Monday, August 28, 2006

"No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." ~ Matthew 6:24

"If it does not please you to serve the LORD,decide today whom you will serve..." Jeremiah 24:15a

This afternoon, I think of these quotes. Today I give up autonomous control of "my own" finances. Hallelujah! Yes, I know, it seems counter-intuitive that I would be happy about that. But as much as I hate balancing my check book, paying bills and sorting through the legal verbage of contracts (cell phone etc) - I give up that autonomy happily.

Okay... seriously...

Perhaps I should explain a little more. Last year as a pre-novice, I was living in community and participating in community without living as if I had taken the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and stability... Don't worry. As I get closer to vows, I'll explain those vows to the best of my ability. Now, however, as a novice I am now going to live as if vows had been taken... with all the "rights and responsibilities" that carries. Therefore, I will be on a budget, just like every other sister. Not everyone has the same budget as everyone has different needs, but everyone lives a life of simplicity and detachment to material things. Therefore, before going off to buy something I will now have to more seriously consider 1) the cost, 2) need or necessity?, and 3) motivation (with motivation being key).

Because I have yet to take vows, however, "my money" stays separate from the community money. After vows everything I earn and all cash given to me will go into the general community account. And no matter how much my paycheck says or how much cash people give me, I will still be on a budget (as are all the sisters). Everyone receives what she needs, but it's not dependant on how much she brings in or getting everything she wants. All assets are shared. This is part of what it means to live in true community.

"They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one's need." Acts 2:42-45
I hope that makes sense to all those who read this. If not, feel free to send me any questions. However, you can compare it to a married couple having joint accounts... well, in some ways it's the same.

I should be going now. There are many books awaiting me... and much to pray for/about. I hope all of you are well and I look forward to hearing from you. Feel free to write anytime.

With many blessings!
Sr. Nicole

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Okay... I think it suffices to say that I have no idea what I'm doing with this blogging thing. But, it was suggested by a few friends of mine and so, here I am.

Here I am, having recently become a novice with the Daugthers of Mary Immaculate (more commonly known as the Marianist Sisters), and life has become a little different... exteriorly, actually, a lot different... interiorly, God's still working. :)

As many people know, my life has always been very full. This summer was no exception!
(The following information about my summer, is cut and pasted from an e-mail I sent a few days ago...)

The summer started with a week long trip to southern California at the end of May. There was a vocations retreat that I and Sr. Vange (our provincial and vocations' person) were helping with. The retreat started on Friday evening, but we flew out on Monday morning. This was to allow time for me to see the Marianist high school next door to the Marianist brothers' and for the final arrangements for the retreat to be made. While I was there, I got to visit with a friend from college who lives in LA and whom I haven't seen in over 4 years. That was a blessing! The retreat went well as did my visits with a few people I know who teach at the high school and my friend, Steve. Anyway, we came back to San Antonio the following Tuesday morning.

Wednesday was my last day at work. I miss the daily interaction with the students, but I think the new people in the office are doing really well. Then on Thursday the staff of University Ministry took me out to eat at the Cheesecake Factory... one of my favorites.

The following Monday I left for Indianapolis, where I stayed for a week with my sister and her family. That was a real gift! We didn't do anything special before my niece was baptized... we just hung out at home. I helped with the kids etc. The following Sunday, Rachel was baptized (the Feast of the Holy Trinity). That was wonderful. I'm glad I was able to be there and celebrate the occasion with everyone. Joe's extended family was all there and it was good to see them again. I hadn't seen them in two years.

The next day, I think, I caught a 1pm Greyhound Bus for Dayton, Ohio. It was my first time to travel by bus and it wasn't that bad. I had a book with me - Holy Longing by Ron Rohlheiser, OMI. It was a great book. I gained quite a bit of insight from it. I also listened to good Christian music, so it kept me from focusing on anything that might have been unpleasant in the journey. The trip to Dayton was only about 2 hours, which surprised me.

Something else that surprised me is that I really enjoyed my time in Dayton. Let me explain... I knew that I enjoyed the sisters there, that wasn't the issue. I just wasn't sure about Dayton itself. People around here don't really consider Dayton a great place and I expected some amount of racial prejudice. However, I found none and had a wonderful 2 weeks. I was able to spend a significant amount of time getting to know each of the sisters in the community, I had dinner at the brothers' novitiate (which is on the same property as a retreat center and the place where I was studying... BEAUTIFUL grounds), and I had time to catch up with various brothers & priests that I don't see very often. In the midst of that, I was able to finish reading the biography of Adele - our foundress (approx 400 pages or so) and talk with one of the foremost Marianist history scholars. I did this during a 5-day self-directed study at the North American Center for Marianist Studies. What a great place! Not only were the people there hospitable and kind, they were extremely knowledgeable and helpful. I enjoyed my studies there a great deal.

Okay... on Friday June 29 (I think), Sr. Laura Leming and I started our drive to Cape May, New Jersey. We drove from Dayton to Philadelphia that first day. We had a great time. We sang to her cds and talked the entire 9 1/2 hour trip. We stayed over night with a friend of hers in Philly (Sr. Laura is from Philly) and went out for great ice cream that night. The next morning we drove the final 3 hours to Cape May.

Cape May is a really cute, Victorian-styled town at the very southern tip of New Jersey. The Marianist Family Retreat Center is actually further south in Cape May Point (about 5 miles from the city of Cape May). Cape May Point has beaches on the east that border the Atlantic ocean and on the west that border the bay between New Jersey and Delaware. And south... the beach there is where the ocean and bay converge. Very cool. I had the great opportunity to swim in the Atlantic for the first time. I was in Cape May for 2 weeks. The retreat center has week-long retreats for families all summer. I worked the first and the second family retreats. What a blessing that was! I worked with pre-teens both weeks (children ages 8-12) and also did the music ministry the second week.

The way the retreat works is every day has a theme (welcome, communication, forgiveness, commitment and commissioning). Each day we would have a talk & skit (I was the mom in the skit everyday all two weeks... I'm not exactly a skit person, but it was fun), then peer group time. In the small groups the young children had age appropriate conversations and then did a project. The older children and parents had typically small group discussions. Then there was family time when families would meet about the topic. The afternoon had 3 hours of free time for families to go to the beach or to "town" to shop. In the evenings we had different prayer services and family prayer time. Then peer group socials and lights out (at different times depending on age). It was a great experience because 1)I've never seen a family retreat, so I learned a lot, 2) It's been a long time since I've worked with kids so young... now I see that I can still do it, and 3) the lay Marianists on the east coast are amazing.

Then, it was back to San Antonio. I flew out of Philly on July 9th. When I got home, I had a ton to do... laundry, sorting through mail, and final LIFE prep. It was a lot. Rudy came in to town the following weekend and we worked on LIFE stuff from then until LIFE actually started.

So... LIFE... we had a great year! We had a smaller number of students (69) and moderators (11), which I really think made a huge difference. I was able to get to know the students a little better than in previous years. Also, the team worked extremely well together. I won't bore you with details about LIFE, as this is already an epic novel!

So... on to the next thing...3 days after all the LIFE meetings etc. were over, I left for Orange. I spent 5 days there just hanging out with my dad and friends Nikki & Shelby. It was good to be there. I think that was the only time all summer that I watched any tv (for longer than 20 minutes), but I really wasn't interested too much.

Then... it was off to Dayton again. I flew out of Houston to Dayton on Friday August 11th. Then the next day I went to the jubilee celebrations for all the Marianists in the Dayton area celebrating an anniversary. What a great celebration! It was a lot of fun and very moving. The next day I left for retreat in Milford, Ohio with the 2 (now) novices from the brothers. It was a week long at a Jesuit retreat center. It was perfect. I came away from the retreat not only refreshed, but graced... I had wonderful prayer time there and was really able to reflect on the many ways God has blessed me through the past year... and how God might be challenging me in the coming year. Also, I established a good friendship while we were there. What a blessing!

I returned home last Saturday afternoon and hit the ground running, so to speak. With family and friends arriving and arrangements being made for Tuesday's celebration, there wasn't a lot of time to just relax. Thank God for the week of retreat before hand!!!!!

And what can I say about Tuesday? It was beautiful. I certainly felt held in prayer all evening. We had a total of 25 people present (that's including the sisters)... so 15 guests including my sister, Grace, my Goddaughter, Rachel and my dad. I have not felt so supported before. It's difficult to put into words, but it was just very uplifting. The dinner was great... the prayer service was moving (well, for me...) and sharing desserts after was a very joy-filled time. So much laughter... some tears... and lots of love. What a beautiful evening!

So... that was my summer!

Sr. Gretchen and I worked out a daily schedule for me for at least this semester. Each day is different, but includes working out, reading, reflection & personal prayer, working on Spanish, a 1-hour meeting with Sr. Gret, and working in the house.

On Thursday evenings I am taking a class at Oblate on Mysticism. I'm excited. I'm not taking it for credit - just auditing for my own enrichment. Our first class was this past Thursday. I think I'll enjoy it. It's actually on mystic theology and so far I'm enjoying the book (Mystic Theology by William Johnston, SJ). The professor will take some getting used to, though.

So... there's my update. Sorry for those of you who've heard all this before. But I thought this was a good place to start. I'll try to post weekly... we'll see how that goes.

Keep in touch!
With love and prayers,
Sr. Nicole