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