Friday, September 15, 2017

Crying Out For Justice

No automatic alt text available.A long anticipated verdict came out in the Jason Shockley case. Again. A cop shot a black citizen on the streets of St. Louis, and he is not being held accountable. Again. There is a recording of the cop saying he is going to kill Anthony Lamar Smith in the course of arrest. Then he did just that. A gun found in the car has only the cop's DNA on it. And there is video evidence that he went up to the car after the shooting, evidently to plant a gun to exonerate himself.
My heart weeps that my brothers and sisters of color have to live through yet another incident of injustice. If the races were reversed in this case, there would have been a conviction. If the races were reversed, Shockley would have been shot dead at the scene.
It is unacceptable to shoot citizens, and doubly unacceptable to shoot a disproportionate number of people of color. I stand with an for my brothers and sisters of color and pledge my ongoing support.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Gift of a Lifetime


We gathered to celebrate on the evening before Sr. Mary Flick (royal blue shirt) makes her final profession as a Sister of St. Joseph. Sr. Sarah invited us each to bring a card, a prayer and small gift. Some were funny, some were profound, some were touching. All together, they said that we have walked with Mary for these past years from tentative probing of inquiry, through the deliberate ‘getting to know you’ of candidacy, through the deepening discernment of novitiate and through the growing confidence of her  years in temporary profession.
We celebrated Mary’s upcoming final profession in which she definitively says yes to the journey so far and to the unfolding journey of a Sister of St. Joseph. We also celebrated the lifetime profession of every other sister in the room. Each of us has given our lifetime gift and each of us in turn receives and holds the lifetime gift of the others. Each sister’s life is unique, each sister’s gift is unique, and as we gathered, we celebrated the richness of that diversity and the deep mutuality of our community.
Jesus says:
There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time–houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions–and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
 In religious life, this gospel-promise is lived out in a particular way. “The young and the old, the frightened, the bold, the greatest and the least….” We come to walk together, we share a feast, we share a journey, we support one-another in hope, in challenge, in service.
Each time we celebrate a sister who takes a step forward in her formation journey, we renew the deepest and highest gift we share. The gift we give for a lifetime, the gift we receive for a lifetime, the God who is the author of all giving.
Thank you Mary for this opportunity to remember, celebrate and grow.

--Amy

Friday, August 11, 2017

Be Kind

Send a message of kindness to everyone you can, including those you don’t know who may be behind you at a stop light or walking past your parked car.  BE KIND car magnets make it easy to remind everyone of the importance of being kind, even when it might be challenging or amidst difference. If you would like a BE KIND car magnet, they are available for a $5 donation to the Sisters of St. Joseph Mission and Ministries Foundation.  Click here to get yours.
Kindness — Get in the Habit!
Too often, we get caught in the busy-ness of life or feel the effects of the seemingly endless negative, divisive and violent messages we are bombarded with each day.  We all need reminders to be kind.
“If we acknowledge and reinforce kindness when we see it, we believe it will foster more kind acts,” said Mary Herrmann, SSJ. “We encourage everyone to use the kindness cards to acknowledge and increase kindness in our community.” 
In March of 2017, during National Catholic Sisters Week, we participated in a Kindness Campaign — a national initiative of several congregations of Catholic Sisters to promote kindness.  Locally we worked with the other congregations and launched a social media effort, ran television PSAs, billboards and distributed kindness cards — small cards given to anyone you see doing an act of kindness.  The kindness cards are available to download and print.
Thank you for your help in promoting kindness!
---from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Erie PA

Friday, July 28, 2017

What happens when they leave?

I recently came across an article about those leaving religious life during the formation program and the appropriate responses that might be given. Read the article.
I've thought a lot about this topic as I have worked with individuals and communities who are making this difficult journey. And I resonate with much that this article expresses.
The article ends with a poem by Tagore, and these lines express an important truth:
No; it is not yours to open buds into blossoms
Shake the bud, strike it; it is beyond your power to make it blossom.
This poem reminds me of the fact that vocation is not the work of vocation or formation directors, or of leadership or the sisters/brothers in community. Vocation is a mystery of gift and response and our task is that of a gardener who prepares the soil, waters and tends. Vocation unfolds in the life of the individual in relationship with their God.
In the vocation / formation journey, some will come, and some will go. Ours is to pray deeply, discern carefully, love tenderly and walk humbly with our God and with those on the vocation/formation journey. The decision to leave formation is complex, whether it is initiated by the community or it is initiated by the individual.

  • The individual in relationship with God and in their sense of self can experience a major personal turmoil. This will vary from one person to another, and with the length of time in formation, the reasons for leaving and the degree of mutuality of the decision. Sometimes the very characteristic that is the cause of departure is the characteristic that will show itself with a vengeance in the departure process. Communities do well to ensure that the individual is supported in discernment and in transition out of the community. Honesty and clarity, coupled with empathy and gentleness will help us to honor the blooming of this person's flower - even if it cannot bloom within the community. 
  • Others in formation are also impacted by the departure of someone in their group. That departure will likely raise questions about their own suitability and perseverance. It may also raise questions about the community and its formation program, and about those serving as leaders and formators. 
  • Formators can also feel the challenge of a departure. They have lived, worked and prayed very closely with the person leaving. From this experience, they can see both the potential and the challenges the individual is facing and they have their own sense of the propriety of the departure, which may differ from the one leaving and/or those in leadership. While maintaining their own personal integrity, as formators, they have a pastoral duty to the one they have been accompanying and the community.  Honesty and clarity, coupled with empathy and gentleness can also be applied to their own personal journey and to their work with leadership, others in formation and the community at large.
  • The whole community is invested in the formation program. Various brothers/sisters may have supported a particular candidate and encouraged them to pursue a vocation with the community. Confidentiality prohibits full disclosure of the dynamics of a departure. At the same time, that same honest and empathy that are used with the departing individual should be directed to those who have supported them in the community. A candidate, novice or temporary professed takes their first steps in our community. This can have the effect of touching each of us at the deep roots of our own vocation. It can be a moment of renewal, or a moment that touches our woundedness or unsettledness in our vocation. Awareness and compassion can guide us in this sensitive time. 
  • Families and friends of those who leave will also be impacted by the transition. Within the constraints of confidentiality, pastoral outreach to family and friends may be helpful both in supporting the individual who is leaving and in addressing the concerns of family and friends themselves. 

Many people experience the departure of an individual from community. When possible, ritual can help to express this experience and bring it to prayer, supporting everyone in their continued journey of faith.
The article touched on many of these factors, and helped me to focus my concerns about this issue. I believe that it is important to consider departure as we design vocation and formation programs. It is a reality of life, and as we invite people to consider our community, we should be ready to walk with them in good times and in bad, in arrivals and in departures.
Peace,
Amy


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Called to Serve

I have had several projects this summer that have been challenging for me.
Some months back, I agreed to give some presentations, or take on other projects, and it seemed to be a good idea. I have the qualifications, and they fall within the scope of my ministry.
As each of these projects comes up on my calendar, I prepare for them. I reflect on the topic at hand and do some extra reading and research. This part of the project I enjoy the most, reflecting on challenges that religious life is facing these days, and offering my insights, and the fruit of the many conversations I've had, and experience of the communities I've worked with, etc.
And then when the actual moment comes up to lead the workshop or retreat, or to give the presentation, I realize that immensity of the challenge to offer something new on the topic of religious life. People are looking for insights, for hope, for inspiration. And so at this point, I realize that each person and each community is also on an individual journey. Each person has particular questions, particular concerns and particular insights. All I can do is offer what I have prepared, and pray with and for the group that they will hear whatever it is they need to hear. I also have the gift of hearing from them the new insights that they bring and the new insights that come up for them as our time unfolds.
I feel so privileged to walk with individuals and groups in the challenging times of their lives. In response, I want to do the best I can to accompany them and help them along the way.
Peace,
Amy

Friday, June 9, 2017

Vow of Poverty - explained to wealth managers

I was recently asked to discuss the vow of poverty with a journalist working for a wealth management magazine. "Are you sure you want to talk to me?" I asked. Yes, we're looking for different attitudes and perspectives. Well, yes, mine is different...

Here's the article - some of the details aren't quite right, but I think she did a good job of pulling parts of it together:

A Nun Tells Us What It's Like to Live With a Vow of Poverty
As a Sister of St. Joseph, Amy Hereford lives a financial life that's a lot different from most of us. But she thinks the lessons from it apply to us all.  Read more...

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Northern Ireland

Growing up in St. Louis, I remember hearing about the "troubles" in Northern Ireland. From the reports, it seemed like a constant war zone - bombings, etc. I carried this childhood impression with me to Portadown, where I was staying and into Belfast.
I arrived into Portadown in the afternoon and the Sisters couldn't have been kinder. They welcomed me into their home where we had tea and they showed me around the house. I went out for a little walk, and found a lovely riverwalk that had been the tow-path for the river traffic. It's now a 20 mile walking and biking path by the river Ban.
The next day, one of the sisters drove me to Belfast on her way to work. She brought me by her office. The Flax Trust is a nonprofit organization that is working for peace and reconciliation through economic development. It was so interesting and powerful to see that they have been working to get people meaningful employment as a way out of the poverty and frustration that is part of the tension there. There are signs of the troubled past in the many murals on buildings and fences. The Peace Wall, built to keep the two communities apart, is now the place of many murals testifying to the path to peace.
I also saw lots of old buildings, forts and churches. Our guide read a list of the waves of people who had come in to pillage and plunder over the years. It strikes me that all these old structures are so common place here. You have a bakery, a cafe, then you round the corner and there is a castle. Mixed in you also have book-makers and pubs. It's all part of the mix. There are a lot fewer chain stores as well.
The next day I went to Armagh, with its two Cathedrals of St. Patrick. One RC and the other Church of Ireland. The CoI has the old site where St. Patrick built a church in his day - on the site of a pre-Christian King's house. There was a guy at the library who took lots of time to explain the place and its significance. And there was a library with books and manuscripts all out there to see. They said I could look at any of the books I wanted - just ask for white gloves to handle them. Wow!!! The library was founded beside the church - 'to nourish the soul.'
I'm headed down to the southern shore today - it will take most of the day to get there. Then my workshop starts on Sunday, then I return home. It has been really great to be here. And it will be awesome to get home again as well.
Peace,
Amy