a seed of liberty. . . my death for the liberation of my people and a sign of hope in the future.” Pope Francis wore the bloodstained rope belt that Romero had on when he was killed.

The canonization crowd of Salvadorans swelled from minute to minute.  There were others including Italians and Germans who came to honor their own new saints.  We were a visible church, gathered in prayer and celebration, humble, grateful, praying for our precious world and the peace we all desire. Together, we could believe that world communion is possible.  May St. Oscar Romero help us stay alongside one another as signs of hope!

 

 

Spirit That Shines

It was a simple reunion of the Ursuline Summer Volunteer group of 2015.  None of us could believe 3 years had  passed, but memories of that week of service in Laredo, Texas, are vivid and real.  Ursuline alums who had worked side by side with us sisters are now professional women doing amazing things like graphic art, accounting, coaching Ursuline’s varsity volleyball team (they won last night!!), teaching, and grad school (face-timed into our gathering). We are so very proud of each of them.

We gathered after UA’s volleyball game at a local pizza place that allowed for lots of excited conversation and laughter.  We remembered the elderly folks we had served at the senior center in Laredo, and the dear lady who selected one of our volunteers as a perfect “future nun.” We shared photos of a mother and baby who had just arrived across the Mexican border, and the hanging laundry we did to prepare beds for newly arrived immigrants.  We reminisced about shopping for Mexican trinkets and enjoying mariachis who serenaded us.  We even remembered the simple menus we prepared for meals together at the Ursuline house where we stayed.

Last evening was a time to renew friendships that are forged when people reach out together to serve those most in need.  For us steeped in the Ursuline spirit of Serviam, it’s an essential of life that lasts forever.  Even the pizza guy remarked to me when I ordered more food, “there seems to be a  special bond in your group. It’s great to see.”  Yes, it was really shining last night.