Monday, April 20, 2015

Greetings from Mexico

One of the things that I am discovering here at the Latin American Network of the Sisters of St Joseph is that I am only able to participate through the kindness and patience of others.  I am active and involved but really unable to effectively engage in longer term conversations without the help of a translator and the patience of someone willing to communicate with a translator.  I think there is a real message for me in this.  One has to desire oneness with your whole heart so that you are willing to do the hard work of finding ways to be inclusive.  I recognize this as a real challenge that calls for much transformation.
Patty and Donna (translator par excellent)

In the past, I have worked with people who are deaf and I learned to look at them while a translator let shared the message.  Here I find it hard to grasp the meaning without looking at the translator and know that means I miss a lot of the non-verbal communication.  So I am trying to balance effectively focus on the message from the translator (usually Donna Cicalese from Philadelphia) while watching the speaker. I realize as I write this that it is harder than it sounds.

I often find myself saying words in French like pardon me or sorry or I don't understand...when I mean to say them in Spanish.  I guess that is a good indication of what are the words I use in French the most- usually apologizing for not getting something right.  However, I also find that I can engage in simple dialogue and am doing better during breaks and meals.

With all of these struggles, I am still finding ways to communicate in a meaningful way.  Today, we have been discussing what indigenous people might have to teach us about mystical contact with God.  I am grateful that I was able to share what native Hawaiians have shared with me.

Srs. Peggy (Peru- Carondelet LA), Janet Lander (Concordia)
and Alejandra (Mexico- Lyon)

Sisters have been noting that I am using some of the Mexican hot sauces, so today they showed me how to sprinke these local powders on fruit.  It was really good and I was glad to be included in this activity during a break.  They were surprised that I liked it.

The sharing during the meetings continue to be powerful. Today we focused on the Trinity in our mystical tradition.  A phrase that was shared that really caught my imagination is that Trinity is pure relationship.
Sitting is Raquel (Argentina), standing is Griselda (Mexico)
and on the right is Gloria (Puerto Rico- Brentwood)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday in Mexico

I will write more information about the actual meeting here in Mexico over the next few weeks on the website.  However for today, I want to share some of my reactions to being here.  As one might expect, meetings held in Latin America are very different from a typical gathering of US Sisters.  The process is not exactly clear and there is definitely not a road map.  Part of this is my difficulty in understanding the language, although Sr. Donna Cicolese from Philadelphia is serving as the English
Srs Ruth (Peru- Carondelet, Elizabeth (Mexico),
Ireny (Brazil- Rochester), Josefa (Brazil-Chambery)
and Raquel (Argentina)
translator and helping me quite a bit.  However, the leaders of the process really have a flexibility with what they are doing that allows them to be quite responsive to the group.  Also, others don't seem to have the need to know where everything is going, what the sequence, process or outcome will be.  It is a cultual adjustment for me- I think it is very valuable to have this experience of doing things differently.

We have a schedule but never seem to start on-time.  Today for the first time I realized that everyone gathers according to the schedule and we stand around relating with each other for 5 or 10 minutes.  No one is anxious to "get the show on the road."  It is obvious that being together is just as important as the content of the meeting.

I am literally freaked out by the openess of the sharing in group process.  The questions that we are asked to reflect on and then share in a group of almost total strangers- even though they are sisters, is incredible.  Beleive me when I say, only my closest friends know some of the things that I have shared here.  Donna is sworn to silence.  What happens is that the connections among members is deepening every day... and I think today, I really feel that there are no strangers in the room.  There are people that I cannot communicate with very well but they are not strangers.

Srs. Loudes and Loudide (Haiti) and Sr. Jeanne d'Arc
St Vallier (Canada)
I do understand a lot more than I can speak and there are enough sisters who do speak English that they help so  that I can participate in most conversations at meals and during breaks.

I was so prepared for Spanish (by that I mean that I am speaking at about a 3 year old level)  that now I can not think of a thing other than Bonjour and Merci to say to the Sisters from France and Haiti.  I can understand some of a French conversation but am paralyzed to say anything in French.  I will have to work on getting that back since I go to France in early May.  I am amazed at how much we are all able to communicate considering that we are sharing in four major languages, Spanish, French, Portuguese and English.

Tonight we are having an exchange of cultures and the US group will be leading the gang in Take Me Out to the Ballgame- wearing baseball hats, shirts and literally making fools of ourselves.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Thursday at the Latin American Sisters gathering in Mexico City

Orange sisters Elena, Mary Therese and Herlinda are here
Today we have spent our time sharing about mysticism which is in the DNA of every Sister of St Joseph since our earliest beginnings.  Realizing the immediacy of mystery is core to recognizing the transcendent.  One of my favorite lines from today has been "Nothing that is named ultimate is explainable."

Right before lunch, which is the main meal here served around two, Elena, pictured above and I went walking and sharing about our early life experiences of how we had came to know God and that we were Sisters of St Joseph.

In the large group, we talked about mystics from history and those everyday mystics we know and what their characteristics are.  I got some great ideas for prayer services around this topic
Peg Murphy (Carondelet- Peru), Janet Landers- (Concordia)
and Alejandra discuss the process
that I think I will use for the next three months of meetings that I have to plan.

The meeting consists of some lecture but also many activities to experience the concepts that we are addressing.
The Canadian Federation is represented at this event
by their two sisters missioned in Peru

Yesterday we spent some time talking about the context in which the Sisters of St Joseph in Latin America and the Caribean serve.  That context of increasing violence, family break-down, narco-trafficking and human trafficking, along with increasing poverty, helps center us in what is important as discuss our mystical connections with God.  As the speaker said this morning, introspection and stillness that does not lead to outer actions for others is not what we are called to.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

At the Gathering of the Sisters of St Joseph of Latin America

I am spending two weeks in Mexico City with 60 sisters of St Joseph who live and work in Latin America and the Caribean.  This is their sixth gathering of 15 congregations.  They come together to motivate each other, promote communion and to live more deeply our identity as Sisters of St Joseph.  Hearing the cry of the poor is essential for them.

At this meeting they are working with the materials entitled "The Bearers of the Tradition," a program developed in Concordia, Kansas which is being adapted to the Latin American culture.

They speak in Spanish, Portuguese and French.  (They have an English translator for me- thank goodness.) It's a little early in my stay to have much to offer except that the communion among the sisters is profound.  There is a sense that they have come together to see where the Holy Spirit will be leading them next and I look forward to being part of the unfolding experience.

I'll try to move some pictures over here from my camera throughout the day.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Welcome to St Athanasius

Patty and Justine
Sr. Justine outside St Athanasius Convent
On August 1, 2014, eleven sisters at St Athanasius Convent in Brooklyn, New York became an even dozen as they welcomed Sr. Justine Senapati into their community and their hearts.  Sr. Justine, an Annecy sister from India, is the new Representative of the Congregations of St Joseph at the United Nations Non-Governmental Organization. 

Sr. Justine outside St Athanasius Convent
Justine and Betty
In early September, I came for my first on-site visit and it was obvious that Justine and the St Athanasius sisters were meant to be together.  The easy give and take, gentle teasing about Justine's preference for spicy food, and helpful advice has helped Justine make a smooth transition into her new position.  Whether it is a formal meal or just picking up breakfast, meaningful conversation occurs.  Justine noted that  coming from a large family and larger local communities in India, she really appreciates having other sisters around with whom to talk.  She has obviously picked up the rhythm of the house and fits right in.
Mass in the community chapel

Enjoying Indian food with the CSJ-UN-NGO staff, from left to right, Srs. Marianne, Justine and Barbara
She has met Indian nationals in the parish too who have welcomed her to their home for a meal and speak with her after Sunday mass.  The sisters keep introducing her to other people they know who have a national origin of India such as doctors and priests.  During my visit we went to an Indian Restaurant twice for lunch.

Sr Justine really enjoys this peaceful oasis in the middle of Brooklyn
Joining with the other sisters in cleaning up after a birthday celebration
St Athanasius is a very nice convent with a spacious community room, large kitchen with heavy duty appliances (with 12 that is needed), smaller parlors for visiting, a chapel, a small but lovely walled in outdoor space, and large dining room.  Justine has commented to me how important it is for her to be in touch with the earth, so having this small outdoor space in the middle of Brooklyn where she can see flowers and trees is very important.  

Justine's spacious bedroom
Justine has a large bedroom with an attached bathroom.  As I knocked on her bedroom door I could hear Indian music playing in the background.  The sisters at St Athanasius really appreciate what Justine shares about her native country, their customs, foods (she tones down the spices for the sisters), and her congregation.  As she was describing the number of younger sisters in India and how Justine is considered older in India, they were surprised.

Justine uses the subway like a pro
It is hard to imagine coming to another culture, speaking a different language, and really not knowing anyone very well.  How lucky Justine is to have such a welcoming group where she fits right in and can feel so at home.  There are so many values among the Sisters of St Joseph that cut across cultures.  One of the great things I get to experience in my position as Executive Director of the US Federation, is the "at-homeness" of being in so many different congregations across the globe.  I want to offer a special thanks to the Sisters of St Joseph of Brentwood who have welcomed Justine into their community life, as the Brentwood sisters at St Patrick Convent welcomed Griselda when she was the CSJ-UN-NGO Representative.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ongoing Efforts at the Border

I received this email from Sr. Ida this morning that I wanted to share with you.  Patty

I don't know how interested you might be in the "intertwineing" of our CSJ communities, but some facts might be helpful.   From July 7, to August 15, I was "housemother" to the sisters who came to El Paso to help in the refugee/immigrant shelters there and in Las Cruces, N.M.  serving thousands of refugees sent to El Paso by ICE (Immigrant Customs Enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security).  Many sisters living in El Paso were already serving in the shelters since the national emergency began in early June.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, desiring to make a contribution to assist in the emergency,  offered their house as a residence for any sisters who could come and help for a period of time, long or short.  It is a ten bedroom house that the congregation was considering selling. In July the last sister of the community had moved out; nevertheless, a number of circumstances, including the need for the house in this national emergency helped the Concordias decide to keep the house.

As there was no one of the Concordias able to be in the house at this time, knowing that my familiarity with El Paso  and the house, Sr. Marcia Allen, president of the Concordias accepted my offer to care for the house and the hospitality services needed until someone could be found from that community.   Through the goodness of  our province, I was able to go to El Paso on July 7, rent a car (which was invaluable in many, many ways) and "housemother" this beautiful, centrally located house which the Concordias had so generously offered.

 During my time at the wonderful, well cared-for house of the Concordias, we were able to house IHMs from Scranton, Pennsylvania; Sacred Hearts from Athens, Georgia; an Adrian Dominican from Key West, Florida; Fred and Pat Malcolm from Albuquerque, New Mexico; Sinsinawa Dominicans from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Minneapolis, Minnesota, and CSJs from St. Louis.

 While I was in El Paso, phone calls were many and constant from those wanting to to know how they could be of help. Yesterday I received a call from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, wondering how they could offer a donation to assist with some of the expenses of caring for the refugees.  It was my joy to be able to direct their help to this effort which enables so many families and sisters and communities to respond to Jesus' call to  all of us to welcome the stranger.

If I can be of any help with further information, Patty, let me know.



P.S. Missy (Margaret Mary Ljungdahl) who was a long time resident at the house and is now working at the Concordia's center for long-term care, was able to be released for a bit of time. She doesn't know for how long.  She came last Monday night and I left Friday.  Marcia thinks they'll have someone temporary until January and then a community will come down.  I go back in a few weeks for an Annunciation House board meeting and will stay in the house for a few days again.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Crisis at the Border from Sr. Sandy Straub, St Louis

S. Sandy  Straub’s Diary -Day 2 On the Border Saturday July 12,2014
Sr Sandy Straub is writing to us from the border where she is volunteering at Annunciation House (see their excellent video on our home page to learn what happens there)

Srs. Sandy and Ida

Off to the center we went, Pat and Fred and me.  Ida had many Housemothers chores to do!  And I mean many.  We are currently five here with 2 more coming tomorrow and S. Marsha Allen and companion on Tuesday. The center was very busy with single mothers and children.  They mainly came from El Salvador and Honduras. The center is very well organized with many bilingual church related volunteers.  Their spirit is contagious and welcoming.
 I happened to say to someone ..I was free to go.  Quickly, the response was, you are skilled,  blessed and sent!  I am remembering this as I walk the halls and meet the families.  I have the thought that I am giving the ministry of presence to whomever I meet.  Those thoughts ..sent by CSJ and friends, joyful companions, good place to come home to, bubbled up in my gratitude prayer this morning.
 Let me share some stories from today:

 I talked with a 20year old mom who came with her one month old baby girl, Victoria.  She is desperate to make something for her baby.  She said when she got to the Mexican border 30 people were clumped together to cross the river.  The water was waste high and filthy. She carried her baby, paid the Mexican and came over to be met by border patrol.  She was processed sent to El Paso.  None are told where they are going...I think that is for protection.  She is off to Houston by bus 12 hour ride to be with her sister.

 Another mother with her pre teen girl told a similar story. However when she arrived on our border they had her throw everything away.  She got to keep only her bible.  Unfortunately her daughter had a Guadalupe medal and chain in a bag and that was lost when they had to leave their belongings .  She teared up when she talked about leaving her very sick mother with her17 year old daughter.  She will go to New York by bus with very little.

  A happy story... Two young women brought craft things for the guests to make.  They spread it all out on the table and the mothers began to make cards and bracelets, using glitz and beads.  One woman said she had nothing and she wanted to make a pretty bracelet to look pretty for her husband who was meeting her at the plane.   And she looked radiantly happy and pretty when she left.
 I have never been hugged so much since Peru!!!!!!  So much more in one day to talk about , but I need to go.   Ida is a delight and what a model!

  Love Sandy