Friday, February 23, 2007

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...
Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area
and to breaking bread in their homes.
They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart,
praising God and enjoying favor with all people.
Acts of the Apostles 2:42-44, 46-47a

Thank you to all of you who remembered our provincial assembly and chapter in prayer last weekend (Feb. 16-19). I can assure you, I felt the support of many prayers - not only of my Sisters, but of others as well.

I was trying to get this post out before the beginning of Lent. It seems odd to me to post about something other than this Lenten journey during the first week of Lent. But, because I've spent the past few days playing "catch up" after a long weekend (catching up on sleep, reading, and just time to myself), the blog about last weekend had to wait.

So... if you're expecting a post about Lent, I'm afraid you'll have to wait until my next post. *smile*

If you read the quote above from Acts, then you'll begin to understand the events of the past weekend. It describes everything almost perfectly... from my perspective, anyway. In deed, the Sisters of our province (which includes San Antonio and Dayton) were gathered together in one place - meeting, praying, eating meals in joyous "exultation" (that's a little over the top, but not far off), breaking bread in our chapel... And many things were accomplished through our cooperation with God. Amazing, really.

Perhaps I should offer a brief explanation of what an assembly is and what chapter meetings are...

During our assembly, we had the opportunity to discuss important issues for the well-being of our province. These conversations were immersed in a spirit of prayer. Each Sister was responsible for different prayer experiences. And what amazing prayer it was! There is something special about praying with and for our province... all of us together. We've also been blessed with the gift of song and are able to harmonize very well... adding to the spirit of prayer.

We also had informal/casual conversations - a chance to just "hang out" and socialize with one another. Because we're so far apart geographically, we don't have the opportunity to do that as often as I think we would like to.

The assembly lasted from Friday evening until Sunday morning. Then began our chapter meetings...

The chapter meetings are much more formal. They are still immersed in prayer and there is some opportunity for casual conversation, but not as much. While at the assembly, all of us had a "voice" giving input/feedback and each took part equally in the discussions. At the chapter table (literally, a table) were our provincial council (our provincial and her 3 assistants), 4 chapter delegates (2 from San Antonio and 2 from Dayton) and a secretary. The chapter is analogous to a student government (in many ways)... there were reports given and proposals discussed & voted on (using Roberts Rules of Order)... It was very interesting.

The Sisters who were not at the chapter table served as observers. We had chances to offer opinions if someone at the table asked, but basically we observed the "proceedings." However... and this is exciting... during the chapter meetings one of our Sisters, who was also an observer, asked if I wanted to co-author a proposal with her. So, we worked on it during some of the opening chapter meetings. That was exciting for me for a number of reasons... 1)I gained experience writing a proposal for our province, 2)it was a chance to work closely with a Sister with whom I typically don't work, 3)I felt like my opinion mattered - even if I wasn't at the table.

To say that it was a full weekend is an understatement! But what a great weekend! One, just being together - discussing, laughing, praying, singing - what a grace! Secondly, it was a huge learning experience for me - listening to & engaging in conversations about mission, values, and our witness in the U.S. were extremely valuable for me as a person in formation. Thirdly, being an observer to our chapter was so interesting.

I can honestly say that over the weekend I felt like a real part of our province for probably the first time. Sure, I've felt included etc. But being a part of a weekend such as last weekend, is something different. It's difficult to articulate, but there was certainly no place else that I wanted to be than with our Sisters.

In all of the busy-ness of the weekend, we were certainly held in prayer. Our Marianist Brothers, Lay Marianists, some of you who read this blog - all were praying for us and with us this past weekend. And we have been praying for the Spirit's guidance and an openness to God's grace. The Spirit was certainly active ... and it seems to me that we were open and receptive.

I'm not at liberty to tell you of all our decisions etc. We are awaiting approval from our general administration in Rome. When I can, though, I will tell you all about it...

Well, that's all for me for now.
Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. Nicole

Monday, February 12, 2007

As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.
My being thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and see the face of God?
Psalm 42: 2-3

Reading through my last blog, I realize that it almost seemed like I was teaching a class on a topic instead of sharing what's going on with me. Sorry about that! Sometimes I just get carried away. So, if you didn't read all of the last post, I'm sure you're not alone! *smile*

This past weekend I had the great blessing of helping out with our vocations discernment retreat. It was a joint venture between the Marianist Brothers (the "SM") and the Marianist Sisters ("FMI"). It was a good weekend. I had a chance to have some really good conversations with 2 young women who are exploring different congregations trying to figure out which would be the best fit for their growth in God. That's exciting to me! We also had 5 men - one who will more than likely join the SM in the fall and 4 who are just trying to figure out where God might be leading them. What a great weekend.

This coming weekend, as I mentioned in my last post, we have our province assembly and chapter meetings. I'm excited to see how things go and what decisions are made. As soon as I am able, I will share with you some of the goings-on. It's all very interesting to me...

On a personal note...

Today, as our community was praying in our chapel with Psalm 42, I was overcome with a sense of "Yes... that's where I am right now." My soul is thirsting... yearning, really. I'm not sure when I allowed myself to let go of being able to see God in the everyday, ordinary realities of life, but I find that it's more difficult for me in recent years, than in the past. The psalmist goes on and says, "Why are you cast down my soul? Why groan within me? Hope in God. I will praise Him still." Yes, even though I have trouble "seeing" God in the ordinariness, that's still where my hope is - in God. I tell you what, though, typing it is easier than living it...

I suppose sometimes I can get overwhelmed with the craziness of our world... the war, genocide, the AIDS pandemic, the inequity in our educational system...

I once read that a Christian should approach the world with a newspaper in one hand and a Bible in the other... One's response to our world should be guided by our faith... and our hope that yes, God overcomes death... there is always resurrection...

Also, on a different note... my work out partner and closest friend here in town is moving in a few weeks. She starts a new job on March 5th. I'm very happy for her... very sad to see her go. I know, distance doesn't have to be the end of a friendship, but it certainly makes things difficult. But... part of living this life is not being so attached to people or things that I can't do without them. This is going to be a tough thing for me...

Well, I just wanted to type a brief note. I'm going to try to type shorter posts from now on. Again...we'll see if I can do that! *smile*

Many blessings to whoever reads this!
Sr. Nicole

Monday, February 05, 2007

The essential is the interior.
Blessed Father William Joseph Chaminade

First, I have to say that I've become a real slacker in terms of keeping up with my blog! Before Christmas I posted nearly every Sunday without fail. This semester, oh... maybe every 15-20 days. I don't think it's possible for me to go back to the once a week routine... however, I can try for once every two weeks. Let's see how I do with that... *smile*
(By the way, the following post is quite long... just to let you know) *smile*

Of all the things that were written and/or said by Blessed Chaminade, the above quote ranks as my favorite. And quite related to the past several weeks.

Last month I wrote a little about our foundress Venerable Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon. At that time I stated that I would write a little about our other founders as well. Blessed Chaminade is one of the founders of the Marianist Family. It is he who's feast was on Jan 22... the day I had intended to write about him.

I'm going to cheat again, though. At the end of this post you will find some information on Fr. Chaminade, however, I'm not the one who wrote it - it comes from the website of the Society of Mary (the Marianist Brothers and Priests). To learn more about them, please visit their website at

Over the past two weeks or so, my classes with Sr. Gretchen have focused on the vow of poverty. At first glance, I'm sure the vow seems pretty straight forward. Well, it did for me. However, the more I read about this vow... the more I pray with this vow... the more I observe and ask questions about this vow... It's pretty clear that there's a level of depth at which it is no longer straight forward.

In the years following the Vatican II in the 60s (and even until now), there has been a real effort on the part of religious to deeply examine who they are, why they are, and to better understand the vows. The vow of poverty is certainly no exception. It seems to me that this vow is the one with which people have grappled the most. Why?

I'll give you my shortened opinion on that... because believe me, I've written a short book in my "vow journal"...

It seems that for many years the focus of the vow of poverty was legalistic and strictly about the use and possession of material things -- To have material things was to open oneself up to attachment those things and therefore corruption.

However, after Vatican II the focus started changing. Material things are God's creation and a gift. The vow of poverty has to be based in a virtue or disposition. Scripture scholars in recent years have written much about Jesus' own view of those who are poor... and on those who are wealthy... trying to get at the heart of religious poverty.

You see, anyone can look at a religious congregation or community and see that the group is not, technically, "poor." We see what "real" poverty looks like... people without adequate food, shelter, clothing... who lack education, opportunity and resources. One could say quite easily that religious are fairly well educated, have resources & opportunities... roofs over their heads and food in their kitchens.

What then is the vow of poverty really about?

There is more written to answer this question than I really have time to delve into. But I can sum it up with a few quotes (then I can tell you about what this has to do with me personally...)

"The really important factor in the disciples' poverty as in
that of Jesus is to have one's heart intent on the Kingdom... . Should we then
say that what matters is the inner detachment of the heart?... In regard to
that, Karl Rahner points out that although Christian ethics is fundamentally an
ethics of the conscience and the spirit, it must be carried out in concrete
ways in the context of concrete reality." - Discipleship: Towards an Understanding of Religious Life, John Lozano, CMF (our interior values must have an outward expression)

"We possess much, not just in things. It's not ours, but gift. We hold it all in stewardship, and must share it broadly, deeply, freely, generously, whatever the it might be." - To Love, To Share, To Serve, L. Patrick Carroll, SJ (poverty isn't just about things - our education, resources, our very selves must be shared)

"Practically speaking, the only way we can prove the reality of divine providence is to live for the Kingdom of God so completely that material things become quite secondary in our concern .... For our part, we should make such use of what we have that it will benefit others, keeping ourselves disposed to give at all times." - For the Sake of the Kingdom, Quentin Hakenewerth, SM

"Divestment implies a refusal to draw wealth, power and prestige from one's work. This is very important in our times, especially for societies composed predominantly of a middle class, whose main source of security, and often power too, is constituted by a higher level of education rather than by inherited wealth. Here we are dealing with an unalienable asset, often acquired with the help of one's religious community. The only way to renounce this is to turn it to the advantage of others, of the brothers and sisters who form one's evangelical community, of the Church, of those who are deprived of these advantages." - Lozano

Okay... I realize that's a bit much. And really, I'm trying to pare this down a little. Imagine... I still have several books and articles on this topic left to read. Aren't you glad I haven't yet? *smile*

On a slightly more serious note, however, I have to say... all this reading and writing in my "vow journal" is really causing me to reflect and question - oh, I would say nearly everything. Which is good! It's good that I examine my decisions and how/why I spend money... it's good that I look at the witness I give with the way I live my life (and the way we, collectively, live)... it's good to look at what's around me and wonder if I/we really need it... it's good that I ask questions about how our communities live the vow of poverty... Why???

That one I can answer pretty simply. Because I want to be faithful - plain and simple. When I profess vows for the first time in 2008, I want to be able to 1) know what I'm doing and 2) be able to say that I (with the grace that God gives so generously) can live what I'm professing. That's what this is all about... not only do I want to be faithful to this life and to the Marianist family, but the core of it is faithfulness to God...

Another thing that was brought out in my readings was that the vow of poverty is also about sharing WHO I AM... sharing my very self with those around me - in my community and outside my community. It means not being stingy with my time... it means wanting to know and be known.

If anyone ever said that the vow of poverty is real straight forward without layers upon layers of meaning, I would have to argue that they are certainly mistaken!

Other than that, what have I been up to?? Wow... what else is there besides prayer and study? Just kidding.

Next weekend (Feb. 16-18) our province will gather for an Assembly and for Chapter meetings. We have some very important conversations going on in our province and there's a possibility that big decisions will be made. So, our community is in the midst of preparing for that. Of course, I'm not on any committees or anything like that. Sr. Gretchen is, however, so I'm able to see and learn a lot about the goings on in these kinds of things. I'm really excited about this, actually. It'll be my first experience of our entire province gathering (well, with the exception of two of our Sisters who are unable to make it).

This weekend, we're hosting a vocations discernment retreat (by the way... if you're interested in joining us on this retreat, please let me know... there's still space!). I'm able to help with some of the retreat and I'm really looking forward to that experience.

So, life is pretty full. Hence, the lengthy lapses in my postings. But, know that I am well... life is moving along with the evident support of God's grace...

If you have time and would like to read a little about Blessed Father Chaminade, please see below. Otherwise... many blessings to you!!!!

With prayers,

Sr. Nicole

Exiled from Bordeaux, France, during the French Revolution, Blessed William Joseph Chaminade fled to Zaragoza, Spain, where he spent many hours in prayer and meditation in front of a statue of Our Lady of the Pillar. During these moments of quiet contemplation, he experienced a spiritual awakening and vision for reconstructing the Christian Church in France.

Father Chaminade believed Christian communities needed to bring the story of Jesus and the Good News to life through their daily activities and outreach. Mary, the Mother of God, was the model for his renewed faith formation. In Mary, he saw Christian discipleship, simplicity and hospitality.

Father Chaminade thought an “alliance with Mary” would transform the Church.
Marianists strive to be like Mary – and professed religious Marianists take a vow of stability, which reflects their special devotion to her strength, grace and spirituality.