GENTLENESS AND STRENGTH

My ministry brings me into contact with many religious men and women from many different communities. It is a real privilege to get to know so many committed people. They do amazing works. Their hearts are so expansive. They have been ministers of Loving-Kindness for so long that they become echoes of the Heart of God.

Recently, I began working with a community that describes their charism as working in Gentleness and Strength. That is so lovely. I believe that their charism is a message for me at this time in my life. I am dealing with my aging parents. They are lovely people, and at the same time, they are dealing with their own diminishment and one with dementia. This community, with their charism of Gentleness and Strength is for me a reservoir that I can tap into as I help my parents and my family address the challenges of aging.
This is an example of one of the key lessons I have learned: we are evangelized by those we serve. This community has asked for my assistance. At the same time, getting to know them I receive from them the gifts I need in another aspect of my life. And I’m sure that in working with my aging parents, I’m deepening the gentleness and strength that will help me to grow and to serve another in the circle of life, the circle of grace.
–Amy Hereford

Fourth Sunday of Easter: ‘I Know Mine and Mine Know Me’

There’s an old cliche that says, “To know me is to love me.” Most of us believe if other people really knew us, they couldn’t help but love us. In today’s gospel on this Good Shepherd Sunday, Jesus makes the same connection – and helps us find both. His shepherd imagery may be lost on us 21st-century Christians, but the truth remains. Pope Francis used the image five years ago when he counseled his priests to “be shepherds with the smell of the sheep.”

The shepherd Jesus models himself after was common in first century Palestine. Born to his task, a shepherd grew into his calling by being a shepherd. It was a 24/7 vocation, providing protection and care for his flock as it wandered the Judean landscape, searching for grass and water, and avoiding the attack of wolves and thieves. The sheep became the shepherd’s friends and he, literally, knew them by the name he gave each. The shepherd became the symbol of constant vigilance, fearless courage and patient love.

This “knowledge” between shepherd and sheep – and knowledge for the first-century Israelites – was not the head knowledge of Greek philosophers. It was a heart knowledge. For the Judeans, to know was to experience. To know was to feel for and with the other. To know was to accept the other. And so we hear Jesus cite not only the mutual knowing of he and his sheep. He also speaks of that same mutual relationship with his Father. Knowing and love grow together; they mutually enrich each other. This knowing-loving relationship elicits a total surrender of life to and for the one he loves. This Good Shepherd will lay down his very life to protect his sheep from those who wish to steal them or do them harm. And he will call other sheep who will hear in his voice an attractiveness, a goodness worthy of following. Then this Good Shepherd will know the fulfillment of his only desire, and the Father’s, too: there will be one flock.

This heart knowledge is what Peter, in the first reading, desires for all of Israel, when they see the healing done “in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean.” It is this heart knowledge – this mutual knowing-loving – that John confirms for his readers in today’s second reading. We are God’s children now; the more we know God, the more we will be like the One we love.

We belong to our Good Shepherd who knows us by heart, and loves us. Dare we say the same of Him?

— Mary Flick, CSJ

SUMMER SISTERS 2018

Once again this year, I would like to extend the invitation for Sisters to join in building community with me here in St. Louis, for a period of time during the summer. It can be the experience you seek: Retreat. Sabbath Time. Vacation. R&R. Embodied Commitment to Sustainability. Emersion in an Urban Ecovillage. Nurturing body, spirit, the future of religious life.
We’ll have to work around the house schedule which is a little crazy this year – but then when is life not crazy. Let’s do what we can.
Here’s a link to a prior invitation. If you’re interested, drop me a line and we’ll talk more.
ALSO – if any women discerning religious life would like to spend several weeks in a live-in experience, let me know and we will see what we can arrange for that too. We have several houses where you might be able to join us.
Amy
http://www.ahereford.org

Intent and Impact

In the book club/conversation group to which I belong–Witnessing Whiteness through the YWCA here in St. Louis–we spent some time talking about intent and impact in the work of racial justice.  As a white person, I can have the best intent result in a hurtful impact.  I have been sitting with that difficult truth for some weeks, recognizing over and over places where I didn’t intend to do harm, but where harm was done.  Sometimes, in working with students at school, the same concept comes up.  “But, I didn’t mean to hurt her,” a student might say as we are working towards restoration after a conflict.  “True, but she is still hurt.”

While intent and impact have been most alive in my thoughts regarding racial reconciliation, it has also jumped into my community experience.  As a young sister, I can’t fully understand the experience of religious life of my sisters who lived before and through Vatican II and who have large numbers of sister peers.  And those sisters can’t understand what this life is like for me.  As much as we explain, as much as we listen, as much as we love one another, as much as we want the best for one another we’ll never quite get it.  And, regardless of our intent, we’ll sometimes hurt each other in what we say and do.

It would be easy for me as a white woman with good intentions to check out and give up knowing that I’ll never be able to understand the experiences of people of color and that I’ll always be working to mitigate the impact of my actions.  And it would be easy for me as a young sister to check out knowing that my dear sisters will never understand my experiences and that I’ll never understand theirs; and that, even though we love each other, we will hurt each other.

If that hurt is inevitable–if we can’t control our impact–what do we do?  We keep at it.  We listen with patience and curiosity.  We trust and give even when we don’t understand.  Ideally we have conversations before decisions are made, not after.  We check in along the way.  And we apologize, a lot.  We keep loving and we keep trying.  I know that a loving intent does not negate the impact of an action.  But maybe it allows for a little more compassion, a little more willingness to forgive, to not give up on ourselves, to not give up on each other.

I’ll keep trying if you will.  We can only do it together.

–S. Sarah

 

 

MORE Weekend – Vocation Discernment Retreat

— by Sr. Amy Hereford

Come and See!
Come and Pray!

Come and Serve!

MORE Weekend – vocation discernment retreat.
June 8-10, 2018,
St. Louis, MO
The Sisters of St Joseph Vocation Team is inviting women interested in religious life to join us for a weekend event June 9-11, 2017 in St. Louis Missouri.
The weekend is to have an opportunity for sisters and interested women to share some time in community, prayer and volunteer ministry for a short period of time.We will have a time for Ministry at volunteer sites where sisters are active.We will explore the core value of the Sisters of St. Joseph: being One with God and Neighbor. Our congregation is oriented to the unifying love of God and to bringing about our oneness with God and oneness with neighbor.There will be time for reflection and prayer with the sisters. We will focus on discernment and the call to unifying love.

And finally, there will be time to Engage with the sisters in community, meals and celebration.

With all these components, we are calling it our MORE weekend:

Ministry
One with God and Neighbor
Reflection and Prayer
Engagement

If you, or someone you know is interested in religious life, click here for more specifics. We would love to have you with us.

Contact Sr Clare Bass: cbass@csjlife.org  314-371-4667

How do you know you’re called?

Since I have been working in vocation ministry, people have asked on occasion: how do you know you are called? How do you know what you’re called to? How do you know it is right for you? Really, how can anyone possibly know what God has in store for them?
It is an important question, but there is no easy answer. I would probably answer it differently every time. How do I know? How did I know when I was in my twenties and I entered religious life? How do I know it is still right for me?
I guess that the answer I would give today is that it’s about

  • God,
  • Community and
  • Mission.
Or, as we have come to say in our “CSJ world” i.e. our Sister of St. Joseph world, it’s about
  • Community
  • Spirituality
  • Justice
So first off, it’s about God or Spirituality. Do I have a relationship with God? Is God tugging at my heart for a deeper relationship? Do I find joy and peace when I am with my God in prayer? as well as when I am living out of that God-relationship in community and in mission? God is the center of our lives, and in religious life, we live out of that centrality. We are privileged to have a lifetime of spiritual growth and development. And this is a gift that grounds the rest of our life, and enables us to share spirituality with all those we meet.
Second, it’s about Community. Do I feel called to share my journey of spirituality and mission with other sisters or brothers who are committing to the same life journey? Do I have the skills to live in community? Can I share? trust? respect? love? Can I build community with all those God calls me to live with? Am I ready to do the work of community? – for a lifetime? There’s no walking away when the times get touch, or someone gets on my nerves. We learn to love one another in our brokenness, and we love one another into wholeness. This wholeness does not mean that we never get on one another’s nerves, it means that we have learned to reverence each other as gifts of God. We love and support each other in our differences, in our trials and in our joys.
Finally it’s about Mission or Justice. We come together to see the world with God’s eyes. To bring God’s love in very concrete ways into our world. We do not bend the bruised reed or crush the smoldering wick. Instead we bring light into the dark places, hope to the despairing, joy to the sorrowful. We do this in concrete ways: by embracing the weak and the poor, by lifting up those that are bowed down, by bringing the healing, creative power of God to each person we meet and each place we inhabit.
I see my lay brothers and sisters doing the same, in their particular vocation. In religious life, we do this in community, shaped by our spirituality and the vows. I thank God for this gift.
Peace,
Amy

Encouragement for the Road Ahead

By Mary Flick, CSJ

I recently read a Jesuit theologian who said that Jesus’ life mission was the conquest of death. Today’s readings give us hope in that victory. As we begin our Lenten journey, today’s gospel is already providing encouragement for the road ahead. First though, we look back to Abraham, our ancestor in faith, to see what is required. Abraham is asked by God to sacrifice his only son, and with him, the promise of his future. Even God’s greatest gift is subject to death. Abraham has nothing to go on but his trust that God will keep God’s promise, and somehow, God will provide. And God does.

In the second reading, Paul confirms God is trustworthy. God walks with us on this life journey filled with loss and letting go. God knows the cost of human life; God did not spare his only son from death. But God provides something far more wonderful than the human life lost to death. God has raised Jesus to even greater life. And Jesus, who knows what life will ask of us, intercedes for us that we too, might conquer death.

But don’t take it on Paul’s word. As you listen to the gospel, put yourself in the disciples’ place. Follow Jesus up the high mountain and see how God provides the promise, the assurance, and a glimpse of what Jesus’ conquest of death looks like. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. But first, he and his trusted three have a detour to make. On the mountain, Jesus’ clothes became dazzling. Transfigured, he becomes translucent, radiating God’s presence and glory. And God’s presence is affirmed in the voice from the cloud which speaks familiar words, the same message Jesus had heard at his baptism: “This is my beloved.” Moses and Elijah are there, too – the Jews’ greatest law-giver and the greatest of the prophets. Their presence confirms that all of Jewish tradition has brought Jesus to this journey to Jerusalem.

The sounds and sights of this transformed, transfigured moment leave the disciples terrified, bewildered, speechless. “Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.” So, too, as we begin our annual trek to Jerusalem with Jesus, may we see “only Jesus.” As we question the death around us, the loss within our own lives, may we disciples turn to our ancestors in the faith. May we, with Abraham, trust that God will provide; believe that we share in Jesus’ mission. Together, we are all conquerors of death through our lives of faith.

Embracing Lent: time to get our houses in order!

Our Lenten liturgical season just began. In my childhood I dreaded Lent because it seemed so depressing to me! Now that I have a better understanding and am a bit more mature I embrace Lent. Embrace Lent? Why? I now view Lent as at time to get ‘my house’ (me) in order! Just like you might actually get your physical living space in order (which I do need to do too!) it’s a time to get your “self” in order. In order—what does that mean? Well I’m not going to specifically tell you that, all I can say that each of us knows how we can be our best selves. Therefore each of us know what ‘in order’ means as it relates to our own self. And frankly it’s between you and God!  It’s not a time about guilt and shame—far from it! Instead it’s about taking time to reflect on life in the present moment and become aware of my actions and behaviors and God’s love moving through my life at the moment.

We as Sisters of St. Joseph have an Ignatian-Salesian spirituality. One way you could do this type of reflection is through the use of the Ignatian daily Examen. I’ve learned about this helpful practice while in community since I did not attend a Jesuit high school or university or know any Jesuits. You might already be aware of this practice if you’ve been in contact with a Jesuit priest or any institution associated with the Jesuits! What is the daily Examen? Well straight from the Jesuits webpage:  www.jesuits.org on spirituality they share this:

  1. Place yourself in the presence of God. Give thanks for God’s great love for you.
  2. Pray for the grace to understand how God is acting in your life.
  3. Review the day—recall specific moments and note your feelings at the time.
  4. Reflect on what you did, said, or thought at the time in those specific instances. Were you drawing closer to God or further away from God?
  5. Look forward in Hope toward tomorrow. Think of how you might collaborate more effectively with God in the new day.

Lent is not only about the stuff/items you’re giving up. In addition to a personal sacrifice that you might be doing I’m suggesting to do the Ignatian daily Examen this Lent and even continue it past Lent! It’s a great spiritual practice for any liturgical season of the year i.e. all year long! It helps us stay aware of our actions and it helps us get or keep ‘our Spiritual houses’ in order. We take our days to God and review in a loving light all that might have happened—the good, the not so good, the downright terrible, the uplifting joyful parts—don’t try to hide anything here—God already knows! And we end it with Hope—“I will try again tomorrow God! I learned today what I can do better tomorrow!” “Thank you for a new day to try again!”

If you are discerning Religious Life or the priesthood this practice will also be of use to you for all the exact same reasons as noted above!

Does this make it easier to embrace Lent? I hope so! Here’s to getting our ‘houses in order’ over these forty days and beyond!!!

Blessings on the Journey fellow Pilgrim ~Sister Clare

Phantom Words from Laudato Si’

Tphantomhere have been a lot of chaos in the air lately.

  • Our political situation is in turmoil
  • The earth seems to be groaning in travail, with extreme weather
  • I’m dealing with aging parents and family challenges
  • My community is trying to navigate diverse perspectives on some major issues.

While weathering all the challenges of this season of my life, I’m also working on a new book further exploring the future of religious life. It will delve into several areas of religious life, beyond those I explored in “Religious Life at the Crossroads” which is already over 5 years old.

The part I’m currently writing is on Laudato Si’. The document brings me in many directions. It came out after my last book and it represents the coalescing of many developments in social and environmental justice. I also find it to be something of a parable of religious life and of the challenges we are facing at this stage of our journey. so it ties to some of the chaos in my own life. And finally, I think there are some gender issues with the document that should be addressed, namely the lack of women’s voices and women’s issues in the document. Laudato Si’ is probably unique in this regard. Many are seeing that justice and environmentalism are inherently gender issues. Yet this perspective is absent from the document. So I’m taking the opportunity to spell out what might have been. I’m writing the unwritten lines; I’m sure the Pope will be pleased!

In Our Own Words

A few years ago, 20-25 young sisters in our 20s and 30s were gathered in Arizona for our yearly retreat with Giving Voice.  Giving Voice is an organization that networks young sisters as a way of being support to one another and living into the future of religious life.  That year, we were talking about what we were reading about the vows and religious life.  Most of us were reading most of the same things.  What became evident was that most of what was out there was written years ago and/or by people who had entered years ago.  There was nothing out there that really reflected our current lived experience.  So, it was decided that a new book should be written.

That book is now out!  In Our Own Words:  Religious Life in a Changing World was written by 13 sisters under the age of 50 from 13 different communities.  The sisters worked to get as much diversity as they could–sisters with habit and without; sisters from different racial and ethnic groups; sisters from different generations (yet under 50); sisters in formation and those with final vows; sisters with different ministries.  The sisters came together and spent a week writing.  They met every morning to begin together with prayer, then off they went to write.  They came together to read each other’s thoughts and share reflections.  I alternated between tears and chills in the introduction alone; it was so reflective of how we are together.

 

 

In Our Own Words: Religious Life in a Changing World

Honestly, I haven’t read much of the book yet, but I’m so excited to have something that reflects religious life today and what it is becoming.  If you are interested in religious life in any way, I recommend the investment.  I’d love to share thoughts with anyone who reads it.  It’s a great life!  I’m glad to share it with so many awesome women.

–S. Sarah