Easter Changes Everything

Easter Changes Everything

Christ is Risen! The Chapel at Nazareth Living Center on Easter Sunday 2017.

Today as I celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ I am thinking about how it changed the world for the better. A major change in understanding occurred on the role of Jesus and why he came. He was no longer just seen as another major prophet, but for believers became the Savior they had been waiting on. It gave us a new outlook on death too, as 1 Corinthians 15:55 states “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

As I look at the state of affairs around the world today it is easy to be discouraged and even worse if I only focused on all of the bad happening it could lead to becoming so desperate that I lose hope. However the Resurrection changed everything. Jesus gave us that eternal hope that can only come from God. Jesus was and is with us in our suffering. He did not ever say there will be no more suffering on earth. If we believe in the Resurrection, which I do, and if we have a personal relationship with God, which I also personally do, then I place my trust in the fact that God is with me through it all. God is with me when I feel defeated or too when I feel ecstatic and am experiencing that ‘winning at life’ feeling. Jesus knows what we are going through because he went through all of it when he was alive for some thirty-three years. What he also knows is a little beyond our complete understanding, which is what it is like after life on Earth. He also knew what it is to be completely one with God. Even if we do not fully understand it we can still learn a lot from Jesus about how to live. His life lessons are paramount to all believers.

How does Easter affect my discernment and finding my vocation? First off it lets me know that I am a beloved of God and Jesus. God does not want me or any of us to be miserable in our life callings.  The Resurrection lets me know that I am worthy of love and mercy and that I am forgiven. This understanding leads to self-confidence and helps me realize who I am and whose I am. Jesus modeled how to live life to the fullest and how to have a strong relationship with God. In my personal relationship with God I seek and am able to listen to where I am being called. I trust God with all of my heart. I listen deeply. I eventually am able to let go of what I need to. I am able to recognize that each vocation lifestyle has a profound value.  I am then able to move forward in discernment and let my heart be moved in love. There is an inner peace and knowing that comes about and you just know the next step you need to make.  Listen to God and your heart and everything else will fall into place.

May the Joy and Love of Easter fill your heart! Blessings on the journey fellow Pilgrim!

~Sister Clare Bass

Maintaining a Prayer Life Amidst a Busy World

“Maintaining a Prayer Life Amidst a Busy World”–this was the theme for a retreat I co-lead this past weekend for alumnae of Fontbonne University (my alma mater, founded and sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph).  When one of the sisters first asked me, I had to laugh, as taking time to plan and lead the retreat would indeed make maintaining a prayer life amidst the busyness of my already busy world even that much more difficult.  But, I said yes, which I am too oft apt to do, and, I think the retreat went well.

Here are a few takeaways from the content of the retreat:

1.)  Prayer is conversation with God.  Sometimes that conversation uses words, and sometimes not.

2.)  Prayer can happen anywhere.  As Ignatius says, “Find God in all things.”  St. Francis said, “Pray all ways.”

When I look at points one and two, I am a little easier on myself when my formal, sit down, sit still prayer isn’t quite what I would want it to be.

3.)  One of the best prayers I say is the setting of the day’s intention when I first wake up.  As a sister, this entails renewing my vows.  When I commit to a way of being from the minute my feet hit the floor, it is almost always a pretty good day.

4.)  Tools such as  websites/apps “Pray as You Go, “Bible Gateway, and “Insight Timer,” (just to name a few), can help prayer happen anywhere when you might have just a few minutes to spare.

5.)  An examination of consciousness, a.k.a. the Examen, is a great tool for the end of the day and maybe even the middle.

Regardless of how busy life gets, the running, on-going conversation with God is a must for me.  Without it, ministry becomes work, I lose compassion and focus, and what I need to be my best me disappears.

Sisters Supporting Sustainability

By Christina Capecchi

The old farmers used to say you should leave a field better than you found it. Sometimes that called for heavy lifting. Other times it just meant picking up a rock as you crossed and placing it at the field’s edge.

That counsel stuck with Amy Hereford, who grew up on a 10-acre Missouri farm where sheep roamed and blackberries grew wild. She planted whatever vegetable seemed to be lacking. Read more…

Celebrating Joseph and Community

Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS, “Presentation of Jesus”

Happy St. Joseph’s Day to all! This is our day to celebrate who we are as Sisters of St. Joseph. Joseph is attributed no words in the Bible but only actions. We know he faithfully served God and was obedient to the call. He was the “foster Father of Jesus” who helped parent him on earth. We know that he did not belittle Mary when he found out she was pregnant. We know he was a carpenter. All of these actions reveal that he was a man of virtuous character.

The Sisters of St. Joseph look to Joseph and pray for his virtue of “Cordial Charity” as part of our prayer to the Double Trinity. We define the Double Trinity as: God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. “Cordial” in French terms means true, real, or sincere. We look to Joseph for inspiration to be sincere and real about our loving charity. We pray to Joseph to help us practice this in our daily lives.

In a practical way aspiring to be more like Joseph affects my motivation and actions. It calls me to be true to God, myself and others. I go deep with God into my heart and mind and find out what is beckoning.  I ask for help and guidance so I will not waver in fidelity.  As Sisters of St. Joseph our common prayer is “Sharing the State of the Heart,” and so I not only share my heart with God, but I share my heart with my sisters. Doing both, sharing my heart with community and with God helps me remain faithful to my vocation.

St. Joseph’s day is a day we celebrate our community. We celebrate the fidelity we each have to our vocation. We renew our vows together. We re-commit ourselves to the mission, which is that of Jesus Christ and remember why we are here and what we are doing. We celebrate the love that flows from God and among us. Love and joy are palpable on this Feast day.

Today, reflect on your own faithfulness and celebrate it! Pray to Joseph for guidance and assistance. Blessings on your journey fellow pilgrim!

Novena to St. Joseph:

O glorious St. Joseph, faithful follower of Jesus Christ, to you we raise our hearts and hands to implore your powerful intercession in obtaining from the benign heart of Jesus all the helps and graces necessary for our spiritual and temporal welfare, particularly for the grace of a happy death and the special favor we now request. (Mention your request)

O guardian of the Word Incarnate, we feel animated with confidence that your prayers in our behalf will be graciously heard before the throne of God.

O glorious St. Joseph, through the love you bear to Jesus Christ and for the glory of His name, hear our prayers and obtain our petitions. Amen.


MORE Weekend

— by Sr. Amy Hereford
Come and See!
Come and Pray!
Come and Serve!
MORE Weekend – vocation discernment retreat.
June 9-11, 2017,
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:

One with God and Neighbor
Reflection and Prayer

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

Celebrating Sisters!

–by Sr. Amy Hereford

I was chatting with our Sisters 2.0 group about the possibility of hosting a public conversation about religious life as we experience it. We talked about the unique perspective of younger women religious, which includes those now in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. We have lived our entire religious life after that massive waves that entered in the 1940s-60s. We also lived our entire religious lives after Vatican II and after the renewal. We have always been few in number and have struggled to find our place in our communities with the overwhelming majority of sisters that are 20-50 years older than we are.

We decided to invite some of our members into the conversation which we will host online on March 8, 2017 at 7pm Central, the first day of National Catholic Sisters Week. We are grateful for a grant from NCSW to help promote this project.With all our sisters, we share community, we share life and spirituality, and we share a mission as wide as the world and as far-reaching as the gospel. Yet our experience and our culture are very different. Our experience of religious life and our hopes for the future are shaped by these differences as well as our shared reality.

On March 8, we will host an online panel of the newer generations of sisters from around the country, sharing their best memories of religious life, their enthusiasm for religious life today and their hopes for religious life going forward. The recording will also be available after the live event.

I am looking forward to moderating our conversation. I’m working with my community’s IT people to ensure that the technology works for us.

Our panelists will be:

  • Sr. Michelle Stachowiak, a Felician Sister for almost 29 years. She has served as a teacher and physical therapist, and has worked with the homeless and served in leadership in her own community.  Currently from Pittsburgh, she has lived and ministered in many parts of the US.
  • Sr. Ann Mare Paul, a Sister of Christian Charity. She too has served as a teacher, teaching theology at the high school and theology levels. Currently, she brings hope through her ministry in a Neighborhood center in one of the poorest cities of New Jersey.
  • Sr. María de Lourdes López Munguía, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary. She ministers as a psychologist and has served indigenous peoples, the incarcerated, victims of domestic violence and those struggling with drug addiction.

To find out more about the program and to register, click here.

Vocation lessons from Cla-Clare!

(l-r)Cla-Clare, Sister Clare, and her mother Susie at Sister Clare’s First Vows celebration.

My Grandmother Clare Hornsby passed away recently and I would be remiss if I didn’t share some life lessons I learned from her on the topic of finding and nourishing your vocation. She lived 95 full years of life, not without hardship and trials and tribulations, but also with vigor, faith, and love to be able to face what life threw at her.  We lovingly called her “Cla-Clare” which is “Clare” twice because she did not want to be called Grandma or any synonym for grandma! So the rest of the article she will be addressed as “Cla-Clare”.

First a little background is that Cla-Clare served as a lawyer for 70 years in the state of Mississippi. She was married for fifty years before my grandfather Warren past away. She had three children, whom she lovingly called “her Freddy, her Susie, and her Bo”! She had 9 grandchildren who always knew of her love and support, and many nephews and nieces who also knew how much she loved and supported them. She was a vital piece of the community and stayed active doing what she could for the betterment of it.

Cla-Clare loved the law and was able to practice for 70 years because she sustained and nourished this vocation in her life. Most importantly she was able to become a lawyer because her parents never told her she ‘could not’, in fact they told her otherwise. This is the first lesson: how are we supporting and promoting children to reach their full potentials?  Are we personally and systemically helping them to develop and become their true selves? Or are we blocking this development in any way?

Cla-Clare had many sayings or little life tips she always shared and one of them was “the Law is a jealous mistress, you woo her well or you lose her.” She was passionate about her job. As we all know the law is ever-evolving and changing and is not stagnant. She kept learning and growing in her knowledge and becoming stronger in practice. Her nickname was “the barracuda” in court because she knew how to get her clients what they needed and would not settle for less. This did not happen overnight. It was an ongoing process. Cla-Clare loved my grandfather Warren very much and they had a loving and supportive relationship. Being a wife and mother was also part of her vocation. She would do those things that kept these relationships with her husband and children going. The second lesson is: nourish your vocation. Do those things which help you to grow and enhance you. Be with people who nourish your vocation. Be mindful enough to know who these people are in your life and what actions you take or choices you make help nourish you.

The third lesson is have a strong faith and spiritual life that sustains you. Cla-Clare had a faith life that sustained her. She had a relationship with God, Jesus and Mary. Her sense of humility and justice flowed from her faith. She trusted God and even when she waivered she knew God never did. This lesson is a personal one in the sense that each person’s relationship to the Divine is unique. Be mindful of your own relationship with divine and know what works for you and how you want to enrich or grow in it. There is no one “cookie-cutter” shape or mold that is the specific way for everyone to have a relationship with God.

Last but not least, Cla-Clare would always ask me “Do you love it?” when speaking of my vocation to Religious life. She would always ask others, “Do you love him/her?” when speaking to them on their marriage. She knew deep down this was the key ingredient, the glue that holds life together. She loved God, her family and friends, and her career. This love was evident in everything she did and it was catching. Where is your love coming from and going? How is love evident in your life? Is it love in the truest form? The answers to these questions are personal but they will help reveal and sustain your vocation.

I’m grateful to have had Cla-Clare in my life! I’m grateful to share a little bit about her with you today! When she was here Cla-Clare always said, “I’m sitting on top of the world, Darling” when anyone asked her how she was doing. Now we’re all saying she really is sitting on top of the World! So I hope to keep growing in all the ways Cla-Clare taught me and she is with me in a different way now. But nevertheless with me.

Blessings on the journey fellow pilgrim! ~Sister Clare

Be All You Can Be

I’m a Sister of St. Joseph.

I’m a lawyer.

I live in an ecovillage.

How cool is that?!?!

I often have the opportunity to talk with other sisters from the younger and middle-aged group of sisters. There are not a lot of us, but I love having conversations that help nurture the amazing life among us in this middle-time.

One sister recently reflected that as sisters, we are able to do many things and experience many things. We are able to maximize our potential personally, reaching goals that might not otherwise be possible. We are able to maximize our spiritual potential with a lifetime dedicated to the spiritual journey. And we are able to maximize our potential for service.

Religious life is a gift to those of us living it, when we are able to move in this direction. It is also a gift to the wider community with whom we are able to share our gifts, our wisdom and our service.

So the phrase “be all you can be” has taken on fresh meaning for me as a way to describe religious life. It is not a selfish phrase, but a celebration of God’s call and invitation to fullness of life and to sharing the abundance with those we serve.

I am full of gratitude for this wild and wonderful gift that is religious life.


The Inspiration of Now

“We do well to take up the dreams of our elders, so that we can prophesy in our day and once more encounter what originally set our hearts afire. Dreams and prophecies together. The remembrance of how our elders, our fathers and mothers, dreamed, and the courage prophetically to carry on those dreams.  This attitude will make us fruitful. Most importantly, it will protect us from a temptation that can make our consecrated life barren: the temptation of survival.”  This text from Pope Francis’ homily on the World Day for Consecrated Life is a call to courageous remembering to guide future-oriented action.

On retreat over Martin Luther King weekend with seventeen other sisters in our twenties and thirties, one sister shared a question posed to her community:  “What was the best time in your community’s history?  What was the most inspirational time?  Why are the answers to these two questions different?”  While many of the sisters, in answer to the first question, automatically thought of the decades with huge entering classes, droves of sisters, and massive institutions, they typically then thought of, perhaps, the story of their founding, a time when the community took a risk on a new mission, or something comparable as the answer to the second.  Inspiration does not require numbers.  Prophetic work on behalf of the Gospel does not require numbers.

In our society we too often get stuck in deficit-based rather than asset-based thinking.  We see smaller numbers as a deficit, not as a very real asset.  While it is true that our congregations cannot be run with the same leadership model, structures, and institutions they were once able to maintain, I am excited about the relational, nimble, collaborative model that is being birthed.  It’s not something that will happen, it’s something that is happening now.

Image may contain: 9 people, people smiling, selfie, outdoor and natureOne example is Giving Voice (G.V.).  Giving Voice is an organization for sisters under fifty from across the United States.  It maintains a core leadership team comprised of five finally professed, young sisters with staggered, three-year terms.  All of these sisters are in full-time ministry or are full-time students.  Our work is done via monthly Zoom meetings and one annual face-to-face weekend with e-mail and shared Google documents doing the trick in between.  In addition to the core team, other young, G.V. sisters are discerned and invited to lead things like the annual retreat, biannual national summer conference, and other committees as needed.  Everyone takes a turn and never have I been disappointed with an event or outcome.  I would name deep listening and shared leadership as two deeply seeded values of the organization.  We believe strongly that, “There is a leader in every chair,” and we consistently call each other to that reality.

This leadership model is how our vocation team functions and is comparable to other designs young sisters are developing across the country.

Pope Francis calls us, in the same Day of Consecrated Life homily on the Presentation to, “…go back to the Gospel passage and once more contemplate that scene. Surely, the song of Simeon and Anna was not the fruit of self-absorption or an analysis and review of their personal situation. It did not ring out because they were caught up in themselves and were worried that something bad might happen to them. Their song was born of hope, the hope that sustained them in their old age. That hope was rewarded when they encountered Jesus. When Mary let Simeon take the Son of the Promise into his arms, the old man began to sing of his dreams. Whenever she puts Jesus in the midst of his people, they encounter joy. For this alone will bring back our joy and hope, this alone will save us from living in a survival mentality.  Only this will make our lives fruitful and keep our hearts alive: putting Jesus where he belongs, in the midst of his people.”

So, whether you are discerning religious life and concerned about the rhetoric that “religious life is dying”, or whether you have been in religious life for many years, Pope Francis and I challenge you to asset-based thinking, to possibilities, to hope, to the joy of encountering Jesus and into the inspiration the Spirit is birthing among us.

–S. Sarah


Teaching the Humble His Way

By Mary Flick, CSJ

Early in the liturgical year, we begin again with the life and teachings of Jesus. Since the Christmas season ended, Jesus has been baptized and has called his disciples. Today, his teaching and preaching begins in earnest. Up on the mountain, on a grand stage, Jesus shares his seminal teaching on what his students and followers are to seek and be. As we listen to these eight beatitudes – these “be-attitudes” – we find a description of Jesus’ own attitude of being, his life’s attitude, with all its blessings.

What is the attitude, the blessing which underlies this and all of Jesus’ teachings? It is the blessing of humility. “Humility” has as its root the word “humus,” of the earth. Lowliness is built into the word. To be humble is to know who I am, a creature of God’s. Imperfect, I accept my defects and have a modest assessment of my own worth. This virtue stands in contrast to pride and is unappealing in our “Look at Me” society. To know my identity as one dependent on God for all blessings, is a life certain to gain no attention. To be poor, meek, merciful and clean of heart, to hunger for justice and peace – these are clear ways to stand apart from what is acceptable in our political, business and entertainment circles, where wealth and power are the goals.

Yet, humility is the attitude and spirit Jesus models for us throughout his public life. Later, he will teach his disciples that those who humble themselves will be exalted, that he came not to be served, but to serve. And in his final hours, he will wash his disciples’ feet.

Humility is not simply a Christian ideal. It is an essential aspect of every major religion. The prophet Zephaniah states clearly our life task: to seek the Lord, to seek justice, to seek humility. And when you do, expect to be a “remnant,” small and insignificant. But also expect to live in freedom from fear and fullness of peace.

In the second reading, Paul assures us that we, the humble, who know who we are, also know that God has chosen us. Like the One we follow, we can expect to be seen as foolish, weak and despised. But our humility is our boast and our cause for rejoicing because we are ever more like Christ.

  • Ponder
    • Which beatitude do I find most appealing?
    • Which beatitude do I most need to grow into?
  • Do
    • Offer humble service to a stranger whose path you cross this week.