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

4 comments:

Kelly_SSJ/A said...

Hey there! I am glad to see that you are well. I pray that your summer will be blessed!

Lisa said...

Nicole, it's always good to hear from and about you! Thank you for catching us up. Life is an amazing journey, especially when you are open to the ride :) May the blessings keep on coming!!

Enjoy!

Santa María said...

Hi Nicole!
We are Rosa & Cloti, two Spanish Marianist sisters. We are in Zaragoza having a meeting. Tonight, after talking about the presence of the Marianist Family in Internet, we have been reading your blog. Thank you for your deep reflections. Continue updating your blog, it's very useful. We are happy to share with you the same vocation. We will accompany you with our prayer on June 21. Have a good summer. God bless you!

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