Friday, December 30, 2011

The Lord bless you and keep you!
The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!
Numbers 6: 24-26

It's that time of year... A time to look back and reflect - on lessons learned, experiences shared, grace given, horizons expanded and challenges faced. It's also that time of year during which pop culture gives us top 10 lists ad nauseam. Don't get me wrong, some times they're very humorous... and may even be poignant. But you have to admit, there are an extreme number of them.

Thursday, I was driving listening to NPR and the guest on the show was talking about making top 10 lists. He's a movie critic in Dallas and had composed a list of top 10 movies of 2011. As I was listening, I began to consider what type of top 10 list of 2011 I could make. I haven't seen 10 movies. I have read 10 books, but I could only rank them if I could remember all of them (my very poor memory is always an issue!). But, for whatever reason, I was inspired to compose my own top 10 of significant events or happenings of 2011.

In no particular order, here is my list...

1. The death of Osama bin Laden and the days that followed...

Yes. It's an odd first choice, I agree. But, it was the first one I thought about, so that has to say something. I remember the night fairly well. I was sitting at the Novitiate chatting with one of the novices and a few friends. We had completed an evening of prayer and sharing. I can't remember why the tv was on - the fact that it was on is rather strange now that I think about it.

The news appeared. We watched in rapt interest. Then we began to see the celebrations... we went to Facebook and people had posted things I never thought I would read about some one's death. Such rejoicing... comments about the nature of evil... the patriotism that it inspired. Honestly, I found most of it very disturbing.

Sometime in the weeks surrounding that event, I returned to San Antonio for a visit. I had dinner with a very good friend with whom I went to high school and college. I don't remember how it happened, but we argued about whether or not the US had ever made errors in judgment concerning foreign policy. Really?...

In Catholic tradition, January 1st celebrates Mary as Mother of God... and also is a day to pray for peace. Indeed... peace in our world, our country, Church, communities and peace within our hearts. "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us..."

2. Running
I've always said, "I am not a runner." Or "I don't run." I can no longer
say that. Well... sort of. In August I started the Couch to 5K program.
At first I couldn't run 45 seconds without feeling winded, defeated and bored. Now... I'm at a little more than a 5 K (at a slow pace!) and I'm thinking of a half
marathon in May. Miracles never cease, it seems. I feel pretty good about it. I
like setting goals and working towards them. We'll see what happens.
3. Particular Movies
I saw a few movies in 2011 that were more than just mere entertainment - "Waiting for Superman," "Of Gods and Men," "The Way," and "Descendants." These are the kinds of films that make you think... about God, about human nature, courage, forgiveness, love, and justice. I recommend them.
4. Tragic deaths
This was a year that ended with a few tragic deaths that were difficult for me
and for people with whom I am close. I believe I blogged about it sometime in November... I continue to pray for peace for those who are mourning
these losses.
5. Leaving the Univ. of Dayton
It wasn't an easy decision. It took a lot of discernment... talking with people who know me well, sharing and conversation with our Sisters... and personal prayer. And while I miss many people connected to UD, it was a good move for me. Sometimes, taking a risk is the right thing to do...
6. Returning to high school ministry
Who knew when I left CCHS in May of 2004 that I would return to a high school? I certainly never would have guessed. And yet, here I am... And although many things are the same (I still procrastinate in grading and embarrass easily etc.), but I'm seeing it the ministry with new eyes... a little more maturity, perhaps... and a different sense of mission.
7. Finishing an MA
It takes a lot of energy to work full time & go to school - even if school is part time. But, I enjoyed my classes, for the most part, and I learned a great deal. Every once in a while I miss that type of learning... but not enough to get another degree... :)

8. Sharing in the Marianist Women's Summit
The gathering of Marianist Lay and Vowed Religious women in San Antonio in March 2011 was a fantastic weekend. Wonderful moments of insight... the sharing of stories... examining our unique role in the Marianist family and in the Church... and lots of laughter filling our home... What could be better?

9. Going to El Salvador while reading Dorothy Day
I can hardly believe that a year ago I was preparing to go to El Salvador with a group of UD students I barely knew. I haven't thought a lot about the trip since returning... which is, honestly, unfortunate. However, at this time, I feel the desire to tap into that experience once more - to read my journal and the insights gained from reading the words of Dorothy Day while I was there, thus opening myself to the possibility of God's grace to enter and transform memories into change.
10.Young Marianist Sisters' Gathering in Rome & various locations in France
Of course, those of you who read this blog every once in a while, cannot possibly be surprised that this trip would make the list. An unbelievable trip... a humbling experience... and an amazing opportunity for growth... There is not much more to say about it than that. I am deeply grateful for the experience and for the great blessing of meeting other young, visionary, enthusiastic, committed Marianist sisters from around the world. I hold those women in a special place in my heart and look forward to a time that we will be together again.

And there you have it. I am grateful for the year that is coming to its close and I look forward in hope to what God will do in 2012. May all of us be open to the blessings and the grace of God in the new year!

Happy New Year!
Sr. N

Monday, December 19, 2011

O God, who through the child-bearing of the holy Virgin
graciously revealed the radiance of your glory to the world,
grant, we pray, that we may venerate with integrity of faith
the mystery of so wondrous an Incarnation
and always celebrate it with due reverence.
Opening Prayer (Collect)
Advent Weekday Liturgy

On Saturday morning December 17 I went to the Community Blood Center to donate. I was in very high spirits. I had spent the evening before gathered with more than 20 young adult Lay Marianists. We went Christmas caroling, shared a meal and played very fun, goofy games. Saturday morning I went for a run with new, fun people (and one good friend) and then listened to Christmas music all morning. When I walked in the Blood Center I was still singing my favorite Christmas song (O, Holy Night) in my mind.

The woman behind the desk asks "So, are you ready for Christmas?" in a sort of "I'm only talking to you because I'm supposed to" sort of way. I replied to her with an enthusiastic "Yes!" She looked a little confused. "You've finished your shopping and wrapping and decorating?" It was my turn to be caught off guard. Those things couldn't have been farther from my mind! I've done none of those things. And I'm not overly concerned about it either. I said to her, "No. It's not that important. I'm ready for spending time with people I love, good food, the prayers... I'm excited." Again... I don't think she knew what to think.

Here we are... the "O Anitphon" time... the 4th week of Advent. Through our liturgy we are called to reflect on the announcements of great births, the way God brings about light and life in impossible situations... and the models of faith who said "Yes," having no idea the implications of such a yes. This is truly a graced time...

It's been a busy Advent for me - as it typically is for anyone connected with education (as student, teacher, or administrator). A UD student I know calls this time of year "anti-Advent" in schools. So true. And yet, in the midst of the busyness, my soul in stillness contemplates the great mystery of the incarnation... and the ways Christ is present in each day.

May this closing week of Advent be one of grace and peace for you. And when someone asks, "Are you ready for Christmas?" I hope the answer is "Yes" in the spirit of Mary whose yes had nothing to do with buying gifts.

Many blessings to all who read this,
Sr. N

Sunday, November 27, 2011

God is faithful,
and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:9

Advent. Wow. It's already Advent. And I find myself completely unprepared for this season... But then again, Advent is all about becoming prepared, so I guess it's appropriate...

The first reading for today's liturgy says it fairly well, "Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags..." I must admit that there are times that I echo this very same line when I am faced with my own personal brokenness and selfishness. But, more often than not I am moved to this sort of prayer when reading the news paper or internet news sources, increasing my awareness of our world's brokenness.

"Watch!" The one word sentence Jesus states emphatically at the end of today's Gospel is part of the answer. "Be watchful! Be alert!" For what, exactly? The presence of Christ...

We say that during Advent we prepare for the coming of Jesus. But, really, Jesus has already come... Jesus is here. Advent, then, is a time to cultivate our awareness of Jesus... an opening of our hearts and our eyes to areas in our lives and in our world that need to be awakened to Jesus' presence within and among us.

To open our eyes to the presence of Jesus and to recognize the areas of our lives and of our world that need to be awakened to the presence of Jesus... should lead us to action. Someone once said that with knowledge comes responsibility. To recognize brokenness in ourselves and/or in our world is not enough. That can lead to bitterness, despair, or self-righteousness among other things. But, we are called to respond. And that seems daunting to me. And it is daunting if I believe it's in my power or control or if I believe that it's all on my shoulders. "... Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.... God is faithful..."

Today our community will have a day of retreat & reflection. It is a wonderful way to enter fully into this season of Advent... cultivating silence opens space within for recognition and ultimately for conversion.

Many blessings to all who read my scattered thoughts this day!
Sr. N

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Rising Sun of joy and justice lights the way that leads to peace.
As the day descends from heaven, so does love that sets us free.
The Rising Sun ~ Tony Alonzo

Yesterday morning I left Dayton before dawn to travel down to San Antonio to lead a women's retreat for St. Mary's University. On the flight from Dayton to Newark I was busy working on presentations and thinking about the retreat.

I sat on the side of the plane with one row of seats, so the window was to my immediate left. It was very dark out. As I was working on my laptop something drew my attention to the opposite set of windows to my right. And as I looked out I was amazed by what I saw. I immediately opened another Word document and started typing...

My flight left Dayton at 6:05am bound for Newark-Liberty Airport… on my way to San Antonio for the St. Mary’s Univ. women’s retreat. I was busy listening to David Kauffman’s version of the Magnificat and preparing my presentations… The window to my left in my immediate vision was darkness… some city lights down below. Then I looked across the isle to the right side of the plane, looking for inspiration, perhaps … I was reflecting on the Annunciation and the ways that God calls to us in life. And I saw an amazing sight… A bright red horizon… fading up into a beautiful orangey-yellow line of light… that became a vivid blue. Out the left side of the plane – darkness… out the right side – bright, beautiful color.

And isn’t that the way life is sometimes. Looking at a situation sometimes we only allow ourselves to see the darkness – the fact that light is absent and we cannot see our way. And then God breaks in, turning our faces in a different direction… and there is light and hope once more.

It was several minutes before light came to the left side. And as the light was spreading all around the plane, the original bright horizon was no less bright for sharing the light.

Now, I know enough about science to know the reasons why the horizon on the right did not dim as light filled the sky… and why the darkness on the left seemed so absolute. However, this morning I choose not to focus on the science, but on the mystery.

How often is it in life that we get stuck with our limited perspective – seeing the darkness of one side… unable to see the beauty of God’s light breaking in… if only we would turn our faces towards it. Or unable to believe that from darkness so deep and absolute, light does eventually shine. No darkness is so absolute as to swallow hope. It just takes a certain perspective. That of Jesus…

Many blessings to all who read this!

Sr. N

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Let your mercy be on us, O Lord,
as we place our trust in you.
Paraphrase of Ps. 33:22

What a strange several weeks it's been since my last post. I've thought often of what I should write when I have the opportunity... and then something comes up... another event... and my thoughts are completely different.

Yesterday in my classes the journal question I assigned to my students was about an area in their lives in which they really need to trust in God. During our brief discussion of the journal topic I heard about divorces, parent illnesses, sibling deaths, serious financial difficulties, tough moral choices... It's unbelievable what some young people are carrying...

In recent weeks it seems I know personally many communities and families confronted with a sudden death... A young Marianist brother killed in a car accident... the younger brother of a Marianist priest in my peer group killed in a car accident... a 31-year old Marianist educator died from lung cancer (whose funeral I will attend today) ... 2 UD students killed in a car accident... 2 Marianist brothers in the same community died within days of each other (one rather unexpected)...

The readings these days call us to reflect on the last days. Yesterday's reading from the 2nd and 3rd chapters of Wisdom was particularly poignant... But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace....

In the midst of sadness and confusion on the part of those who mourn these losses, there have been constant reminders of God's faithfulness and love. From the readings to the celebration of perpetual vows... supportive friends and moments of laughter... beautiful sunsets and fall colors.

Let us, then, continue to trust in the love of God... For we know and believe in God's love for us. (1 John 4:16)

Blessings of peace to all who read this,
Sr. N

Friday, September 30, 2011

People don't care how much you know,

until they know how much you care.


Good morning and happy Friday! I hope this post finds you all doing well! I don't have a lot of time right now (what else is new?), but I thought I would post a few things today.

Life is very interesting sometimes. At times I feel that my life gives good material for a sitcom. Sometimes it seems that different events in my life would be best for case studies in abnormal psychology. And then there are times that my life is one classic cliche after another. Right now, the above cliche says almost everything I could say. If I ever doubted that the above is true, I certainly don't now.

I have to say, if I haven't yet already, that I really like my job. It's a ministry. Not just one in which I am required to impart information/knowledge or even one that is primarily about helping students think in a different way. That's all true, but it's also so much more than that.

What brings me to say this? Let me give a few reasons...

  • There is a young woman in one of my classes (I'll call her Lynn) with whom I got off on shaky ground at the beginning of the year. She always seemed to come in with an attitude and a chip on her shoulder. There was one day that I said to myself, "If she rolls her eyes at me ONE MORE TIME or does that neck rolling thing, I'm going to lose it!" She also turned in homework very sporadically... Her average was abysmal. Fast forward about 3 weeks... She started sharing different things about her life in her writing - in the journal entries the students write every day and in some of her homework assignments. As I read what students write, it is very important (in my opinion) that I respond in some way. Sometimes I put smiley faces or question marks... sometimes I ask questions for them to consider... and sometimes I write paragraphs. It depends. For Lynn, I've responded a lot. Mostly, I've validated her feelings and questions. I've encouraged her and also shared some of my experience of God. Well, to make a long story short, she now comes to my office every once in a while to give me an update on her life, her attitude is 100% better, I've seen her laugh (that's a big deal for her)... and she's doing her homework.

  • Not too long ago I returned graded journals to my students. A student said to me, "Whoa, you actually read these?!" To which I responded, "Well, of course I did. I enjoy reading what you have to say. Why else would I have you do them?" And the student said to me, "Well, some teachers don't really care enough to read things like this. That's cool."

  • A parent came up to me recently and said, "My daughter really likes your class." Because she caught me off guard, I responded with a mix of disbelief and surprise. "Really?" I responded. The mother continued to explain to me the reasons why her daughter says that. Part of the reason is because I care.

Okay. I promise I will not spend this entire blog patting myself on the back. :)

These are just a few antidotes that express a deep truth - not just a cliche. I have to say... I am deeply grateful that I have a background in pastoral ministry to compliment the background in education. Working in a high school, it seems, requires skills in education, knowledge of one's field, and skills in pastoral care/counseling. Well, I'm not sure that I should say "requires" but I will say that it has made a difference for me.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Friday, September 16, 2011

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's (or sister's) eye,

but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?

Luke 6: 42a

TGIF my friends! Weeks are flying by like moments for me these days... We're mid-way through September already and I can hardly believe that. However, on the other hand, today I am grateful for a Friday. I need the weekend to catch up! And some time to breathe and reflect would be good, too...

People in the field of education have often said that students will live up to the expectations you set for them. If you treat young adults like maturing adults and expect from them their best, they live up to that. If you treat them like children and expect them to flounder, then that's what they'll do. Or so "they" say.

However, how does one find the line between expecting the best and expecting the impossible? That's the key question of the day - of the month, truth be told.

We're a month into classes. And I find I do honestly enjoy what I do. I've missed it over the years. I enjoy standing in a classroom engaging students in conversations... I enjoy the random questions they ask... and I enjoy the environment of a school. But, that doesn't mean that I do things perfectly in my expectations or in my pedagogy. Oh, to be perfect! That would be fantastic, as far as I'm concerned. As you might already know, I'm constantly frustrated with my own inability to be perfect! Good heavens, I thought I'd grow out of that. :) But that's a different topic for a different day...

Today I am reflecting on expectations -ones I place on myself, ones I place on students, and those I place on all the other people & institutions in my life....

When is it time to say, "My expectations are too high"? And when is it okay to say, "This is what I expect and you can do it!"? I find those to be very difficult questions! I find that it's also related to biases.

Everyone has biases and prejudices - whether we're conscious of them or not. I have come to realize that I admire intelligence and wisdom in other poeple. I'm drawn to certain people for that reason. It's because I wish I were more intelligent, truth be told (I'm very self-conscious about that)... And on an unconscious level, that has an effect on my world view and consequently what underlies my expectations.

Earlier this week I gave out progress reports to my students. I asked the students with grades less than 70 to have them signed by a parent/guardian. One student, with a 68 average, turned his in with a small sentence written in his handwritting. It read, "Sorry I'm not smart." This begs the question am I really asking too much?

I don't currently have any answers. In fact, I just have more questions. One month into school is a good time to evaluate. And that is my expectation for this weekend - to find time for evaluation and reflection.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Then Peter said to Jesus, "Teacher, it is good for us to be here..."
Mark 9:5

Where, exactly, did August go? I can hardly believe it's already September 1... and yet, I also feel like a lot is different since the last time I blogged, I barely know where to start! Lesson from this... blog more often! :)

The last time I blogged I had been back in Dayton for about a week and I was preparing to step back into the world of high school – the world of endless questions and adolescent drama… Friday night football games and passing notes during study hall… rolling eyes and searching hearts… faculty commiserating and TGIF gatherings… Kairos retreats and the morning Pledge of Allegiance...

Now that I’m back, I have to say it is, indeed, good to be here!

I've never believed that I am the world's greatest teacher - and that is confirmed with each class period... And try as I might, it is really difficult to get 15 & 16 year olds to be excited about Scripture (at least not visibly... it's just not "cool")... But, even in light of these realities, I enjoy going to work every day. 7 years ago when I left Central Catholic in San Antonio I wasn't sure that I would ever return to the classroom or to a high school for any reason. It's amazing how a little maturing on my part, a recognition of my passions, and a much broader perspective on life & faith can make such a difference.

I've learned a few things in recent weeks. Allow me to share those with you...

  • Being a morning person or a night person really does have an impact on the work you do. Yes, there are teachers who are not morning people... and they're good teachers. And there are campus ministers on college campuses who are morning people... and they're good at what they do. But wow... it certainly is something when what you do matches your body's natural rhythms.

  • I am now old enough to be the parent of the students I teach. Let that one soak in. It doesn't bother me, necessarily. It's just odd, really. But what's good about that is that I am far enough removed from their experience that there is a level of respect for me as "elder" (Yikes! I don't like that word).

  • I'm still in a time of transition from campus minister to teacher. There is a difference. As a campus minister there is a different rapport with students than as teacher. It's subtle and nuanced, but it's there. Well, at least for me. And part of it probably has to do with changing age groups. High school and college are such different worlds...

  • Technology has come a long way since the last time I taught. On "Meet the Teacher Night" I said something about an overhead projector to the parents. There's no overhead in my classroom... there's a projector mounted to the ceiling with a remote I'm not always sure how to use. :) And I now carry a school issued laptop to my classroom and to my study hall - that's how I take attendance and project class notes. Crazy. In all honesty, I kinda miss the overhead. Who would have thought?

Of course, I paint this picture as if everything is coming up roses. And any of you who have experience with young people know that it can't be like that all the time...

For instance, I accused a student of lying about something a few days ago... Accused is probably too strong of a word, but it's the best word for this situation. I made an assumption and anyone with experience should know better. Since when do I assume the worst without reason? Where did that come from? That was eye -opening to me. Am I so jaded that I assume someone is not being honest? I don't think so, but it is an interesting question. And it's certainly something on which I should reflect...... I also held someone after class on the first day of school because of his behavior. Really? The first day of school? I never would have done that 7 or 10 years ago... Interesting.

Honestly, I think these particular things have to do with not wanting to be a push over or the teacher that gets walked on. And there's a valid reason for that to be a concern. However, there's a balance on which I'm still working.

However, the bottom line is this was a good move for me and I am grateful. I miss the students at UD and my former colleagues, of course. My hope is to find a way to continue connecting with them.

And so. There you have it. There's always more I could say... but I'm at school and I have work to which I should attend. I hope to blog again soon. Until then...

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you,
so that in all things, always having all you need,
you may have an abundance for every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8

I'm back in the blogging world! I hadn't realized how long it had been since my last post... life has been moving pretty quickly since I last wrote! But in all things, the truth of the above quote has been very evident to me... sometimes only in retrospect, but evident nonetheless.

Last time I wrote, I had been in Rome for a week and we had only just begun our meetings there. The days that followed brought us into conversation about our charism, Mary as a model, Chaminade's method of prayer and virtue, and our future together. We also traveled from Rome to France to visit the places of our foundation...

Our time in France was... surreal. It was a lot packed into 4 days... And it wasn't just sightseeing, but experiencing important places in our history - the birthplace of Mother Adele, the convent in which she lived (and where her tomb is), the chapel where the Marianist family was born, the room where Fr. Chaminade died, Chaminade's tomb... We also renewed our vows together in a small chapel where Adele would go for her annual retreat - it was exactly 194 years after Adele and the first FMIs professed final vows! Oh.. so much in just 4 days! To tell you the truth, it all happened so quickly, I'm not sure that I've fully processed everything. There was little time for reflection built into the trip to France.

Upon our return to Rome, we only had about 3 1/2 days left together. And in those days we completed a document that was sent to all of our sisters about our experiences together. We had a fun evening of sharing the culture of our countries and a beautiful prayer service in which we expressed our commitment for the future.

In looking back on the experience, it is clear that God's grace was made abundant. Those of you who read my post prior to leaving for Rome, may recall a little anxiety on my part about coordinating such a gathering. What comes to mind now is, "Why did you doubt, oh you of little faith?" Indeed.

And now... Back in Dayton for a little over a week... and I'm in full teacher prep mode! Working on syllabus and lesson plans... trying to outline the semester etc. You may recall that it's been 7 years since I last taught, so I'm a little rusty on all of those kinds of details. But, I'm really excited anyway. Since I'm only teaching two sections, I am also getting a grasp on the rest of my new job - Office of Academics Assistant Director and a few projects for the Office of Ministry and Service. It'll be a full year, to say the least!! But, creative juices are flowing... and God's grace will be made abundant.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It is necessary
that you promise to use all your strength
to maintain and perpetuate union and charity in all the Institute;
for the greatest pain that I would be able to endure
would be to see charity weaken in the heart of one soul of our daughters.
Mother Adele de Batz de Tranquelleon

Wow. As of today, I've been in Rome for 1 week. And what a week it has been!

Today is the 4th official day of our meetings of the young professed Marianist sisters. We are 19 sisters - 7 languages (within those 7 there is some overlap of those who speak multiple languages) from 11 different countries. All of us are under 45 years old. I am towards the older end of the spectrum, but not the oldest here. We have gathered here in Rome, at the home of our General Administration, for a number of reasons: to strengthen our bonds as younger Marianist sisters, to come to understand what it means to be a part of an international congregation, to visit the important places of our foundation (we go to France in a few days!), to pray together, and to discuss our future.... Tall order, yes?

There have been many things that have struck me so far in our time together...

Communication has been difficult, to say the least. Many people understand some English, but not everyone. 2 sisters can understand both Spanish and French, and some English (one is from France the other is from Brazil)... Our sisters from the Province of Japan are actually Vietnamese and can speak Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean and English (English is the lesser known) ... Our sisters from Korea speak Korean... some Japanese... and very little English. Our sisters from Africa (Togo and Côte d'Ivoire) are French speaking, but they studied English in high school, therefore many of them can still speak some English (one of them, Chantal, serves as a translator from English to French... we work together on the coordinating team)... Our 3 Indian sisters have Malayalam as a first language and can speak Hindi, English, and Italian (they did their formation and some professional training here in Rome)... Of our Spanish speaking sisters (from Chile, Colombia and Ecuador), only one of them knows some English (Carmen, from Ecuardor, serves with Chantal and me on the team)... Denise, from Brazil, has Portuguese as her first language... she can speak Spanish enough to get by and speaks French very well. Lastly, Nathalie from France is a Latin professor, so her command of languages in general is pretty good. She understands some Spanish and speaks a little and the same with English...

From just the above paragraph I have learned: 1) that we are very creative in trying to communicate - hand gestures, facial expressions, miming, etc. 2) so many sisters here have made an effort to learn English... I am humbled by the experience of not being able to communicate my ideas in another language when so many are doing quite well in English. When we split into language groups, I am the only person in the English language group who has English as a first language. The other 5 in my group are the 2 Vietnamese sisters from Japan and the 3 Indian sisters. We do very well, but I realize that they have to work so much harder than I do. As an American, I am spoiled in many ways...

And in spite of the communication difficulties (and even frustration for some), we have had some amazing, honest conversations both in small groups and in the larger group. I am blown away at how fast we developed a sense of trust among us to talk about deeper issues - what it's like to be the youngest professed in community - our hopes and fears concerning the future - the importance of learning a 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) language - the interesting phenomenon about which provinces have many vocations coming and what provinces don't... and why - and what it is about us that unites us as one....

To list everything, I'd have to write something much longer than this. But, know that our time here has been very rich. Thank you for your prayers!

We have also had some fun... teasing each other, sharing our cultures (food, language, songs, pictures etc). We do a lot of singing - in every language! Earlier today we went to St. Peter's for Mass and a short tour of Rome... and gelato, of course! It was a very good day.

In the afternoon today we spent time in language groups in our archives. I saw letters and books of accounts written in our foundress Mother Adele's handwriting!! That was amazing to me. Such a richness. In a few days we will leave for France to visit some important places in our history - Agen where Adele was born, Bordeaux where the Marianist family was first formed and 3 other cities. We are very excited. Most of us have never been there.

Below, I have placed a few pictures. Enjoy... Pray for us...
Sr. N

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet,
for the place where you stand is holy ground.
Exodus 3: 5

In a few hours - 3 1/2 to be exact - I will board a plane from Dayton to Newark... and then after a 4 hour layover another flight from Newark to Rome. To say that I am excited this morning is an understatement!

I wasn't planning on blogging this morning, but I was so struck by the appropriateness of today's first reading from Exodus that I thought I'd share some thoughts before leaving town...

I was struck this morning by something I never noticed before in the story of Moses' call. Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?" What's interesting is that God doesn't start listing off qualities that make Moses qualified... God doesn't say, "But Moses, you're perfect for this and this is why..." Instead God simply says, "I will be with you." And then God lets Moses know how he'll be able to tell this is true. "I will be with you." A simple statement... about God... not about Moses, necessarily.

I'm not sure about anyone else who reads this blog, but I can sometimes get so caught up on exactly why I can't do something. Who am I to attend a leadership workshop? Who am I to help facilitate the meetings in Rome? Who am I to... And the list goes on! Today I received a simple reminder... It's not about me! Funny how I get those reminders every once in a while. God is present. God is faithful. That's all.

And so, with the reminder that God will be with me, I leave for adventures in Rome (and France). Perhaps I should remove the impediments to recognizing the holy ground on which I stand - my "sandals" if you will.

Many blessings!
Sr. N

Friday, July 08, 2011

We are a small Congregation, but very spread out,
with a great plurality of cultures, all animated by the same spirit,
"the spirit of Mary".
It is this spirit that impels us to live the reality of our smallness...
as a possible revelation of God.
It is a way of of opening ourselves to interprovincial solidarity,
of uniting our strengths in the common mission,
of growing in the sense of being Marianist Family in the Church.
Women of Hope, 22
Document of the Marianist Sisters' 29th General Chapter
Rome, August 2002

As you may already know, on Wednesday July 13 I will leave Dayton for my first trip to Europe. On Saturday July 17, 23 temporary professed Marianist Sisters from 13 countries will gather in Rome at our Generalate. We are from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Italy, Ivory Coast, India, Japan, Korea, Togo and the US. We will meet for 1 week in Rome... and then we will travel to France to important places in our history - to Agen (the birth place of our foundress), Bordeaux (the birth place of the Marianist family) and other important cities there. Then it will be back to Rome for a few days of closing sessions and back to our respective countries on August 1.

Now, you may wonder, why are we doing this? What's this all about?

The above quote comes from one of our General Chapter documents. Every 5 years delegates from each province (or region/unit) gather in Rome to make decisions concerning the Congregation. At the last Chapter, 2007, the General Administration was given the mission of "animating the relationships and exchanges that enhance communion"(To the Ends of the Earth, 20) within our Congregation. We are one year away from our next General Chapter. It seems that the gathering to which I am going is not only an opportunity to increase a sense of communion among us, but also, perhaps, to give us an opportunity to contribute something to the General Chapter (we cannot be delegates because we are temporary professed).

While I was in Fremont at the leadership workshop, I received an e-mail from our General Administration asking for my assistance as part of the coordinating team for our gathering. Of course, those of you who know me well know that I simply could not say no to such an invitation. :) So, I've been working with our General Assistant for Religious Life, Sr. Susanna Kim (from Korea) via e-mail on our schedule for our time in Rome, discussion points, processes etc. It's exciting... but it's also a little daunting. Not that I haven't lead conversations or programs before, but never something so important or broad as this. Not only that, but there will be several different languages!

And so, I've also been working my tail-end off on getting some essential Spanish! El proceso es muy lento, pero poco a poco soy aprendo. (Who knows if that verb is in the right tense??) Our 2007 Chapter document, To the Ends of the Earth, states: "The Chapter was captivated by the spirit already expressed in 2002, of progress in communion through learning languages, exchanging news, and encounters between different Units." You see, each sister in the Congregation is encouraged to learn another of our official languages - English, French, Spanish. Although many of our founding documents are in French, I opted for Spanish. It seems more practical for life in the North American Church.

Please keep our gathering in Rome/France in your prayers. I will keep you posted on the goings on!

Many blessings to all who read this,
Sr. N

Saturday, July 02, 2011

We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.
God is love, and whoever remains in love
remains in God and God in him (or her).
1 John 4: 16

Blessings to you on this Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus! It is a wonderful gift to have this opportunity to contemplate the love God has for us. And, indeed, it is a good time to reflect on the ways in which we are called to respond to that love.

In this time between workshops and traveling I've had the great gift of time... time to reflect... time to pray... time to laugh with friends... time to help friends carry heavy burdens... time to clean windows (okay, not terribly exciting, but it has to get done!)... time to be.

Lately, I've been spending time on our back porch swing in the mornings. It's my prayer spot (when it's warmer than 35 degrees). God and I have had good conversations back there. It is sacred space for me. This morning in my prayer, I was overwhelmed by the readings for today's Mass. Anytime the readings focus on the immensity of God's love, I am overwhelmed. There were a few lines that caught me more than usual, though, and I'd like to share that with you.

"It is not because you are the largest nation that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, for you are really the smallest of all nations. It was because the Lord loved you and because of his fidelity to the oath he had sworn your fathers..." (from the 1st reading - Deut. 7: 6-11)

"Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness. Not according to our sins does God deal with us..." (Psalm 103)

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we must also love one another." (from the 2nd reading - 1 John 4: 7-16)

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves." (from the Gospel - Matthew 11:25-30)

This weekend as we celebrate our country and its independence, let us keep in mind that with independence and freedom come responsibility. Let us entrust our country to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary... that we might learn to love as God loves... With kindness, humility, meekness, fidelity and with a slowness to anger towards all those who live in the margins of our society - the immigrant, the homeless, the gay, the unborn, those sentenced to death, and those we have labeled as enemies. May God have mercy on us and help us to love more generously.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ideally, Marianist leaders, deeply rooted in prayer, encourage the gifts of the people with whom they work in order to work towards a common vision in a way that is essentially collaborative and consensus building and strongly dependent on the action of the Spirit.
~ Me :)

It's only been a week since the last time I posted and yet I feel like there's so much to say! The day after my "trifecta celebration" (vow renewal, birthday, graduation party) I left for a workshop on Leadership in the Marianist Tradition. The picture at the top of this post is our group on the last day of the workshop.

Three years ago the Marianist brothers of the United States began a process of training the "next generation" of Marianist leaders. It is a two year training process that includes 2 summer workshops, an assessment of individual strengths and areas for growth, readings on leadership, sharing "best practices" and designing/implementing a "change project."

The first cohort finished their two years last summer. The second cohort, my cohort, began the process in September 2010 with readings, conference calls, and the individual assessment. Over the next academic year we will each be working towards the implementation of a change project with a mentor. My mentor is the brother on the back row in the yellow shirt... and I am blessed to work with such a brother!

I entered our time together in Fremont, Ohio a little intimidated. Not because I was the only Sister... I'm pretty used to that and don't mind. But because I was the only one there who is still in formation and is not and has not been in a position of leadership in the "Marianist world." The brothers in the above pic are community directors, former novice directors, former provincials, area coordinators for a region of Marianists, and a vocations coordinator. Our facilitators for the program are the former president of the Univ of Dayton and a former member of the Gen. Admin and current director of an international center for Marianist formation for the brothers. And here I was... just plain old Nicole.


If you know the Marianists at all you know that they (and I guess we) are a humble bunch of folks. I felt at ease within a day or so because there was no sense of separation among us. My voice and opinion was just as valuable as everyone else's. And... I learned A LOT. We all did, I think.

I do not want to bore you with the details of what I learned, but I would like to share with you our communal list of attributes of a Marianist leader. The definition above is one that I wrote on our first day together. On our last day, we all contributed to a list of what characterizes a Marianist leader.

This is what we discerned:
Marianist Leaders are... consultative, communal and personal, reflective listeners, anchored in goodness (preserving the core), faithful to the charism of our founders, modeled on Mary, collaborative - valuing all voices at the table, passionate for the mission, able to maintain a healthy balance, providers of options and alternatives, looking to meet the needs of the Church, making contributions to something larger than the "Marianist world," consensus building, Magnificat people ("My soul proclaims the greatness of my God!"), quintessentially feminine, modeled on Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, empowering the giftedness of others, deeply rooted in prayer - people of God, discerning risk-takers, persevering, compassionate, transparent, and people who embody an incarnational spirituality.

May each of us, and all leaders in the Marianist family, seek the Spirit's guidance to grow in these ways.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Friday, June 10, 2011

By the profession of the evangelical counsels

we intend to live our Baptism more fully.

Thus we unite ourselves, freely and lovingly,

to Christ’s saving mission.

(Rule of Life I.10)

Yesterday was a big day for me... Not only was it my 36th birthday (3 DOZEN YEARS OLD! When did that happen?!)... But I also renewed my vows yesterday in our Dayton community... and we celebrated both of those along with the completion of the M.A.... It was a "trifecta celebration!" A few close friends who are Marianist brothers joined our community for evening prayer followed by a social, casual dinner and conversation. It was a fantastic day!

Yesterday morning during my time of private prayer I was filled with gratitude for the year gone by... It was a full year, to say the least! Let me share with you a few of the highlights (in chronological order, of course)...
  • Last summer I joined the Marianist brothers in Louisville, Kentucky for a gathering of those of us who were temporary professed at the time... followed by their assembly at which I was a panelist in one of their discussions. I blogged about it at the time. It was such a grace-filled gathering!
  • I completed my ministry with the Marianist LIFE South program last summer and handed over the coordinator role to my friend Kristin. I worked with the LIFE program for 10 years... and they were blessed years...
  • Marianist brothers Bob Jones and Andy Kosmowski professed final vows in St. Louis in October. Sr. Laura and our two contacts made a road trip down for the celebrations... It was a weekend I will not soon forget! Beautiful! And the four of us had a great time in the car and at the retreat center where we stayed...
  • El Salvador in January... wow. What a eye-opening and graced trip...
  • LA Religious Ed Congress in March... always a blessing!
  • Marianist Women's Summit in March in San Antonio. I never blogged about that... it was the weekend before my comprehensive exams, so I wasn't doing much on line those days. We had over 50 Marianist women gathered in San Antonio - both lay and vowed, ages 20 through 82... from several states and Canada... That weekend was filled with the Spirit of God. That's the best way to describe it. Here's a link to a slide show from that weekend...
  • Celebrated the first profession of two novices and good friends - Bro. Jose Julian and Bro. Joe....
  • Spent 2 weeks in Cape May, New Jersey in May... followed by a week in Texas...
And here I am. While you might not be able to tell... each of the above bullet points was a time of great grace and a moment/event for which I am extremely grateful. There are others, of course, but these are "representative sample." :)

It has been a whirlwind, blessed year. I pray that all who read this might also take the time to make a list of events/moments for which you are grateful.... It's a wonderful way to begin the day.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

My dear friends, I wish you the peace of the Lord, and I embrace you with all my heart.

Adéle, Letters, 192.8

Happy 222nd birthday to Mother Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon - foundress of the Marianist Sisters!

Since it's been several months now since my last post, I thought today would be an appropriate time to start again... to recommit to posting on my blog... to reconnect with you... to reconnect with me as a writer... and to celebrate this life to which I've been called.

There are many things that I admire about Adele... her spunk, her courage, faith, compassion, vision... and her ability to really connect to people and maintain those connections through the years... just to name a few. Each of the Marianist Sisters in the world have been gifted by the Spirit with a portion of the spirit of Adele - our charism. And at times I can sense that Adele is walking with me... encouraging me when I'm tempted to remain silent... smiling as I try to articulate a vision... and standing next to me as I discern possible next steps.

Adele was a woman of deep prayer - a true contemplative in action. I'm not sure how much sleep she was ever able to get... waking early to pray... writing endless letters to her "Dear Friends"... teaching... and being mother & sister to those with her. Thank God for her dedication, prayer, and spunk!

Oh, that I might have a little more of her spirit - especially as I prepare to make a transition in ministry. Yep... I have resigned from U.D. and accepted a position at one of the Marianist high schools. Officially I will be serving as Assistant Director of Ministry and Service... and also teaching 1 or 2 freshman theology classes. I have to admit, this transition is very exciting to me - I think I'm finally ready to step back into the world of secondary ed... with a new sense of purpose, vision, and maturity (praise God!). But, at the same time, I'm a little nervous. Teaching is such a vulnerable ministry, I feel.

So, that's one piece of the excitement of the past few months. Other news: I passed my comprehensive exams and now have a 2nd masters degree... I will renew my vows next week... I'm going to Rome in July (No worries, I'll blog!)... It's been a FULL few months.

Well, I must be going. Please know of my prayers... and I hope that I can depend on yours!

Many blessings to all who read this,

Sr. N

Thursday, March 10, 2011

If anyone wishes to come after me,
he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Luke 9: 23

Lenten greetings to you all... I meant to post yesterday, in commemoration of Ash Wednesday, but in a way I'm glad that I never quite had the time... The readings for today are so rich...

Lent has always been a good liturgical season for me. I look forward to Lent. It's the time for making a new start... for hitting the spiritual "reset" button... to make things right. Essentially, it is a time for conversion, deepening, and allowing ourselves to be re-rooted in God. What could be a greater grace than that?

Actually, each day we have the choice. Not just in Lent. ... Our first reading from Deuteronomy points that out "I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him." And our Gospel from Luke reminds us of the daily nature of choosing to pick up our cross... for in this is life.

Life. Lent is about life - each day choosing the path that leads to life. Lent is about having our lives re-ordered... About being planted near the waters of life so that our lives can bear abundant fruit... It's about having God as the center, source, and goal of our lives and being rid of those obstacles that impede that.

But, it's not just about our lives. It's about the life of the world... Re-ordering our world so that it becomes what God created it to be - the Kingdom of God marked by peace, justice, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, love.

Yesterday the governor of Illinois abolished the death penalty in that state (thank you for choosing life!). Here in Ohio we will execute someone today. ... People who desire rights are being persecuted, murdered in the streets of Libya, Egypt, Bahrain... Fighting continues in Afganhastan and Iraq... Human rights abuses continue in Mexico, El Salvador, Zimbabwe... millions in the U.S. live in poverty with dwindling avenues to seek help...

Lent. Prayer. Fasting. Almsgiving...

"This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed." ~ Isaiah 58: 6-8a

May you be richly blessed as we enter the Lenten season.
Sr. N

Monday, February 21, 2011

You want to know me? You want to see my face?
I do not age with time. I do not fit into a space.
I transcend the capacity of your eye, so who am I?
That is the question of the moment; it is the question for all time.
I am you and you are mine.
God Is ~ Danielle Rose

A lot of times when I'm driving around and no one is in the car with me I listen to NPR... either that or I use the time to reflect in silence. This morning was an NPR morning. As I was listening to the news, a story came on about a new law in Afghanistan. It is a law that would place all women's shelters (including homes for battered women) under the auspices of the Ministry of Women's Affairs. That doesn't sound bad at first. However, it is much worse than what one might imagine.
I don't necessarily want to retell the story here on this website. I'm not really a journalist. However, I would like to share with you my initial reaction to this story...
About mid-way through the story I said to myself (actually, outloud... I was alone, you know): "I can't do this. It's too difficult." And I promptly turned the radio off. Here I am... with freedom to drive a car, go to the gym, live an unmarried vowed life... I've never been tortured or beaten. I've never even been in a fight. And yet this was "too difficult." I chose ignorance rather than to be challenged, hurt, or perhaps changed.
How often do I choose not to listen? To ignore the voice of God in the life of another because truly entering another person's chaos is too much for me?
It made me think of the song I quoted above. If you've never heard this song I encourage you to listen to it:
These women in Afghanistan... or El Salvador... or Egypt... or at the numerous shelters of Dayton, Ohio... are Christ. "Whatever you have done to these least ones, you have done for me." And what might be even more difficult to grasp... not only are these women Christ in our world today, so are those who oppress them. That's the more difficult thing to recognize.
I have sinsc finished listening to - and reading - the story on line. As I imagined, it wasn't easy. However, chosing ignorance is not the call.
Abundant blessings to all who read this,
Sr. N

Monday, February 14, 2011

The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.
Acts 4:32

First, I should say Happy Valentine's Day... well, actually, happy feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius! Unfortunately, people don't typically know a whole lot about Cyril and Methodius... But, alas... today's feast is not the focus of today's reflections...

As a Marianist and as a staff person at the University of Dayton, I hear a lot of talk about community. People say that the community of UD is what sets it apart from other places. It's something intangible... there's a bond... or some people call it a sense of family. They attribute this sense to the fact that the school is Marianist. For Marianists community is a means of bringing Christ to the world. "Many people will never grasp the message of Christ until they see a credible witness of it. Many will never know Christ's love until they experience it in a community. Our mission is to provide such communities." (A Manual of Marianist Spirituality)

When many students (not all) at UD are asked about what community is, they say things like, "I know my neighbors." Or "If I walk through the student neighborhood on a weekend night I can go into any party and it's okay." Or perhaps they talk about the way people party together several days in a row...

Each year it is estimated that 10-12 students at UD attempt suicide. Some people feel isolated... alone... Rates of depression are very high. Unfortunately, this is true on many college campuses, but people don't really like to talk about it. This isn't what community is about. True community would not allow for this.

I've been reflecting on community recently in light of my experiences in El Salvador last month. It was there that I caught a glimpse of community that I hope I never forget. It's difficult to put into words. However, in La Ceiba (the small village in which I lived with a family for a few days) community is their means of survival. They truly depend on one another in a way I've not experienced. There was no sense of individualism... or possessiveness... or being rushed/hurried to go on to the next thing. People... relationships... empathy... compassion... These were their priorities. The people of La Ceiba settled there after living in the refugee camps of Honduras during the civil war. They traveled back to El Salvador together just before the war ended. Without each other, they never would have been able to survive. And still... without sharing food... water... laughter... parenting responsibilities... survival would be difficult.

This is a sharp contrast to what I see around me and within me. People rushed and hurried (me included!)... superficial relationships... people using others for their own selfish needs... possessiveness... "my time," "my money," "this is what I want," sort of mentality. It's no wonder people feel lonely and isolated...

When I was in high school a friend of mine from middle school took her life. She left in her note that she was alone. There was no one who really cared about her. There are hundreds of young people like her all around us. Can we step out of our own little world to see them?

May we become people of real community... Christ-centered and unselfish. May we put others ahead of ourselves and stop perpetuating the "me first" mindset. In the words of Dorothy Day, may we learn, "Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up. If we love each other enough, we will bear with each others' faults and burdens. If we love enough, we are going to light that fire in the hearts of others. And it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other. No sacrifice and no suffering will then seem too much."

Many blessings to you all!
Sr. N

Sunday, February 06, 2011

If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness and the gloom shall become for you like midday.
Isaiah 58:9b-10

Do you know those days when you can say without a doubt, "I see the Spirit of God active and alive here in this place in these people... and it is light." Or perhaps you know someone whose very being radiates God's compassion and concern for the poor and oppressed... and they're so full of joy you know it's of God?

Well, I know that I have those days. And if I'm honest with myself they happen more often than I pay attention to. However, I cannot over look the experience I had yesterday.

First, I need to set a little context. There is seems to be a movement here in Ohio (mostly the Dayton and Cincinnati regions) of Lay Marianist communities living in such a way that they become a source of vibrancy, life, justice and faith for their neighborhoods and cities. It's difficult to explain unless you've experienced it. Anyway, most of these communities are not "residential communities." Meaning, most Lay Marianists live in different houses with their families. That's pretty typical for people outside of religious life, right?

Here in Dayton, however, there are communities of Lay Marianists popping up that are people who live together - share common prayer together, have a mission statement about how they are going to be witnesses and community builders in their neighborhoods etc. It's an amazing Spirit-led phenomenon.

Yesterday a very large number of Marianists - both lay and vowed - came together in the home of one such Lay Marianist community. The community is comprised of two married couples who intentionally purchased a house on a side of town that is under-resourced... to help build community there... to witness to their faith and the sacrament of marriage... because they are committed to living lives of justice & peace. Anyway, we were there to bless their home and to celebrate with them the formation of their community.

Listening to their mission statement... sharing prayer and conversation with others who are committed to building communities of justice and peace... witnessing the power of God's Spirit in the hearts of those around me... I was in the embrace of the type of light spoken about by today's first reading from Isaiah (quoted above). This community (and others like it) are prophetic and a light for a sometimes dark society. May God continue to bless them and all who seek to bring about a more just society.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Hebrews 13:7

Jesus... Stephen... the apostles... Paul... Agnes... Felicity... Perpetua... Joan of Arc... Marianist martyrs... Martin Luther King Jr.... JFK... RFK... Archbishop Oscar Romero... Ita Ford... Dorothy Kazel... Jean Donovan... Maura Clark... Dorothy Stang... and countless others... Murdered for speaking truth... asking for conversion of hearts...

The day after I returned from El Salvador our nation commemorated the life and vision of Martin Luther King Jr. I was struck last week by the fact that so many people in our history as a people of faith and in our so called secular history have been murdered for speaking uncomfortable truths. Killed for standing up for the rights and dignity of the people around them... asking for conversion of hearts to love for all people.

Today the Church celebrates the conversion of St. Paul - one of those who once persecuted and murdered those who spoke uncomfortable truths. His conversion is a sign that hearts can indeed be converted. He was eventually killed as well.

"Unless a grain of wheat shall fall upon the ground and die it remains but a single grain with no life." That was the theme of the prayer service our community celebrated when I entered formation with the Marianist Sisters in 2005. I believe that I've come to a deeper understanding of this phrase in recent years. At the time of my entrance to the Sisters I understood it in its spiritual sense... in a Pauline sense... dying to one's ego and false self in order to rise as a person more Christ-like. While this is true, it is also true in a real, physical sense.

Sometimes speaking out for the rights and dignity of self and/or of others can result in death. It happens over and over in our world... People in power do not like being asked to change. Well, truth be told, a lot of people are not eager to change - be it behaviors, attitudes, routines, etc. I, personally, am not crazy about change at all. But, if people stopped speaking out... stopped standing up for truth, justice, peace... what a terrible world this would be. And conversion of hearts would be more difficult.

We are called to follow the examples set by those who lived in love, spoke the truth, and stood up for those who were oppressed. I think I have to recognize that sometimes that leads to unpopular opinions (and sometimes worse than that) of those who enjoy the status quo... First, I have to be converted... to love, to insight into injustice and to courage. Then, to follow the examples of those who have gone before us.

As we celebrate the conversion of St. Paul today, may we pray for continual conversion of hearts... that eventually justice and peace might flourish in our world.

Blessings to all who read this,
Sr. N

Saturday, January 22, 2011

It seems to me that we must not become discouraged
if we encounter some obstacle in the way of necessary change.
Never has change been done and never will it be done without difficulty.
With patience we will come to an end of all.
Blessed William Joseph Chaminade

Today is a special day in the Marianist family - the 250th anniversary of the birth of one of our founders, William Joseph Chaminade... whose cause for canonization continues to move forward. I've not written much about him in the past as far as I can remember. That is unfortunate, really. For he really is someone to be emulated in many ways.

I'll give you a short version of his role in the foundation of the Marianist Family...

He was a diocesan priest in the Diocese of Bourdeaux, France when the French Revolution began. When religious and priests were being targeted and persecuted he decided to continue ministering to people incognito. At the time he was spiritual director to Marie Therese de Lamorous - another of our founders. To make a long story short, he was exiled to Spain. He arrived in Zaragoza, Spain on Oct. 11 - the eve of the feast of Our Lady of the Pillar, a significant feast for the city. It was there in Zaragoza - praying in front of a statue of Our Lady of the Pillar - that Chaminade was inspired with a vision. We do not know exactly what the vision was, but we do know that he found the inspiration to bring faith back into France upon his return in new ways - new times call for new means (a paraphrase of one of his quotes) - through communities (sodalities)...

Upon his return to France, in collaboration with Marie Therese (who was ministering to people in her parish in the absence of ordained or vowed pastoral ministers) he began to form sodalities - small communities of younger people - that they might grow in faith, find support for one another, and "multiply Christians." Adele, our 3rd founder - a young woman in the French countryside - was doing the same thing with young women. The two became connected and together the 3 of them helped birth what we know now as the Marianist Family.

That was the very short version... :)

Now, what does all that mean for now? There are a few things that stand out to me...

- New times call for new means. He was a person who was not afraid to think outside the box... way outside the box, actually. He had been a parish priest... and not that he abandoned the parishes, but he believed that the ministry of parishes had to be supplemented with something. He petitioned Rome to become a "Missionary Apostolic" so that he could have freedom to move around France creating these groups.
- Speaking of thinking outside the box, his main collaborators were an older, single lay woman (Marie Therese) and a much younger woman who was to become the first superior of the Marianist Sisters (Adele). This was the early 1800s! That's revolutionary, really.
- He faced many obstacles in his life, but did not lose faith and trust in the God who called him to the work - and he wholehearted placed himself in the hands of Mary.

I find inspiration in people who think outside the box - who ask the bigger questions - people who are essentially visionaries. And on this day, having been back from El Salvador for just under a week, I find myself pondering this idea of new times needing new means... of collaborating with seemingly unlikely people... of bringing people back (including myself) to the core of our faith - which, of course, is love.

On a slightly tangental note, Tuesday night at UD I heard Geoffrey Canada speak about education, children, schools... about needing new means in these new times. This is a recurring theme in my life these days...

I'd like to share with you a part of a letter Chaminade wrote to Adele the year before the foundation of the Marianist Sisters...

As to what in particular is to distinguish you from the other orders, it is zeal for the salvation of souls. The principles of religion and of virtue must be made known; Christians must be multiplied. ... what are we to do then? ... Your community will be composed entirely of missionary religious....

And that is what we seek to be - missionary religious. And that mission?

Our work is great; it is magnificent. If it is universal it is because we are the missionaries of Mary who says to us: "Do whatever He will tell you!" Yes, we are all missionaries. To each of us the most Blessed Virgin has confided a mandate to work at the salvation of our brothers [and sisters] in the world.

And so I ponder - what does Jesus tell me to do? In short, it boils down to love. To type that is so easy. How - concretely speaking? That's another question entirely...

Blessed Chaminade Day to all who read this...
Sr. N

Monday, January 17, 2011

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question
the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies.
On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside,
but that will be only an initial act.
One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed
so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed
as they make their journey on life's highway.
True compassion is more than flinging a coin at a beggar:
it is not haphazard and superficial.
It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Last night I returned from my first trip to Central America. I traveled with 12 UD students to El Salvador for an immersion experience. To say that the trip was eye-opening, educational, moving, and inspiring are all understatements. It will be a long while before I can process everything. However, I would like to share with you all a few lessons learned... some serious and some not so much (as is my typical way)...
  • The Salvadoran people that I met are people of great resilience, hope, faith and compassion. They have suffered so much injustice through the years - and continue to suffer, truth be told - and yet they continue to believe... to work for justice... to care about the people around them. It certainly put things in perspective for me.
  • The men and women religious working in El Salvador have been key in some of the most desperate situations - people depend on them. They are trusted by people because they work for and love all people. And the religious I met are people of joy and hope - the type that is contagious for those around them. That's the kind of religious I hope I grow to be- unselfish, joy-filled... and working along side of those who are marginal in our society.
  • You don't need an alarm clock with a small town full of roosters.
  • Archbishop Oscar Romero may not be canonized by the institutional church, but he is a saint... and he, even in death (or perhaps more so?), is the hope of the people of El Salvador. Entering the home in which he lived and the chapel in which he was martyred, one can sense so strongly his presence... and his impact on the country. Amazing...
  • I met many women who are survivors of torture (some of them had been tortured many times) and rape at the hands of Salvadoran military people and law enforcement during the civil war years. Their stories - and their plea to help them close the "School of the Americas" or "WHINSEC" ( will not soon leave my memory.
  • When entering the US upon returning from Central America, do not attempt to bring fresh fruit - even if it's "just an apple" - if you do not have at least 45 minutes to go through a separate security line. Also, don't attempt to throw said apple in the trash. The check point people don't like that.
  • The illiteracy rate in El Salvador is estimated to be 19%. Chances are that's a low estimate. Unacceptable.
  • Many people who live in the outlying areas depend on their coffee growing for income. Much of the coffee, from what I saw, is being grown on mountain sides where it is steep and difficult to harvest. Buying "fair trade" coffee would be so helpful to many of these people. Harvesting coffee isn't easy. And the big coffee manufacturers are not paying these laborers nearly what the work is worth. Something to think about.
  • US foreign policy is not something to ignore. Our policies and our lifestyle have a much larger, global impact than what we might realize. I need to pay more attention. People's lives depend on it.
  • You never know how much you miss something like oatmeal until you eat beans for breakfast for 10 days.
  • One can learn all about liberation theology, the history of a country like El Salvador, and be moved to feel many things. But it doesn't mean anything unless it translates to concrete actions. Those actions don't have to be big or dramatic. But, all the learning is for naught if something doesn't change. With learning comes responsibility - that's why people say "ignorance is bliss." Ignorance, however, is not an option. And therefore, neither is non-action.
I could write much more. However, I also know that not everything needs to be written now... I want to leave you with a quote from Dorothy Day. While I was gone I read some of a book with selected writings by Dorothy Day. Here's something that stood out to me:
Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up. If we love each other enough, we will bear with each other's faults and burdens. If we love enough, we are going to light that fire in the hearts of others. And it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other. No sacrifice and no suffering will then seem too much.


Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N