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.


Pausing to Remember

Ursuline sisters, like most religious women and men, make a week’s retreat each year.  People say, “silence for a whole week?,” but honestly, we love it.  It’s a gift and not an obligation.  I am just back from mine, made in a lovely hermitage in Indiana.  The property was gorgeous: open fields and flower gardens, horses and alpacas, chickens and blue heron stalking fish on the pond.  The setting helped settle me in body and soul so I could pause, be mindful of what matters, and listen to God. It’s a practice to incorporate into every day.

“We practice pausing to remember the sacredness of our names, who we are, and what we plan on doing with the incredible gift of our lives—and how we can learn to be in the midst of so much doing.” These words from Macrina Wiederkehr’s little book Seven Sacred Pauses are a description of living mindfully.  She goes on, “all it takes is a simple pause to get us in touch with the One who keeps vigil with us.”

Every event, encounter and experience holds seeds of new life.  Developing a habit of  mindfulness, pausing for a few moments, opens eyes and hearts to wonders which are so often missed.  “Each day we are summoned to be creators of the present moment,” Macrina says.  Let’s not miss the opportunity!