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…
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!