Monday, March 31, 2008

Jesus said to them again, 
"Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
John 20: 21

Guess what?! I returned from the conference to find a congratulatory e-mail... I have been approved to profess first vows! I will receive the official "hard copy" when I return to San Antonio in a little less than 2 weeks to begin preparation for profession.

So, how does that feel? I was reflecting on this very question yesterday... It's overwhelming in a way. The approval makes everything more "real" in a way that's difficult to explain. It's exciting... it's awe-inspiring... This profession of vows, although temporary, is such an important step - an affirmation of a call received, a "yes" in faith, a commitment to the Marianist Sisters... 

Moving forward in faith with no knowledge of what might be ahead isn't always easy (especially for me!). Yesterday's Gospel states, though, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." What a perfect reading! It was somewhat like another conformation of the next step. "Yes, Nicole, be at peace. I'm the one sending you." 

I have to get going now as the day will most likely be fairly full. However, I wanted to post the good news before too much time had passed...

Much Easter peace & joy to those who read this,
Sr. N

Monday, March 24, 2008

I bless the Lord who counsels me... 
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices, 
my body, too, abides in confidence...
Psalm 16: 7, 9
(Responsorial Psalm - Monday March 24)

Happy Easter!

Since it's been over 3 weeks since my last post, I have a lot to share with you all... I don't even know where to begin...!

I'll start by saying something some people find odd... I've always liked Lent. Yes, it's true, I must admit. I'm sure you may be wondering why. It's because Lent has always been a fruitful time of growth for me. This year was no exception! I had a good Lent... it seemed quick, though. 

As I stated in my two most recent posts, I wrote my letter to our leadership team requesting first vows. Then, during Lent, I went through the second phase of approval. Each sister wrote to our leadership team about whether or not she believed I was ready to profess vows and why. Then, the sisters with whom I live here in Dayton met with me one-on-one to discuss the letter... It sounds scary, doesn't it? Well, I assure you, it was probably one of the most reassuring, positive, affirming processes I've experienced. No, it wasn't all about patting me on the back and telling me what a good person everybody thinks I am... although, each meeting had some element of that *smile*... It was more of an evaluation than that, but so affirming nonetheless.

It was an opportunity for me to see myself through the eyes of my sisters. There were some very touching moments when I had someone tell me how I've been "sister" to her... why she's glad that to live with me... and the way(s) in which I exhibit characteristics of our foundress. Then, of course, there were bits and pieces of how each has seen me grow and the hopes that growth will continue. 

So, I guess one could say that it affirmed that God has, indeed, called me to be here... this life "fits," so to speak. In that way, and in many others, Lent was really good for me.

Now, I await a letter from our leadership team granting approval for vows. In a way, this Easter season will be a little like Advent - joyful expectation. However, I can't lose sight of the fact that it is actually Easter...

If Lent was really good, the Triduum - my favorite 3 days of the liturgical year - was incredible. 

On Holy Thursday evening our community joined the SM novitiate community for an intimate celebration of Eucharist. We started with a "festive" meal... lamb, asparagus, wine etc. Then we moved to the Liturgy of the Word and the Washing of the Feet. It was beautiful, really. After the Liturgy of the Eucharist we processed from their main chapel into a smaller chapel in the house where the altar of repose was. It was really a nice, simple, meaningful liturgy. Sisters Leanne and Laura and I provided the music for the celebration. I think the brothers appreciated it.

Good Friday began with morning prayer in our chapel. One of our sisters led us through an abbreviated Tenebrae service, which I've never seen before. A good explanation of Tenebrae can be found at
We had a few candles (5 or 6) and we read and sang Psalms of lament. It was very moving, really, because after each Psalm a candle was blown out. It thought it was moving, anyway.  

Then at noon we joined approximately 100 people downtown for a Lenten Stations of the Cross for justice. We walked to various places down town carrying wooden crosses with issues of justice written on them. We stopped in front of various places - the courthouse, a payday lending place, an "adult book store" - and we prayed our stations and sang various refrains to songs ("The Cry of the Poor," "We Are Called," and "Remember Your Love") In all it took about 2 hours. That was also a moving experience.

Most of us then attended the Good Friday services at the Univ. of Dayton at 3pm (those of us singing went immediately after the Stations). There is something about Good Friday music that really moves me. And watching people venerate the cross almost always brings tears to my eyes. Good Friday always reaches a place in my heart that's so vulnerable and there's a sadness that's an overwhelming kind of feeling... but... in a moving sort of way, not a depressing kind of way. Okay, so that probably made no sense. However, let's just say that it's so moving an experience I can not adequately put it into words. That's probably better. *smile*

Holy Saturday morning we began with reflections on the experience of being entombed... and the many ways in which people are in tombs today... and the ways that people experience hopelessness like the disciples must have felt on the original Holy Saturday. So, that could have been depressing... if we didn't already know that life triumphs and Jesus rose!

The day was filled with baking, cooking, decorating and other preparations for the Easter feast. 

Our entire community, then, joined the UD community for the celebration of the Vigil... at 9pm. Having grown up in the central time zone, I'm not used to starting a vigil so late at night. But everything here begins an hour later than I'm used to. Anyway, the Vigil was beautiful... of course. It's my favorite Liturgy of the year. There were not any baptisms, but there were confirmations/full reception in the Church. The ritual was rich... and the symbolism beautiful throughout the celebration. And of course the music! Magnificent!

By the time we got home it was nearly midnight...

Easter morning there was more cooking and decorating to do... Then, we had our Easter feast from 1pm until around 3pm. And what a feast! We had 3 guests... great conversation... lots of laughter... good prayer... and, of course, LOTS of food! It was a good afternoon... In the midst of all that, I had time to talk to both my sisters, my dad, about 10 minutes with my best friend and I spent time in person with a few friends in the evening. 

So, it's been a full few weeks!!!!

Today, I'm off to Indianapolis for a week. I'm going to be at the National Catholic Educators Association annual conference. I'm not going as a participant, though. I'm going as an exhibitor. I'll be in the Marianist booth giving out vocations material as well as a set of lesson plans we developed to help religion/theology teachers talk with their students about religious life and/or vocation in general. I was part of a team that worked on the lesson plans. I did a 5-day until for high school theology teachers. Anyway, if anyone who reads this blog is going to be in Indy at the conference, stop by our booth! I'll be there with a few of our SM brothers. I'm looking forward to it. I'm also excited about the fact that I'll be staying at my sisters' house instead of at the hotel. That's very cool.

Well, I'm soon going to be off to Mass so I have to be going. 

Many blessings for abundant Easter joy to all who read this!
~Sr. N

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Time is the most undefinable yet paradoxical of things;
the past is gone, the future is not come,
and the present becomes the past even while we attempt to define it,
and, like the flash of lightning, at once exists and expires.
~Charles Caleb Colton

It's March! Can you believe it? Anyone know what happened to February?? Strange isn't it? I haven't been more busy lately than I was in January... or so I thought. And yet, I blinked an a whole 29 days were gone! Life is so bizarre sometimes.

The last time I wrote I was reflecting on the writing of a letter requesting vows. Now, the letter has been sent (along with a lengthy self-evaluation... lengthy because I know not how to be brief when I write). The next step in the process is for the Sisters with whom I've lived to also complete a short evaluation which our leadership team will use, in conjunction with mine, to grant approval (if that be the case). I should know at some point in the first week of April. 

And again... I can't believe that's only 1 month away. Shortly thereafter, if approval is granted, I will return to San Antonio for vow preparation - 2 months in length.

During my first year of novitiate I kept a journal on what I was learning about the vows. Some of you may recall reading some of what I wrote about the vows during that time. I'm looking forward to revisiting that journal when I return to San Antonio. I know that it will provide much "food for prayer."

Currently, as you might remember, I am focusing on trust in God. Lent... waiting for approval for vows... enduring the cold winter months... all are PERFECT reasons to have reminders of God's faithfulness. Last night we had a supper/prayer/faith-sharing gathering with women connected with the Univ. of Dayton. We do this once a month and typically we have mostly students who come over seeking some quiet time for prayer and reflection as well as a place to share their struggles in faith. Last night, Sr. Leanne, focused on leaning on God and being sheltered under God's wings. At one point, before each of us had a chance for quiet reflection, she asked us to draw a slip of paper from a vase. Each slip had a different sentence for prayerful thought. What did I take out??

Isaiah 43:1-2 ~
Fear not, for I have redeemed you.
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the water, I will be with you.
In the rivers you shall not drown.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned;
the flames shall not consume you.

Crazy, isn't it?? It just fits right in with the rest of Lent. And what a comforting thought, "you are mine." Of course, now I have "On Eagle's Wings" stuck in my head - the song that has meaning I like, but a melody I can do without...

So, rest assured, I'm still here! It's just that February got away from me before I could post again. 

Prayers for your Lenten journey,
Sr. N