Sunday, May 31, 2009

I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God
that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice,
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God.
2 Timothy 1: 6b-8

Happy Pentecost! What a glorious feast we celebrate this day! Pentecost is a reminder to me of many things: the great blessing we've been given in the Holy Spirit... the fact that the Spirit is active in our lives and in our world... the way God has empowered us to preach, to love, and to serve... and... the fact that in many ways our world is in need of a "push" from the Spirit...

Evidence of the Spirit's actions have been so apparent to me in the past couple of weeks...

Last weekend I witnessed the first profession of vows of two Marianist Brothers. What a beautiful celebration! It was a not only a moving experience and a reminder of my own vowed commitment to the Marianist mission, but it was also a lively celebration of culture. Brandon is Samoan... born in Hawai'i. Ray is Salvadorean. There were elements of both of their cultural heritages brought into the celebration - from Hawai'ian chants, leis, and shirts in "Aloha print" to Spanish music and Ray being blessed by his parents before professing. I had the pleasure of singing with the choir. The music was fun... a little Hawai'ian, a little Spanish... upbeat and happy. Each of the newly professed brothers professed their vows in their language. What a celebration!

The profession of vows is no doubt a movement of the Holy Spirit within the heart of the person professing and within the congregation.

Monday of last week, Labor Day, our sisters celebrated our Foundation Day. May 25, 1816 our foundress, Venerable Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon, set out with a few young women to journey to their new home and to begin their new life together as religious women dedicated to Mary's mission in the world. The foundation of our congregation and its continuation since then is a clear sign of the Spirit's actions. The Marianist sisters are who we are because of the gentle and ever-present guidance of the Spirit.

We celebrated our foundation in Dayton with Mass with our brothers and then a festive meal and afternoon prayer at our house. Then, Monday afternoon... I, too, set out on a journey like Adele...

I arrived in San Antonio late Monday night. Tuesday I spent time settling in, chatting with our sisters and resting. Wednesday morning I began my summer course work at St. Mary's Univ. I've had bits of time here and there to visit with a few people around and to gather with former co-workers from Central Catholic Marianist High School at their post-graduation celebration. But, I've also been reading/studying.

This weekend I am helping out at an archdiocesan discernment retreat called "Life Awareness." It's a collaborative effort between the archdiocesan vocations office and the local vocations directors of the religious communities in the area. The participants are people 18 years old and up who are considering religious life or diocesan priesthood. There are 45 participants on this retreat. The Spirit is in deed active in their lives and moving in them toward a deepening of their relationship with God. That call to a deepening relationship may be a call to religious life/priesthood or it may not. But their presence at the retreat and their prayerful participation is certainly a visible sign of the Spirit's stirring within them. ... The sessions on the retreat and the times of prayer have been really good and thought provoking - even for those of us in religious life!

A surprise blessing from my presence at the retreat has been the opportunity to meet other young religious women and men. It is always such a blessing to meet younger people from other congregations... to share with them, laugh with them, and dream with them.

In addition to these reminders of the Spirit's presence & action, today's feast also calls to mind the missionary aspect of the Spirit's presence. The Spirit was given to each person for the building up of the Church - so that the mission of Jesus might continue in our world. The Spirit animates, guides, strengthens and encourages. We do, however, need to respond. So, Pentecost causes me to ask... How is the Spirit moving within me? To what is the Spirit calling me? To whom is the Spirit moving me to serve & how? Is there anyting within me blocking the action of the Spirit through me? ... And not only do I ask these questions of myself, but I ask them in light of my community, the congregation, and the Church... What is the Spirit asking of us? To what is the Spirit calling us? .... Important questions, no?

May we have the open hearts and minds necessary to truly listen that we might be guided continually by the Spirit that is so generously given.

Blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

God has not called me to be successful. God has called me to be faithful.
Mother Theresa

As promised, today I will attempt to update you on life in the world of this Marianist Sister. I start with a fairly famous quote from one of my role models. Mother Theresa has been a role model of mine for many years. And although the quote is one with which I was familiar, it comes to me today in much more clarity than in the past.

In my ministry at UD I am on a 9 1/2 month contract... the beginning of August through mid-May. My first academic year was officially complete on Friday May 15. I am off from that ministry for the summer. Next Monday I will leave for 2 months in Texas. I'm returning to San Antonio to take a class at St. Mary's, visit family & friends, renew vows, make my annual retreat and direct the Marianist LIFE program. I will also be attending the Giving Voice annual conference in Milwaukee. While the summer is just as full as summers have always been for me, it'll still be a welcomed change of pace and a time to reflect.

My first year at UD was a good year - all things considered. Truth be told, I'm not sure anyone really "enjoys" transitions. I am certainly no exception. In August, as you may recall, I hit the ground running so to speak... not only was I still adjusting to living the life of a vowed religious and a full/active member of our congregation, but I was also adjusting to a few other things...
- a new ministry in which the hours were completely opposite of my body's natural rhythm. I'm naturally a morning person and have no problem being in bed before 10pm... however, as a residence hall campus minister some gatherings/meetings don't start until 10pm. On many nights, I was just getting home around midnight.
- working for an educational institution of this size. When I was teaching, the largest school for which I taught had approx. 520 students and less than 100 faculty/staff members. Contrast this to UD that has a student population of approx. 10000 with 100s of staff just in student development.
- this was my first year to live in Dayton for an entire academic year. While winter here would be considered mild compared to other places farther north, it's still significantly different from central Texas.
- being back in grad level courses... for credit. During novitiate I audited several grad classes. I benefitted from being in class and reading the material (and writing the occasional paper). This year I took one course each semester... completing all assignments and stressing a little about my ability to do the work.

And so, the first several months here were full of me making adjustments, discerning how realistic my expectations were (of self in ministry and self in community life), and further discerning my gifts, dreams and weaknesses. WHAT A YEAR OF GROWTH! I can not over state that. As I "emerged" from novitiate and the profession of first vows last summer, I felt ready to launch into my new adventures. By December I wasn't sure if I had overestimated my abilities or underestimated the stress of transition.

Reflecting on the year, as I prepare for my summer away and renewal of vows, I contemplate my very understanding of vocation, ministry, call, and success. If the vocation is to love more deeply the God who has called me and to love those who God places in my life... and ministry is a response to that vocation... then, what does it mean to be "successful?" Does it mean being the "perfect" campus minister? And what exactly does the "perfect" campus minister look like? Does it mean being completely self-sufficient - needing no assistance? What about classes?

I think it's fairly obvious that I struggle with perfectionism. If you're familiar with the enneagram, I'm a classic "1" for better or for worse. This is why the quote from Mother Theresa is so clear to me in my reflection. God has never asked for that type of success... or any type for that matter. That only matters in the eyes of people (including yours truly).

And what does God require of us... of me? "Only to do the right and to love goodness and to walk humbly with your God." Hmm... not perfection? No big accomplishments? No quantifiable goals reached and checked off the list??! I sense God saying in response with a loving sigh, "No, Nicole. That's your will, not mine. Love and faithfulness are what I ask. Be at peace, for it is I who wish to work in you. The mission isn't yours."

I am reminded now of the reflection of Archbishop Oscar Romero (another one of my role models). He once said,

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

Such wisdom... This is the wisdom I will carry with me during my months away from Dayton. Before that, though...

This weekend is a full weekend for me before returning to Texas. On Saturday afternoon our two novices with the Marianist brothers, Bro. Brandon and Bro. Ray, will profess their first vows! What a joyous occasion! It'll be a weekend full of catching up with members of the Marianist family who are traveling to Dayton for the Mass and celebrating with our brothers. I very much look forward to these celebrations. It gives all of us an opportunity to reflect on this Marianist life to which we've been called.

Sorry for such a long post! It's been so long since I've written from this perspective, I suppose the floodgates opened, so to speak! Perhaps I shouldn't wait so long to post... Speaking of posting, Thursday May 21 my second Giving Voice reflection will be posted on their website. Feel free to check it out.

Many blessings to you!!
Sr. N

Monday, May 11, 2009

The church throughout all of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace. It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.~ Acts 9:31

Blessings to you on this Monday morning! This morning I am listening to the birds outside my window and watching the morning sky get brighter by the moment... my favorite way to start the day.

A few weeks ago I was asked to share a reflection on the website for Giving Voice. Giving Voice is a national organization for women religious ages 50 and younger. It's somewhat like a think tank, but more. I encourage you to visit their website

I'd like to share with you the reflection I wrote this morning for Giving Voice...

Each year during the Easter season we reflect on the nascent church as presented in the Acts of the Apostles. We consider missionary efforts, growth, persecution, the power of the Spirit and the ideal community that shares all in common and no one goes without. And although the readings are the same, I find that my reflections are quite different each year.

The quote above comes from Sunday’s first reading. It struck a stronger chord with me this year than in any other year. Consider our world, our Church, our communities. One could hardly say that we are at peace. We live in a violent world. We are a Church divided, mostly along partisan political lines. This was the focus of the homily preached at the university chapel in which our community celebrates Sunday Eucharist.

The post-resurrection Christ says to the disciples and to us continually, “Peace be with you.” How? At times peace seems elusive and idealistic. It depends, however, how one defines peace. The early Church was not without its own in fighting – look at Peter and Paul – or without being misunderstood and persecuted. And yet, we are told they were at peace.

I believe there’s a reason why during this season we have our Gospel readings taken from John. In these readings is found a key to this peace.

“The Advocate, the Holy Spirit… will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid…. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me…. As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love… This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”

Let us, then, root ourselves deeply in Christ that we might act in love. Though we may disagree and find very little common ground with some, may we not find ourselves discouraged or afraid of moving forward in love. This is the only path to peace.

Besides this reflection, I have much to share with you all about the goings on in my life... its blessings and lessons. However, that will have to wait for another day. Perhaps later this week?

Many blessings to all who read this,

Sr. N