Alive in Us

Ursulines speak often of St. Angela, our foundress, and her charism.  For almost 500 years, this charism—those special graces and gifts of a person that influence and inspire— has been shared with Ursuline sisters, collaborators, students and friends. When Angela said in her final testimony, “I am more alive now than while I was on earth,” she really meant it.  We feel stirred all the time by that which made her life glow.

Central to Angela’s charism is her contemplative spirit.  Over the next few weeks, Backlit With Joy will focus on this facet of Angela’s life. To start the discussion, I posed a few questions to some of Angela’s descendants today. I’m happy to share a sampling of responses now.  More will come in the weeks ahead.

What does “contemplative spirit” mean to you?

“To me, having a ‘contemplative spirit’ means that I live in constant awareness of the Presence of Holy Mystery in me, in those around me, and in every aspect of creation. This is not only when I sit in quiet with that Presence, but as I move through the activities of my day insofar as this is possible for me.  It isn’t about struggle to hang on to that awareness, but more about ALLOWING it to be a part of me wherever I am and whatever I do.”     —Sr. Chabanel Mathison, osu

What nourishes your contemplative spirit?

“As a volunteer pastoral care worker at a nearby hospital, my service involves visiting with patients and their families, often praying with them, giving them communion or simply listening to them.  Frequently, when we talk and pray together, I believe we sense the presence of the Holy Spirit leading us while we really do not know how to pray or even what to say about their most difficult situations.  These times nurture my desire to continue seeking the presence of God in myself and everyone I encounter.”—Russ Weil

What is one challenge you experience in trying to live a contemplative spirit?

“When I was thinking about a response, it was obvious that my biggest challenge to a contemplative spirit is cancer.  Yet, when I was looking at the other two questions, the word ‘cancer’ came up as the answer to both of them.  Why? When I have been able to pray, cancer drew me deeper into prayer.  It nourished me in a way I never thought it would.  Yes, anger, frustration, sadness, hurt, but I was also swaddled in God’s arms and held closely.”    —Sr. Ann Dumas, osu

 

Entering Sacred Space

As summer days start to dwindle and flower gardens wilt, we realize the calendar year is more than half over. Where did it go? There’s a certain frenzy as families of kids and teachers prepare for another school year. The world is still in turmoil and news is propelled by ever-present situations of war, injustice and destruction of the earth. But Advent is less than 4 months away!

Yes, Advent—that season of awareness that God continues to come to this ever-spinning globe. Is it really possible to see the present world as sacred space where God lives among us? Can we see God acting in the events of our own ordinary lives? It’s tempting to let the noise and self-absorption of our culture take over, to act like it all depends on me. That’s why it’s necessary to be quiet and listen for the gentle voice of God.  In the “temple” of our own heart-space, we discover God’s presence and truth.  “Be still and know I am God”—and I am with you.

The end of summer is a good time to choose a more careful nurturing of our contemplative spirit.  Enter that sacred space and be surprised!

 

Meaningful Service

Bring a few Ursuline Sisters and 7 alums of Ursuline schools across the USA to a HOPE-filled place, and you get a service experience filled with meaning and joy. Haven for Hope lists as its core values: radical compassion, servant leadership, hope and excellence.  We witnessed each of these and were amazed by so much goodness.  Click here for a short video showing a little of the beauty and grace of the week.

Our Final Day

Today was our day to go out into the city and experience the culture of San Antonio. We started at Mission San Jose. We were able to see the church, which is still used for mass today, and the Visitors’ Center. At the Visitors’ Center we watched a video on the history of the Mission, how it was established, and the consequences of mission life on the native peoples. Next, we visited the Alamo, commonly referred to as “The Shrine of Texas Liberty”. We walked down the River Walk until 5 pm when we attended mass at San Fernando Cathedral.

Tonight we reflected on our week here in San Antonio. We focused on three main questions: what was most rewarding, how was I most challenged, and two things we learned about ourselves. Many of us stated that serving the people at Haven for Hope was both the most rewarding and challenging experience of the trip. Going outside of our comfort zones was difficult but was by far the most worthwhile part of the trip.

Although we are leaving tomorrow, we hope to stay in touch with one another and continue building our friendships with our fellow Ursuline sisters.

May the light shine upon our travels,

Brittany and Hope

One of the riverboats

Us at Mission San Jose