Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Dreaming with Our Hearts Wide Open

By Sister Annie Klapheke, SC 
SC Federation Temporary Professed

“And you know you can’t go back again, 
to the world that you were living in,
‘cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open.  
So, come alive!”
“Come Alive”, from The Greatest Showman
words by Justin Paul and Benj Pasek

Future of Charity members gather at the Assembly of the Whole 
              Sister Tracy and I pulled out of the Crowne Plaza Hotel parking lot in Chicago, making our way back home to Cincinnati.  For the first couple hours of the ride, we recounted favorite moments and memories of the first ever Sisters of Charity Federation Assembly of the Whole.  After a couple hours of sharing, we put on some tunes and sang along to the soundtrack of the The Greatest Showman for the remainder of our ride.  As I listened to the above lyrics of the song “Come Alive”, I felt like it was an appropriate description of how many of us felt leaving the Assembly of the Whole.  From June 13-16, over 500 Sisters of Charity, Daughters of Charity, Charity Associates and collaborators gathered together in Chicago; while hundreds more joined us via livestream and in our hearts.  Together we prayed, listened, shared deeply, dreamed, danced, sang, cried and laughed.  We each returned to our home congregations, but in a new and transformed way.  After experiencing a richer taste of our Federation, we cannot go back to living the way we were before.  We spent four days together as a Federation dreaming, not only with our eyes wide open, but I would add with our hearts wide open.  Hearts open to each other and open to the new possibilities of the Charity charism in our world.

              Two insights stay with me from the Assembly.  First, our attentiveness to the ever-unfolding Charity story.  In her keynote address, Sister Peggy O’Neill stated, “God is evolving.  God is becoming and God becomes what God loves.  We too, individually and communally, are evolving, we become what we love.”  None of us has a clear view of what lies ahead, but what I heard over and over again this past weekend is that we are ready for this moment of change.  This sentiment is well-expressed by our founder St. Vincent de Paul in a quote used during our opening ceremony, “And that, my Daughters, was the beginning of your Company; as it was not then what it is now, there is reason to think that it is not now yet what it will be later on…”  Charity is evolving.

              The second insight that stays with me is our commitment to stay at the table.  It can feel so hopeful and optimistic as we set out on this new part of our journey together as a Federation, and at the same time none of us are naïve to the hardships and conflict that will come.  Some of the panelists at the Assembly concretely named some of the things we will have to confront within ourselves: unconscious biases, white privilege, inter-cultural and inter-generational tensions.  I even experienced moments of conflict and discomfort during the Assembly when some of our differences surfaced.  But through it all, I felt a sense of commitment of the whole to stay at the table with one another.

Why stay?

Because the world and the Church need the Charity charism, and we have been bequeathed with this heritage of love to carry forward.  The world needs us now, just as it needed Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac to open the doors for vowed women to directly minister to those in poverty.  And we are as much needed now as when the Catholic Church in the United States was in its infancy and Elizabeth Seton infused the boldness of Charity.  And the same can be said for all the places where our charism has spread: Korea, India, Botswana, Belize, Ecuador, Peru and beyond.  Now, we are dreaming with our hearts wide open, the next chapter of our Charity story.  And we should never dream alone what we can dream better together. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

She Went Into The Desert To Pray...

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

A retreat blog in pictures...

Before leaving for retreat (June 3-11) I was cleaning out my inbox and found this email sent 11 years ago by Janet Gildea, S.C., dear mentor, sister and friend who passed away last April 4th. I am grateful for Janet's reminder and am carrying this to be the theme of my retreat this year.

"In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went to a deserted place, and there he prayed." Mark 1: 35

"If you love to listen, you will gain knowledge and, if you pay attention, you will become wise." Sirach 6:33

"When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world." - Eckhart Tolle

"Look at a tree, a flower, a plant. Let your awareness rest upon it, How still they are, how deeply rooted in Being. Allow nature to teach you stillness." - Eckhart Tolle

"Listen to silence. It has so much to say." - Rumi

"Saints ripen in the silence." - Gregory Bernanos

Pray for me as I pray for you. - Romina

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Super Powers, AKA Fruits of the Holy Spirit

By Sr. Andrea Koverman, SCC, First Professed

In December 2018, I relocated to join our local community in Anthony, NM. My primary new ministry is helping to develop the educational programming for the Proyecto Santo Niño Clinic in Anapra, Mexico, established by three of my Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati in 2006. This puts me in direct contact with the children with special needs, their siblings and mothers who come to the center, and is one significant way my call to direct service is being fulfilled.

Prior to this ministry, I ministered as a program manager at the Intercommunity Justice & Peace Center in Cincinnati, Ohio where the majority of my work involved indirect service as we addressed systemic injustices. While I wholeheartedly believe in the value and the necessity of challenging our institutionalized systems (IJPC motto: Challenge, Advocate, Transform!) I came to the realization that I also need personal interaction with those suffering the mariginalization and injustice that we challenge. Direct service grounds me and reminds me that there is to be no “us and them;” that we are all God’s children and form one family. It’s very easy to become detached from the people suffering the very injustices being challenged even when advocating for them, but I believe God calls us to keep it personal, to not only to stand up for people but with people. The commandment to love our neighbor calls us to relationship, and I think God expects us to be able to name names when we’re asked if we fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and visited the imprisoned.

Direct service fulfills an essential Christian duty, but the grace of it is that in doing so God provides for us a constant source of spiritual growth and a deepening awareness of right relationship. Here is an example of a recent insight I had and the teacher who brought it to me.

Mirka and her mother at Proyecto Santo Niño
One recent Tuesday morning, I was greeted by Mirka as I arrived at Santo Niño. She is a ten-year-old bundle of enthusiasm and joy despite the fact that she has spina bifida and must rely on her wheelchair to get around. She loves to practice the English she has learned and shouted out, “Andrea! Hello! How are you?” as she rolled up to me with the infectious grin that so often lights up her face. I greeted her back, but didn’t say my usual, “Estoy feliz te veo,” which is part of my limited (but growing) Spanish repertoire. Instead, I asked her how her weekend was. “Great!” she responded. “My neice (who is six) and I discovered that we have super powers!” I said, “Really? You do? What’s yours?” She responded, “I can read minds!” “Wow! Then tell me what I am thinking,” I said. At this, Myrka cocked her head and gave me a long intense look before exclaiming, “You are thinking that you are very happy to see me!” After an eruption of giggles from both of us, I said, “You are so right, Mirka, that is exactly what I was thinking! You are amazing!”

This simple but joyful exchange stayed with me and lifted my spirit for days. Though I’m not so sure about her ability to mind read, I am absolutely sure that she and the other members of the Santo Niño community do have super powers, in fact, we all do.  Better known as gifts or Fruits of the Holy Spirit, they are the observable result of being open to God’s redeeming and transforming love. There are others, but the twelve traditional “fruits” are: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity.  As are all gifts, these are meant to be shared. They are what allow us to embody and spread God’s love as we encounter one another. Mirka does an excellent job at this!

I further reflected on how monumentally impactful it can be when one does fully actualize their gifts - when they put their super powers to work for the good of another. As all in the Sisters of Charity Federation and many more beyond are aware, we recently lost Sr. Janet Gildea after a miraculously long survival streak with ovarian cancer. If you aren’t familiar with her and would like an exemplary model of a fruitful spirit, I invite you to read Sr. Tracy’s last blog or this tribute to her published in the Global Sisters Report. Janet’s ability to see God at work in me and to bring my attention to it changed my life and how I want to spend it. She helped me recognize how precious and beloved we each are and rather than being discouraged and dejected about weaknesses and growing edges, to see them as paths to personal transformation and conversion. As annoying and challenging as they can be, these crosses we carry are often the blessings in disguise that keep us turning to God for help.

I invite you to consider how the Spirit is made most evident in you, and perhaps what other fruits you may want to cultivate. Here is a prayer that you may find helpful.

Sr. Janet at the SOA Encuentro at the Border
Prayer for Transformation

Here I am.
I trust that you have an incredible plan for me.
Transform me. Transform my life.
Everything is on the table.
Take what you want and give what you want to give.
I make myself 100 percent available to you today.
Transform me into the person you created me to be,
So I can live the life you envisioned for me at the beginning of time.
I hold nothing back.
I am 100 percent available.
Lead me, challenge me, encourage me, and open my eyes to all your possibilities.
Show me what you want me to do, and I will do it.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Easter Hope: Singing Alleluia with Janet

By Sr. Tracy Kemme, SC Federation Temporary Professed

      Click HERE to learn more about Tracy

Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

I thought it might be harder to sing the Easter “Alleluia” this year, since our dear Sister Janet Gildea died on April fourth.  Instead, amid grappling with the surrealness of Janet’s death, the power of Christ’s Resurrection intensified.  The Paschal Mystery became acutely real.  Because He rose, Janet is gone, but she isn’t.  I felt her as sunlight bathed the Motherhouse altar on Easter morning.  “Alleluia!” seemed to gush from deep within me, tested but truer than ever.  This is the paradox of our faith: we hope always.  In life and death, Janet showed us how.
              At the outset of Advent 2018, Janet got word that her brain tumors were growing back.  Awaiting news about treatment options, I experienced waves of terror and waves of trust.  Some days, as much as I wanted to think differently, I admitted silently that this relentless cancer could kill Janet.  Despair engulfed me as I tried to imagine life without her.  Some days, I found faith in my heart that nudged me to believe this didn’t have to be the end.  Miracles can happen. “Come on, God,” I’d beg. “You can do anything.  Please, cure her!”  I wrote in my journal that I felt I was swinging between realism and hope. 
One Advent day as I prayed quietly for Janet, an awareness broke over me like an epiphany.  I’d been confused about hope, associating it with only the positive outcome of Janet’s full recovery.  Hope, I realized at that moment, does not depend on results.  Hope comes from knowing who God is and what God has done for us.  Hope is the sure, steady ground that anchors us beneath fears and wishes.  Hope is fully trusting God smack dab in the midst of reality, fraught with beauty, horror, pain, possibility, and even the ordinary.  I couldn’t choose hope or being realistic: the two necessarily go together.  Whether Janet died or was cured, she was in God’s loving hands.
              Janet knew that and embodied it.  She endured her third brain surgery in December and despite the circumstances kept living each day with her characteristic zeal.  When in early 2019 she learned that her cancer had returned and treatment options had waned, she wrote a blog entry called “Coping with Hope.”  Surely she would have loved to keep on living, as she did with gusto for eleven years since her first cancer diagnosis.  But she accepted what came to her with wisdom, openness, and graceful surrender.  Even in her suffering, she delighted in the goodness of life, loved fiercely, and expressed sincere gratitude frequently as she always had.  She believed with all her might in this Easter mystery we celebrate.   
              Janet showed us that hope isn’t vague optimism. It is a profound knowing that in our God, love is stronger than evil, and life is stronger than death – no matter what.  Nor is hope a futuristic assurance that permits us to sit back, sights on the afterlife, and let the world go by. Hope calls for dynamic action.  We await the full irruption of the Kingdom when Christ comes again, and we simultaneously work to make that Kingdom present here and now. All will be well, but it isn’t yet.  And so, we carry on Jesus' mission, radically committed to building a just world and lifting up the crucified people of our time.  Easter people enter into suffering.  We hope, yes, and we give ourselves to those who have little reason to hope. Janet did that through precious years poured out in service, even until her last weeks of earthly life.
             Hope does not depend on results.  It depends on our eternally faithful God with Whom Janet now lives.  I miss her already, and I haven’t even begun to process her monumental impact on my life and the gaping hole left by her departure.  The journey of grief will be unpredictable.  But I know she is with us. I hear her whisper words of courage and care in my heart, and I feel her zeal and love urging us toward hope.  In this season, we again embrace the power of the Paschal Mystery.  Jesus’ resurrection echoes throughout history.  Janet clung to that hope all her days, and now she knows the Easter truth in fullness.  I imagine her smiling radiantly, crying out joyfully from the heavens with all the saints, and I can’t help but smile, too, and join the chorus: “Alleluia!”

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Growing in Patience

By Sr. Whitney Schieltz, SC Federation Apostolic Novice

      Click HERE to learn more about Whitney

Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

Now in the second half of my second year as a novice, I am currently discerning the next stage of formation: temporary vows. For the past few months I have been reading about, discussing, and writing reflection papers on the vows of consecrated celibacy, poverty, and obedience. While my understanding and appreciation of these three distinct yet related vows has definitely grown over time, I am still trying to define how they speak directly to me and how I am called to embody them in this time, place, culture, society.

Fortunately, many sisters have assured me that I do not have to--and most likely will not--have it all figured out by the time I am standing in front of the congregation making my first profession. In fact, it is normal and appropriate to constantly be growing into the vows and discovering ever new ways that they help me give witness to the reign of God. Of course, it takes time to grow into anything, and that takes patience. So I find it fitting that today’s Blessed Among Us is Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, whose prayer Patient Trust calls us to trust in the slow work of God.

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Living the "already" of mission and the "not yet" of vows

By Sr. Kara Davis, Daughter of Charity Under 10 Years Vocation

Click HERE to learn more about Sr. Kara
Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

I was registering for an Archdiocesan Day of Reflection for Consecrated Life here in Chicago and struggled to complete the form.  Name, congregation, years of vocation… easy questions.  Then there was a special section for those in initial formation.  Yes, that’s me!  We were instructed to mark our stage of formation from four choices listed:  postulant, novice, temporary professed, and perpetually professed.  I immediately thought well, none of the above.  Is there an option for a sister who’s not a religious, who will never profess temporary or perpetual vows? 
The Daughters of Charity are canonically a Society of Apostolic Life, rather than a Religious Institute, and our structure and terminology is a bit different than our Religious friends (including the various congregations within the Sisters of Charity Federation).  This category of consecrated life first hit the scene in the 1983 Code of Cannon Law, but we have been living out of our particular spirit since our foundation in 1633.  (Others have written extensively on this topic, so be sure to click on the links if you want to learn more.)
A major distinction between religious congregations and our particular identity as Daughters of Charity that many folks get hung up on revolves around the vows.  Our vows are “non-religious, annual, and always renewable” (Constitution 28a).  Folks seem puzzled at times when I explain to them that I am a sister out on mission and haven’t made any vows.  I’m quick to clarity that I live the evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity, and obedience) and am deeply committed to serving Christ in the Poor (fourth vow of the Daughters of Charity), but I have not made any vows.  Daughters of Charity in initial formation make vows for the first time between 5-7 years vocation, and then renew them each year with all the sisters on the Feast of the Annunciation, a special day in the community we call Renovation.  To understand how a sister can be sent on mission from the Seminary (similar to the novitiate) without any vows (typically religious congregations profess temporary vows after the novitiate), it is important to clarify the relationship between serving the mission and making vows, for us as Daughters of Charity.
"Incorporation" (August 21, 2016)
In his article, “The Vows According to the Specific Spirit of the Daughters of Charity,” Fr.Fernando Quintano, CM explains, “… vows are not what make someone a Daughter of Charity; rather the nature and manner of making them contribute to the identity of the Company and are a necessary condition for remaining in it.  The central point within religious consecration is the profession of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience by public vows, while for the Daughters of Charity, the central point is mission, that is to say, continuing the mission of Christ, Evangelizer and Servant, a mission expressed through the corporal and spiritual service of poor persons.”  (Echoes of the Company, No. 4 July-Aug 2011, pg. 408)

I have been a Daughter of Charity since I was incorporated into the community and I have continued as a member of the community throughout Seminary and now out on mission in Chicago.  My "Sending on Mission" was a significant moment on my journey as a Daughter of Charity because I was sent forth to participate in the mission of Christ, specifically sent to serve persons who are poor, which as Fr. Quintano points out, is the central point of our lives:  MISSION.  
"Sending on Mission" (April 21, 2018)
My day to day life doesn’t seem too different than my sisters who have made vows.  We pray together, share community life together, and serve alongside each other in various ministries.  Yet every March 25 there is something that distinctly separates us.  During that quiet pause after the homily during a Renovation mass, the sisters silently recite the vow formula, making their vows to God for another year.  It is such a sacred moment to witness as a sister under vows, as I feel the tension between the already of mission life and the not yet of vows.
So, what does a sister under vows do during Renovation?  I pray for my sisters, those gathered at the present liturgy, and the 14,000 others scattered across the globe saying “yes” under a variety of challenging circumstances.  Last year when I was in the Seminary, we celebrated Renovation with our senior sisters missioned to the ministry of prayer in St. Louis.  I accompanied one sister during mass and was instructed to prompt her when it was time to renew vows.  I held her hand, pointed to the vow formula, and loudly whispered into her ear, “It’s time to make your vows.”  She erupted into a broad smile and responded, “uh-huh.”  I pointed to the words of the vow formula and watched her gaze travel across the page, with an occasional slight nod of the head.
In a few years, God-willing, I will make my own “uh-huh” to God for the first time.  But in the meantime, I will continue to live in the already of mission life:  strengthening my identity as a Daughter of Charity, expanding my love for the Poor, broadening my forms of service, investing myself in community life, and forever deepening my relationship with God.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Leaning into Lent and others

By Sr. Carlette Gentle, SC Federation Perpetually Professed

      Click HERE to learn more about Carlette

      Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

The Gospel reading for the first Tuesday of Lent reminds us of a God of every season including a season of Lent, a season where we reap what we sow, a season where there is no need for distress or worry when what we do or seek is grounded in good and God. This is because our God is one who rescues the just. He seeks us not to babble like the pagans but a people who do. Read on to learn of a connection to trauma, and what I believe, we must do this Lenten season.

Trauma and our reading. As a current master of social work student at St. Louis University learning about trauma in an advance Human Behavior and the Social Environment course, I see the link to this week’s readings. There are continuous studies, which show that children, even babies in utero, can be impacted negatively from toxic stress. Toxic stress response according to Nadine Burke Harris is when a child experiences strong frequent, and/or prolong adversity – such as physical or emotional abuse, neglect, caregiver substance or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship – without adequate adult support. This rather prolonged activation of the stress-response system can disrupt the development of the brain and other organ systems, and increase the risk for stress-related disease and cognitive impairment, well into the adult years. Burke (2018) states that toxic stress affects:

· how we learn,
· how we parent,
· how we react at home and at work, and
· what we create in our communities

All of us are sufferers of toxic stress. Is there something that can mediate these risk factors?

Link to the reading. Trauma is an important conversation because as we venture into Lent, we are always looking for something to give up. In the light of the above knowledge, it makes more sense to add a Lenten ritual to help all people. Trauma interrupts the processing and receipt of love, hardening our hearts and how we see the world. Yet love is a mediating factor. Therefore, why not consider adding love, compassion, and care for the other to our Lenten season rather than giving up something random.

Closing. As we look at our world surrounded by daily stressors threatening the equilibrium of our society, remember God is continuously there. We should be too. God provides seeds for the one who sows and bread for the one who eats ... as the psalm reassures us that “From all our distress God rescues the just.” Our world needs LOVE. Karen Young (2019) states that the environment might continue to be stressful and deeply painful for a child, but research has shown that with the support of a loving adult, the physiological effects of the stress response can be softened, minimizing the risk of long-term damage. During this Lenten season, let us lessen our babbling and show more love to our brothers and sisters. Let us take to heart that as God gives us our daily bread that we share that bread daily with our others and surround ourselves in love.