Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rejoice in the Lord always! I say it again. Rejoice!
Everyone should see how unselfish you are. The Lord is near.
Dismiss all anxiety from your minds.
Present your needs to God
in every form of prayer and in petitions full of gratitude.
Then God's own peace, which is beyond all understanding,
will stand guard over your hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7
Evening Prayer II ~ First Sunday of Advent

Happy New Liturgical Year (written on the first Sunday of Advent)!
Happy Gaudete Sunday (written today)!!

Since this is the beginning of the new liturgical year and a time of preparation, joy, hope and expectation, I thought it would be a good idea to return to the blogosphere... It's been a while, you know.

In the daily goings on of life I often think, "Well, there's nothing, really, for me to write on the blog." Other days I think, "Wow. There's so much, I hardly know where to start!" So, in effort to be somewhat brief, let me take you through the past 2 months and a few reflections...

On October 24 a very good friend of mine professed his final vows as a Marianist brother. The celebration happened down in San Antonio. It was a marvelous celebration. Bro. Dennis is from Hawai'i. Therefore, the entire weekend had a certain cultural element to it that added another wonderful dimension. On Friday evening there was a gathering of Marianists and Dennis' family at the community's home. Saturday I had the opportunity to reconnect with people who have played a significant role in my own discernment journey.

Saturday afternoon was the actual Mass of Perpetual Profession. If you've never been to one, I encourage you to go. What a moving Mass. The provincial of the Marianists US Province, Bro. Steven Glodek, gave a reflection after the gospel about the vows. It was really very moving. It brought tears to my eyes. With each vow he spoke of the sacrifices and the gifts entailed and then he ended each reflection with, "and Dennis vows this today for life." Wow. It definitely caused me to stop and reflect on the meaning of the vows for my own life.

That evening all the young Marianists went out to celebrate and catch up. That was good connecting time as well.

On Sunday afternoon I spend some time sharing with Bro. Dennis and Bro. Brandon. We talked for over 5 hours while sharing good food and ice cream. That's our typical thing. We talked about community life, vowed life, the future of religious life, our own struggles to live authentically etc. It was a Spirit-inspired conversation, for sure.

Then it was back to Dayton ...

The following weekend I attended a workshop for people who seek to serve as spiritual accompaniment for Lay Marianist Communities. Let me explain. There are small communities of faith in the Marianist charism all over the world. Here in the US many of them are composed of young adults, but there are others that have been communities since the 1960s. Each community traditionally has someone who acts as a spiritual director or guide. This person can be either lay or vowed, however all the ones with whom I am familiar are vowed Marianists.

I've been a spiritual companion for a Marianist lay community who professed their commitment a little over 6 months ago. They are mostly college students or recent graduates. Living community life while transitioning out of college and into volunteer work or career has not been easy. The workshop that day helped me to understand my role with the community as well as how I might be helpful to them in their transitions and growth as lay Marianists.

Needless to say, that day gave me a lot to pray about. It's been a while since I was a member of a lay Marianist community, so it was good to connect back to that experience and reflect on how my experiences since then might be helpful to this new community. The community, called the Bridges Community, will have their first retreat Dec. 19-21. I will join them for at least part of it. Please pray for them as they grow in their Marianist identity (as a group and as individuals).

Immediately following this, during the first week of November, I had a very cool and humbling opportunity. One of our Marianist priests, Fr. Chris Wittmann, and I were keynote speakers at a vocations dinner at UD. The title of our presentation was "Poor, Celibate, Obedient... and Stable?" It was a chance to engage students in conversation about the vowed life and how Marianists live it each day. We invited some vowed Marianists as well as any student who was interested. We had a total of 60 people in attendance - about 30 students and about 30 Marianists. The students were a good mix of male and female (maybe 16 and 14?). The night went very well. Students seemed genuinely interested in what we had to say and there were good small group conversations.

Needless to say, preparing for and then following through with this night was an excellent time of reflection for me. To have the chance to consider the vows, how I/we live them and what that might mean for someone who is considering religious life was a true gift.

The week following that, it was off to New York for Marianist formation weekend. This is an annual gathering (in different places in the country) for Marianists in formation - both SM and FMI. We gathered in Long Island where the Marianist Province of Meribah has two high schools (Kellenberg and Chaminade). What a weekend! Our presenter for the weekend was Sr. Maria Cimperman, OSU. She is a professor of theology at Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio. Our topic for the weekend was Religious Life in the Future: a conversation with those who create the future (I believe that's right).

Over the weekend those of us in formation had the chance to share openly about the gifts and challenges of the past year, our hopes/dreams/fears about the future and how we see ourselves (individually and communally) growing in the next several years. I can not put into words how valuable an experience that was. It was truly a gift.

Sr. Laura and I stayed an extra day after everything to explore New York. I had never been there, so there was a lot that I wanted to see. We walked around Manhattan for hours! It was great. I got a chance to take in some great sights, have good conversation, and sample some great delis. Time well spent!

Two weeks later, the weekend after Thanksgiving, we had a gathering for some of our younger FMIs and our contact (someone who is seriously considering becoming a Marianist Sister). We spent the weekend at the guest house of a Benedictine Community right on the Ohio River outside of Cincinnati. That was a nice weekend. We prayed and shared together. We went hiking in a state park. We went out for ice cream. We spent a lot of time talking about where we are with God and with our ministries and where we see ourselves going in the future. The weekend was very good. There were 6 of us total. Two of our sisters from San Antonio flew up for the gathering. It was a weekend to treasure.

Lastly, yesterday another community of lay Marianists professed their commitment with a Mass celebrating Gaudete Sunday. It was a beautiful Mass as we welcomed 9 new members to the Marianist family.

That's what I've been up to since October! So much for being brief! That's what happens when I don't write for 6 weeks... I really must keep up...

These weeks have been busy and full. However, what beautiful opportunities to reflect and pray about being a Marianist religious at the dawn of a new decade ~ very powerful, indeed!

I pray that those of you who read this blog are having a joy-filled Advent season as we prepare for the great feast of Christmas. Thank you all for your patience with my absence.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

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