Thursday, September 1, 2016

GSR Interview

From Global Sisters Report...

Last year, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in St. Louis decided to revamp the way it does vocation information, moving from a single vocations director to a team made up of the last four women to join the congregation. That team includes Sr. Amy Hereford, the woman who wrote the book on the future of religious life — or at least one of them.

Since December, the team has been changing the way the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Louis talk to and reach prospective candidates. Eight months in, Hereford spoke to Global Sisters Report about what the team has done so far and what they hope to accomplish. Read the interview...

Thanks Dawn - this was a great opportunity to reflect on how far we have come and how the Spirit has stirred among us in the past year.


Saturday, August 20, 2016


Our new vocation team (of the Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Louis) had the opportunity to report out to the community the progress of our work after about six months of organizing and doing vocation work. We had four sections of our report.
First we talked about the context of vocation work - the fact that there is significant interest in religious life among young adult Catholics. The infographic here gives some of the data. I believe the message is that there are men and women interested in religious life and they are entering our communities. It is true that fewer are entering religious life and we have many older sisters and brothers. Fifty years ago, there was a sharp decline in those coming, but since that time, there has been a steady stream of people seeking to follow a vocation to religious life. The challenge is how to reach out to these inquirers and engage them in a meaningful formation process. Much has changed and will continue to change as our communities adjust to the demographic shifts. How do we shift our mentalities from thousands or hundreds to dozens? What are the challenges, what are the opportunities that this shift affords? And how do we accommodate the simultaneous cultural shift from boomers to millennials? These are challenges we will continue to face for at least a decade.
Next, we discussed how we have organized our vocation team. The team is comprised of the last four sisters to join the province, the 'last four in the door'. We bring a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, and a range of skills to the team. We have also invited those sisters in the community who would support vocation work into the process. So we have the four of us at the core of the work, carrying the responsibility for the ministry. Then sisters have volunteered to assist in various ways, or have made themselves available for whatever ways they could help out. That is the expanded team. We will reach out to them regularly with information and updates, as well as inviting them to help with various vocation events. We feel supported and encouraged by these sisters, many of whom have been involved in vocation and formation work in the past. Thank God for the blessings of community. 
This team came into play in our recent MORE weekend - when we invited young women to share our life for a weekend. Various sisters assisted with welcoming and meals, and they joined us for volunteer ministry, prayer and conversation. It really gave us the opportunity to showcase our community. One of the comments we got was that "you all seem to respect and enjoy one another's company." Yes we do! And it is a gift to be reminded of that by our visitors. 
site-logoFinally, we officially launched our vocations website: One of our early projects was to enhance our social media presence and to set up a web presence dedicated to vocations. We can use it as a platform to showcase the community, vocation events and discernment resources. We have a blog and the four of us are taking turns posting. We are also on twitter @csjlifeconnect, on Facebook, on instagram, etc. So there are multiple ways to connect and to extend our reach. We can also continue to build relationships with those who are seeking more information about life as a Sister of St. Joseph. 
And so let's add one more layer of vocation team: please pray and support us in this important ministry. Pass our information on to someone you think might be interested, or might make a good Sister of St. Joseph some day. Pray for all of those discerning a vocation and those of us who assist in their journey. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Interwoven Networks

I participated in the Sisters of St. Joseph federation event in early July. It was a great celebration and an opportunity to connect with other Sisters of St. Joseph from around the country and some from outside the US as well. I particularly appreciated the "meetings between the meetings" when some of the younger sisters, in various configurations, gathered to share common experience and to dream a common future.
Coming back to St. Louis, we had our province assembly, an opportunity to gather for prayer, conversation and celebration. Still buoyed up by the federation experience, this was another opportunity to share community, spirituality and justice. The new vocation team, of which I am a part, gave a presentation about our work. Mary talked about the current context of vocations in the US. Sarah explained the model we are using to organize the work. I talked about how that model worked in practice in one of the events that we offered for vocations. Then Clare explained our new vocations website. (More on all that next week.)
Next week, I travel to Atlanta for the national assembly of the LCWR, a gathering of sisters from various congregations from around the US. I am going for work, but it will be another opportunity to meet, share and celebrate.
All these gatherings have their specific focus, yet they are all related to the larger movement of religious life and Gospel living. Last night, I was on a web conference with other younger Sisters of St. Joseph, then some sisters gathered to watch the Olympic opening ceremonies together. Always creative and a glimpse into the local culture, these ceremonies were a call to the world community to unite in our efforts for a more sustainable world. I loved the climate change clip, and the follow-up that had each athlete planting a seed that would grow into a long-lasting memorial to the event, and to what we can do together as a world community. It is as simple and as radical, as planting a seed.
So many gifts, so many experiences, so many gatherings and networks. "All things work together for the good of those God loves," for the good of each of us.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Plants and Mercy

I joined our sisters at Nazareth Living Center to reflect with them on Plants and Mercy. For they year of mercy, they have been gathering monthly for a presentation on mercy. I talked to the sisters gathered there about my experience with plants and with the mercy of God.
God is Love, and Love is God.
In the beginning, when the earth was a formless waste, God created - created by loving. God created in the divine image - created in love. God loves by creating, creates by loving. And this loving, creating God invites us also to be the best of ourselves by loving and creating in God's image.
When this love of God meets pain, it takes on the face of mercy.
When this love of God meets weakness, it takes on the face of mercy.
When this love of God meets sorrow, it takes on the face of mercy.
When this love of God meets suffering, it takes on the face of mercy.
In today's world, I can hear the cry of the earth, crying in pain and suffering....
Crying in pain for fracking.
Crying in pain for pollution.
Crying in pain for habitat destruction.
Crying in pain for soil degradation.
Crying in pain for poisoning our waters.
And when the earth cries in pain, the weakest and most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters suffer the most from lack of clean water, lack of food and lack of fuel - the basics of human living.
Mercy hears the cry and responds. Our response can be a simple prayer, whispered in hope. Our response can be our wonder and gratitude for the little signs of hope in the world of suffering. Our response can be to do our part to make a difference in this world.
Mercy looks like turning off lights.
Mercy looks like reducing, reusing, recycling.
Mercy looks like native habitat restoration.
Mercy looks like eating fresh, local and organic.
Mercy looks like talking to others about the ecological challenges and solutions.
Mercy looks like advocating with government and businesses and neighborhoods.
Mercy looks like supporting one another in our choices.
In this year of mercy, I commit to living more lightly on the earth, to taking steps to lessen my use and dependence on plastics and fossil fuels. And I commit to solidarity with others in this movement and solidarity with my brothers and sisters who suffer most when the earth is degraded.


Friday, July 8, 2016

Fling Open the Doors

A few weeks ago we welcomed a woman interested in Religious Life for a weekend of prayer, community, ministry and conversation. We focused the weekend on three aspects: Community, Spirituality and Justice. This gives us the acronym: CSJ. Four of us on the team: Sarah, Clare, Mary and I organized the weekend, with lots of help from other sisters along the way.
We opened the weekend by sharing the Friday evening meal with the vocation team and several sisters at the motherhouse, followed by a tour of the motherhouse which is really a great introduction to who we are. The tour ended in the chapel where we prayed and shared around the notion of call. Our fundamental call to loving relationship, our vocational call to a particular life-calling, and our daily calls to kindness, compassion and justice.
On Saturday, we began with a short prayer then moved out to our volunteer sites. The first was in Dogtown Ecovillage where I live and where we work for community and sustainability in an urban neighborhood. We harvested and braided Garlic and we did some maintenance at a native plant garden. Some of us had never harvested garlic before, so it was a new experience of receiving the earth's abundance that will continue to bless the community for the coming year. After the harvest, we moved on to one of the native plant installations in the ecovillage.
Marian Middle School logoAt lunch time, we went to Marian Middle School where Sarah is principal. Kate, one of our sisters, brought in a wonderful lunch and shared it with us. Well nourished, we headed into the afternoon's project. Sarah had us cleaning out and organizing one of the supply closets at the school. I had my doubts whether we could make order out of the chaos before the end of the day, but we managed to finish early. We enjoyed the camaraderie of working together and sharing stories of the mission at Marian, and the life of the Sisters of St. Joseph, and life in general.
The group headed back to the motherhouse for a reflection and prayer lead by Ida, another of our sisters. Then we all reconvened for pizza and community at another of our houses. Linda and her housemates made us feel very welcome and we also had an opportunity to respond to questions about religious life. Each of us shared from our own perspective and experience, which made for a very rich evening indeed.
Sunday morning we headed out to a parish for mass, followed by a wrap-up session with more conversation, questions, and sharing.
I enjoyed sharing the weekend with the sisters on the vocation team and with other sisters who came in to help out with various parts of the weekend. Over the course of the weekend, four of us on the team wove in and out of the program, depending on our other commitments. We had published the schedule to sisters on the expanded vocation teams to ask their prayers, support and participation. They came forward generously to make the weekend a success for us all.
At the end, the woman who joined us for the weekend said:
I really feel like you opened your home and your lives to me. This is really what I needed for my discernment process.
Let's pray for all those who are discerning a call to religious life and for all of us who accompany them on the journey.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Continuing Journey

It has been exactly two weeks since I moved to New York City. My community has invited me to engage in formation work and so with excitement I leave, though, I am aware too of the sadness I feel for leaving several circles of community in St. Louis. While we were just two in the house we shared, the uniqueness of our community encompassed a union of heart and mind of two distinctive individuals from two religious communities. With that, we lived in the broader community of our neighborhood, that of the Ecovillage, and we also gave space to bring together Sisters 2.0 of St. Louis. I am so grateful for the experience and will miss the deep “organic” sharing with my housemate and companions along the journey, from planting seeds, cultivating and nurturing new growth, to composting figuratively and metaphorically of new possibilities in the different circles of community beyond the borders of our religious communities. Over these last couple of years, I learned that community life offers us with many organic possibilities and enriches us with the gifts of others in different circles. It is humbling to recognize the many treasures of new life and how enriched I have become because of this experience. I will miss St. Louis, my community of two, Sisters 2.0, and the Ecovillage. I hope that my journey to a new place will bring along the fruit of my many learnings and that I will be able to form community with others wherever I go.
--Maco Cassetta

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Gratitude and Hope

I said goodbye to my friend and housemate yesterday. I found myself a little numb - grateful, sad, empty, full - grieving.
We started this intercommunity house three years ago. There were several in the discussion, but I was the only one able to move in. It was a year and a half before another sister was able to move in. Then after another year and a half, she was called by her community to move on, and to engage in formation ministry for her community, out-of-state.
It's all good, and I knew it was coming, but I still found myself numb after she drove away. We have had some great conversations, some good times, and it has been great being companions on the journey for a while. I am also looking forward to others who will be able to move in and share this sacred space for community. (Let me know if you're interested)
At this time, I thank God for my wider ecovillage community. They are vibrant, enthusiastic, committed. They are wonderful people. But I am looking forward in hope to having someone to share the more intimate community of the house. Sharing prayer, meals and the projects around the house and garden. Someone to share the ups and downs of ministry and the spiritual life.
We were together for just over a year. And when we can share community for longer, the quality of our being together mellows and matures. It is also critical to have these comings and goings that keep us from growing stale in our relationships.
So it's all good. I love the hopes, the joys, the possibilities that religious life brings me.