Respect the Land

I came across this park bench while visiting a local Earth Day festival last month. While others passed by, I was drawn to pause. Perhaps more than any of the booths I visited or people I spoke with, this simple message echoed in me. I do respect the land. Do I actually make a difference?

As Ursulines, respect for the land is in our DNA. As a young, single woman, St. Angela worked the fields of her family farm in Italy. She knew the care and work required to tend the earth with respect in order to reap the harvest. As a lay Franciscan, Angela was deeply influenced by St. Francis and his respect for “our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us.” As her daughters, Ursulines around the world work hand in hand with others to show and teach respect for the land, making a difference by caring for our common home. Click here to read about the initiatives our French Ursuline Sisters are promoting to save the planet.

Carrying It Forward

Commencement ceremonies are in full swing as graduates prepare with joy and a little trepidation to move on to the next stage of their life journeys.  Some of the seniors at Ursuline Academy in St. Louis recently visited our province offices. Besides a tour and refreshments, we had small group meetings to hear what’s been best about their Ursuline education, what they’d say to a new student, and what plans they now have.  What a joy! They feel it’s all gone too fast and they praised their teachers. They spoke of how they’ve grown, learning to respect all others, make service a way of life, and lead in ways rooted in faith. Their advice to new students? Don’t waste these wonderful years and reach out to others every day.

Each year I have the privilege of visiting all 7 of our Ursuline-sponsored high schools in this country. Every school is richly blessed by its students and by supremely gifted and dedicated teachers and co-workers. Expand that group to include parents who value Ursuline education enough to make big sacrifices to send their daughters and the hundreds of alums who keep supporting our mission. It’s much more than a village!

When St. Angela said, almost 500 years ago, to the first women of her Company, “Act, move, believe, strive, hope, . . . for without doubt you will see marvelous things,” I’m sure she never imagined how significantly her directives would be carried into the future. We Ursulines are deeply proud of and grateful to all who share this effort with us.

The Dazzling Face of Jesus

May is a month when many parishes celebrate First Holy Communion. The sanctuary is adorned with wheat and grapes and beautiful Easter flowers. Little girls in white dresses and little boys in suits come forward to receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time.

Last week I was in church for daily Mass the day after First Communion. As I knelt and prayed before Mass began, an image of St. Angela’s came to mind. In one of her prayers she refers to “the dazzling face of Jesus.” Yes, we receive Jesus in the form of bread and wine, but in my mind’s eye, I see his dazzling face. How often at Mass we hear the prayer May we become what we eat. This means that all of us wear that dazzling face and are signs of the living Christ to the world. Join me in praying that all new (and longtime!) communicants may live fully into a growing awareness of the dazzling face of Jesus.

Who’s In Control?

So much seems to be about control these days–who controls the government, who decides what’s on TV, who sets the prices of food, etc. In our personal lives, issues of control slither into our minds and try to convince us we can control just about everything. But we can’t.

At a recent meeting of vocation directors, we shared our efforts to help young adults learn to discern choices about their future. We talked about wanting people to realize that Religious Life continues to be a wonderful life-choice. Our passion for the Good News of Jesus and the charisms and missions of our Congregations is profound, and we want to extend that to others. But we were clearly aware that the real future of Religious Life, or of anything for that matter, is out of our hands. We do the best we can, but ultimately, we are quite powerless.

This meeting was held at a Benedictine Retreat Center.  I was astonished early one morning when I stepped outside with my first cup of coffee. There before me was an enormous statue of St. Benedict, founder of Western monasticism, dwarfed by the magnificence of the dawn sky. With arms upraised, Benedict seemed to praise God for everything and surrender all to God.The view said everything about who’s really in control.  The God of life who has guided us for centuries will continue to lead us on.

Gifts to Share

As we savor the Easter season, I want to share with you a bit of culinary creativity that we savored on Easter Sunday. Two of the best Ursuline cooks in the St. Louis area are Sisters Marilyn and Mary. Not only are they good cooks, but they have an eye for fun and creativity. As the saying goes, we eat with our eyes, not just our stomachs! On Easter Sunday 16 Ursulines in our local area gathered for a potluck supper. Much of the table contained delicious dishes you might expect—ham, potatoes, green beans, squash and jello salad. And then the fun began!

With the help of some clever knife work and some radishes, celery sticks and olives, the Sisters turned a plate of deviled eggs into a whole family of Easter bunnies! Even from the end of the line I could hear comments like “Oh, look!” and “How cute!” and “How did they do these?”

And just like the infomercials on TV say—but WAIT! At each place setting we had an individually wrapped cookie. Here’s a photo of mine. Some were Easter eggs and others were tulips. What FUN! So often people want to know what we Sisters do for fun. Well . . . some of us cook for fun, and many of us have fun sharing what they create!