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.

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.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Mystics and Prophets

I had several meetings over the weekend and it was good to engage with sisters who are living religious life and who know that religious life is changing and that we are changing with it. Together we explored the contours of the changes that we are living and the challenges facing us. At its core, our life is open to God in a very profound way. We are made by God for love and we surrender to the loving creative work of God. This is the task of a life time and it is what makes us who we are.
St. Paul encourages the Philippians: whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. These are the things that expand and lift our spirits. For me, it is often in the garden or in nature that I find soul-expanding joy and am absorbed in our loving - creative God.
Once touched in the nameless, but undeniable way, our hearts are re-created, empowered and emboldened to seek the ways of God in our daily lives. We reach out in compassion to the weak and the poor, we work for justice and raise our voices with and for others.
This is the core of religious life, a school of mystics and prophets. And as we face changes in our life together, it is important to remember that this core will never change.
I wrote a book some years ago entitled Religious Life at the Crossroads - that title focuses on the changes and challenges we face as we move forward. The subtitle is a School for Mystics and Prophets. That focuses on that unchanging core of religious life, that is also the core of Christian life and is in fact the fundamental human vocation.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

God Is Here

I just read a reflection from Mary MacKillop, founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Australia. She said that either God is with us here in the every day challenges, or God is nowhere. Don't wait for that perfect day, that peaceful moment. God is here.
In that context, let me tell you about the next leg of my trip. Our meetings for the vocation/formation team of Sisters of St. Joseph in the US and Canada went very well. There was a great spirit among us and we were able to continue our collaborative efforts for vocation promotion. We were also able to share our lives, our hopes and our challenges.
Friday morning, I headed to the airport so that I could travel to Rome. Due to weather in NYC, my flight was delayed, delayed, delayed and finally cancelled. The best they could offer was to fly me to NYC the next day, and I wouldn't be there in time for the next day's flight to Rome. So I rented a car and drove to NY that evening. It was really lovely country, and only occasional rain. After dark, there was a patch of dense fog, in northeastern Pennsylvania. I arrived in NYC after 10pm and stayed with a friend. We had a good visit the next morning. She was free, but had several things she needed to do around the house.
Then I drove to the airport and caught my flight to Rome. That was uneventful. And I'm here now, ready for my meetings to begin today. I've had a little time to catch up with a friend here on Sunday. We'll both be busy during the week. It was a lovely day yesterday - hopefully it will continue to be so.
And God is Here in all of this!

Friday, May 5, 2017


My upcoming trip involves more or less two weeks of work, followed by two weeks of vacation, followed by two more weeks of work.
So I'm opening up an old blog space to record some of my adventures for those who may be interested. I'll post photos and stories during the trip. 
First stop: Canandaigua NY.
I'm in the beautiful finger-lakes region of New York. I did a Soil Science class online in which they discussed the geological history of this region with multiple lakes running north-south, left by receding glaciers. Then went on to discuss the development of the soils of the region.
Sisters of St. Joseph from the US and Canada are gathered for a vocation/formation meeting here. There are about 30 of us gathered to pray, reflect and discuss our ministry with those discerning religious life. I will be presenting some material on Laudato Si', Pope Francis' letter on the environment - our common home. I will be co-presenting with Mary Rowell, a Sister of St. Joseph from Canada. We have met in the past and we have discussed our presentation over skype and email. Yesterday, after the introductory session, we had the opportunity to share our stories. It was delightful to hear the story of our circuitous routes into the community and to rejoice in the wonderful work of God in each of our lives.
Mary and I will lead the morning session, and I look forward to the discussion afterwards.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Celebrating Sisters

Celebrating Sisters was an online panel of the newer generations of sisters from around the country, sharing their best memories of religious life, their enthusiasm for religious life today and their hopes for religious life going forward. The recording will also be available after the live event.
What a joy to have the opportunity to reflect together about religious life. My life as a religious sister has given me incredible opportunities to grow in spirituality and in my relationship with God. I have had the opportunity to serve in various ministries and to receive so much from those that I serve. They really call me to a deeper and more authentic living of the Gospel. And finally, I've gotten to know so many wonderful sisters with whom I have shared prayer, community and ministry. They have inspired me, challenged me and supported me in so many ways.
I thank God that I have been called to sell all, give to the poor and to follow. And I thank God that I have received the promised hundred-fold in return.