Wednesday, August 26, 2015

There’s No Place Like Home (Temporarily in Kansas, But Seeking a Permanent New Home)

Six novices began their great adventure in Concordia, Kansas today.  We had a full day of orientation.  We introduced ourselves to each other and spoke about our various roles.  Mine is small and I will be returning to St Louis on Thursday to the US Federation Office but I leave behind a novice from St Augustine, Watertown, Concordia and three novices from Canada.  These beginnings
Manna House in Concordia, Kansas
The site of the Federation Novitiate for the
next two years
all remind me of my novitiate with a happy lingering memory. We closed this day  by watching the Wizard of Oz together and I was struck by the symbolism.

This intense period of introspection, contemplative prayer, and discernment that we call the novitiate has a goal of helping a woman determine if she is called to be a Sister of St Joseph.  There are helpful classes and it’s great to have a group with whom to share this experience but ultimately it is a journey of discovery that requires great honesty with yourself.  I am sure that there are moments during this period in Kansas when these women will be reminded of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, when she says, “Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.”  They will question, they will notice, they will see things that they never saw before.  It is disorienting and challenging.  
Sr. Donna Smith, one of the Canadian
Novices composed the prayer to
your left
One of the novices wrote a prayer:

Dear St Joseph as we
Enter into our calling
To follow in your Footsteps of Spirituality, please
Guide us as you guided
Our Lord Jesus Christ,
With a loving heart and
Helping hands.  Lead us
In our faith that we may
Find our true calling
Through you to God the
Almighty Creator.
May God Bless each and
Everyone of us as we
Journey deeper into our Calling. Amen

At the end of their time together just like the Tin Man speaking to Dorothy, they will know what they have found- and they will know in a new and profound way, the life to which they are called. 
Tin Woodsman: What have you learned, Dorothy?

Dorothy: Well, I - I think that it - it wasn't enough to just want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em - and it's that - if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with! Is that right?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Honoring Sr. Mock, CSJ

Sr. Marcia Allen (Concordia CSJ) introduces
 Sr. Janet to  begin the ceremony
The 2015 Outstanding Leadership Award at LCWR was presented to Sr. Janet Mock, a Sister of St Joseph of Baden at the annual banquet last night.  Before the award, I had a chance to speak with Janet Mock.  She shared, “I am humbled to accept this award in the name of the whole conference [LCWR].  We all went through this together. It called the great depths out of all of us.  It is one of the most blessed events of my life.”

On stage, Sr. Janet's image was
projected on two large screens
During the tribute to Janet, it was obvious how her statement above is consistent with how she has approached her whole life.  During the tribute, one reader noted that Janet lives out of a call much greater than herself.  She believes that team leaders draw forth the best of each member of their team.  For Janet, leadership is only done as a community of equals.  In describing Janet, words such as creative, courageous, exceptional warmth, disarming openness were used.  Her entrepreneurial spirit and keen insights into the needs of religious were proclaimed.  Janet is a model of grace who relentlessly presumes good intent on the part of all.

Well wishers lined up the length of the
ballroom to congratulate Janet
In speaking of LCWR during the award ceremony Janet noted, “it was a team that listened carefully to its members,”  characteristically deflecting the significant role that she played in helping LCWR navigate the waters of the CDF.

Janet and Eileen McCann (Albany)
after the award
We 74 Sisters of St Joseph were proud to be present for the honoring of one so deserving who stepped up at such a critical time.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Being at LCWR

I asked a few of our leaders what It means for them to be at LCWR.  Sr. Brenda Lau (Hawaii) shared, "It's a key source for meeting religious across the US and from other countries.  It is a union of sisters interested in carrying out the mission for the world.  For me, it is refreshing to return to these gatherings as a leader again."

Sr. Jeannie Masterson
Sr. Jeannie Masterson (Congregation of St Joseph) said, "I appreciate the networking, support, and collaboration to use our power together.  We draw inspiration from one another."

Sr. Pat Mahoney
Sr. Pat Mahoney (Brentwood) said, "The conversations among and between us in the context of the contemplative setting provided  us with a focus for essential exchange."

Sr. Jean Rosemarynoski (Concordia) offered, "It broadens the overview of religious life in the US.  The diversity from different regions, the networking opportunities, sharing of ideas and program information that we can use, the inspirational speakers, all recharge our batteries."

Sr. Katie Eiffe at LCWR Assembly 2015
Sr. Katie Eiffe (Carondelet- Albany) offered "We are being called to learn from our experience and move forward in service to God and the church."

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.