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