Friday, December 2, 2016

What Are We Waiting For?

    In my life and in my ministry, I often engage individuals and groups in conversation about their hopes and dreams for moving their lives and their communities forward. "Futuring." "Transition." "Completion." "Transformation." Hoping and dreaming can move us to the space of the ideal.
    • What would my life look like if I was the best I could be?
    • What if I had the courage to step out of my comfort zone?
    • What is our community called to be?
    • What if we accept the truth of where we are, and hear our call in this moment of life?
    • What does it mean to live the Gospel in this time and in this space?
    These questions call me to go deep in my heart and rediscover the source of my call, rediscover the the foundation of my dreams, rediscover Hope with a capital "H". Looking over my life, through the lights and shadows, I can see the nurturing, sustaining presence of God. I could not have imagined I would be where I am in life today, even just 10 years ago, not to mention 20 or 30 years ago. And my life has been blessed.
    God has been with my community as well; perhaps I should say my communities, because I'm part of so many circles of community that support and challenge me.
    Lately, in conversations about hopes and dreams, I have heard within my own heart: what am I waiting for? I have heard from those with whom I gather: what are we waiting for? I am hearing this as a movement of the Spirit seeking to move more powerfully in my life and in the lives of those around us. There are signs of movement, signs of readiness, signs of the Advent of God ready to burst forth in a new Incarnation of life, hope and holiness. To all this I say: Yes! Amen! What are we waiting for?

    Saturday, November 12, 2016

    Deepening Community in the Kitchen

    I just re-read Sarah's post on community from last week. It is a great reminder of all that community has to offer and the challenges it poses. Every new person in community brings the entire community to a new place.
    When we first gather, there is a freshness and a delight in exploring shared values and expectations. We get to know our housemates and we begin to share the big and little things of every day life. We hold each others hopes and dreams, we share our joys and divide our sorrows.
    As time wears on, we discover each others foibles and rough spots. We also discover simple differences in approach to our shared spaces - often the kitchen is a focal point of these differences. We all grew up in a home where things were done in a certain way. Then we've lived in other homes where we continued these practices. And then we meet others who do things differently - often not better or worse, but just differently. In this way, we can disrupt each others' comfort level and these little inconveniences on top of life's other challenges can become much bigger than they need to be. These little things challenge us to live Gospel love. It isn't much to ask to adjust our expectations so that we can all live in relative peace. And at best, it is itself a peace-building practice that can be a prayer for peace in our broader society and in our world.
    As Sisters of St. Joseph the kitchen holds a special place. There is still a kitchen in Le Puy, France that is the site of our first community in 1650. Likely, it was the only room the community had. They prepared meals there, they also shared prayer and conversation there. They had cots that they rolled out to sleep on at night, with the coal and ashes of the fire to keep them warm through the night.
    Even today, a kitchen is the place of warmth, preparation, lingering conversations as we prepare our meals and clean up after them. It is also the place where we can give expression to personal and cultural differences. These differences can be a richness, they can also be a challenge.
    Over time, a community can become comfortable, like an old pair of shoes. You know what to expect, you know how to respond, and how to approach more sensitive topics. A good community is this comfortable place that can also be challenging. It's also important that a community have an openness to new life, to new members.
    After years of living together, we can come to a place where we've negotiated all those tricky kitchen issues. We can settle into a new level of comfort. Then we face new challenges. One the one hand, our community can deepen. We are called to be more open and forgiving of ourselves and of each other. Some little things become bigger things over time, as we face other challenges individually and as a community. The other challenge we can face is that of becoming more insular. We can still open our house to guests, but we have more trouble when they want to move in and disturb our settled routine.
    In religious life, we often invite newer sisters to live in communities that have been together for years. It is a big challenge for the veteran sisters of the community to allow this to shake them out of their comfort zone, to raise again all those tricky kitchen issues that they have long settled. Can we welcome new foods into the kitchen, new spices into the spice rack and a new coffee cup onto the shelf? Can we welcome this as an opportunity for house cleaning, and breathing newness into our settled lives? I am so grateful that over the years, I have found communities that have been able to welcome me, and I in turn have committed to welcoming others to deepen community together in the kitchen.

    Friday, October 7, 2016

    Fleeing from what?

    I've been thinking lately about the phrase in latin: Fuga mundi (flight from the world), and what it might mean.
    Originally, it was used by the mothers and fathers of the desert in reference to the flight from a corrupt and persecuting world to live a more authentic Christian life. To be sure, the persecution was extreme, leading to the martyrdom of many early Christians. It was illegal to refuse to sacrifice to the gods of Rome because of one's belief in Jesus Christ. Some Christians fled to the desert for safety.
    Once the persecution let up, the empire did an about-face and legalized Christianity. At that point many people flocked to join the Christians, and many did so in name only. The ranks of the Church were flush with new Christians, some of whom were unwilling or unable to embrace a true conversion of life. Some Christians wanted to sell all, give to the poor and devote their entire lives to prayer and gospel-living. They chose to leave the mass of unruly new converts to Christians - to flee the world - and try to live more authentically Christian lives.
    This was the historical origin of fuga mundi or flight from the world. Not surprisingly religious life took up this phrase to describe the vocational journey of coming away from society, family, friends into a monastery or religious community. It was a separation from an outside world. Along with that separation came an implicit judgment that monastic life or religious life was superior: a purer and more radical form of Gospel living.
    With the renewal of the Church and of religious life occasioned by the Second Vatican Council, the term fell into dis-use and sometimes it was positively rejected. We should not reject or denigrate "the world", but embrace it as Jesus did, reach out to the world in compassion and share the Gospel.
    The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. (Vatican II: Gaudium et spes)
    I believe this is an important move in the life of the Church: the turn to the world, with the eyes of Jesus. Yet, I think the early Christians were on to something important as well when they thought of flight from the world fuga mundi. It all depends on what you are fleeing from and what you are fleeing for.
    There is much to embrace in a world created by God, loved and redeemed by Christ, our common home that we share with our sisters and brothers in the human community. All this I can embrace with love and compassion.
    Yet there is also a darker side that I would flee, just like my early Christian sisters and brothers who fled persecution and corruption. I would flee from consumerism, from racism, from wanton environmental degradation, from violence, from sexism and from every form of dis-respect and abuse of the poor and vulnerable.
    My flight is not so easy as going to a remote wilderness and absolving myself of responsibility for the ills of 'the world.' My flight requires that I make choices. I am part of this society that perpetuates violence and oppression. I cannot stand by and innocently call others to task. I partake in the ills myself. Every purchase I make, every bit of food I take, every cup of water I drink comes from this society that is both created and loved by God, and deeply compromised in its living. So my fuga mundi calls me to flee every form of violence and injustice, and to call others to the same. My fuga mundi calls me to solidarity with those who suffer from violence and injustice.
    My particular call at this time is to free myself from chocolate and caffeine that is produced by slave labor. And some much of it is. Fair trade costs more - so I will have to consume less. But how can I justify buying cheaply, when my purchase is made on the backs of child laborers and underpaid farm-workers and even people working in slave-labor conditions. I love my chocolate! But not at that price. So this is the world I am choosing to flee now. There are so many other choices I can make: fresh, local and organic foods, reducing travel and energy consumption, reducing use of plastics and non-renewable resources, becoming aware of slave-labor practices in the supply-chains of stores and products and avoiding them.
    I can flee the world without going to the wilderness. But sometimes it is by taking some time physically apart in prayer and reflection that I find the courage to live my flight in the midst of a broken world.

    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.

    Saturday, May 21, 2016

    Inviting Co-Creators

    We are at a crossroads in religious life. We hear the stories of aging and withdrawal. I hear them as stories of accomplishment and completion. Well done! Good and faithful servants!
    At the same time, we we continue to welcome a handful of women and men into our communities. I've had the opportunity to ask these newcomers and inquirers why they come, why they come now, at such a time. The response varies, but there is a resounding theme. I believe I am called. I believe I am called at this time. I know religious life is changing. I know my province/congregation/monastery is changing. And I want to be part of that change, part of that transition to the next phase of religious life.
    The grand generations of religious who came in great numbers and accomplished great things had a place in the Church and society at the time. But the Church has changed and continues to change. Society has changed and continues to change. At one time, spirituality and mission were the exclusive territory of priests and religious. One of the most profound insights of the Second Vatican Council was remembering the universal call to holiness and to mission. Mission and spirituality are the task of privilege and responsibility of all the baptized.
    Religious life exists in the Church, and as the Church deepens its self-understanding, so all those who live in and for the Church must deepen their self-understanding. Some believe that religious life has no place in this new Church, since mission and spirituality are the task of privilege and responsibility of all the baptized. They reason that mission and spirituality, formerly the exclusive territory of religious life is now given over to the laity, leaving no purpose for religious life to exist at all.
    I would offer another perspective. For historical reasons, religious life had expanded its self-understanding to engulf mission and spirituality in a way that no longer fits. In an era of immense spiritual and social needs, religious had stepped up to meet the need and did so with remarkable courage and dedication. This occurred at a time in history of social and political upheaval which did not permit many lay persons, particularly lay women, they possibility of dedicating themselves to mission and spirituality. Religious communities expanded to fill these needs.
    As society developed, more and more lay persons have the possibility to dedicate their lives to pastoral ministry, health-care, education, and social service. At the same time the Council provided the theological grounding for this shift. All this obviated the need for hordes of religious sisters and brothers to serve in these ministries.
    So in this new Church, is there a place for religious life? I believe there is. ...

    Friday, May 13, 2016

    Pentecost – Spirit Filled Lives

    We celebrate Pentecost each year as an invitation to all of us to lead spirit-filled lives.
    This season is particularly important for those in vocational discernment. First of all, openness to the movements of God in our lives is central to the process. We pray for an outpouring of the Spirit of wisdom, understanding and courage. God created us in a loving design and wishes for us to be happy, holy and fulfilled. Religious life is one of the places to reach this goal, though there are other wonderful vocational choices in life.
    Another reason why Pentecost is important in vocation discernment is that it comes at a time when many young people are coming to the end of the academic year, and some are graduating. Often this comes with the question: what next? Some will go to another level of school, some to a job, some to a volunteer year…. and some will look more seriously at religious life. I myself discerned my religious vocation at the end of college. It has been a wonderful, challenging and grace-filled path for me.
    So blessings on all those seeking God and discerning their vocation in this season of Pentecost.

    Saturday, April 30, 2016

    Challenge and Gift of Community

    I had the privilege of addressing the national gathering of vocation and formation directors in Canada this past week. It was an opportunity to gather with my new colleagues as I myself take my first steps in vocation and formation ministry. It was also an opportunity to share what I have learned about religious life and the challenge of inviting and welcoming new members to our communities.

    Risk, community and transition were major themes that seemed to strike a cord in those who participated. In order to invite and welcome newcomers to our communities, we have to be willing to move out of our comfort zones, to change and open our hearts and our houses.

    Sr. Pat Wittberg, a sociologist of religion, talks about the qualities of vibrant communities. We as communities have a tendency to settle down, to get comfortable. This in itself is a good thing. However, it has a dark side. When we have been together in a local community for 3-5 years, we loose the social capacity to welcome newcomers into our communities.

    We may view this in terms of the terms for the stages of formation of a community.
    • Forming - when a community first comes together - the honeymoon period when all is fresh and new
    • Storming - when a community starts to run into the inevitable challenges of life together. Our different styles and personal foibles begin to weigh on each other.
    • Norming - when we begin to address our differences and find ways of navigating them with fairness and integrity.
    • Performing - when we settle into a more or less comfortable routine
    • Adjourning - when we bring the community to closure, or leave the community.
    • Long-terming - I would add this stage - it is when a community has been together for more than 3-5 years and gets too comfortable, loosing the sociological capacity for change and welcoming newcomers.
      Newcomers in community are generally in communities for just a year or two. They are in the forming, storming and norming stages. Often they move on to the next phase of formation, in another house, before they have the opportunity to get into performing. In addition, we sometimes place newcomers into communities that are in the long-terming stage, communities that have settled quite comfortably already.
    Let's think about opening spaces of mutuality and support in our communities so that we can welcome newcomers. Let's take this opportunity to form, storm and norm anew. Let's see the challenge of change, and welcome it as an opportunity to renew ourselves as a community. Our newest brother or sister can give us an amazing gift - let's not miss the grace of this moment. 


    Friday, April 22, 2016

    MORE Weekend

    The Sisters of St Joseph Vocation Team is inviting women interested in religious life to join us for a weekend event June 24-26, 2016 in St. Louis Missouri.
    The weekend is to have an opportunity for sisters and interested women to share some time in community, prayer and volunteer ministry for a short period of time.

    We will have a time for Ministry at two volunteer sites where sisters are active: Marian Middle School and an organic garden.

    We will explore the core value of the Sisters of St. Joseph: being One with God and Neighbor. Our congregation is oriented to the unifying love of God and to bringing about our oneness with God and oneness with neighbor.

    There will be time for reflection and prayer with the sisters. We will focus on discernment and the call to unifying love.

    And finally, there will be time to Engage with the sisters in community, meals and celebration.

    With all these components, we are calling it our MORE weekend:
    One with God and Neighbor
    Reflection and Prayer
    If you, or someone you know is interested in religious life, contact me and get more specifics. We would love to have you with us.


    Saturday, April 16, 2016

    Activism - greatest threat to missionaries

    I recently read an article regarding activism and missionaries. It equally applies to religious life.
    It speaks of the importance of finding time in our lives for silence, stillness, prayer and Sabbath space.
    How often we value our day or our week by what we accomplished. How often we focus more on doing than on being. We focus more on what we are doing for God than on what God is doing for and in us.
    It was a good reminder for me that both doing and being are important parts of life and I need to make space for both.

    Saturday, April 2, 2016

    Summer Sisters - An Invitation

    Summer Sisters is an idea that we have been kicking around for a few years. The idea is to open our hearts and our homes to one another over the summer. We also thought of this as a possible vocation outreach, inviting women who might be interested in having an experience of religious life for a brief period of time - call it convent-immersion.
    This year though, we decided to open it to Sisters in various religious communities. So, we would like to take this opportunity to invite Sisters to stay with us over the summer. We are specifically inviting GV and 2.0 Sisters who would like to spend a little time with us. Call it retreat, vacation, mini-sabbatical, inter-community sisterhood networking, eco-spirituality immersion, urban eco-village experience, etc. You may have heard of couch-surfing... this would be more like convent-surfing.
    Summer/retreat/vacation time is a great time to open our doors to one another, to build the networks among us and to nourish the spirit that is moving among us.
    We are not putting particular parameters on this. I.e. both Maco and I have plans over the summer. One or the other of us will be out of town at various times for retreat, vacation, community meetings and ministry. We have another sister who may be joining us from time to time as well. So, if this sounds like something that would fit into your summer plans, feel free to contact me and lets see what would we can work out. I am in St. Louis, fairly centrally located and I would love to have you.

    Friday, March 18, 2016

    Feast of St. Joseph

    יהוה להוסיף - Joseph - then name means God will add/increase; God will give in abundance.
    On the threshold of the change of seasons,
    On the threshold of the turning of the liturgical calendar,
    On the threshold of today and tomorrow....
    God will give increase, in abundance, overflowing, bursting forth.

    We celebrate the feast of St. Joseph we are called into community, where we gather in abundance, we are called into spirituality where learn to love freely, we are called into justice, where we give freely so that others may be free.

    We celebrate the feast of St. Joseph as we move into Holy Week, into sacred mystery, into the dynamic of dying and rising, into the circle of life, into the dance of the Divine.

    Blessings on each and all of us as we ponder the movements of this week, the abundance of God and the gifts we have to give to God's people.


    Friday, March 11, 2016

    Eating Matters in Our Common Home

    Lent is traditionally a time when we "give up" some particular food as a spiritual practice. Meatless Fridays, and giving up chocolate are familiar ways of marking the season. Spiritual guides encourage us to think of making Lent a time of spiritual deepening, a time of prayer and reflection. So in addition to its disciplinary aspect, it has a quality of spiritual enrichment.
    I would propose that reflecting on Pope Francis' recent document on the environment "Laudato Si'" could lead us back to the practice of Meatless Fridays, but for a different reason.
    The chart here shows the carbon footprint of some of our common foods. Could we consider replacing a meal or two a week with a low-carbon-footprint substitute. Beef and pork rate high on the list. Eggs and tuna come in the middle, with only a fraction of the carbon footprint. And dried beans and lentils are at the far right, with a 90% lower carbon footprint, as compared to beef. Even choosing chicken over beef helps, choosing free range birds to avoid the inhumane treatment found on factory farm.
    Some make the choice to be vegetarian, based on this information alone. By choosing every meal from the lower end of the chart, they significantly reduce their carbon footprint.
    But you don't have to go to the extreme to make a difference. Even making the choice to replace a few meals a week makes a difference. E.g. what about making meatless Fridays a permanent choice. Or what about getting a vegetarian cookbook and choosing a few days a week to experiment with new low-carbon-footprint options. Another option would be to save the higher footprint options only for special occasions, Sunday dinner, birthdays and anniversaries. There are lots of possibilities.
    The key is for each of us to make a commitment to move a little toward a lower-carbon-footprint diet, so that we can all benefit from a more stable environment. And more importantly so that the poorest and weakest of our brothers and sisters can have a little better place to live.
    For more read:

    Saturday, March 5, 2016


    Prodigal Father by Mitch Mann
    This Sunday's reading about the Prodigal Son puts me in mind of various ways in which we squander riches, in which we break away, and in which we come to our senses and return home.
    The younger child in the story usually gets a bad rap, selfishly taking a half share of the inheritance before the parents are even dead. Then going off to spend it all on 'loose-living', surely not anything that would make the parents proud. Then eventually ending up penniless, scratching out a living doing odd jobs with no benefits. He has squandered the riches of the father's house.
    Meanwhile the elder child remains at home, works in the family business, never thinking to ask for even a kid-goat to have a little party with friends. Always there, always faithful, but never suspecting the true riches of the family home. He has squandered the riches of the father's heart.
    Then we turn to the image of Christ - who leaves the Father's house and wandering among us on this earth for a brief time. He squanders the riches of his Father's house on loose-living humanity, and offers us a chance to come to our senses, to break away and return to the Father's heart.
    Lent is a time to break away, to throw off tired ways, to return home, to return to the best of ourselves, to accept the invitation to turn again and accept the riches our God is offering. I ask for this gift for us all, as I struggle to accept it myself.
    Lenten Blessings,

    Friday, February 26, 2016

    World Church - Religious Life

    I had the privilege of gathering with 5000 other religious women and men from around the globe at a conference held in Rome for the close of the year of consecrated life, January 28-February 2.
    I had traveled to Rome for meetings in the days before the conference, and I stayed with friends just a few blocks from the Vatican, so that made my participation so much easier. I was able to walk to the meetings and come home for lunch breaks. They were also able to get me in "the back way" when we had Mass with the Pope for the closing of the celebration.
    The conference began on January 28 with an evening vigil in St. Peter's Basilica. They gave us a 24-page booklet with the prayers, readings and songs. That's a lot of words I thought, but it was really lovely. There were five languages being used, and I could pretty much understand them all ("pretty much" being the operative words). That made participation really rich. There were songs and readings from scripture as well as from founders of various communities. It was lovely and powerful. I saved the booklet to use for my retreat.
    Over the days of the conference, we had gatherings for everyone, then smaller gatherings some by type of religious life and some by language. These ranged in quality as you might expect. But there were two presentations that were particularly good. The first was by Nathalie Becquart, a french Xavierian sister. She spoke of the distinctive social realities in which we live and how they impact religious life. In particular, the shift in the relationship of individual and group identities. In the past, more emphasis was placed on conforming to the group identity. Now, there is more emphasis on personal identity and discovering how personal identity fits in the group. For me this is a subtle but important shift in the way we think about vocation and formation. The second presentation that stood out was that of Nicla Spezzati, an ASC sister who works at the Congregation for Religious. She spoke about the present situation of religious life and its challenges. Her analysis was very insightful and I will certainly reflect on it further as I ponder the whole experience.
    There were several options for the "Way of Beauty" pilgrimages. I went with the group to the Sistine Chapel. I had never been inside, and it was really impressive. They had sisters giving the tour guide information and it was really quite informative. I also saw a brother from the US with a really nice camera. I asked him to send me his pictures, so I could just enjoy it. The one above is his, not mine. We also had an evening performance by choir, orchestra, ballet dancers and readers. In four movements they traced creation, salvation history, the history of religious life and the present/future of religious life. It was very well done and a powerful experience.
    In reflecting on the over-all conference, I think the main thing I take away is the opportunity to share life and prayer with religious women from all over the world. There were men there too, but overwhelmingly, we were women, from every language and nation, people and tongue. The sheer diversity of those giving our one wild wonderful life to this particular path was the greatest gift and the greatest message.

    Friday, February 19, 2016

    Triad of Communities

    There are several intentional community networks forming in my area.
    Community - Communities are gathering around the issue of living more simply and sustainably. We share meals, projects, and hopes. We garden. We conserve. We recycle. We share tools and services. We share our hopes and dreams for a more sustainable and equitable society. We also long for justice and tap into the spiritual depths in order to sustain our commitments.
    Spirituality - Intentional Christian communities go to the Gospels for the source of our choices. We join together for mutual support in our radical commitment to living the gospel, to prayer and to growing in the love that that was Jesus central message.
    Justice - Justice is another focal point. Occupy groups, and justice and peace communities seek to address issues of justice and non-violence in our own community as well as across the globe. We advocate. We hold teach-ins. We occupy. We commit our time, our resources and our lives to making our corner of the globe more just, more peaceful. We also know that part of our commitment to justice is the commitment to live more simply and sustainably, and the commitment to spiritual grounding.

    All three groups commit:

    • to live in relationship and live lightly on the earth,
    • to work for a more just and peaceful society, and
    • to live spiritually meaningful lives.

    Some of us come to this triad of values through the door of community and sustainability. Some come through the door of justice and peace. Some come through the door of spirituality. But in reality, all three of these values are interconnected and mutually enriching. My life is so greatly enriched by being in these circles.

    For me, as we move forward in religious life, I believe we will find our unique place in this triad of communities, in this triad of values. As religious men and women, we bring unique blessings to these communities, and we will also receive their blessings as we journey together.

    Monday, February 8, 2016

    Carbon Fast

    The Australian Religious Conference is promoting a Carbon Fast as a Lenten practice. It invites us to make a practical step toward living more sustainably and reducing our carbon footprint.
    They have a calendar with a challenge for each day to increase our awareness to simplify our lives.
    Christians in various contexts have begun to adapt the tradition of fasting during Lent to help people be more mindful of their impact on creation. Suggested practices include saying "no" to plastic or recycling responsibly, relevant today in view of the recent report that warned there would be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.
    As Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, the 10th of February, here are some carbon fast calendars to encourage mindfulness and reflection.
    Pope Francis has implored us to prepare for Easter by practicing the works of mercy. These Lenten resources can guide us in pondering and acting with mercy to people and the planet in caring for God’s creation.
    Download the calendar here, and begin your Lenten journey to sustainability.

    Saturday, January 30, 2016

    Contemplating the Mystery of Mercy–Giving Voice Retreat, 2016

    Over Martin Luther King weekend, fourteen sisters in our 20s and 30s gathered, as a group of us does every year, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery in Phoenix, Arizona for a peer led retreat.  Giving Voice, a national organization for sisters under 50, invited us to come together as we contemplated and celebrated Pope Francis’ call to mercy.
    Read Sarah Heger's reflection on the experience...

    Saturday, January 23, 2016

    Small Scale Organic Farming is the Answer

    A UN report has stated that small scale organic farming is central to the solution to feeding the world's popultion. Read more here....
    It strikes me that the same can be said for vocation / formation work. As we move deeper into the 21st Century, we will need small-scale organic vocation formation work.
    I often ask myself what will my community look like when my province of 300 sisters becomes a province of 12 sisters. We won't have so many people to be vocation director, ministry coordinator, public relations, etc. We will act more like a family in reaching out to those who may wish to join us. Inviting them into our life will not be a matter of formation houses and formation programs. It will be a matter of inviting them to share our life and to reflect deeply on that experience. Over time, the life itself will be our formation program. We will share prayer, community and ministry. Those who join us will have the opportunity to grow into our life. The formation director will be a companion sister who helps the newcomer to reflect on her experience and to discern her place in community. I look forward to small-scale organic formation.

    Saturday, January 9, 2016

    Re-Imagining Vocation Ministry

    The Spirit is very much alive an well in the St. Louis Province as we are in the process of re-imagining vocation ministry. The titles of our various gatherings give an idea of what is happening:

    1. Seeding the Future
    2. Vocation Dreaming Weekend
    3. Brainstorming Vocation / Formation
    4. Expanding Circles of Engagement
    5. Re-imagining Vocation Ministry
    These names give the flavor of the journey we are on. They are all action words and the main actor is the Spirit! The photo at the left shows us at then end of the meeting. One sister remarked "I feel more energized at the end of this meeting than at the beginning - that's a good sign!" We all agreed.

    We are at the point of beginning to give form to our Seeding, Dreaming, Brainstorming, Expanding and Re-Imagining. Stay tuned as we continue the journey, and send a prayer our way as we too pray for all those who surround and support in us in this sacred space.


    Friday, January 1, 2016

    Life on Another Level

    I just read the article Life on Another Level from a recent issue of America Magazine. The article described the experience of a person sharing life in a mid-western Cistercian monastery. The writer later shared his experience with his students in a religion class in the high-school where he teaches:
    The students see the monks as “hardcore,” not just believing the Gospel but living it. True, the students quickly add that the Gospel can be fully lived in the “regular” world, but they concede that monks take the Gospel to “another level.” Hence “hardcore.” When I tell my students about Brother at the monastery in Iowa they listen. They nod their heads in affirmation. “That’s real,” says one.
    This is my experience of religious life today. The key draw of religious life for me to day, and the key thing I want to share with others is an experience of living the gospel in an authentic, "hardcore" way. It gives me the opportunity to share life with others who make this radical choice of evangelical simplicity, celibate chastity and community discernment. We do many things during the day, we pray together. We share meals. We share tasks around the house and we go out for ministry. In some ways we are much like every other committed Christian. But we have the opportunity to share this adventure with others who make the same radical commitment, for a life time.

    We have been celebrating a Year of Consecrated Life. For me this has been a year of thanksgiving and of re-commitment. I have the opportunity of participating in the closing of this special year in Rome at the end of January, and into February. There, I will join with hundreds of religious from around the globe to say Amen! Alleluia!