Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sheltered And Nurtured By Love

By S. Romina Sapinoso, SC Federation Apostolic Novice

Click HERE to learn more about Romina

Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

Mother robin warms her newly hatched babies,
watchful of strangers coming too close.
Sisters at our Mother House in Cincinnati (and those who live close by like me) recently had the wonderful blessing of witnessing a beautiful manifestation of Spring before our eyes. A robin laid her eggs on the ledge right outside of one of the windows on the second floor of the building and sisters and visitors watched each day as the robin sat on her eggs until they hatched. When she picked the location of her nest, the poor robin probably didn't realize how much attention she and her babies would get as "visitors" came and went to check out the babies' progress. When sisters and guests peered at the baby birds, mother robin would often fly to a tree branch, but she would never go too far. Here is a series of pictures showing the newly hatched chicks and their growth over a period of approximately two weeks. I didn't discover them until three of the four eggs already hatched so there are no egg pictures. One egg failed but all three surviving siblings did very well. 

As I reflected on this beautiful witness of new life after a cold dreary winter, I can't help but make an analogy between the mother robin and God. There are times in our life when we experience "shocks to our system." It was a certain shock to the system for those birds to be out of their shell and unable to move or fly on their own while in the nest. They were exposed to the elements and were totally dependent on their mother for survival. I saw how that mother robin kept a close watch on her young ones. They were noticeably bigger each time I stopped by to take a peak and I knew they were not wanting in anything whether it was food or the protection of their mother's body against the cold of those stormy evenings.

I am even more strongly convinced now, as I near the end of my time in novitiate, that God has been like this mother robin who so lovingly held me in the safety of her love as she nourished and fed my soul each day. In a way, it was a shock to the system to be in novitiate, unable to move and fly but waking up to self-knowledge and awareness. But somehow, I was given the assurance that all shall be well because my mother was always there, watching, caring, and loving me through it all.

Newly hatched baby robins


And growing...

We hardly fit here anymore!

The time has come to leave the nest.
On to new and bigger things!

Thursday, May 10, 2018


By Sr. Laura Coughlin, SC Federation Perpetually Professed

Last week I finished my first year of doctoral studies in theology at the University of Dayton.  My brain is tired, but in spite of this, I still find my days rich with new intellectual and theological material.  Next year I will be teaching an introductory Religious Studies class at the university.  The opportunity to teach was one of the main reasons I found UD to be an attractive program.  In our department’s case, UD does a great job preparing us to teach from the discipline in which we are being trained. 

Yesterday I attended a workshop at the Dayton Woman’s Club hosted by the Humanities Commons program here.  The program aims to help students inquire deeply into the question of what it means to be human.  The inquiry is carried out in an enriched cross-disciplinary setting which is why a large number of professors from varied disciplines were gathered at the workshop. 

(see more about this program here: Humanities Commons)

We used our time together to discuss the 2018 program whose theme varies from year to year.  This year the Humanities Commons will base its inquiry in the classic Bram Stoker novel, Dracula, and in a Dayton Ballet performance called Dracula: Bloodlines.  Both the novel and the ballet will be a reference point throughout the year for classroom learning about issues of power and vulnerability.  Workshop attendees were asked to think about how the theme of 2018-19 might find its way into lesson plans when the students return in August. 

So I am thinking about Dracula, and about power and vulnerability.
And one of the handouts we received noted that “power need not be oppressive…and vulnerability need not be weakness.”  And that got me thinking about the authentic human reality, the ideal human life, in other words, that can be found in the dialectic between power and vulnerability. 

Maybe a first assignment could be something like this: Write a rich description of the ideal that lives between the power and vulnerability present in each of the following situations?  How do the actors in these excerpts reconcile vulnerability and power such that he or she better understands what it means to be human?

* * *

“I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.”

Jesus in John 10:17-18

* * *

God said to Abraham: “Please take your son.”
Abraham said: “I have two sons, which one?”
God: “Your only son.”
Abraham: “The one is the only son of his mother and the other is the only son of his mother.”
God: “Whom you love.”
Abraham: “I love this one and I love that one.”
God: “Isaac.”

Genesis Rabbah[1]

* * *

“On August 26, 1832, a request was made that four of the [African American Oblate] sisters might nurse the indigent sick with cholera, a disease that had reached epidemic proportions [in Baltimore]….When [Father Joubert] asked for volunteers, all stood up.[2]  [He] chose the four to go, one of whom had not yet made vows.”[3]

At some point after 1843 this same community was told by the Archbishop of Baltimore, Samuel Eccleston, that “there was no need for black religious and that they might do well to disband and become domestics.”[4]  Their community was saved from this fate by a caring German Redemptorist, Thaddeus Anwander, who pastored them under the tutelage of St. John Neumann.

Excerpted from The History of Black Catholics in the United States, by Cyprian Davis, OSB

* * *

“Facing a firing squad is a pretty good test, I guess, of your theology of death.  I didn’t exactly pass the test with flying colors…The first thought I actually remember thinking was a question:  ‘Is this the end, Lord?’  I know I started the act of contrition, but I remember the sensation of realizing that another part of me could not understand the words I was mumbling.
I suspect that most of my panic…was due to such animal instinct in the face of a sudden and totally unexpected physical danger…For the thought of death itself does not terrify me.  The good news of Christianity is…that death has no hidden terror.  Christ’s…death and resurrection [was] the central act of salvation.”[5]

Excerpted from He Leadeth Me: An Extraordinary Testament of Faith, by Walter Ciszek, SJ

[1] Kessler, Edward. "Bound by the Bible: Jews, Christians, and the Binding of Isaac." In Two Faiths, One Covenant?: Jewish and Christian Identity in the Presence of the Other, 11-28. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005, 16-7.
[2] Ouch! - It is noted in this same passage that the Sisters of Charity had been asked for eight sisters and had only sent four.
[3] Cyprian Davis, The History of Black Catholics in the United States (Crossroad, 1990), 101.
[4] Davis, 103.
[5] Walter J. Ciszek, SJ and Daniel L. Flaherty, SJ, He Leadeth Me (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1973), 165.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Season of New Life

By Sr. Annie Klapheke, SC Federation Temporary Professed

      Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

      Click HERE to learn more about Annie

It is the season of springtime and Resurrection.  All around us, the budding trees and flowers remind us that new life is always possible, no matter how long or cold the winter.  These signs of new life remind me of my favorite Mary Oliver poem, The Singular and Cheerful Life.  The words of this poem offer good advice to anyone who is discerning – which would be all of us.  The advice is this: take a cue from nature, stop being so anxious, and simple allow yourself to become what God intended you to be. 

The Singular and Cheerful Life
By Mary Oliver

The singular and cheerful life
of any flower
in anyone’s garden
or any still unowned field –

if there are any –
catches me
by the heart,
by its color,

by its obedience
to the holiest of laws:
be alive
until you are not.

pale violet bull thistle,
morning glories curling
through the field corn;

and those princes of everything green –
the grasses
of which there are truly
an uncountable company,

on its singular stem
to rise and ripen.

What, in the earth world,
is there not to be amazed by
and to be steadied by
and to cherish?

Oh, my dear heart,
my own dear heart,
full of hesitations,
questions, choice of directions,

look at the world.
Behold the morning glory,
the meanest flower, the ragweed, the thistle.
Look at the grass.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Spring '18 Gathering

This weekend a group of Future of Charity members gathered near Cincinnati, Ohio, to spend time in prayer, companionship and recreation, and to remember our dear Sister Marie Flowers who joined the saints in heaven almost six months ago.  We thank everyone who held us in prayer during this sacred time together.

Celebrating the beautiful life and spirit of Marie!

Check back soon for more reflections from our bloggers!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

New Wineskins

By Sr. Andrea Koverman, SC Federation Temporary Professed

      Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

“I can’t have my sisters going to Washington in old wineskins, now can I?!” These were the words our sister in community, Annie Klapheke exclaimed as she used her sewing skills to reconfigure the t-shirts some of our sisters donated to our cause. As people who know me are already aware, I took part in the Catholic Day of Action on the Hill in Washington, DC on February 27th along with two other SCs, Tracy Kemme and Jean Miller and one of our Associate Members, Deb Rose-Milavec. It has been well chronicled, which was the whole point of being there-to draw attention to and escalate the pressure on the speaker and members of congress to enact a clean Dream Act (You can watch it here, and read about it here). The expiration of DACA has since come and gone without our demands being met, but as in all social movements, every little action contributes to achieving the final goal
S. Jean Miller, S. Tracy Kemme, Associate Deb Rose-Milavec,
and S. Andrea Koverman
by helping create the conditions that eventually let it happen.

My discernment was pretty quick as I felt an immediate response to the call of standing with and for our immigrant sisters and brothers in such a prayerful and public way. My frustration and disappointment in our government to act justly on behalf of the “Dreamers” pales in comparison to how they feel at this point. Despite letter writing, phone calling, meetings and demonstrations, the promise of finally passing legislation that would protect these young people has not been fulfilled. No one can argue the fact that they did not consciously break any law. They have been raised and educated in American society and hold American values. They are working, studying, raising families and contributing to our communities. They trusted the government when they were promised that if they came out of the shadows, provided all the required information, passed extensive background checks and had stayed out of trouble that they would be protected and welcomed into society. Instead they continue to be forced to live in a state of anxious vulnerability in what has become another demonstration of our broken political system. Rather than working together to pass the legislation that the majority of Americans clearly support, the politicians are now using that knowledge to play political games with each other. The Dreamers have become a collective bargaining chip for politicians to push for unpopular agenda items that would otherwise likely fail. Would I go to DC and voice my opposition to such injustice even at the risk of arrest? You betcha. It was a moment of truth for me to refuse to comply when ordered to move along, to stop raising my voice in objection to the failure of congress to act. It was symbolic of our commitment to this cause and to communicate in no uncertain terms that we will not stop the campaign for a clean Dream Act until it is finally passed.

The reference to new wine in old wineskins stayed with me throughout the experience and continues to rumble around and resurface in my times of reflection and prayer. It is such a fitting analogy to being a religious sister in this my time and circumstance because we are in a state of such dramatic transformation. From the moment I dipped my little toe into the pool of consideration about choosing this way of life, I have been asked the question, “What do you think is the future of religious life? What do you see when you imagine the future as a sister?”

Though definite themes have surfaced such as living in community, sharing in common ministry and being radically responsive and open to whatever we feel God calling us to, the tangible specifics are not ours to see so clearly as would make us comfortable. It is part of our calling not to have all the answers, to remain uncomfortable and dependent upon God to reveal what and how we can be of service in furthering the mission of love in the world when God so chooses. Those specifics will be the new container, the new wineskins.

Journeying Together in 2017
What has become clear to me is that the substance of what is put into the wineskins is not something new. A fresh batch yes, but not a completely new substance. This revelation was affirmed at the last (and only the 2nd) meeting of a subgroup within my community we call, “Journeying Together.” It is composed of members who entered after 1980 and are under the age of 70. We gather to share the journey of moving into a new reality of religious life. One in which there is a shift from a large membership and traditional ministry to one that is small but hopefully nimble and responsive to the signs of our times. It was an intimate weekend during which we focused not on the “what” of our lives but on the “why.” Sister after sister shared their personal call and named the sacred why that God planted in each of their hearts. And collectively, our communal why crystalized. We articulated the passionate response to God's invitation to be co-creators of the kindom that connects each Sister of Charity of Cincinnati across the expanse of time, from Elizabeth Seton all the way down to our newest member, Whitney Schieltz and with every sister in-between. That is the consistent substance that God is pouring into the new wineskins of our times.

It strikes me that our experience in DC was a beautiful illustration of the evolution of religious life, the new building upon the old. Not too many people initially responded to the call to participate, and I asked our Jean Miller, who is about 84 years young if she had thought about coming. She said that she had been dealing with some dizziness, but it seemed to have passed. She expressed a little concern that she might not have the energy, but if Tracy and I would be with her, she thought she could do it. Jean is one of those classic social justice sisters that are such an inspiration new members. We got to learn about some of the work she has done with and on behalf of immigrants during formation. I was thrilled that she would join us! That was a bit of the “old” joining the new. Something else that symbolized an aspect of the transitioning occurring in religious life was having our associate, Deb Rose-Milavec join us in the demonstration. She also responded to the call for women religious to participate in possible civil disobedience not as a vowed but an associate member of our community. We know and celebrate that the associate membership will continue to take shape and grow in deepening relationship with vowed members of congregations.

S. Annie working her shirt magic
The four of us were all set to go, but we needed a “team shirt” with our congregation’s name on it. With no time to have anything new printed, we remembered that our sisters were regular participants in the annual protests at the School of the Americas for years, and we had often seen them sporting bright blue t-shirts displaying our community name and the saying, “Peace grows from Justice.” Perfect! An all-call posted on our intracommunity email produced a rapid response in shirts, and were given even more upon a visit with our sisters who live in the Bedford, Ohio area. Annie worked magic with her sewing machine and suddenly we had shirts to wear to champion a new cause that had been worn by some of our senior sisters as they championed an older one. I felt clothed in the spirit of my sisters through the nearly two centuries since we were founded as I marched, sang and prayed with the ones of today. It was beautiful!

In the process of evolving into the “new wine” of religious life, I encourage you to let all the ingredients of new vision, direction and energy ferment and bubble up while being grateful for the container of religious life that always has been able to accommodate such expansiveness, allowing us to live that out it the unique way that we have been called! Hazard yet forward!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Belonging To One Another

By Sr. Romina Sapinoso, SC Federation Apostolic Novice

Click HERE to learn more about Romina

Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

The Winter Olympics finished last Sunday and though I missed the closing, the opening ceremony was one of the best I’ve seen in years. The Olympics always excite me not just because we witness the incredible talents and gifts of individuals representing different countries. Neither is it special only because of the amazing stories behind the athletes who have worked their whole lives preparing for their chance to be on the biggest stage in sports. To me, it is remarkable because of the way it brings humanity together to celebrate everything that is good about us as a collective human race. It always makes me emotional when I see what a mosaic of wonder humans are when labels, tribes and country are set aside and all march together side by side in jubilation and peace.

Shortly after the opening ceremonies, I was at a rehab facility and the therapist engaged me in small talk. He expressed his disapproval of athletes who were raised and trained in one country and later go on to the Olympics to represent another. He said, “I guess they have dual citizenship or something. I don’t think that should be allowed.” I very casually mentioned to him that I was about to reclaim my Filipino citizenship after losing it last December when I became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He seemed a bit surprised by this unexpected revelation though we went on with our conversation about the games without any tension or trouble. This moved me
Filipino. American. Human!
to reflect on how people in general identify countries, ancestry, languages, or “tribe” so to speak, as a primary and sometimes sole identifying aspect of who a person is, where and to whom they “should” belong. I do not mean to ignore, disregard or minimize in any way the richness of culture and diversity brought by different people. This should always be acknowledged and used to build just communities with one another. I simply mean to point out the complexity of people’s identities and how our attachment to labels keep us from realizing deeper truths about who we are.

A few days before my naturalization ceremony which officially switched over my citizenship, I remember thinking how weird it was that from one day to the next, I turned from Filipino to American. What does that mean? Does that fundamentally change who I am? The rest of my family, relatives and so many friends are Filipino. I’m the same person they know, born and raised in the Philippines. I will always speak Tagalog and Capampangan. Yet, America has also been my home for the last fifteen years. The friends I’ve met here, the work, school, church and congregational community members whom I’ve lived and ministered with also shaped who I am today. I use English more adeptly and I’ve added Spanish to my list of languages. What does it mean to be Filipino? Or American? Or does it matter in this case?

I carried this pondering with me to ministry where I spend two hours twice a week with the most
resilient students I’ve ever had in my life. I teach English as a Second Language at Catholic Charities to refugees from many parts of the world - Nepal, Bhutan, Syria, Dominican Republic, Guatemala,
Food shared with me
by my Nepali students
Congo, Jordan, etc. We laugh and share with one another as we go through the immigrant experience and the struggles to learn English together. A month or so ago, I offered a ride to one of my Nepali students who was concerned about missing her daughter’s dismissal from school. The amount of time it took to ride three buses from Catholic Charities to her house would certainly get her home late but because I gave her a ride, she cut at least two hours from her travel time. She adamantly refused to let me leave without having a meal with her and her husband. I was so touched by her gesture and by the generous (and delicious!) Nepali feast I was privileged to share with them that I couldn’t help but keep pondering the question of who I belong to. Am I just Filipino? Am I just American? Do I not also belong to this wonderful Nepali family who blessed me with their company and their food on this holy ground that is their home?

Without question, there has been much polarization not just within people in the U.S. but everywhere around the world. In Europe, there is growing weariness and even hostility towards immigrants and refugees on top of tense attitudes towards minority groups already settled there. Among my own family members and friends in the Philippines, political divisions have ensued and “fake news” accusations fly around as freely as they do here in the States. It gives one a heavy heart to read opposing Facebook comments about gun control, the refugee crisis, immigration, taxes and government budgets. I cannot say how many times, I’ve seen a meme or have read a phrase to the effect of, “needing to help our own first or look after Americans before outsiders.” I have to ask, “Who is our own?” Holding my recent reflections and questions in my heart, I go back to Mother Teresa’s words, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Going back to the recent Olympics, my most favorite story was the end of the men’s freestyle cross-
The Olympic cauldron
country skiing. I was moved by it not because of the competitors who won the medals but because of those who finished last. The headline of the Washington Post read, “Thirty six minutes after the gold medal was won, the Olympics happened.” Mexican skier German Madrazo crossed the finish line as number 116, the very last place in the race. There, waiting for him standing shoulder to shoulder, were his friends and training partners - the other late finishers from countries where there was very little snow - a Tongan, a Moroccan, an Ecuadoran, a Portuguese, and a Colombian. Together they cheered on Madrazo, handed him his beloved Mexico's flag and carried him on their shoulders as soon as he crossed the finish line. Their joy in finishing the race, in the very last places, was just as overflowing and intense as that of the winners. Ultimately, they all knew they belonged to one another, regardless of the country they are from. They waited and cheered for the very last person, their friend who belonged to them, even if it meant staying long after everyone else has left. It was a triumph not just of one country but for of all.

Pardon the wild thoughts on this blog post that went all over the place. I will close with a couple of quotes that hopefully tie them all together. From the movie Black Panther, I quote the words spoken by T’Challa, the king of Wakanda to the assembly at the United Nations. “There is more that unites us than separates us. In a time of crisis, the wise build bridges and the foolish build barricades.” I also quote St. Paul from Galatians 3:28-29. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

May we always remember to whom we belong!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Love In Lent

By Sr. Judy Donohue, SC Federation Temporary Professed

      Click HERE to learn more about Judy

      Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

Today, Ash Wednesday begins the wonderful though challenging season of Lent. Lent means spring, a time of new growth. It is exciting for me to focus on doing a positive action for Lent instead of giving up something. Maybe this Lent I will try to smile at 5 people a day, or create a gratitude list each night of 5 things. Whatever I can do to make my day more life-giving.

We are also celebrating one of my favorite Holiday’s, Valentine’s Day. When I think of Love, I see how important perseverance is to a maturing and developing love of others. Jesus’ 40 days in the desert was an act of perseverance to the call of God to stay the course. His examples inspires me when times get tough to keep plugging.

During Lent we persevere through the seven weeks of spiritual growth toward closer relationships with God and others. I have found it a great challenge and of significant value to persevere in my relationships at work, family and community life. Sometimes I want to give up when I have little hope, yet something happens, God gives strength and I learn to press on. Although it’s hard for me to change a behavior or to develop a new area of growth, it makes me become a better person.

One way to curb my strong penchant to judge is in giving others the benefit of the doubt, to believe the best in a person. I need relationships to help me grow in communication, love and humility. I’m learning one value of community is being there for each other. To stay committed through the good times and bad. To be vulnerable in sharing your weaknesses. Each day my awareness of building community is evolving. I pray to be open to all God sends me in loving others this Lent.

What is community for you? I see it’s different for different people.

This Valentine’s Day we remember those we love. May we also remember how much God loves us and that God’s love is a tender, kind and intimate love. This is very encouraging. May this Valentine’s Day strengthen our love and perseverance to love the creator of all LOVE.

Happy Lent and Happy Valentine’s Day!!