Friday, January 20, 2017

Inauguration Day Prayer

Today, the United States officially receives its 45th president.  After one of the most divisive elections in national history, we hope and pray for healing among all people and that our government will be moved by the Spirit to work cooperatively for the common good.

The following is an adaptation of the prayer for civil authorities composed by Archbishop John Carroll for use on the occasion of the inauguration of George Washington in 1789.

      Almighty and eternal God,
      you have revealed your glory to all nations.

      God of power and might, wisdom and justice,
      through you authority is rightly administered,
      laws are enacted, and judgment is decreed.

      We pray for the president:
      Assist with your spirit of counsel and fortitude
      the President of these United States,
      that his administration may be conducted in righteousness,
      and be eminently useful to your people over whom he presides.
      May he encourage due respect for virtue and religion.
      May he execute the laws with justice and mercy.
      May he seek to restrain crime, vice, and immorality.

      We pray for the members of Congress:
      Let the light of your divine wisdom
      direct the deliberations of Congress,
      and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws
      framed for our rule and government.
      May they seek to preserve peace, promote national happiness,
      and continue to bring us the blessings of liberty and equality.

      We pray for state and local officials:
      We pray for governors,
      for the members of the legislature,
      for judges, elected civil officials,
      and all others who are entrusted to guard our political welfare.
      May they be enabled, by your powerful protection,
      to discharge their duties with honesty and ability.

      We likewise commend to your unbounded mercy,
      all citizens of the United States,
      that we be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of your holy law.
      May we be preserved in union and that peace which the world cannot give;
      and, after enjoying the blessings of this life,
      be admitted to those which are eternal.

      We pray to you, who are Lord and God, for ever and ever.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Responding to God’s Love

By Whitney Schieltz

This week we returned to Ordinary Time; and after spending the holidays with my family in Ohio, I returned to community life and ministry at the Border.  As I caught up with friends and coworkers, many expressed a relief and joy for things to be “back to normal” after the busy Christmas season.  For me, however, Christmas was the break from busyness, and getting “back to normal” is returning to that busyness.

Jesus Heals the Paralytic, by Harold Copping
As an introverted Enneagram Nine, I am not fond of large crowds and am inclined to live life at an unhurried pace.  So as I reflected on this week’s Gospel readings, it was challenging for me to imagine myself in Jesus’s place traveling from town to town as “people kept coming to him from everywhere.”  This was not a new thought, however, since the fast pace common to apostolic religious life has been an ongoing concern in my discernment. I often wonder if I will fall victim to exhaustion if I continue on this path to becoming a Sister.  I wonder how I should respond to God’s invitation to serve.

Pondering these questions, I remembered what Fr. James Martin, SJ, shared in his discussion of similar worries: “There is good news and there is better news.  The good news is that there is a Messiah.  The better news is that it’s not you!”  So looking back at 
Wednesday's Gospel, instead of identifying with Jesus, I looked to Simon Peter's mother-in-law for my cue of how to respond to God’s call.  After Jesus healed the woman, she immediately responded with an act of service.  God was not asking her to compete with the miraculous works of His son, only to spread His love by serving those around her.  She did in that moment what she was able to do.  And that is what God asks of us.

Christ Healing the Mother of Simon Peter’s Wife, by John Bridges
God’s love is also what we need to restore us in times of exhaustion and distress.  As Jesus was fully human, he too was no stranger to these feelings and needed time away from the crowds to recuperate.  After many healings, “he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”  Through prayer, and through his Father’s love, he was restored and able to continue in his mission.  He always responded—even when he might have preferred to be alone.  And God will always respond when we call out to Him.

So now I ask myself: Am I ready to step out of my comfort zone and into the crowds?  Am I willing to put the needs of others before my own desires?  Am I willing to risk exhaustion in response to God’s love?  Do I trust that God will restore me when I turn to Him in prayer?  
How am I responding to God’s love?

Friday, January 6, 2017

My, How You’ve Grown!

By Sr. Andrea Koverman

Typically reserved for young children, this is not a comment most adults are accustomed to hearing.  It’s a joyous exclamation that gives expression to the wonder we experience when witnessing an infant transforming into a toddler, a child, an adolescent, an adult.  I’ve had the happy good fortune of sharing my office for the past few months with the precious new son of the director of the organization where I minister, and I have said those very words to him myself!

2 months old
5 months old

 So, I was surprised when Sr. Annina Morgan, still one of the sharpest dearest wisdom figures in my community at the age of 100, recently said something similar to me. I was one of many joyful people gathered to witness Sr. Annie Klapheke professing her first vows in early December, and went to say hello to Annina before the ceremony began. I remarked at what a happy occasion it was and how it seemed only yesterday that I was doing the same as Annie. I leaned down to kiss her velvety cheek and when I drew back and looked in her big brown eyes, she said, “But it’s already been more than a year—and look how you’ve grown!” Followed by an invitation to reflect further on that with, “How have you grown this year, Andrea?” She never lets an opportunity like that slip by!

Srs. Annie Klapheke and Annina Morgan

Musing and praying with that question has occupied my spirit ever since. Much more helpful than my typical where-have-you-failed-end-of-the-year reflection, this how-have-you grown reflection feels more fruitful already.

I have to admit that I am glad to see 2016 go. I can easily generate a list of blessings, joys, and gifts that I received during the year, and I am genuinely truly grateful for each of them. But, it has been a year of considerable loss and sorrow for me as well; things I never dreamt would happen have, and people I wasn’t ready to lose have gone. Sometimes I have felt like the battered little fishing boat out on the Sea of Galilee with a sleeping Jesus seemingly unconcerned or unaware of the storm I was struggling to weather. Mercifully, those moments pass relatively quickly, and hindsight helps me see how those painful experiences have helped me to grow in faith and trust in God. Like a best friend who just grows dearer and dearer, it is love that sees me through and love that gives me confidence that as Julian of Norwich said, “All is well, and all manner of thing shall be well,” come what may.

I know my heart will continue to break as I endeavor to live out my community’s charism of responding with care to the needs of our time in ways that are sure to feel risky. In his homily at my mother’s funeral now several years ago, Fr. Gino looked at my brother and sister and me sitting with our arms around each other and told us we would have to make a conscious choice that day. Rather than allowing our hearts to close in an attempt to avoid the kind of pain we were feeling, we would have to choose to love again, which with all certainty would mean we would suffer again. 

On January 4th, we celebrate the feast day of the foundress of my community, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who relied on God’s grace to give her the courage and strength to choose to love again each time she experienced a fresh heartbreak. That grace saw her through the deaths of her husband and two children, through the rejection and scorn of family and friends when she converted to Catholicism, and through the many obstacles, hardships and disappointments of starting a new religious community. “Be prepared to meet your grace in every circumstance of life,” is a commonly cited quote of hers. In reflecting on the year behind me, I whisper a prayer of thanks for the grace that leaves me with a heart in tact and open to love despite my own heartaches. I wonder how “prepared” I am to meet God’s grace for whatever is coming next, and I pray that I am even more aware of God’s gift of readily available and always accessible grace in the year to come.

Like I used to tell my students, hoping to do well is not the same as being prepared to do well—that takes effort. How can I prepare to meet God’s grace? Just as it is with any relationship, the most important thing is time. Time for talking, praying, listening, meditating, just being and enjoying each other’s company. In the busyness of life, I’ll have to make it a priority to invest the time with God that will allow our relationship to deepen or it won’t happen. Making the effort it will take to grow in awareness and reliance upon meeting my grace is at the top of my new year’s resolution list! What’s at the top of yours?

Friday, December 30, 2016

Looking Back at 2016

As another calendar year comes to a close, we thought it would be nice to look back at the graces that filled our lives throughout the past twelve months.  We prompted our bloggers to reflect on the standout moments and experiences of their year, what growth they noticed in themselves, what they were most grateful for, and if there were any common themes or mantras for them in 2016.  Below are the responses…

Laura Coughlin

What were the standout moments/experiences for you in 2016?
- Completing the MDiv degree at Boston College.

How did you notice yourself grow in 2016?
- I am growing in my ability to lift up my voice in a public space, and to have confidence in that endeavor.

What were you most grateful for in 2016?
- My mother's health
- My community (Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill) and the Jesuits for giving me access to such a marvelous education at BC

Were there any common themes, mantras, subjects of reflection, etc. for you in 2016
Concern about my ability to move into doctoral studies yielded to a firm sense of "yes" in light of a developing passion for a particular area of research.

Rejane Cytacki

I am most grateful for new experiences, new opportunities especially being Rooted in Hope at the Eco-Justice Center in Racine. (Racine is French for Root).  

Victoria Hood

My standout experiences all surround my entrance into the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth religious community. I had been discerning and spending time with the sisters and vocation director - Sister Vicki Lichtenauer - as she had activities in her schedule for over a year when I asked for an application in March of this year. I submitted the application in May and received my acceptance letter a couple of months later. I remember being anxious because following chapter meetings, our leadership team was changing, and I thought that this changing of office would delay my acceptance. I actually did a "happy dance" in my living room and then called my mother because I was so excited when I read my letter of acceptance. I moved into our formation house in September, started working at my new ministry two days after that,  and my Rite of Welcome was less than a month later. So much has changed in my life so quickly that even though I am excited about my vocation and where I am right now, it is still a little mind boggling. Also, the amount of adjusting and change is at times overwhelming, but I have a support system that I definitely take advantage of (my housemates, a couple SCLs that I am close to, spiritual director, and my parents). I thank God for this support system because I could not have done these past couple of months without them!

Tracy Kemme

As I look back on 2016, I feel God surfacing a short but powerful phrase in my heart: "Love wins."  This has been a painful year in our country, unleashing appalling hatred and fear.  The struggle has only just begun for many groups of marginalized people.  In the midst of this darkness, however, the counter-movement has been beautiful.  I see masses of people uniting around values of compassion, justice, and love - values embodied by Jesus Christ.  As we begin 2017, I pray for that force of Christ's love to grow stronger.  May we be agents of making, "Love wins!" come true.

Annie Klapheke

What were the standout moments/experiences in 2016?

I have so much to be grateful for in 2016.  I began the year by spending ten weeks in Guatemala studying Spanish, and ended the year by professing my first vows as a Sister of Charity - what a year!  I pray that I use all the gifts and graces of this past year to better build God's Kingdom in the new year to come.

Andrea Koverman

There were some wonderful gifts and joyous occasions in 2016 for which I am incredibly grateful: Sr. Janet's miraculous repeated recovery from cancer, Romina entering novitiate, Annie professing first vows, a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, sharing my office space with a beautiful and happy baby boy for the last few months, seeing our vision for our local community coming to fruition, to name just a few. But the year also held some deep disappointments and heartbreaking personal losses and near losses that shook me to the core. Looking back at those times while still processing their effects, I am overwhelmed by the role that both my relationship with God and my community have played in helping me not simply to endure, but to grow and heal. I am eternally grateful for them both. 

Meg Kymes

I have been reflecting mostly regarding my love for my vocation during 2016 as I prepare to make my vows for the first time in 2017.  I have become deeply grateful for being chosen for this life and my love for my Community has grown because of this.

Romina Sapinoso

In the novitiate year, spaciousness is necessary in the quieting of the mind and spirit to listen to God's call. However, I am finally, slowly living the awareness that discernment in this spaciousness is not just our work and ours alone. Sometimes, it is easy to fall into the idea of discernment as something we do by ourselves through the classes, the journaling, the reflections, etc. It takes a while to wake up to the realization that in the spaciousness, there is room for God to be my partner and say what God has to say about my call and my discernment. What a relief! It takes a load of pressure off me and invites me to enjoy the novitiate knowing God and I are in it together. I look forward to continuing the journey in 2017!

Whitney Schieltz

There were so many standout experiences for me in 2016, but the most memorable were the times when I traveled to new places (and some familiar) to gather with people of shared interests and missions.  Whether it was chaperoning a college service trip to the House of Charity in New Orleans, attending Catholics on Call in Chicago with other young adults discerning vocations in the Church, or joining hundreds of activists at the SOA Watch Encuentro at the Border in Nogales, I felt a stronger draw to community and service.  I was also extremely grateful for the opportunites to celebrate with several Sisters in the Future of Charity family as they entered the next stages of their formation!

Paris Slapikas

The year of mercy invited us to open our hearts -to grow our hearts to become more merciful and compassionate people.  My reflection this past year frequently centered around the increase in violence and tragedy and the seemingly greater divide among cultures and religions across our nation.

I was inspired by and often reflected on Pope Francis' reminder that "no amount of 'peace building' will be able to last, nor will harmony and happiness be attained, in a society that ignores, pushes the margins, or excludes a part of itself; it loses something essential.  We must never, never allow the throwaway culture to enter our hearts!....No one is disposable."

As we enter 2017, may we live up to our call to be expressions of love to all those we encounter.  May we seek out ways to advocate and support those on the margins.  May we continue to enlarge our hearts and embrace those who are suffering.

From all of us in the Future of Charity: Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday Jesus, Remember the reason for the season: The Incarnation.

By Sr. Judy Donohue

It use to upset me that people put up their Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.  Then I thought, let it be a reminder that Jesus can be born in our lives every day. Now I see them as a time to remember Jesus desires to be born in new ways in my life. I can allow Jesus to be born anew in me in many different ways.   May Jesus be born in our hearts every day. As we are preparing for Christmas, I’m reminded that as I let Jesus be born anew in a variety of ways in my life. Each morning I can ask Jesus to live and love through me. Open my eyes to see newness in my daily activities. God is in the ordinary. So much of life is ordinary. I was privileged to attend Annie Klapheke’s first vow ceremony at the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati motherhouse. Her theme was the incarnation. As we let our Baptismal take root, it grows into the abundant fruit. May God bless her decision to continue to let God reign in her heart, mind and life.  May God bless our daily decisions to let God reign in our hearts, minds and lives.

The Future of Charity group gathered for Sr. Annie Klapheke's vows in Cincinnati

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Word Becoming Flesh: Consent and Commitment

By Sr. Annie Klapheke

Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours, no feet but yours.
- St. Theresa of Avila

I professed my first vows with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati on December 10th.  

I chose this quote from St Theresa of Avila for the front of the program because it captures the image of the Incarnation – the theme around which I chose the readings and songs for the liturgy.  I have come to understand vocation as each person’s call to participate in the continuation of the Incarnation – that is, making God’s love physically present in the world.  By my vows, I have said ‘yes’ to continuing the Incarnation is a particular way, as a vowed religious with the Sisters of Charity.  Through my vow liturgy, I wanted to draw all those present into the Incarnation story, and hoped that it would lead them to consider how they, themselves, were being called to participate in this great story.  The mass was beautiful.  I am so grateful to the singers, readers, musicians, presider, and all those who participated.  By offering their gifts, they brought the liturgy to life, and God’s love was palpable in that chapel on that cold December morning.  

For the Gospel reading, I chose the Annunciation story from the Gospel of Luke.  Thirteen simple versus which capture the moment when the history of the world was changed; when Mary gave her ‘yes’ to allow God to take on human skin, through her.  S. Louise Lears offered a reflection describing the rawness of Mary’s consent to the angel.  Louise stated, “We don’t know the emotions Mary drew upon in her consent, her ‘may it be done to me according to your word’.  Perhaps she was the peaceful woman portrayed in some artistic representations.  But I wonder if she sang her consent to God through her tears, hands shaking in fear of the unknown future, yet trusting in God.”  Louise continued by pondering the moments following the Annunciation, “And isn’t it notable that, once Mary consented, the angel did not wait around to soothe Mary’s doubts, or go with her to tell her parents and Joseph, or stay behind to silence her critics.  The angel departed, leaving the ongoing work of discernment and discipleship to Mary.”

Mary gave her consent, and now she was committed to the vocation of bearing God to the world.

If I had to choose one word to describe how I felt after my vow mass, it would be ‘committed’.  Yes, of course, there was great joy, excitement and gratitude; but even stronger was a sobering sense of deep commitment to God, to my community, and to continuing the work of the Incarnation.  In the closing of her reflection, S. Louise stated, “[Annie], you are a God bearer, an identity and vocation that brings with it extraordinary privileges and significant burden – all of which are meant to be shared in solidarity and in community.  Your work of bearing God into the world as a woman religious will continue to require ceaseless discovery and ongoing consent.  Each trembling ‘yes’ that you whisper as a Sister of Charity into God’s heart will change you and us and the world.”  

As my consent and commitment to the work of the Incarnation sink deeper into my heart, I listen to the words of the angel Gabriel and gain courage, “Hail, favored one!  The Lord is with you.  Do not be afraid.”  

President Sr. Joan Cook receives the vows of Sr. Annie Klapheke. (photo: Romina Sapinoso)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Congratulations, Sister Annie Klapheke, SC!

Congratulations to Sister Annie Klapheke, SC, who professed her First Vows this weekend with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati!  The ceremony was held at the Motherhouse in Cincinnati, Ohio, with hundreds of Sisters, friends, and family members in attendance to help welcome Annie and celebrate with her.

Several Future of Charity members and wisdom figures were there to celebrate the occasion!