Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Fog and Silhouettes

By S. Romina Sapinoso, S.C.

SC Federation Temporary Professed

Click HERE to learn more about Romina
Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

El Nido, Palawan in the early morning
Back in 2012 on a trip home to visit my family in the Philippines, we went to a beautiful part of the country towards the south called El Nido, Palawan. If you are familiar with the screen savers that flash on your desktop of exquisite crystal blue waters and various rock formations creating beautiful lagoons, that’s exactly what El Nido looks like. Needless to say, it was a good time to be together in a paradise-like place. However, on one of our island hopping days, we had quite an experience as a family that none of us would ever forget.

The day started out with beautiful weather albeit with some clouds in the sky. Tourists usually contract with businesses that arrange for activities and transportation between the islands. Our family was being helped by four young men who cooked, provided equipment and navigated the groups of islands with a small wooden motor boat that fit about 20 people, just the size of our extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles. As we started wrapping up a day of snorkeling, swimming, building castles on the beach and eating, the skies darkened and a storm started brewing. Thinking it was still safe and we can reach our resort before the worst of the weather came, we all packed into the boat and headed out into open ocean. That’s when the fog descended and the waters became so choppy that without saying a word, we all started praying silently. Our small wooden boat powered by the increasingly struggling small motor was tossed helplessly by the waves. We couldn’t see more than five feet ahead of us and the motor sounded like it could barely keep going. At that point, turning back wasn’t an option anymore either.

After what seemed like an eternity of part keeping faith and part managing our fears, we slowly saw the silhouette of hills and mountains that signaled we were close to land. It didn’t even matter to any of us at that time which part of the island we were heading towards or if it was even the right one. We just wanted to be on land, any land, and out of the scary waves and deep fog. We collectively breathed a sigh of relief as we got to the beach. Only when we were safely on solid ground did our boatman tell us that for the most part, engulfed in the fog, he didn’t know which direction we were going. He just knew where we came from and that we needed to keep heading north. He hoped that the waves didn’t move us too far out of course. It worked.

Discussions during our Journeying Together gathering for our SC Cincinnati community last Super Bowl weekend made me reminisce this experience and how it felt. Our own community is preparing
for chapter this year. I think it is safe to say that just like many other communities in religious life, there are many unknowns and uncertainties for us. However, we are certain that there is a future for our congregation and it is a future of life and hope. In a world that is fast changing, we continue to ask ourselves the deeper "why" questions of our individual and communal religious life. What direction is our own congregation called towards as we reflect on our role as women religious, the needs we feel called to answer and the margins we are called to be present to? What do we do now so we can answer what is ours to respond to?

During the weekend gathering, one of the analogies offered for this time is being in a fog. There is
Journeying Together participants last February 2nd
something beyond the limits of what we can see. There is a place we are journeying towards and we know it is there though we have very little vision of it at this time. It is a future that might look very different but no less full of promise and hope. However, it is but natural that we as humans want to have as little time as possible in the fog just like my family and I longed to be back on solid ground ASAP. The fog makes it difficult to see. It’s scary. The choppy waters of uncertainty make us want to turn around to the safety of where we came from and what we know. But we know there is no turning back. So we sit tight and we wait in the quiet. We look around at those who are there with us. We pray and become vulnerable together as the fog calls forth feelings from deep within. There might be fear and discomfort at first. But hopefully, as we move forward through the haze, there arises openness and freedom to hold on to one another as well. And because we are people of faith, we latch on to the hope that somehow, we will get there.

May our memories of individual and collective journeys when God’s grace has held us through major changes and shifts in our own lives strengthen this conviction. May we trust that our Navigator, the Holy Spirit, knows and is with us all the way. May we stay the course with faith and openness and be assured that with every nudge forward, we will start to notice the silhouettes of the future taking shape before our very eyes.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Staying at the Table: Our Commitment to Community

By Sr. Annie Klapheke, SC Federation Temporary Professed

      Click HERE to learn more about Annie

      Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

Holy Father, Son and Spirit
Holy Communion, Three-in-one.
Come with your peace,
With your invitation
Bind us together in Holy love.

(Trinity Song by Sandra McCracken)

These words rang out, filling the center of a circle of twenty-six women religious, gathered for a weekend of prayer and fellowship. Each year in the middle of January, Sisters from a variety of congregations gather for the annual Giving Voice 20s and 30s Retreat. Giving Voice is a peer-led organization that creates spaces for younger women religious to give voice to their hopes, dreams and challenges in religious life. Praying with the image of the Trinity was the ideal way to introduce the retreat theme, Staying at the Table: Our Commitment to Community. The Trinity teaches us that God’s very existence is as community.

Circle of young Sisters at the Giving Voice 20s and 30s Retreat (photo: Giving Voice core team)

For women entering religious life today, community life is one of the biggest draws. Yet, as we immerse ourselves in this life, at times community is also one of the greatest challenges. Throughout our weekend together, we reflected on wisdom from Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche communities. One quote, in particular, seemed to ring true for many of us:

“We can choose to live in a community because it is dynamic, warm and radiant. We find happiness there. But if a crisis arises, with tensions and turmoil, we begin to doubt the wisdom of our choice: ‘Maybe I made a mistake.’ If we enter community because of our own choice, we will stay only if we become more aware that it was in fact God who chose us for this community. It is only then that we will find the inner strength to live through times of turmoil.”

The call to religious life, and the call to a particular community, can feel exciting, challenging, and totally mysterious. And at times of greatest struggle, as Vanier suggests, it may even feel like a mistake. At these times, returning to the core of who we are, which ultimately leads to returning to the core of who God is – the all-loving community of three who first chose us – helps to reaffirm that God makes no mistakes. God is always working for our good.

Gathering with Sister peers helps each of us return to our core. The weekend together was steeped in meaningful conversations, voicing dreams and struggles, laughter, prayer, kickball, and breaking bread together. As we listened to and affirmed one another, we created community among us. And it is in community where we find our belonging; our belonging to God and to each other.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Dawn-Bringer

By Sr. Rejane Cytacki, SC Federation Perpetually Professed

      Click HERE to learn more about Rejane

      Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

downy woodpecker in the tulip tree
I have come to love winter as it is the time the earth rests and renews itself, and I try to follow nature’s example. When we allow our minds, spirits, and bodies to slow down in the amount of activity we do, we open up time and space in our hearts to reflect on God.

In these winter months, I have been praying and reflecting with Joyce Rupp’s book, Open the Door. I was praying with Joyce’s meditation on pgs. 78-80 “Opening to Oneness” and the first line is “Opening the door to the inner self is reminiscent of a new day dawning”. As I began this day, I was greeted by my friendly little downy woodpecker who sits in the tulip tree outside my window welcoming the dawn. He is the only bird at this time of year in the tree and he chirps and chirps for his mate as he turns and looks every which way for her. As he calls for his mate, his chirping reminds me it is time for me to pray with my Beloved. Joyce uses a quote from James Finlay to express what God is saying and a typical response – (God) “Open the door and come in, so we can experience just how one we might become. (Instead I) stand outside the door reading one more book about how to open the door.”

How often do I do this! I say anxiously– I have one more thing to do, or let me read this book about prayer instead of actually opening the door. But once my heart’s door is opened there is interior space to sit and be with my Beloved. In the interior space of my heart, when I walk through the Divine door Jesus is waiting for me. I visualize him as surrounded by light emanating from his heart. If I can bring myself to grasp his hands I can feel the energy of his love flowing into my heart. I believe this is the oneness that Joyce writes about and this is my personal time with Jesus. I do not always succeed in oneness as exterior thoughts pull me out of my interior space. But just the commitment of time, space, practice and even failed attempts are valuable. These times teach me what being a religious woman is truly about: a personal relationship with the Divine. When I finally sit inside Jesus’ sacred heart, then I am able to explore my inner self with safety and security in the Dawning light of God’s love and find I have come home to my true self.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Welcome: Christmas Eve Reflections From The Border

by S. Andrea Koverman, S.C., S. Romina Sapinoso, S.C., Sandra Ramirez

Andrea, Romina and Sandra are all spending their Christmas and New Year’s holidays down on the border at the Sister of Charity Casa de Caridad in Anthony, New Mexico. Andrea and Romina are Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati and Sandra Ramirez is a freshman at Mt. St. Joseph University who chose to spend her whole winter break with the SCs at the Southern border. These stories and reflections come from their days of volunteering at different houses of hospitality in El Paso, Texas this past week. 


This temporary shelter sits in the area of central El Paso overlooking the international
Dr. Veronica Rayas hanging out with SCs Romina Sapinoso,
Carol Wirtz, Janet Gildea and Andrea Koverman back in 2013
border between US and Mexico. From the building, there is a good view of the border fence, the mountains on the other side, and the neighborhoods in central Juarez. The building is supposed to be a Religious Education Center initiated by a good friend, Dr. Veronica Rayas. She had a vision of a different way of teaching religion to young people in the church, incorporating their culture and day to day living in deepening their understanding of Catholicism. From these ideas, this place was born. Cooking, silk-screen printing, pottery, and painting are just a few of the ways Veronica and her religious ed teachers are teaching their students about their faith. However, these days, this center is serving quite a different purpose than what it was originally intended for.

Veronica, her sister Ana and a group of volunteers have been welcoming and serving warm meals to hundreds of asylum seekers released from ICE detention since the center opened its doors to them in late October of this year. Veronica often talks about how she never expected the way God has steered the center in the direction of becoming a house of welcome to immigrant fathers, mothers and their children. But her sense of awe and amazement at being blessed to have a place such as this to welcome them is palpable. It is also no coincidence that the center is connected to a parish just across the street whose parishioners allow their space to be used as an extension for the overflow of people. How appropriate as it is an opportunity to welcome the Holy Family in our midst today.

This past Saturday, this temporary shelter received its biggest number of asylum-seekers yet in one day - a total of 124. As the first big bus load of people arrived, Veronica called all the volunteers as well as guests that arrived earlier during the week to help welcome the new arrivals. Led by Veronica, everyone lined up outside ready, with big smiles on their faces. They held a hand-made banner with the word, “¡BIENVENIDOS!” written in big bright colors. Tentative faces looked back at us but as we continued greeting and welcoming them, the tentativeness slowly turned into shy but big smiles of relief and the knowledge that they are welcomed by people who see and care for them. As Christmas draws near, this beautiful image of welcome makes me stop and reflect about how ready I am, we are, to welcome Jesus in our midst this Christmas. As the celebration of Jesus’ birth draws nearer, it is my prayer that we never miss an opportunity to welcome him in our midst in whatever way, shape or form he presents himself to us.


"Hola buenas tardes," said each person I ran into at the shelter. As I entered the office I see four to

six different Sisters from different states running the center. Children gathered at the living room that was filled with many toys. Sisters who brought instruments singing christmas carols in spanish and the refugees singing along and smiling as if they can finally relax for a bit. As I did my normal walk around the center I always walk upon this beautiful cross. A cross that is a remembrance of God's
love for us that he gave his only begotten son. I stood for a minute and got closer to it. I have never given much thought about what was around the cross and as I got closer I realized what it was. On both sides of the cross I found a lot of Pesos. It sparked in my head that these beautiful people where leaving pesos as an offering to God. They have gone through so much mistreatment and had very little that they still found a need in their hearts to leave an offering. As I walked away I felt a sense of peace in my heart to know that these people truly have a strong faith in God even after this hard part of their journey.

I walked by again and this time I stumble upon a little girl holding on to a rosary and kneeling in front of the cross. The girl was about five or six. She had two pigtails and a cute red summer dress. As I saw her it reminded me of the verse Matthew 18:2-4: “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said:“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I walk by one last time and see a dad and his son. They both were kneeling in front of the cross. I got a little closer and realized they were praying in mum. They whispered quietly and then it hit me that I understood one phrase they were saying. The dad kept saying, “Thank you God, Thank you.” I
learned this phrase because my parents speak mum. Listening it reminded me of my dad when he prays. A man of strong faith who came to America 21 years ago to be able to give me the life I am living today.

My admiration for these people can’t be described in words. Their willingness to continue their relationship with God. I pray that they find peace and acceptance in this country because like God says in Mark 9:37: "Anyone who welcomes a little child welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me."


I can relate to the various expressions I saw on the three busloads of refugees and migrants as the deboarded upon arrival at a shelter in El Paso. Some faces showed fear and anxiety, while others relief, joy and hopefulness. I, too have just arrived at the border, not knowing quite what my change in ministry and location will mean, and am a jumble of all of these emotions as well.

But there is something very very different when comparing my situation to those arriving from detention centers. Unlike them, my decision to migrate was not a result of abject poverty, a lethal lack of basic necessities for sustaining my very existence or that of those depending upon me for theirs. It was not a result of death threats or because I had witnessed family members and friends murdered or disappeared, never to be seen again. It was not because I was being hunted down or extorted for refusing to cooperate with gangs and organized crime. It was not because I was left unprotected and neglected by my government and social programs. I freely chose to migrate, they did not.

Part of my reason for returning to live at the border was the opportunity to encounter and be in relationship with people who have been marginalized by their refugee or migrant status and economic injustice. I hope to be of service in some way, shape or form and was happily reminded the other night from a line in the movie, A Christmas Carol, that “no life is useless that lifts the heart of another.” But more than coming to see how I can be helpful, I came for the ways these people are helpful to me.

I was rewarded immediately during the first night I volunteered to greet and assist newly released
detainees at the shelter. Not speaking Spanish very well (yet), I was most helpful in the kitchen preparing and serving a hot home-cooked meal to the 124 plus guests. Their earnest responses of “Muchas gracias” and the looks in their eyes that said so much more than their words ever could broke my heart and brought a quote of St. Vincent de Paul to mind: “It is only for your love alone that the poor will forgive you for the bread you give them.” These people are no less deserving of security and resources than anyone else, and it is an injustice we are all called to address that there is such economic disparity among the people of the world. But rather than being angry at such an injustice, I was met with only gratitude for what we were offering: food, a warm shower, a clean change of clothing, help in contacting the people they were trying to get to, and the display of pure pleasure to welcome and connect with these sisters and brothers coming into our country and into our hearts.

I was given an early Christmas present of remembering who I am and what I am to be about. I am a beloved child of God no less and no more loved by God than any other. And I am to be about reflecting God’s unconditional, immeasurable, incomprehensible love that I have come to know with those who need to have that same experience the very most.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Who, Me???

By Sister Andrea Koverman, SC
SC Federation First Professed

The season of Advent never fails to be a time of growth and deepening transformation when we dedicate ourselves to an extended and deepened examination of how well prepared we are to receive God. Our stumbling blocks emerge so that we can get to work making straight the path, clearing away whatever keeps us from being receptive and reflective of God so that we, too can honor the call to be Christ bearers in the world, birthers of God’s love and life.

But this Advent has been an even more intense period of discernment for me.  Though I have been very happy in my ministry in Cincinnati, I began feeling a “holy dissatisfaction” several months ago that I couldn’t explain. I spent a significant period of time trying to ignore, suppress and pray my feelings away, thinking that I should be content with all that I had been blessed with and intensely ashamed of not feeling more grateful.

It wasn’t until my local community hosted a discernment weekend for young women exploring what God might be calling them to do with their lives, that I got some insight that helped me recognize what was happening with me. In a video clip used by a member of the planning team Fr. Michael Himes, SJ explained that God sometimes prompts us to move on from perfectly meaningful and fulfilling ministry into something new through feelings like the ones I was having. We experience what he calls a “holy dissatisfaction,” a sense that there is something else God is calling us to that helps us detach from what is, not to serve personal preferences or ambitions, but for a purpose only known by God.

It took months of intense discernment for me to grow confident enough that my feelings really were of God to share them with my community, but my heart had known at once when I heard Fr. explanation. It was not easy to communicate this leap of faith I felt so compelled to take, but my congregational leadership has given me their support, and I am truly grateful. I have left one loving local community in Cincinnati and come to another in a border town near El Paso. Though I do not know exactly how God will put me to use, I do know coming to this place where migrants and refugees are experiencing such pain and suffering is a crucial part of it. These sisters and brothers need to experience God’s love through us, Jesus’ disciples more than ever before. We are called to encounter the most marginalized among us and in coming I am following in the footsteps of our foundresses and predecessors who did what presented itself, going to the places where great needs were identified, not with a ready-made plan, but in obedience to their vows to go where God sent them, to trust God to reveal the way they were to minister and to depend on God to help them do it.

The season of Advent is full of examples of people who felt less than confident that they were the right choice to answer God’s call to be Christ-bearers, ushering in God’s kindom of justice, love and peace in a cold and suffering world. I am in the best of company in responding, “Who, me?” and “How can this be?” I am called to respond through the religious vows I have made. The vow of celibacy means that I am free to love beyond my immediate circle of family, friends and community and what enabled me to pack up and leave when I felt called to do so. My vow of obedience requires that I pay attention and respond to the way God calls me uniquely and particularly regardless of my own doubts and those of others. And my vow of poverty keeps me mindful and accepting of my dependency on God in all that I am and do. I feel a deep joy and inner peace as I put myself at God’s disposal and wait to see what good will come of it. I am confident, even in moments of questioning that as in Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord is saying to me, “I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” That sounds very good to me, so here I am, Lord!

May you all experience the joy of receiving God within and among us, and be filled with the joy of this love beyond all understanding this Christmas!

Packed Pilgrim Heading Out

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Thanksgiving Report from the Border

SC Federation First Professed

I'm spending my graduate school Thanksgiving break at the border, a place dear to my heart and central to my vocation. Our Sisters have been ministering here, truly on the margins, for almost thirty years.  They're currently collaborating with hundreds of people of goodwill to welcome migrants who are released from detention centers daily in huge numbers.  Annunciation House coordinates the network of hospitality shelters throughout El Paso.

I came to volunteer in one of the shelters with the little time I have right now, and I wish I could stay so much longer.  The beautiful people I am meeting are Christ among us: hungry, thirsty, sick, desperately in need of clothing, shelter, and welcome (Matt 25:31-46).  Below, I offer you a snapshot of one beautiful and heartbreaking encounter.   There is much more to tell, but for now, a glimpse into the current border reality:


The midday El Paso sun sears into my forehead.  I shield my eyes and look up at Pedro, sitting on a cement block next to me.  His 8-year-old son, Juanito, and a few friends kick around a deflated basketball in the gravel lot, the first time they’ve played freely since they left Honduras one month ago.

Pedro’s eyes are tired as he tells me about their journey. For three weeks, he was on the road with his son and other migrants they met along the way.  For three weeks, they slept and ate only intermittently.  When Juanito cried, Pedro held him tight and reminded him that he would get to see his mom in the United States.

Once they finally arrived to the U.S-Mexico border, Pedro and Juanito spent four days in detention.

“When we first got there, they lined us up in the hallway, and we stood for four hours until they could take our information.  Then, they gave us each an aluminum blanket and shuffled us into a small room with other dads and kids, with barely enough space for us to crawl up on the floor to sleep. It was freezing – the air conditioner blasted day and night.  There was one toilet in our room.  Twice a day, they brought a bean burrito, still quite frozen, for each of us, and a small juice for the kids.  We couldn’t go outside, except one day they took us to a bigger detention center to finish processing us, and they let us take a shower.”

It was the first chance they’d had to bathe in weeks.  That evening, immigration agents crammed forty fathers and children into an even smaller room and told them they could sleep standing since it would be their last night in detention.  The dads worked together to get their children accommodated on the floor, and then they did what they could to rest.  Some sat on the small floor of the bathroom; others just stood and leaned against the wall all night.

Yesterday, they were brought in a bus with fifty-eight other Central American migrants to this center, one of several run by Annunciation House and staffed by volunteers.  Here, they are given good meals, clothes, toiletries, showers, cots, pillows, blankets, and a warm welcome that honors their God-given dignity, before they continue their journeys to relatives and friends elsewhere in the United States.

“It’s been difficult,” he says quietly.  “I can deal with it. I’m an adult, you know?  But my little guy…” He trails off as he beholds his only son with misty eyes.  “I brought him because I want him to grow up safe, and I want to be able to feed him every day.  I never dreamed it would come to this.”

I’m in awe at his resilience and simultaneously overcome with sorrow.  “You’re an amazing father.  You know that?  You’re so brave.”

“I hope so,” he sighs.  “Everything I do, I do for my beautiful boy.”

The duo will board a bus later tonight for the final leg (for now) of their exodus.  Tomorrow, they’ll arrive to the city where Juanito’s mom lives.  She will be able to embrace her son for the first time in five years.  Pedro and Juanito will report to court in early December to begin asylum proceedings – which rarely end favorably.  But this is no time to be hopeless.

“It’s an honor to meet you, Pedro,” I tell him, and it's true.  My heart is bursting with admiration.  I feel like I'm in the presence of a saint.  “I don’t know how you do it.  You have been through so much, and you’re still going strong.”

“Gracias a Dios,” he asserts, gesturing to the sky, strength in his cheekbones.  “Everything is all thanks to God.  We’re alive.  We made it.  I can never stop thanking my God.”


**Please support Annunciation House 
and our beloved migrant sisters and brothers 
by donating HERE.**

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Fall Gathering in NOLA

This past weekend, eight members of the Future of Charity and one discerner gathered at the House of Charity in New Orleans for fellowship and faith-sharing. Guiding our prayer and conversations was the theme of self-awareness and identity. As we listened to Jesus ask his disciples, Who do people say that I am? and Who do you say that I am? (Mk 8:27-30) we asked ourselves: Who do I say I am? and Who do we say we are?

Utilizing a template of George Ella Lyon's I Am From poem, we reflected on our lives and how our unique backgrounds have helped form us into the women we are today. Then, we each selected two lines from these poems to compile the following We Are From poem...

We Are From…
We are from cardboard tubes,
From playing sports and building forts.
We are from the monster bush,
      a secret fortress in the yard.
We are from the forest and oceans.
We are from the Pearl of the Orient,
      from brown skin, white rice and coconut milk.
We are from rotini and peanut butter-tomato sandwiches,
From the selfless giving of my father,
      coaching our teams, caravanning kids, and filling up gas tanks.
We are from Sr. Armella and faithful Sunday­ Worship.
We are from St. John's and Catholic school,
      God the Father of light bless this Advent candle.
We are from a sharp contrast between independence and interdependence.
We are from my Aunt who took me shopping for school clothes
      and strong faith.
We are from a house without borders.
We are from the woods,
      from untamed, fascinating freedom.
We are from the Mt. Giri that manifests the sublime beauty of nature,
      quietly surrendering me to its great power.­
We are from the peach tree in the backyard,
      whose canopy of leaves made the perfect place for singing.
We are from wise stewardship and peaceful encounters,
      though sensitive strings were rarely touched.
From keeping one another accountable
      yet embracing one another's faults.
We are from the love that is stronger than the wounds.
We are from the Charity charism and all its founders,
      From the women and men on whose shoulders we stand.
We are from the vision of sisters
      who not too long ago dreamed of a future together.

In another exercise, we each wrote five answers to the question Who are you? and put together our favorite responses to create somewhat of a mantra for ourselves as the Future of Charity. It reads...

We are women of courage.
We are generative co-creators.
We are bridge-builders and seekers of peace.
We are Sisters of Charity in a global world.
We are women held, formed, and challenged in community.
We are able to see the light in the darkness.
We are women vowed to God.
We are human.
We are love.

Thank you to everyone who kept us in their prayers during our time together!