Monday, December 31, 2007

And whatever you do, in word or deed, 
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, 
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17

Happy New Year! 

Yesterday I returned to Dayton after spending a few days with my sister and her family. Before I left, my sister and I went to Mass together at her parish. I reflected on the readings yesterday before Mass... prayed with them again during the liturgy... and found myself returning to them this morning after reflecting on today's readings.


Well, I'm typically not one for New Year's resolutions. The way I see it, each day I should try to renew my commitment to the life to which God has called me. In that way, New Year's Day is not that different from every other day. But... the second reading from yesterday - an excerpt from chapter 3 of Paul's letter to the Colossians - caught me. It was as if St. Paul was saying, "this should be your New Year's resolution." 

And what might that be?

Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Goodness knows that sometimes I'm not so good at being kind and gentle! And patience? Yeah, not so much. I love the way Paul says, "and be thankful." For me, it should have an exclamation point instead of a period... "And be thankful! For crying out loud..." (I like to give Biblical writers a little sense of humor in the way I read Scripture). One of the most important lines for me is "Let the word of God dwell in you richly." That's a great sentence. For, if one were to really let the word of God dwell richly in their in most being, then I think everything else would fall into place a little more easily ("... seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be given unto you ...").

Which leads me to the only real resolution: to be faithful to time spent in personal prayer each day. If I can continue to be faithful to time spent in contemplative prayer each day... faithful to meditating on the word of God (and letting it seep deeply)... then perhaps kindness, gentleness, heartfelt compassion, patience, forgiveness, and thankfulness to God won't be as difficult for me. Maybe? 

So, I suppose that even though I'm not a person who makes a list each New Year's Day of all the seemingly impossible things I will accomplish in the new year, I am recommitting myself to grow each day in virtue and prayer. That's about all one can do, isn't it?

May the New Year bring each of you who read this much peace and joy...
Many blessings,
Sr. N


Thursday, December 27, 2007

For unto us a child is born...


I had these hopes that I would have the time and energy to post something on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day... however, that was not to be. But, I figure since it's still the Christmas Season, it's "all good."

What a wonderful week it has been! With lots of laughter, beautiful prayer experiences, great food and time with the Marianist Family, we, the Marianist Sisters in Dayton, started the Christmas Season.

Christmas Eve the house was filled with Christmas music, busy people decorating, and wonderful smells from the kitchen. We started the day with our last Advent morning prayer... then the house became a flurry of activity... with a lot of laughing. Joy is a great way to characterize the mood..... At 5pm we joined other members of the Marianist Family for first vespers of Christmas in the Immaculate Conception Chapel at the Univ. of Dayton. It was a beautiful gathering of approximately 50 or so brothers, priests, sisters and a few Lay Marianists. Then, we returned home for our supper of "heavy hors d'oeuvres" and the opening of gifts. We also shared stories of Christmas Eve traditions from our families.

At 10pm the celebration of the vigil Mass began with carols at UD in the IC Chapel. Three of us sang and/or played an instrument in the choir. What an experience! The music selection was wonderful. Some of the songs, Wood of the Manger and Child of the Poor, were new to me... so beautiful. I recommend looking them up if you're not familiar with them. The homily was also very good. After Mass, around midnight, one of the SM communities (our Marianist brothers and priests) hosted a small reception. We arrived around midnight for fresh-baked, homemade desserts, decaf coffee and egg nog. It was a small, simple gathering, but nice none-the-less.

Christmas Day was wonderful. We invited over the SM novitiate community to share Christmas dinner with us. We cooked the main dishes and they brought over sweet potatoes and desserts. It was a joyful gathering and fun.

And so, yesterday was spent in "recovery" mode, so to speak. I was able to get in some phone calls and some errands yesterday, so that was good. Today I leave for my sister's house. I will be traveling with her and her family to her in-laws for their Christmas gathering over the weekend. Then, I'm back in Dayton for New Years... Busy, busy!!!

And so, I have to leave you.
May you, your communities and your families be blessed abundantly with the peace and joy of Christmas.
~Sr. N

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I've been tagged!

On December 2nd I posted a blog to which Helga (a novice with the Sisters of the Incarnate Word that I know from Texas - The story of a vocation Historia de una vocaciĆ³n) posted a comment. According to the comment I had just been "tagged" in The Immaculate Conception Meme. Hmmm... intriguing, no?

So, I went to her blog to find out what this might mean. And here I found the rules...

Each tagged person must post 8 random facts or habits about themselves on their blog. At the end of the post, choose 8 people to be tagged and list their names.Don’t forget to leave a comment telling them that they are tagged and to read your blog. Have fun!
At the time I obviously didn't follow the directions. However, now I'm ready to dive in. Let's see if I can come up with 8 random facts or habits...
  1. I have a college degree that has nothing to do with anything I've done for the past 6 1/2 years. My undergraduate degree is a BS in Biomedical Sciences from Texas A&M (WHOOP!). My original major was Bioengineering... then I realized that I don't think like an engineer (not even on the same wave length!). I switched because I enjoyed the science (without the physics). Somewhere in the midst of my senior year I decided that I would be a high school chemistry teacher. Why? I liked working with young people... didn't see myself going further with nursing, medicine etc.... And I enjoyed ministry. So, long story short... here I am! :)

  2. I danced for 15 years... from the age of 2 1/2 until I graduated from high school my second home, or so it seemed, was Lorna Badon's School of Dancing. Yep... tap was my favorite, but I also took (and student taught) ballet, jazz, pointe, gymastics for a while and twirling for a while. When I was in high school I was part of the Orange Jazz Company... we toured, competed, and performed a great deal. I learned a lot through those experiences. I think, though, that I learned the most about discipline, dedication, and respect.

  3. Texas A&M was the first and only public school I ever attended. I went to St. Paul's Episcopal for pre-kinder and kinder, St. Mary's Catholic School 1st-8th grades, Monsignor Kelly Catholic High School, and St. Mary's University for my MA. Nearly my entire high school could have fit in my first psychology class. It was a strange transition...

  4. I taught myself to play the guitar about 10 years ago. I had just graduated from college and I was doing a year of service as a teacher in a pre-K - 8th grade Catholic school that needed a music teacher/children's choir director. So, that person became me. I knew going back to the piano was hopeless (it had been YEARS), so I asked my parents for a guitar. I practiced everyday for a few hours. One of my housemates played also, so she helped me get the sounds right (and taught me how to fake some difficult chords - Thanks Amy!). Then, I started bringing it to church with me on Sundays so that I could play with the wonderful, talented ladies there. And... that's how I learned. But, I'm in danger of losing the ability because I don't really practice and I don't play very often either. I know... tsk tsk!

  5. I'm the youngest of 3 girls - we're all 10 years apart. My middle sister is 10 years my elder and my oldest sister is 20 years older than me. It's quite the spread. We almost grew up as only children in a way. We all went to the same middle school. During my last week of 8th grade my mom made the statement that she had been driving that route for 20 years and now it was coming to an end.

  6. Retreat work has been a large part of my life since I was 15 years old. While I was in high school I served on our parish retreat team, my school retreat team and our diocesan retreat team. Then in college I was involved with SMYRT - St. Mary's Youth Retreat Team (see and Aggie Awakening retreats (see ). In my adult life I have stayed active with retreat work... through high school and college campus ministry and most recently vocations retreats. It's a passion of mine, I guess you could say.

  7. I learned to play poker and shoot pool from my 11th grade theology teacher! That's fun... Her son is a year younger than me and was one my closest friends throughout high school and college. There was a group of us that would hang out together nearly every weekend and at school. Anyway, my teacher and her family had a lake house in north east Texas (near Jasper). We went to their lake house for spring breaks and for days in the summer and during Christmas break. This house is where the family kept their pool table, poker chips and other such things. To see me play pool now, though is to think I've never held a cue! Anyway, I also learned how to water ski (well, kind of, truth be told) and had my first experiences of sailing. Those were great days!

  8. I like to bake... breads, rolls, desserts... you name it, I like to bake it. I'm not the world's greatest baker, but I really do like it. In fact, I just made bread on Tuesday. I was going to blog about it because it caused me to reflect on how little patience I have sometimes, but time got away from me and that never happened. C'est la vie, I suppose!

Wow. That's it. All 8 random facts. That was fairly difficult, actually.

Now, I have to tag 8 people. I'll tag k, Sr. Betsy, Angela, Bro. Brandon, Julia, Kelly, Veronica, and Sr. Susan Rose.

Many blessings to all who read this (and find themselves tagged!) ~ Sr. N

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even at night my heart exhorts me.
I keep the LORD always before me;
with the Lord at my right, I shall never be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, my soul rejoices...
You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
Psalm 16: 7-11

Yesterday I returned to Dayton after 5 days at the Abbey of Gethsemani, a Trappist Monestary in Kentucky. I was there with my formation director, Sr. Laura, the three novices with the Society of Mary, Brandon, Jeff and Ray, the SM novice director, Fr. Mike and the SM assistant novice director Bro. Mike. What a week ... a silent retreat in which "silence" spoke volumes!

First, let me tell you about the schedule... The monks there pray 7 times a day as a community - Vigils 3:15am, Lauds 5:45am (followed by Eucharist), Terce 7:30am, Sext 12:15pm, None 2:15pm, Vespers 5:30pm, and Compline 7:30pm. Each day I would awake at 2:45am to join the community for Vigils. This prayer lasts for approximately 45 minutes or so... Then, I'd head down for a small snack so that I could stomach a cup of coffee (no coffee for me on an empty stomach!). Then it was back to my room....

4:15am - 5:30am was my best prayer time each day. Yes, I know. That's just weird for some people. But there's something about the silence and the darkness. I was also very alert, considering most people were still warm in bed. But, it was good time for me. I wrote in my journal (PAGES!... each day), read Scripture in prep for Eucharist, and in general talked with God... AND LISTENED! For some reason, I could do that with more clarity. Maybe that's because I didn't have any distractions??? Could be, I suppose.

After Lauds and Eucharist was breakfast. The dining room was silent for breakfast. I suppose we were lost in our own thoughts and prayers. On the first day after breakfast, I was blessed to see one of the most spectacular sunrises I've seen in a long time - bright red sky... almost like red grapefruit. It was beautiful beyond words to describe it.

Each day after Terce, I would head out for my morning walk... well, except Thursday. Thursday we had a rainy morning. Anyway, I walked in the woods surrounding the Abbey. It was wonderful. No one else seemed to be out at all... the paths were a little muddy, but nothing terrible... and the area has a simple, quiet beauty that's great for reflection. Again, God and I had great conversations on those morning walks.

Upon my return to the Abbey... it was time for a nap! No guilt there!! Maybe 45 minutes to an hour... nothing extraordinary or anything.

Then, it was a good time to read. I brought a book by Fr. Ron Rohlheiser with me. It's a book my friend Debbie gave me. It's called Forgotten Among the Lilies: Learning to Love Beyond Our Fears. Great book. I highly recommend it. The book gave me a lot to pray with and think about.

After my time of reading, I would head to Sext and lunch. During lunch each day (which the monks call "dinner") there was a tape playing in the dining room. It seemed to be a taped retreat conference or keynote speaker? Anyway, on two days he spoke on St. Francis de Sales and his thoughts on spiritual growth, one day he spoke on St. Therese of Lisieux, and on Thursday he spoke on St. Bernard (we think of Clairvaux?). These were generally good talks. I enjoyed them anyway. The speaker had an easy-to-listen-to style.

Then... it was off for my afternoon walk. I guess one could say that I did a LOT of walking! In fact, unfortunately, on Wednesday and Thursday I didn't make it back for None (the 2:15 prayer). But I had some great walks. On Wednesday, I broke silence. Jeff, Brandon and I went for a walk together to these great statues that depict the Agony in the Garden... very powerful. We also found a little abandoned hermitage called "Stone House." It was time well spent, I think. Once we arrived back at the Abbey's walls, though, we maintained silence...

After walking, it was always time for hot tea and reading.

Supper came after Vespers. During supper we listened to Gregorian Chant in the dinning room. That was nice. It facilitated prayer well (in my opinion).

After Supper, I'd spend a little time before Compline either writing in my journal about the day, reading more Rohlheiser, or reading Scripture. It depended on what was going on in my prayer for that day.

Compline started at 7:30pm each night and would end with all of us filing up to the front of the chapel for a blessing from the Abbot (who was actually out of town, so it was another monk) around 8pm. Then, for me... it was shower time and off to bed! Can you believe that? Well, after getting up before 3am, it certainly makes sense as far as I'm concerned!

So... all of that is good stuff... but, more importantly, is what I've come away with...

I'm coming away from the week with a renewed sense of joy in this religious life journey. God and I laughed a lot this past week (can you imagine me walking in the woods, apparently alone and then just laughing at where my prayer takes me?? Quite the sight, I'm sure!). I've also come away with a type of "resolve"... a sense that "Yes, I have imperfections and I'm not perfect in any way, especially not in my spiritual life... But, this is the life to which God is calling me and God hasn't lead me astray in the past." That sort of resolve. It's difficult to put into words, really.

So, here I am... approximately 6 months away from first vows... and my heart & soul are filled with joy (appropriate for the 3rd Sunday of Advent) and a great sense of peace. And... I'm grateful. Just grateful for God's love, the people in my life, and the gifts I've been given.

Many prayers for all who read this!
Sr. N

Monday, December 10, 2007

Called by the Spirit, the breath of God, to be a member of the Embers community,
we commit to saying yes like Mary did...
Profession of Commitment ~ Embers Lay Marianist Community
Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 2007

What a weekend! I don't have a lot of time to tell you everything... I'm on my way out the door soon to enjoy 5 days of silence at the Trappist Monastery in Kentucky - Gethsemani. Words can not express how much I'm looking forward to spending time delving into myself and into God...

However, I do want to say a few words about the weekend. You may recall that I've been working with a group of seniors at the University of Dayton who were in formation to become a committed Lay Marianist Community. I worked along side of another novice, Bro. Brandon Alana and a Lay Marianist couple Joan and AJ Wagner. Well... on Saturday, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (and our Sisters' patronal feast day!) the community made their commitment in the context of a Eucharistic Liturgy on the UD campus. What a liturgy! It was joyful... it was moving (I actually cried!)... and it was such a celebration of the Marianist Family.

Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of time to go into details. Thank God for Bro. Brandon... he's published some details on his blog. Feel free to check out what he's said at Don't worry, I got his permission to post a link to his blog within my own. Explaining, of course, that I'm a slacker and I'm grateful for his dedication. :)

Well, I'm off. Know of my prayers for all who read this and I'll tell you more upon my return from Gethsemani!

Many blessings on all who read this!
Sr. N

Sunday, December 02, 2007

For you, O Lord, my soul in stillness waits.
Truly, my hope is in you.
Based on the first verse of Psalm 63

Blessed Advent! I find myself today... on this gloomy, rainy December evening, entering into the season of Advent... and praying about what it means to prepare for the coming of Christ.

Last evening at 6pm our community entered into the Advent season with a prayer service - reflecting on Mary's disposition of waiting, pondering the coming of the Jesus. We prayed with today's readings about being awake and prepared... about creating a peaceful world where people would no longer train for war.

And what am I doing to help prepare myself and the world around me for the birth of Jesus? How am I called to do this? In what way(s) am I not prepared for the birth of Jesus in my heart? How am I called to bear Christ into this troubled world? What witness am I called to give? Am I cooperating with what the Spirit is trying to do in our world?

Important questions. This is where my prayer has taken me today, this weekend, as I seek to sink deeply into the prayer of Advent. Other than that, I don't have much left to say, really.

Pray for peace in our world...
Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Saddle up your horses we've got a trail to blaze!
Through the wild blue yonder of God's amazing grace.
Let's follow our leader into the glorious unknown.
This is a life like no other - this is The Great Adventure!
Steven Curtis Chapman, "The Great Adventure"

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I don't know about you, but I can't believe it's already THANKSGIVING! But, it's finally setting in... and I have a great deal for which to be grateful this year. It's great timing to give thanks...

Wow, do I have a lot to write about. God has been so good... and I have news to share!... First things, first, though.

This past weekend, Sr. Laura, the 3 SM first year novices, the SM novice director and the SM assistant novice director headed up to Cleveland, Ohio for a few days (Friday - Monday). Why Cleveland? Besides the fact that 3 people in our group have strong connections there because of past ministries/community involvements, we traveled there to come to know the Marianist Family in the area, to serve, and to experience another ministry of the Marianists.

It was a GREAT weekend. The ministries with which the Marianists Brothers & Priests (Society of Mary... "SM") are involved are so life giving and necessary... in my humble opinion. They serve in a high school (Villa Angela - St. Joseph's, which is on Lake Erie, by the way), in a parish (St. Aloysius) and in a parish grade school (St. Agatha-St. Aloysius). What great work! Not only that, but the people in the parish & the Lay Marianist presence are welcoming and warm. Even though I had never met most of these people before, I felt at home there.

We had a busy weekend - meeting people, helping distribute close to 700 bags of food to people in the neighborhood (yes, close to 700... once a month... and it's SO ORGANIZED!), going to the art museum, meeting friends of one of our SM novices, etc. It was a good initial immersion, in a way, to the culture/environment of inner-city Cleveland. I could go on for a while about the experience. However, I'll spare you the details. I'll end my thoughts on the trip by stating that I never cease to be amazed... anywhere I go, if I meet other Marianists in the area (Lay, SM, or FMI) I feel a sense of being at home. That's a good sign.

This week in our community we are having what's called our Provincial Visitation. Members of our Provincial Administration are here on their official visit with our community. Sr. Vange, our Provincial, and Sr. Gretchen (novice director and member of our leadership team) are here with us. In addition to communicating information and "checking in" with the community, there were meetings and much conversation concerning my stay here in Dayton (evaluation and planning). And a decision was reached by the Provincial Council and the Formation Personnel.

So, what's the plan, you ask??? Well, let me fill you in...

I will remain in the Dayton community until April. Next semester, though, will be a little different in terms of ministry so that I can focus a little more on my own formation, some vocation ministry and on the Marianist LIFE program (for information about LIFE see:

In mid-April, I will return to San Antonio for a more reflective time to prepare for my first profession of vows. The 2 months of vow prep will look a lot like my first year of novitiate... with a lot of prayer, reflection, discernment... it'll be like a mini-sabbatical with God. That's something to look forward to!

God willing, I will profess vows on Saturday June 21st in San Antonio. I can hardly believe that. Wow! Of course, I will formally request vows and then there is a process the Sisters will enter before that request is granted. Hence, "God willing"...

After vows I will have some "down time." In that time, I'll go visit my dad and sister (the one who lives in Austin), I'll sort through all my boxes etc. that I left behind in San Antonio and I'll prepare for Marianist LIFE-South 2008 (July 19-29).... THEN...

I will be a member of our Dayton Community as a temporary professed sister. Yes, you read correctly. I'm not going back to San Antonio for ministry.

So. How do I feel about that? I'm excited... I'm nervous... I'm sad about not being with the people in Texas who are family/friends... I'm happy/at peace... I'm glad not to be living in ambiguous territory... Overall, though, I'm happy with the council's decision.

Well, I have to get going. There is much to do today... And much for which to give thanks!

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Monday, November 12, 2007

What prevents intimacy is the refusal to allow for the
virtues of transparency and honesty to find their place
over against the negative whispers of suspicion or fear,
whether of failure, or of being found out.
Peter Price, Undersong: Listening to the Soul

Wow. I really have not been good about keeping up with writing every 2 weeks! Sorry for the inconsistency! However, rest assured, I'm doing well... keeping busy of course, but doing well all the same.

You may recall from previous posts, each year all the Marianists in formation in the U.S. gather for a weekend in November called, "Marianist Formation Weekend." This year we met Thursday Nov. 8 - Sunday Nov. 11 in... MIAMI, FLORIDA! In case you were unsure, November is the perfect time of year to leave Dayton and spend a weekend in south Florida... GREAT weather... clear blue skies, low humidity, a little breeze here and there... just nice.

Thus far in my time with the Marianists I have attended 3 formation weekends (my first was in St. Louis, last year in San Antonio, this year in Miami... next year is in northern California!). In my limited experience, this was by far the best formation weekend we've had. This year's weekend focused on consecrated celibacy. Not a "light" topic, to be sure. We covered a LOT of ground in just a few days... and we shared with one another deeply... honestly. It was interesting because when the Marianists gather for formation weekend, we are a mixed gender group. I'm the only Marianist Sister in formation. So I was there with my formation director, Sr. Laura. The rest of those gathered were novices and temporary professed (and their formation personnel) from the Marianist Brothers and Priests. Some people might worry that discussing celibacy would be difficult in a mixed gendered group, but it seems to me that wasn't the case at all.

Last year one of my Intercommunity Novitiate gatherings focused on celibacy... and that was a great weekend, too. However, what made this one different was that we had discussions (in pairs and as a large group)... there was a level of comfort because we all (for the most part) knew and trusted each other. It was "safe space" for these types of conversations.

I mentioned above that we covered a lot of ground. We talked about the "why" of celibacy - the theological significance, the "who" of celibacy - how our background and who we are influence how we live a life of consecrated celibacy, and the "what" of celibacy - the inner conviction and how the life "fits" with our deepest selves. I could write for days about everything I learned from our sessions and conversations... my self-discoveries... and the insight gained. However, I don't want to overload any of you with too much of that. I will say this, though, I think the segment that moved me the most was a segment on the importance of intimacy... of honesty and transparency in relationships - the idea that there is a need for intimacy with self, God, and others. The presenter, a Lasallian brother Jim Zullo, stated that it is his belief that it is extremely important that people in religious life have at least one very close friend who is a member of the same congregation and others outside of community.

I have heard and reflected before on the need for friends (close, intimate friends) outside of one's community. We can not expect community to meet all of a person's friendship needs. However, I had never thought before of how important it is to share an intimate bond within the context of one's congregation.

Also (okay, one more thing) he had a visual on "circles of intimacy" that was a series of concentric circles. The inner most one is labeled solitude... intimacy with self and God. The next is close, intimate friends... those who know me as well as I do. The next circle includes friendship networks... people who are friends, perhaps good friends, but not "intimate," per se, family, support groups, and community. After that circle is the outer most one which includes mentors, acquaintances, political "allies" ... people who help me work with systems, work colleagues, parishioners/students/patients ...people to whom I minister, and professionals... spiritual directors, counselors etc.

This was a very helpful diagram for a number of reasons. The first is that I had never really considered where community "fit" in my relationships ... not my family... not necessarily my close friends... So it was good to have a visual representation. It was good, as well, to have some conversation about professional relationships, mentors and those to whom I minister. Those are great reminders... especially for someone like me who works so often with youth and young adults.

Lastly, I think the greatest gift of the weekend came through 2 conversations - 2 different people, different days, different contexts, but gifts from God all the same. In both conversations I was able let go of defenses and allow myself to be vulnerable and honest... and non-judgemental. And the people to whom I was speaking were able to share at the same level of depth. Both were powerful experiences... and transformative. I learned a lot... especially about myself.

And so, here I am after another powerful weekend... hoping that my memory is able to hold on to some of this (my memory is TERRIBLE), but more importantly, I hope my heart is able to remember what I've learned about myself...

(One final note: Because of scheduling conflicts, several of our brothers in formation were not able to join us in Miami... Brandon, Luis, Dennis, Armando and Brian we certainly missed you!)

Many blessings to all who read this~
Sr. N

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Heavens are telling the glory of God
and all creation is shouting for joy!
Come dance in the forest, come play in the field!
And sing! Sing to the glory of the Lord!
Canticle of the Sun

Have you ever experienced a day when everything seems especially blessed... It's beautiful outside, you're doing things you enjoy and spending time with good friends?? That was this past weekend for me...

Before I launch into bragging about my weekend, I suppose I should say a word about where I've been the past few weeks! Crazy busy doesn't even begin to describe life... but it's not overwhelmingly busy... or even un-healthily so.... perhaps full is a better word.

So... first our community schedule... We have morning prayer together on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 7:45am. Typically, I work out before hand at the Univ. of Dayton at 6am and shower there before morning prayer. On Monday evenings we have dinner at 6pm followed by prayer and a community meeting that usually lasts until 9pm. Tuesdays we have Eucharist at 5pm followed by dinner. Wednesdays we have prayer at 5:15 and eat left-overs together at 6pm, however, I have a class at UD from 6-8:30, so I usually eat peanut butter and jelly and fruit during class. Thursday evenings, we do not gather as a community, which works out well because I have a standing Thursday night commitment at 9pm (which I'll explain below). Friday evenings we have dinner at 6pm followed by prayer. ....

On Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays I work at Catholic Social Action here in Dayton. I believe I wrote more about this office in a previous blog... I'm there from 9am - noon, however recently I started going in about 10 minutes earlier so that I can leave in enough time to make it to 12:05 Mass at the UD. There are some days, typically a Wednesday, that are a little longer because of Archdiocesan gatherings/meetings in Cincinnati. In fact, for a few weeks I was in Cincinnati every Wednesday until around 3 or 4. Last week, I got lost trying to find my way home... I ended up in Northern Kentucky for about 45 minutes trying to figure out what highway would get me back to something I recognized! How aggravating!!! *sigh* But... it worked out well in the end...

The Catholic Social Action office just finished a course called "Salt and Light" at a parish here in town. The course was on Tuesday evenings at 6:30pm... which is why I don't go into the office on Tuesday mornings - I was at S&L in the evenings. It was a course for adults in the parish to learn about Catholic Social Teaching in order to begin a parish Social Justice Committee. Great course! Anyway, now that the course is over, I'm not picking up those hours in the office because I really need that time for a few other things...

My Wednesday evening class is keeping me busy. My small group is doing oral histories of 4 people in the neighborhood with which we are working. That's a very interesting project... a little on the time-consuming side, though.

Thursday evenings are great. At 9pm I meet with a group of UD students (along with a Lay Marianist married couple) who will make a commitment at the end of the semester as Lay Marianists. We are helping them through the formation process. It's been good for me. I think it's also been a very valuable way for me to work with students on a deeper faith level than I would have the opportunity otherwise.

My weekends... have been FULL! Last weekend I was in Scottsdale Arizona for meetings (I'll explain those in a future blog!), two weekends before that I was back at Governor's Island for a discernment retreat, and the weekend before that I was in Pennsylvania for the Intercommunity Formation weekend I wrote about in my last post. Then... next weekend we have our Come and See weekend here in Dayton and two weeks after that I'll be in Miami for Marianist Formation Weekend!!

So... what about the weekend just past? See the picture at the top of this post? That's where I was ALL day yesterday! How incredible is that??? Of course, silly me didn't have a camera. That picture is from the website ( But, let me start at the beginning...

On Friday evening my very good friend Dawn came in for a visit. She's working on her masters at Catholic Univ. in DC... finished mid-terms last week and took a break. On Friday evening we had dinner with the community and then we just sat out on the porch swing and talked... and talked... It was a beautiful night, too. Saturday we drove to Cincinnati to visit a friend of ours who is a retired Franciscan priest with whom we used to work back at St. Mary's Catholic Center at Texas A&M. We had a great day with him! He took us to his novitiate and out to lunch. He told us stories about some of the people who have impacted his life, he gave us each a book of Mother Teresa quotes, a other assorted gifts. Then, Saturday evening we joined in the 10 year anniversary celebration of one of the Marianist Lay Communities. Well, it's more of a Family of Mary community because there is one Mariansit sister, a Marianist brother, a Marianist priest, and one of the male Marianist novices... however, most of the people are Lay Marianists. We had a great time. The Eucharistic Liturgy was small, but nice. Then we had dinner (a PLETHORA of good food!) and ended the night with contra dancing. We didn't get home until nearly 11pm, but we had a great time....

Then yesterday Dawn and I took part in our annual tradition... hiking. We went to a BEAUTIFUL state park about 2 hours from Dayton called Hocking Hills. We walked... and talked... and laughed... and shared... all day. What a great way to spend the day. Being on the edge of a cliff more than 200 feet up staring out across beautiful multi-colored trees is amazingly awe-inspiring. There's really nothing like it.

Really, I have a ton more to say, but now I'm running late. So, I'll end here and write again soon... I hope.

Many prayers for all who read this!
Sr. N

Friday, October 05, 2007

Like the servants at Cana, Mary never stops saying to us, pointing to her Son,
"Do whatever He tells you."...
We are part of a great family and it is with the different branches of the Marianist Family
that we must search for creative responses to today's needs.
To the Ends of the Earth
Marianist Sisters 30th General Chapter Document
Summer 2007

If you've been reading my blog off and on over the past several months, you may remember me writing that this past summer was our General Chapter. When Sr. Laura returned from Rome we talked a great deal about the Chapter. Last month all our Sisters received the Chapter Document, To the Ends of the Earth. WHAT A DOCUMENT! I was hoping for something from the Chapter that would serve for me as inspiration and encouragement for the journey... and that's exactly what I got!

Shortly after I read the document and prayed with it for the first time, I typed a letter for the Sisters in our province. Unfortunately, that letter is still saved on my hard drive and was never sent out. This morning during morning prayer one of our Sisters read parts of the document... which prompted me to continue reflecting on it today. I decided to share with you some parts of my letter to the Sisters in order that you might understand, at least partially, my enthusiasm.

What follows below are some of my reflections...

The first thing I noticed about the document is the continuity between it and Women of Hope from the 29th General Chapter. The starting point is the Paschal Mystery which was the focus of Women of Hope. Picking up with the thoughts of the previous document, which asked us to consider how new life comes from death; the current document gives signs of new life and encouragement to bring forth more new life. What I like about it is that the encouragement to bring forth more new life is not given as concrete directives, but in such a way that challenges us to ask the tough questions. That for me is part of the beauty of To the Ends of the Earth.

Paragraph 4 states, “…our poverty should not make us fearful. We recognize ourselves as small and fragile and we have the audacity to say: it is ‘the hour’ of the Congregation, the hour for us to
live in a new way as disciples and missionaries.” This quote is one of my favorites. Sometimes it can be easy for me to worry about our size or to feel a little anxious about the future. But this statement calls me to hope – and to recognize the present Grace of God. It calls me to ask, “In what new way am I or are we called to live? In what new way are we called to be disciples and missionaries in today’s world?” Those of you who know me well know that these are the types of questions that really excite me. Therefore, the document had me hooked.

I found the next section on being disciples of Jesus in the image of Mary quite challenging, but in the best sense of the word. The way it begins reminded me in many ways of my study of the vow of obedience. What is our call from God? “We hear the call to be open and welcoming communities” (§9). This leads me to ask, “How are our communities open and welcoming? How do I practice hospitality – to those that visit as well as those with whom I live? In what ways can I/we be more open and more welcoming?” ... I’m excited to be here as we pray a response to these questions.

Paragraph 12 offers a different type of challenge, “We feel that it is necessary, in order to live in fidelity to our heritage, to return to the sources and to what is essential in a renewed way. We cannot be content to repeat what we have understood up until now.” When I read this I thought,
“Wow. That’s an exciting, yet daunting task.” This is no small feat. What is the “renewed way” of returning to our sources? Concretely, what does that mean for us? How? How does one highlight the relevance of our Charism for today’s society? Although it calls me to ask really tough questions about myself and us as a group, I am not discouraged. Quite the contrary, I am ready to embrace these challenges side-by-side with you all.

The next section offers two topics with which I will definitely pray and reflect.“Imitating Mary we learn to welcome the other, with a discreet presence and full of respect, listening and in dialogue. She invites us to take time to really encounter people, and to build networks with them. She teaches us to recognize the hidden presence of Jesus in every human encounter” (§13). “Our mission is to make possible for others the encounter with Christ, whom we love and whom we desire to make known” (§14). What I like about these is that it’s a perfect reflection point as I re-enter a life of ministry.

In the same way, I find in paragraph 16 a challenge in the way I will do ministry, but also a reminder of the gift that is support through community (as in FMI community, but the larger Marianist Family
and beyond as well):

Wherever we are, we create spaces of compassion, of listening, of healing, of tenderness. We are not able to respond to all calls but we have to ask ourselves in community: Who is knocking at our door? What can we do? To whom do we need to go? Drawing strength from our community life, we will create the responses, simple and adapted though they be. We are invited more and more to work in networks with others: laity, secular associations, members of the Marianist Family, other religious, Church organizations, members of other religions.

The document ends with a prayer to Mary that I foresee using frequently for reflection. Some of my favorite lines are:
~ “With you we want to welcome this Word, so that it transforms our lives and our communities.”
~ “Make us women of faith following your example, with our feet firmly planted in reality, happy to work in community to give life and bring the wine of true joy to those whom the Lord places in
our path.”
~ “…vocations are born where we do not expect, and missionary initiatives fill us with hope.”

~ “Today, we place ourselves at your service, ‘it is the hour’ of our Congregation.”

I hope that maybe you can catch a little of why I am excited about To the Ends of the Earth. I think the document is a beautiful call for us... and something to spirit us forward.

On a completely different note... things are going well for me in Dayton. I sense that I'm finally finding some balance of all the essential pieces of life - prayer (community and personal), ministry, "down time," and care of self. One thing that's been really good about this semester is the opportunity to meet and learn from so many different people. I've been moving in many different circles here - in parishes, the Archdiocese, Marianist communities... I've learned a lot.

Well, this post is almost impossibly long. So I'll end here.

Many prayers for all who read this!
~Sr. N

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm on my way there!
Novice Augustine Lieb, TOR

Wow. It's been a while since I've written hasn't it? Where have I been, you ask? I'm in that pesky state of transition once again!

It's now been 1 month since I began my second year of novitiate... and it seems like life went from 0 to 70 in a very short amount of time. Mind you... it's all good and I am well. However, now I'm practicing the skill (virtue? gift?) of balance in a whole new way. How exactly does one balance ministry, community prayer, personal prayer, community time, personal health (exercise), friends out side of community, studying for class, going to class, helping with vocations and time for relaxation?? Is it possible to balance all those things and still sleep? If so, let me know. *smile*

I hope you realize that I write that with somewhat of a sense of humor. For if there's one gift I'm pretty sure that I have, it's the ability to laugh at myself and the craziness that life sometimes entails....

But... tonight I don't want to write about what I've been up to since the last time I wrote. Maybe I'll do that the next time I post. Tonight I want to say a little about my weekend and the quote that's at the beginning of this post.

This weekend I attended my first "Intercommunity Total Formation Program." It is a weekend long gathering of pre-novices, novices, people in temporary vows, formation directors, vocations directors and anyone who lives/works with people in religious formation. The program takes place 3 times an academic year in a place called Villa Maria, Pennsylvania at a center where the Sisters of the Humility of Mary reside. This weekend's topic was "Religious Life in the Future: for the Life of the World."

What a weekend! This was my first chance to meet people in formation in this area of the country. What a blessing! I'm not the best when it comes to keeping in touch with people, but I'm going to try. It was a true gift to talk with Sisters of Saint Joseph, Franciscan Friars, Franciscan Sisters, Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Notre Dame and others who are experiencing some of the same blessings, challenges, joys and struggles... to brain storm, to share about our charisms, to sing together, pray together.

We had a presenter who challenged us to consider the possibility that religious life 15 or 20 years from now (for active religious congregations... not monastic, necessarily) might look very differently than it does now... and we (those of us in formation) are very much a part of this exciting time in the history of religious life. So... we had amazing conversations about that. About our hopes, fears, challenges, gifts, blessings... about the needs of the world and our witness to an alternative world where people live rooted in the Gospel.

I started with the above quote because it struck me as appropriate for the topic of our weekend. You see, Sr. Carol (our presenter), said that we have one foot firmly planted in what "is" now... religious life in the present. But we also have one foot in a future about which we have no concept. So, on Saturday night during our social when one of the Third Order Regular Franciscan novices was roaming aimlessly in the room and some one said, "Gus, what are you doing?" and he responded, "I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm on my way there!" I thought... wow. That's exactly what we've been talking about! We have no idea how religious life in the future will look. But... we're on our way there! As Gus later stated in a small group conversation, "A moving ship is easier to steer," meaning... perhaps we need to be moving ahead in order for the Spirit of God to more easily guide us into this future...

Well, it's late. I just got home from Pennsylvania not too long ago and I'm tired. I wanted to put a few thoughts down before going to sleep. Hopefully, I will write more soon. Until then, mutual prayers???

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Many are the plans in a person's heart,
but it is the decision of the Lord that endures.
Proverbs 19:21

This week I purchased a planner. Some of you may recall... I had a planner once and made very good use of it. However, about 2 months before my first year of novitiate, the planner was stolen from the front seat of my car. Why would someone steal a planner of all things? The only reason I could come up with is that someone might have thought it was a laptop? Who knows!

Well, all last year I didn't really feel the need to have a "planner," per se. However, now that life is getting to be a little more busy... and post-it notes were everywhere with reminders... and I felt like my time wasn't well spent... I decided a planner would be a good idea.

Yesterday I came home from the office supply store and immediately started arranging my planner... filling out the month calendars, getting the daily appointment calendars worked out, making to do lists for each day. I felt like a kid at Christmas! Excitement coursing through my veins... (if you know me, you know this isn't an exaggeration!)...

Today, as I get ready to work on other sections of the planner (important dates & addresses... personal information... etc.) I find myself a little reflective about my excitement over this. Ultimately, I have to remember that sometimes my plans aren't God's plans... and no matter how exacting I am in planning a day, sometimes it's not going to work out according to my plans. Sometimes it's a really good thing that everything doesn't work according to my plans - if they did, my life would be a mess, really!

Have you ever heard the cliche, "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans?" Well, God must get a real kick out of me...

Many blessings for all who read this!
Sr. N

Monday, August 27, 2007

Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind...

Luke 14: 13

So, it's been a little over a week since I became a second year novice - an apostolic novice... re-entering the life of ministry as a Marianist Sister. Viewing the world, relationships and the "work" I've been given to do through the lens of the Marianist charism and living as Mary... bringing Christ to the world as Mary did/does. That's the "objective" of this second year. It's going back to the active life, but changed somehow or in a different way.

How's it going so far? So far, so good, I suppose. It's a little strange, in all honesty, to see my calendar so full again. After a year of not really having much on my calendar at all... it's strange to see meetings, retreats, work etc. taking up the white space of the calendar I carry. There's a part of me that's really excited to be reaching this phase - as you may recall from my previous post. Then there's a bit of trepidation... will I be able to maintain balance?? That's a big question for me right now...

Another big question and my prayer for this phase of life is, "God, what is the call? What are the needs of our world that are not being met and how are you calling me to put my gifts at the service of these needs??"

As you may know, a majority of my time this semester is focused on issues of social justice... in many different ways, but still most revolving around living out Catholic Social Teaching (still called the best kept secret of the Catholic Church?). This is relatively new territory for me. So, I imagine that I'll learn a lot this semester... especially about poverty, homelessness, immigration, and unfair social systems. Hence, the quote at the top of the post from today's Gospel...

Now, the way I see it, God wouldn't present me with the opportunity to grow in this way unless the intent is for me to use what I learn in some capacity in the future. While not trying to "live in the future," I'm trying to be aware of God's call through each experience and encounter.

Last weekend I was blessed to attend a retreat entitled "Journey to Justice" organized by the Dayton area's Weavers of Justice and the Archdiocesan Catholic Social Action office. What a retreat! I won't go into all the details, but it was eye-opening for me. We had presentations by a campus minister for peace and justice from the University of Dayton, a Scripture scholar who is new to the Dayton area and teaches at Wright State (religious studies?), and the director of a home for homeless men trying to get back on their feet. We also had talks given by 3 homeless men who live in the shelter.

I feel that I can't just have these experiences and leave unchanged. There is a call. There is a path towards which God is trying to guide me. Pray that I might be patient in the unfolding, but also that I might have the courage to follow where God leads.

Many blessings to all who read this!!!

Sr. N

Friday, August 17, 2007

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose under Heaven.
Turn, Turn, Turn - The Birds
(Adapted from Ecclesiastes 3)

Feeling musical today... I guess that's the case almost everyday. Some days it seems that I awake ready to greet the day with song and every situation in the day brings to mind a song - sometimes a ballad, sometimes praise & worship music, many times a song from the 80s...

At this particular moment it seems that Turn, Turn, Turn is a good song. As you may know, I'm in the last 5 days of my canonical year... about to embark on the next phase of the journey called formation. It is a time for reflection. Today's readings (Fri. Aug. 17) are particularly appropriate for my reflections. In the first reading Joshua recounts for the people all the good God has done for them - how faithful God has been. The responsorial psalm has an ongoing refrain, "God's mercy endures forever" and it also recounts all the ways God is faithful. Then the Gospel is about faithfulness in relationships... Faithfulness.

God is faithful. These next few days, as I prepare to put into practice all that God has revealed to me in the past year, it is good to reflect on God's goodness... faithfulness... steadfast love.

There is, indeed, a time for everything under Heaven. There's a time for reflection... a time to ponder. That's what retreats, meditative prayer, and canonical novitiate are for. Then there's a time for action... a time for putting one's relationship with God into practical activity - ministry... social justice work... the next step in formation...

It's been a full year. Really, it's been a full summer... all in the same "pondering" spirit, though. So, what lies ahead??? I'm glad you asked! ;)

Next week I jump back into a more apostolic mode. Sr. Laura, my formation director while here in Dayton, says that it's the time for me to put into practice what I've studied and prayed about all year. That's good perspective....

First, I'll be working 12-15 hours a week with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Catholic Social Action Office here in Dayton ( I'm excited about that because I believe there's a lot more for me to learn in terms of social justice issues/causes/possible solutions and because it will allow me to learn more about Dayton in general. On Wednesday evening I will start a class at the FitzCenter for Leadership in Community here at UD ( That course has students working with a local neighborhood association and local government on projects for improvement. That should prove to be a stretch for me, but the skills developed and lessons learned will be transferable no matter what the future holds. I'll also be working with the students at UD who want to make a public commitment as Lay Marianists. I'll be helping with their formation. Lastly, I will go back to working with one of my passions... Marianist LIFE. Marianist LIFE is an immersion in Marianist community building and leadership for high school students (

But, now is not the time to think too much about what's ahead. Now is the time to pray, reflect and bring a little closure to a year well-spent. Otherwise, the coming months will be too overwhelming!

Many blessings on all who read this!
Sr. N

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Drink deeply from the well-spring of prayer,
else the journey will be too long...
A thought from my personal prayer

I can hardly believe that summer is almost over! Where have the months gone?? The close of this summer is different for me. In a little over a week, I will complete my first year of novitiate and transition into a new phase...

The second year of novitiate differs depending on the religious congregation. For me it means a return to ministry... not full time, but ministry nonetheless. And to tell you the truth, I couldn't be more excited about that!

The challenge in these last few days of first year is to stay in the present and not allow myself to get "caught up" in what's going to happen. You see, it's difficult for me sometimes to stay in the "now." I like looking ahead, planning, etc. Sometimes that's a gift. However, sometimes I completely miss the grace that God is showering on me now.

For the next several days the above quote is my "mantra" of sorts. As God prepares me to re-enter the world of ministry, it is essential that I drink deeply from the prayer that has become so much a part of my first year of novitiate. Otherwise, the journey will indeed prove to be too long.

Tonight, I'm keeping this post short. I foresee some very long posts in the near future... I'm sure I'll want to share with you what my second year will involve.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand
and caught him, and said to him,
"O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
Matthew 14:31

This past weekend (Friday July 27 - Monday July 30) I joined the Marianist brothers for a bi-annual gathering called "Look, Listen and Lounge." It is a gathering for people in formation with the Marianists, but also for those who are seriously considering entering the Marianist vowed life. It was not exactly a retreat... although we did pray together and had 1 or 2 sessions each day. It was more of a weekend just to relax and get to know one another in an informal and fun atmosphere. It took place at the Marianist retreat house on Governor's Island.

Quick explanation of Governor's Island...
In the early 20th century one of Ohio's governors left his property to the Marianist brothers and priests at the University of Dayton. The property just happens to be one of the small islands in a chain of islands in Indian Lake (a large man-made lake about 2 hours north of Dayton).

Anyway, we had many late night card games, swimming, boating, tubing, a bonfire complete with s'mores and roasted hotdogs... When the Marianists get together, I suppose one could say that we have a good time.

On the serious side, however, there were 3 sessions... I was asked a few weeks ago to give the one on Sunday evening. I spoke about my discernment journey and where I am right now. I used the story of Jesus walking on water and calling Peter out of the boat as the frame for telling my story.

I won't go into everything I talked about, but I want to share with you a few of the reflections. I shared with everyone that stepping out of the "boat" and into religious life wasn't a huge difficulty for me and that at the beginning if I stayed focused on God and the grace of the present moment, I was fine. However, at times during this past year there have been moments of doubt or questioning... "Can I really do this? Will anyone else join? What does the future hold and will I be able to cope?" and other such questions...

During each of those questioning moments I have asked for help... and that help has typically come through the people around me. I told the group how difficult the year would have been had it not been for "my brothers"... the men in formation with the Marianist brothers/priests. We have been each other's support. Also, my intercommunity novitiate group was immensely helpful... as well as the sisters in community.

If I were to write a book about the brothers & priests in the Society of Mary, I would entitle it Truly My Brothers because that's who they've been for me. I didn't grow up with brothers... but God has seen fit to bless me with 100s of them now!

After the talk I gave everyone a copy of the Scripture passage along with 4 questions for reflection. I asked them for what is Jesus calling them out of their boat, how do they feel about that, what support do they need to take that step and keep going, and who has been supportive for them in their own discernment journey. Then they had time for one-on-one conversations.

It was good. Reflecting on how I've come to be where I am on this journey was good for me. It was also good to articulate it verbally. I've realized that each day is filled with God's grace... that I can't "do this" of my own will/effort... that a helping hand from Jesus often comes through the people around me... and just because there are winds that toss the boat, it doesn't mean Jesus isn't there attempting to walk on water with me.

My friend Brandon, who is a 1st year novice with the SM, took pictures from the weekend. Here are a few:

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Mary is a person, not a project...
Sr. Laura Leming, FMI

The above quote has been my mantra since arriving in Dayton. If you've been keeping up with my blog posts, you know that I spent most of this past academic year studying the history of American religious life, our foundress Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon, and the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The remainder of my first year of novitiate (May-Aug) is focused on Mary and the Marianist vow of stability.

Stability? Yes. You read correctly. We Marianists have a 4th vow of stability. Hmm... you might be thinking, "How is that possible? They're always moving everywhere..." Believe me, if that's what's going through your mind, you're not alone!! That was the first thing I thought too...

The book Our Gift from God by Emil Neubert, SM has a lot of helpful information about the Marianist vow of stability. I believe the intent in this book was to discuss what makes a Marianist "Marianist" based on the writings of our founders.

There are 3 chapters of this book dedicated to the Marianist stability, which makes sense because stability "stamps a Marian character upon the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and indeed upon every action of the life of a religious." Why or how? The vow is about dedication to Mary and to helping Mary in her mission.

One of my friends who is in formation with the Marianist brothers and priests often says, "Mary had a mission?" The answer for Marianists is an enthusiastic yes! Mary's mission is to bring Jesus into the world... nurture the life of Jesus... teach Jesus how to be a good human being... to pray with and for the disciples of Jesus... to sing God's praises (the Magnificat)... to see the needs in our world and do something about them (as evidenced at Cana)... to stand with those who suffer (at the foot of the cross)... and many more aspects than can be listed here. When a Marianist professes the vow of stability, we profess to aid Mary in this continual mission - in every aspect.

Now... how did we get this in the vow of stability.

Stability first came into religious life with the rule St. Benedict. Before Benedict's rule it seems that monks would travel to different monasteries looking for a good fit (there seems to be more to it than that, but that will suffice for now). Benedict wanted to counter this trend because some were taking advantage of monasteries. So, Benedictine monks and nuns profess stability - to remain in their monastery or convent for life.

After the Council of Trent religious congregations who took "simple vows" also took a vow of stability. But that stability wasn't to a particular monastery, but to the congregation... a vow to persevere in the community. This is the type of stability from which the Marianist vow arose.

For Marianists, stability is "the very essence" of our life. "It can be referred to all that is, and to all that is done. In thus referring to the service of Mary it naturally focuses complete attention on the Marian quality of our service."

"Marian quality" - taking on Mary's way of being in bringing Christ to the world.... This is why my summer is dedicated to learning about and praying with/about Mary, her way of being, her mission... It permeates everything for Marianists.

As I learn and grow, I will definitely share more with you. I thought this would be a good introduction, though.

Before I close, I would like to share some interesting news... I can't believe I didn't write about this earlier. Currently our General Chapter is happening in Rome. It's very exciting... even though I'm not there. Both of my formation directors, Srs. Gretchen and Laura (with whom I work while in Dayton) are there right now along with another American Sister who serves on our General Administration there in Rome. Each day an update is posted on a website. If you'd like to read about our General Chapter, please go to:

Okay. I believe this is long enough for now. :)
Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I woke up early this morning, and paused before entering the day;
I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.
Grace L. Naessens from
"No Time to Pray"

This summer, so far, has been a very interesting one for me. Those of you who know me from years past, know that my summers used to be filled with travel, workshops, retreats, service immersions... so much so that I was only at home for 2-3 days a month. This summer, obviously, has been nothing like that... but in an odd way, it's been just as busy. Good... but busy!

You may wonder what's been going on since I last wrote. Well, really just 2 ongoing "things" (one personal the other community related) and one "event." It seems that I shouldn't be that busy? Well, allow me to briefly explain...

I'll start with the communal. In my last post I wrote about our technology upgrades - a very interesting, but at times frustrating, process. Would you believe that everything is finally connected and working as it should as of Monday night around 9pm? Yes, it took exactly one month. I, honestly, could not be more excited about the completion of this process! Like I said, while it's been interesting (I've learned a lot about wiring, phone connections and digital phones/cable lines), it certainly has been time consuming! It has also had the effect of making me a little more cynical about corporate/consumeristic America... But, that's a topic for a different time.

On a personal note, I've been auditing classes this summer. The Univ. of Dayton houses one of the most famous and complete Marian libraries. In this library the International Marian Research Institute (a pontifical institute affiliated with the Marianum in Rome) offers advanced pontifical degrees with specialization in Mariology: the doctorate in sacred theology (S.T.D.), the licentiate in sacred theology (S.T.L.), the master's degree in religious studies with a Marian concentration (in conjunction with the religious studies department at the UD) and a certificate in Marian studies guided studies. ANYWAY... the courses offered in the summer are 1 or 2 week intensive courses. Last month I took a 1-week class entitled "Intro to Mariology." That was a great class - it offered a broad overview of the academic study of Mary. This month, I have just completed another 1-week class (Mary and the Old Testament Wisdom Figures) and am about the finish a 2-week class (Mary and the Old Testament).... Both EXCELLENT courses... Neither of them extremely difficult, but the 2-week Old Testament class has been labor intensive & time consuming for me. We have 1-3 page papers due each day, which again, isn't difficult for sure... however, it's been taking me forever to do the prep work to write them! Not because of the difficulty, but because of writing them from home instead of at the library on campus.

Looking back, it would have been wiser to write from the library because of the lack of interruptions and the abundance of resources ... however, living in community, should a person take themselves out of community so much? I suppose that's the question with which I will struggle as I make the transition from canonical novitiate to active, apostolic life. Before I entered religious life I was hardly ever home... ministry was my life. Now, with a commitment to the community, I can not return to that style of ministry... I will have to find the balance. And that's never been an easy thing for me!

The event? Two people that I know (both of them members of a cyber faith-sharing group in the Marianist spirit with me and one of them a colleague in ministry) made a formal commitment and were received as Lay Marianist Affiliates. The service was such a beautiful, relaxed and light-hearted celebration of the entire Marianist family. The Society of Mary (our brothers and priests) were well represented as well as other Lay Marianists and collaborators in the Marianist mission. Because of travel and other commitments, many of our Sisters could not attend... but those of us who could, did. There is something about when the Marianist family gathers... it can really feed the heart.

Now, I'm brought back to the quote at the top of the page. In the midst of the busy-ness of life, I had not been as committed to personal prayer. I've had to remind myself, though, that without the time spent in personal prayer, there is absolutely no energy (or at least, not the right kind of energy) to do anything else... This is not the first time I've had this realization in my life - it always seems to hit me when I'm trying to figure out why my patience is so thin or why I feel "scattered." However, this is the first time that I've had to remind myself of this when I'm not busy with ministry and the demands of a job. It seems, then, that it will be the constant in my life...

Thank you, God, for your continued patience with me... the woman who needs CONSTANT reminders!

Many blessings to all who read this!

Sr. N

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Technology... a great asset...
and a great obstacle to silence and time with real people.

I guess you're wondering where I've been for 3 weeks... Yeah, me too! Okay, not really, but it's been a crazy busy few weeks since I last wrote.

I won't bore you with too many details... but I can give you some broad strokes... 1) I caused one of our vehicles to need a minor repair (along with our garage door...). 2) I had my 4 wisdom teeth removed... followed by a terrible reaction to generic vicodin for the pain. 3) Our community was visited by at least 6 technicians from our local cable company, an electrician, and a few visits from our phone company... all in an effort to install cable, high speed internet and digital phone service... with each visit bringing a little more confusion, the temporary loss of phone service, a temporary phone number, and increasing animosity between two feuding companies.

So... where have I been? A little unfocused and distracted. I suppose that makes sense, given the circumstances.

This morning during my time of quiet prayer I was praying with the Scripture readings for this Sunday's liturgy. For me all the readings seem to be about peace and hope in the Paschal Mystery... God bringing life from death... Jesus sending disciples out to bring peace to chaotic situations ruled my the evil in our world. It's interesting. In our world of high speed internet, cell phones, cable television ... unbridled consumerism, poverty, an AIDS pandemic, war, genocide, oppression ... fear, cynicism, selfishness... Jesus is still sending out disciples "like sheep among wolves" and telling us, "carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals" as well.

In light of community events of the past 3 weeks or so, I am challenged by the readings... Not because I all of a sudden believe technology to be an evil in our world. Quite the contrary... if used well, technology could do so much to further God's purposes. However, the key is "if used well."

Peace. God seeks to establish peace. How am I cooperating with that in the midst of what is sometimes so chaotic? And to what do I attach my hope? In the "stuff" or in the power of God to break through the chaos?

As always, there is much about which to pray.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.
Jeremiah 1:5

Years ago someone gave me a small desk calendar with Scripture verses for each day and a little thought to ponder under the verse. I used to keep the calendar on the desk in my office so that each morning before people arrived at school (or at the student center) I would have something with which to pray.

Now, since I don’t have an office, I keep the calendar on my bed-side table. Each morning after I turn off my alarm the first thing I do is flip the page to see what the day’s verse and thought are. This morning, it was Jeremiah 1:5 (above). The thought to ponder or pray with today reads,

If You were there even before I was born, then, I know,
You’ll be with me throughout the whole journey ahead.

How appropriate!! Why? Today I celebrate my 32nd birthday…

It’s a beautiful day in Dayton today. We have a porch swing on our back porch here. So this morning I took some time out on the swing to watch the breeze blow through the trees and the sun take its place in the early morning sky. I also took time to reflect.

Each year my birthday is a pretty significant time of reflection. I like to look back on the year – giving thanks for its many blessings, considering the ways in which I’ve grown, and also taking a good look at the ways I could use some growth. My birthday has also been a time for me to consider the year ahead – how will the year be different and how can I be a better person in the coming year than in the one past?

Needless to say, this morning I had A LOT on which to reflect! So much has taken place in my inner life that it’s sometimes difficult to understand that it’s only been a year. There is so much for which I am grateful… my congregation, the two communities of which I’ve been a part, my amazing friends, my family, all the students who have been or are a part of my life… my health… Such blessings! Then, there are the many ways in which I’ve grown over the past 12 months… too much to go into now, but I think you can read through previous blogs to see some of that. And, of course, being who I am, I thought a lot about how I could be a better person in the coming year than the past year.

As I commence my 33rd year of life (yes, you read that correctly - I am 32 today, but this is the beginning of my 33rd year) I also realize that this is my last year as a non-professed woman. Next summer at this time I will be making final preparations for my first vows as a Marianist Sister! That’s an overwhelming reality. Thank goodness I’ve given up on the idea that a person has to be perfect before professing vows…. Otherwise, I would truly be “freaking out” by now. *smile*

Well, today 4 good friends of mine will join our community for lunch, cake & ice cream and just hanging out. I’m excited about that. I’m also excited and ready to see what this next year brings my way. As my “thought for the day” reminded me, God has been with me and will continue to be with me throughout whatever the journey ahead may bring…

The above was written around 10:30am... Now, it is nearly 9pm... and I have to tell you, today has been one of the best birthdays of my recent past. There is much for which I am grateful... I am reminded of a song by Travis Tritt, "It's a Great Day to be Alive"...

And it's a great day to be alive
I know the sun's still shinin' when I close my eyes
There's some hard times in the neighborhood
But why can't every day be just this good?

I was singing that to myself as the group dispersed this evening... It is in deed a great day to be alive...

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Saturday, June 02, 2007

"... because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us."
Romans 5:5b

What a week it's been! The past several days have been so rich... especially liturgically speaking... and in the world of our Sisters (and therefore the entire Marianist Family)... Last Sunday being Pentecost... Friday the Feast of the Visitation... tomorrow is Trinity Sunday... this weekend we're celebrating the 25th jubilee of one of our Sisters... It is indeed a rich time.

In the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, after the Ascension, there is a description of the apostles gathering in the upper room with "some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus" (vs. 13-14). Here it says that they devoted themselves to praying in one accord. It was to this place that the Spirit descended when "the time of Pentecost had been fulfilled." And Mary was there. That's a significant fact for those of us who live inspired by the Marianist charism. I find that is often left out of reflections on Pentecost, but is full of meaning.

The Feast of the Visitation has special significance to the Marianist Sisters - the coming together of two women. Women through whom God was doing great and seemingly impossible things. Women who believed that God's promise would be fulfilled, no matter what the circumstances. Women facing an uncertain future because of the life inside. Women sharing with one another what God was doing in their lives - who undoubtedly shared their fears or anxieties... who shared their joys in the marvelous endeavor. This feast celebrates friendship, family, God's grace... It also celebrates what Mary sings about in her Magnificat. That God, through the life she brought forth, would turn the world around. It's a testament to what God can do when we cooperate with grace.

This reminds me of what our Dayton community is celebrating this weekend - the 25th Jubliee of one of our Sisters. Why am I reminded of that? Because it, too, is a celebration of what God can do when we cooperate with grace. It is a celebration of our family... our community... the coming together of women who share faith, fears, joys, and hope in God's promise. Why wouldn't I see that connection?

Lastly, tomorrow we celebrate Trinity Sunday. What has always struck me about the Trinity is the fact that the Trinity is a community of persons in love... equal, working together, bringing life... And what's always gotten to me is that we are made in the image of this God - the Trinity, a community of love (how Marianist!). This reality presents a challenge to me. Challenging me to connect with others, deeply - to love - to build community, really. And it's a challenge to me because I think I'm pretty good at small talk and superficial relationships, but building true community based on the sharing of faith and grounded in love is something that I am always working towards. But, I suppose it helps to know that since I'm made in the image of a God who is community it is part of my make up as a human being to seek out relationship. The grace is given. It's just a matter of my cooperation with it... Isn't that always the case?

So, I suppose my reflections today have me considering how I cooperate with what God is doing in the world and in my life. Sorry I went a little bit of everywhere to finally come to this. I guess today my mind is somewhat full of different thoughts... each of which could have been it's own blog post, but for some reason I decided I could put them all together here.

Well, I'm off. We began Jubilee celebrations yesterday with a nice dinner with the family of our Sister. And the celebration continues this afternoon and tomorrow morning.

Many blessings to all who will read this!
Sr. N

Sunday, May 20, 2007

It's a beautiful day! Don't let it get away.

Indeed, it's a beautiful day! There's so much that I could say right now, I barely know where to start... I'm very happy today. But in the interest of time and space, I won't go into too many details. Without further delay, let me explain why I can't wipe the grin off my face today...

1. As you may have read in an earlier blog, I have moved to Dayton Ohio. I spent a few days with my dad and some friends from back home before coming up north. I also had the great pleasure of meeting the first child of two good friends of mine... she was only 3 days old! She's so adorable!

2. This has been a wonderful weekend of celebrations! On Friday I arrived in Dayton just in time to go back to the community for supper. That evening there was a reception at the novitiate of the Society of Mary. You see, yesterday two of our brothers professed first vows. So, Friday evening there was a gathering for the Marianist family and their family and friends. It as a lot of fun to see other Marianists that I don't see very often. And yesterday's celebration was great! The Marianist priest who gave the homily did a great job tying together the Ascension and the profession of first vows.

3. As you may know I've been working with a student from St. Mary's University on updating our sisters' website. Well... it's up and running! Praise God, that's great news! Please check it out... I hope you like it. Feel free to offer comments on it.

Well, I have to be going.
Many, many blessings to everyone who will read this!
Sr. N