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