Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

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

Click HERE to learn more about Sr. Kara
HERE to learn more about the Daughters of Charity

It so happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)

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More shootings.  More acts of violence rooted in hate.  We respond, “Enough is enough! Pass me that petition!  I will write yet another letter to my representatives.”  We show up to vigils, to protests, uniting with our brothers and sisters with one voice:  Enough is enough!  We write posts on social media.  Our Facebook news feed is flooded with messages of solitary and thoughts and prayers for various communities struck with the most recent devastation of violence.  We will not stop uniting our voices, reaching out in solidarity, or taking action in various ways.  And we most definitely will not stop praying.  

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In all of this, I find myself turning to God, but lost for words.  I ponder, What is my prayer?  Then I echo the disciple's words to Jesus pleading, "Lord, teach us to pray."

When our hearts are broken and we can’t find the words,
Lord teach us to pray.

When noise overpowers the stillness of silence,
Lord teach us to pray.

When destruction is rampant and peace can’t be found,
Lord teach us to pray.

When lies and confusion distort the truth,
Lord teach us to pray.

When the darkness of sin casts a shadow on the goodness of humanity,
Lord teach us to pray. 

When despair blinds our eyes of faith,
Lord teach us to pray.

When doubt darkens our flame of hope,
Lord teach us to pray.

When hate hardens our hearts made for love,
Lord teach us to pray.

Teach us to pray with words,
with silence,
with action,
with pondering.

Teach us to pray with friends,
with strangers,
with adversaries,
with advocates.

Teach us to pray with the witness of our lives,
with the choices we make,
with the places we show up,
with the people we meet.

Lord teach us to pray with the events of our day,
as we discern your way:
a response of love,
an act of justice,
all rooted deeply in a life of prayer.

Lord teach us to pray.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Rest, Relax, and be Renewed.

By Sr. Judy Donohue, SC Federation Temporary Professed

      Click HERE to learn more about Judy

      Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

One of my jobs at the Forest Springs Health Campus is to water the plants in the Physical Therapy Courtyard. I came to work Monday morning after a particularly hot and humid weekend, the heat had gotten the best of the flowering baskets. They looked completely dehydrated with little hope for revival. The leaves were crinkled, the flowers were dried up, and I thought my boss was going to yell at me for letting them go. I decided to go ahead and water them anyway. The next day they looked fabulous, they looked like new. WOW! The leaves filled out, the flowers came back to life. Like the flowers, my spirit sometimes gets dehydrated and I need the Living Water to bring me back to life. Taking a break refreshes my Spirit. In June, I had the privilege of attending a retreat at Milford’s Jesuit Retreat Spiritual Center. I met daily with a Spiritual Director, walked the grounds, read my books, met the other 13 retreatants, drew Mandalas, attended Mass, prayed the Labyrinth, went to Reconciliation and enjoyed eating in silence at meals with the others. I put no pressure on myself to get things done. What freedom in just being. How freeing it is to enjoy the day in living in the now.

Flowering basket before and after watering

I also had the privilege of going to Camp Maria during our Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and Associates Vacation Week, July 2-10. I am awed at how much better I feel for taking a break. Being in the quiet has enlightened me to slow down. Retreat has challenged me to see the societal pressure to be busy is not the best way to live or be in relationship.

Being counter cultural is so much a strength in my understanding of Religious Life: To be a witness in a simple lifestyle when others are continually collecting things, to take a break when others are on the fast track, to stop and help others when it is an inconvenience. Personally to go slow is not my normal mode of operation. I want to move. Yet, it is in resting that I am restored.

Thank God for the Call to the annual retreat and the opportunity to take a vacation. Let us take time this summer to rest in God, have fun and be Re-vitalized to carry Jesus’ love to those in our ministries and communities. Having this time of renewal has prepared me for my Renewal of Vows on July 19. Thanks for your prayers and support as I continue on this journey to explore and live God’s love with others in helping the poor.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Freedom for Who?

By Sr. Meg Kymes, SC Federation Under 10 Years Vocation

      Click HERE to learn more about Meg

      Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

As we celebrated Independence Day on the fourth of July (and perhaps into this weekend), I reflected on one of the key concepts of our country’s founding, freedom.  In the musical, Hamilton, the song, “My Shot” states this idea well, Hamilton sings, “A colony that runs independently/Meanwhile, Britain keeps s****** on us endlessly/Essentially, they tax us relentlessly/Then King George turns around, runs a spending spree/He ain’t ever gonna set his descendants free/So there will be a revolution in this century”  Then Mulligan sings, “Yo, I’m a tailor’s apprentice/And I got y’all knuckleheads in loco parentis/I’m joining the rebellion cuz I know it’s my chance/To socially advance, instead of sewin’ some pants!” Laurens concludes, “But we’ll never be truly free/Until those in bondage have the same rights as you and me/You and I. Do or die. Wait till I sally in/On a stallion with the first black battalion.”  All of these ideals and struggles amid many others contributed to the battle that led to this great country’s birth.

In St. Peter’s first letter he states, “For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”  (1 Peter 2:13-17) Today, for too many people in this country freedom is a faraway dream.  Children at our borders are living in squalor and bondage seeking safety and freedom; women, men and children are bought and sold for sex and servitude caught in the web of human trafficking; others are stuck in their own personal prison of addiction, homelessness and/or mental illness.  The words St. Peter are just as valid today as they were to the early church.  During this fourth of July weekend and every day we should speak truth to power, but still respect those in authority over us in government.  Challenge the foolishness we see through speaking up and do our duty as citizens of this nation by voting.  Most of all we should show our love for our brothers and sisters in need by praying and working for their freedom. 

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!”