Friday, May 19, 2017

The Way of Elizabeth

Sisters of Charity Federation novices and candidates began their "Way of Elizabeth pilgrimage" on Wednesday, May 17.  Women in formation with our congregations undertake this journey to enter deeper into the life of our founder, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and to connect to the roots of our Federation.  The pilgrimage began with a stop in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, to visit the Sisters of Seton Hill’s motherhouse and Archives. Currently, they are spending a few days in Emmitsburg and Baltimore, Maryland, visiting the The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and other sites related to the Sisters of Charity founding.  Following that, they'll head to New York and New Jersey to visit more Federation Sisters and the places important to Elizabeth's early life.  Please pray with them!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Happy Nurses Day

By Sister Carlette Gentle, SC Federation Perpetually Professed

      Click HERE to learn more about Carlette

      Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

There is a prayer called the Nurses Prayer.  I don’t know who wrote it but it goes like this:

      Lord, help me to bring comfort where there is pain
      Courage where there is fear
      Hope where there is despair
      Acceptance when the end is near
      And a gentle touch with tenderness, patience, and love.

As I read this poem out loud to myself, I thought of people around the world who give of themselves daily to offer assistance.  Many I know do not do it for the love of the money but for the genuine concern they have for others.  Nurses give of their time and energy to keep up with their practice, they utilize patience when working with difficult patients, they have to stay focused and alert when diagnosing tests, they have to be on the alert when a patient’s symptoms change.  This list can go on.  But, on a daily basis in this fast pace world, nurses stop to offer servant leadership to others.  I think we fail to realize that the personal contact and care given to another is very important.  Just greeting someone the time of the day can uplift their spirit.

Nurses give of their life to help others in their times of need, worry and concern.  So on this special day for Nurses, let us all give thanks to those in this profession who selflessly give of themselves to assist others.  We are deeply thankful to you for the services you offer to us.

Thank you, Nurses.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Sisters pronounce perpetual vows in Bangalore

Congratulations to sisters Jansel and Josephine Arul, who pronounced their perpetual vows
on May 6, 2017, at Nazareth Convent in Bangalore, India!

Sisters Jansel and Josephine Arul
From left to right: SCNs Franciska Sanga, Suchita Kujur,
Sushila Marandi, and Chandrakala Tigga

Friday, May 5, 2017

Call a Midwife, or Maybe a Sister!

By Sr. Andrea Koverman, SC Federation Temporary Professed

Today is International Midwives Day! Did you ever think about how much in common we religious sisters have with midwives? If you are a fan of the popular television show, Call the Midwife, you no doubt have seen the shared mission of bringing love to birth in the world played out in episode after episode. Like Sister Julienne who says in one of my favorite scenes, “Let’s see what love can do,” women religious are called to be the loving presence of God in whatever circumstance they find themselves in, and to witness what that love can do for the people whom we serve.

I was very surprised recently to be asked to be on a panel of parents sharing their unique experiences of parenting as part of the Cincinnati Storytellers series organized and hosted by our local newspaper, The Cincinnati Enquirer. One of the reporters, Mark Curnutte, has covered many of the events hosted by the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center, where I am a program manager, and we have had the opportunity to share some of our personal journeys and experiences with each other. Even so, I was surprised when he called and asked me to be on the panel of storytellers sharing unique experiences of parenting. There was a blind man, a same-sex couple, a single mother, a single father, a woman whose husband struggled with serious illness as she became pregnant, and me. A nun. Never married, no children.  He explained that I came to mind as soon as he heard the topic for the panel because of the many stories I had told him about the students I taught. Though I have no children of my own, he said that I had mothered and helped raise hundreds of children during my years of teaching and continued to nurture people as a sister, and he wanted people to hear that story, too.

On this International Midwifery Day, I thought I’d share the story I told them with all of you. I hope you will see the connections between midwives and those of us who don’t deliver babies, or have our own children but dedicate ourselves to bringing love into the world, nurturing the people we encounter who are most vulnerable and in need of “mothering.”

Here is what I shared with the audience:

I know you all are surprised to see me up here as part of a panel on parenting since I’m a Catholic sister--a nun, because even if you know little else about Catholic nuns, you know that we make a solemn promise not to engage in the activities that produce a baby!

But, sisters are also called to be life bearers, to nurture and love not children we bring into the world, but the wider circle of all God’s children--and in particular those who are in most need of it. How I came to realize that I had a call for that kind of love is my story.

It was a gradual realization, and I started out like most little girls assuming that I’d grow up and have kids--and I wanted bunches and bunches of them! But looking back, I remember that I always preferred playing school or Sacagawea to playing house. I found that game kind of boring and wanted something with a mission or some adventure.

The first time I ever considered that I might not follow the typical trajectory of marriage and children was when I was in the fourth grade. I was at the Sisters of Charity Motherhouse in Cincinnati where two of my great aunts lived. We had our summer family picnics there because the aunts were told old to go elsewhere. I loved going to the “mount” and was fascinated by all the ancient-looking but sweet-as-pie old sisters. As I was running around in a game of tag with my siblings, one of the aunts, ancient and growing more and more senile herself, reached out and stopped me in my tracks. I stood respectfully in front of her, red-faced and sweaty with my messy long braids and skinned knees that let everyone know what a tomboy I was. I expected her to tell me to stop running around or some such thing, but instead she took my hand and leaned forward from her wheel chair. She looked closely into my face and said, “Darling, I just want to welcome you to the community and tell you not to worry about a thing. You’re going to make a fine, fine sister!” I should have been surprised by what she said, but somehow I wasn’t. It resonated somewhere deep inside me, and it just felt right and true. So I turned to the rest of my family and announced, “Hey! Aunt Mamie says I’m going to be a nun!”  My proclamation was followed by a round of hearty laughter, which was more confusing than what Aunt Mamie had said. What was so funny?

Through all the years of Catholic schooling that followed, and despite the fact that I had two additional sister relatives, no one ever brought the topic of religious life up to me again. I assumed that Aunt Mamie was wrong in thinking I’d make a good nun, or simply that people just weren’t doing that anymore and let go of the idea.

What I didn’t let go of was my love of children and my desire to help them--especially the ones who were struggling. I still felt called to mission and adventure and dreamed of joining the Peace Corps, but couldn’t afford to. I got a special education degree from Miami University and landed a teaching job in a little town in South Carolina called Beaufort. I realized on my first day of school, that this was God’s answer to my Peace Corps prayer and I didn’t need to leave the country to get it. When I got to school on St. Helena Island that first day, I found that I couldn’t understand a word the children were saying. It was absolutely a foreign language. I came to find out that I had been assigned to teach in a school within the Gullah community. I had never heard of that before, and quickly had to educate myself about this unique and amazing part of our country.

The Gullah people are direct descendants of people who were brought to America as slaves from Africa. They were intentionally selected from countries that did not share a common language to reduce the threat of revolt on the plantations. Over the years, the people developed their own unique language that was a compilation of individual languages mixed with English words. When they were emancipated, they were allowed to purchase the land on the Sea Islands, off the mainland of Beaufort. The intercostal waterway provided a natural barrier between the white community and the African American Community. They remained isolated for almost a hundred years before bridges to the islands were built, which allowed their language culture to remain in tact.

But years of isolation and lack of access to quality health care, education and employment resulted in many of them living in really impoverished conditions. It was shocking for me to see people living without electricity or running water, and I found it hard to remember that I was in my own country. I never felt so needed and I was determined that I was going to be a good teacher and to give them every chance in life that I could.

The room I taught in came equipped with exactly one partial piece of chalk. That’s it, so we were starting from scratch. The children were in grades kindergarten to six, but many of the older children had been retained multiple times and were much older than expected. They had a range of types and severities of learning disabilities and came to me for special instruction from one to three periods a day. I had learned that the best way to teach children is to figure out how they learn, so we spent a lot of time getting to know each other. I asked lots of questions and as they opened up to me and shared what their lives were like and what they dreamed of, they became comfortable with me and learned to trust me. We created a community in which they felt valued and appreciated, and loved. And I really did love them. I was excited to see them each day and felt so privileged to be with them. Despite the hard lives they were living, they were full of enthusiasm, energy and hope. I saw in them the potential that they had and the innate goodness and dignity that all people are afforded simply by being created in God’s image.

My students felt loved, and they began to flourish. By the middle of the year, I knew they had made progress, but I was a nervous wreck as the first parent-teacher conferences came up. I wondered whether I had taught them well enough or fast enough to make their parents happy. I’ll never forget my first conference. I could hear one of my first grade students named Leona dragging her mother down the hall towards my room. She was saying, “Come on, Mama! Come on, Mama!" When they burst through the door, Leona said, “See Mama, see my white teacher? I told you she was white!” I didn’t quite know what to say standing there in all my whiteness except, “Hello, I’m Andrea Koverman, Leona’s teacher. And I guess you can see she was right, I am white.” She laughed and we sat down and began to talk about how much progress Leona had made. Leona leaned up against me while I talked about her with a sweet smile on her face. I was taken aback when her mother began to cry and said, “Miss Koverman, they told me my girl was retarded and she wasn’t never going to be able to do nothing.” I was shocked and didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t believe that someone had already put such cruel limitations on such a limitless possibility of a child. I said, “Well, I don’t pay too much attention to what the papers say, and you can see that they are wrong about Leona. She can do and be whatever she wants to be.”

As the year went on and the students continued to improve, I began to have other teachers come to visit my room on their breaks. I came to understand that my students were considered to be the “bad” kids by the rest of the school. But in my room, they weren’t bad. Like a child who wants to please their parents who love them, my students did not want to disappoint me and they did their best to do whatever I asked. Children with disabilities will often distract others from noticing that by misbehaving, but in our room where they felt safe and accepted, they didn’t need to. Because they were so eager to come each day, I think their regular teachers thought I just let them play. But when they saw them working, they wanted to know what my secret was. They couldn’t believe that the same students who gave them such a hard time were working so hard for me. It took me quite a while to figure out the answer to that question because there wasn’t a secret method or teaching strategy that I was using. The “secret” was simply that I loved my students and they knew it. I only grew more passionate about teaching each year that I did it. I believe education is a justice issue and the only real leveler of the playing field. Despite the poverty and other challenges they had, I was devoted to making sure my students were able to be as successful as any other students were.

I had a couple of close calls with my versions of Prince Charming or in my case, Captain Von Trapp, but the little seed that my Aunt Mamie had planted so long ago kept reminding me that my passion lie somewhere else. With all the pressure from family and friends, it was a scary and sometimes really hard decision not to get married and have kids, but I’m glad that I was able to follow my heart not to. When I was reintroduced to the Sisters of Charity as an adult, I found a whole community of women who were called to love in this broad inclusive way, and so I joined them.

I am now a program manager at the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center where we educate and advocate for peace, focusing on ending the death penalty and human trafficking, immigration reform, and nonviolence initiatives. Though I am not teaching children anymore, I am still teaching and hopefully helping people understand that we are all sister and brother to one another and that our circle of love needs to include the most vulnerable and marginalized people in our society.

When people who don’t know I’m a sister ask like they usually do, “Do you have kids?” I feel very blessed and privileged to be able to say, “Not my own, but yes, I have had many.” And I have seen what love can do.

Friday, April 28, 2017

To-Do Lists and My Car Radio

By Victoria Hood, SC Federation Candidate

      Click HERE to learn more about Victoria

      Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

My three minute prayer reflection app on my iPad asked me today if my priorities match God's. Honestly, no, because I often make to-do lists and I have recently had a personal insight into this practice. My insight is that to-do lists have advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that I stay organized, which is a relief to me; and that I feel a sense of accomplishment when I can cross an item off. The disadvantages are that I become stressed when I don't think I will be able to complete the list; and the joy is in crossing the item off the list and not in doing it. The solution that I have come up with is to pray and journal daily, and then continue to make to-do lists but to make a goal of accomplishing any of the three items on the list. I still get a sense of accomplishment without stressing over doing the entire list. If three items is even too much then I will consider if there were extra conditions such as traveling or if I need to manage time better.

I also want to share something I heard on my car radio while listening to 88.5 Christian Life radio station. "Light can always overcome darkness. It is never the other way around. The darkness must wait for the light to flicker out. If we continue to attempt to live in the light, then darkness can never overcome us."

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Spring Gathering in NOLA

Thank you, everyone, for your prayers as we gathered in New Orleans last weekend
for our Spring Future of Charity gathering!

We had 9 participants and 2 wisdom figures from across 6 congregations...

 Our prayer and discussion focused on the theme of solidarity and life on the peripheries...

We even had a Zoom call with several of our Sisters in Korea and Belize...

And of course, we had time to enjoy the sites and culture of New Orleans!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Please pray for us!

This weekend the Future of Charity group is gathering at the House of Charity
in New Orleans for prayer, reflection, sharing, and fellowship.

November 2016, House of Charity, New Orleans, LA

Friday, April 14, 2017

Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?

By Whitney Schieltz

This Holy Week has conveniently coincided with an important time in my discernment.  Now, after a year-and-a-half as an Affiliate with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, living in our formation house outside of El Paso, Texas, I must decide if I am going to apply for Novitiate.  Although I believe that is where I am being called, many unexpected emotions have been surfacing recently.  Most obvious among them has been sadness in recognizing that I will have to leave the U.S.-Mexico border, where I have grown so close to so many people through my community and my ministries.  It will be especially difficult to move away at a time when there is so much need at the border.

As I prayed with the Gospels this week, I found comfort in Jesus’s own struggle to continue on the path that his Father called him to follow.  While he was approaching the end of his earthly life, I too am dealing with the fear and acceptance of an end.  In both cases, however, we trust that what comes next is necessary and what God wants for us.  I’m sure it will be a tough transition, but I just keep hearing Jesus asking, “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?”  He trusted, and so must I.  I must trust that God is taking me where I need to be.  And I must trust that God will take care of the things I cannot.

Anapra, Mexico: home to Proyecto Santo Niño, the clinic for special needs children
where I have ministered over the past year-and-a-half at the border.
Much of my time at the Proyecto Santo Niño clinic in Anapra is spent playing with the
children and helping with the school started there for the special needs children.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Humble, Simple, and Kind: Sligeach Éireann

By Sr. Alice Ann O'Neill, SC

I was inspired to write this poem when I heard people of Sligo, Ireland (Sligeach Éireann) praying the Lord’s prayer in their native language of Irish at mass. Sligo is a small city on the west coast of Ireland between Donegal and Galway. The founding mother of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, Margaret Farrell George (1787-1868), was born in Sligo and her family celebrated mass in secret at this holy well -Tobernalt in Irish- hidden in the forest near Sligo. The link after the poem is a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in Irish. I offer this as a peaceful Lenten reflection.

Humble, Simple, and Kind: Sligeach Éireann

Faces worn and weary
windblown and teary.

Faith well-deep
through the ages
in secret now sages.

Waters flowing
Minds turning
Eyes closing
Souls opening...

Pilgrim path
gently trod.
Freely following
never a prod.

Waves rolling crash
Walking not to dash.
Wind ravaging trees
Winding through the leaves.

Nature's music a peaceful prayer.

Ár nAthair atá ar neamh,
go naofar d’ainm,
go dtaga do ríocht,
go ndéantar do thoil ar an talamh
mar a dhéantar ar neamh.
Ár n-arán laethúil tabhair dúinn inniu
agus maith dúinn ár bhfiacha
mar amhaithimidne dár bhféichiúna féin;
agus ná lig Ach ná sinn i gcathú,
ach sar sinn ó olc.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Three Lessons

By Sr. Annie Klapheke

Some of my greatest spiritual lessons over this past year have come from some unlikely teachers:  women in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

About a year ago I become involved with the Ignatian Spirituality Project (ISP).  The mission of ISP is to offer retreats for men and women experiencing homelessness and/or in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.  These retreats integrate the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius with the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).  Since becoming involved with this ministry, I have received far more than I have given.  As I reflect on my past year as an ISP team member, here are three important lessons I’ve learned.

Lesson 1:  We have more in common than we think
The first step to becoming an ISP team member is to first participate in a retreat, as a retreatant.  I remember feeling nervous as I prepared for this initial experience.  I was a novice at the time, and I remember wondering, ‘What will I, a nun-in-training, have in common with women in recovery from drug addiction?  Will they think I’m self-righteous or too naïve to relate to them?’  God answered my question in the first hour of the retreat.  The opening activity was to find a partner and spend five minutes each sharing about our lives.  My partner shared first.  She was currently living in an all women’s residential recovery center.  She talked about how much she enjoyed the bond with the other women in the program, how they lived together like a family, sharing duties and responsibilities and how they all supported each other in living their common mission to stay sober.  A group of women, living in intentional community, with a mission driven-purpose – it sounded awfully similar to religious life.  As I shared about my own experience of living in community with my sisters, and supporting each other in our mission to live the Gospel, my partner commented, ‘Wow, I never thought I’d have something in common with a nun.’ 

This lesson can be applied in so many areas of life.  Often we look at the ‘other’’, focusing on the obvious external differences, and these felt differences can lead to resistance or even fear.  But when we take the time to share our stories with one another, we often find we have more in common than we think, simply by our shared human experiences.  Imagine how this lesson could transform hearts around issues such as racism and anti-immigrant sentiments?

Lesson 2:  The true meaning of poverty
I’m not talking about material poverty here.  I’m talking about poverty of spirit – the kind of poverty that Jesus blessed, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3); and the kind of poverty I have vowed to live as a woman religious.  In this type of poverty, a person admits they are nothing on their own, but instead completely dependent on God.  These women know what it feels like to hit rock bottom, and it is from this place of complete emptiness and desolation that they begin their journey in recovery.  The first three steps of the 12-step program are 1) admitting your powerlessness over your addiction, 2) coming to believe that only a higher power can restore you to sanity, and 3) making the decision to turn your will over to a higher power.  These three steps also align with the first week of the Spiritual Exercises, which is also called the “Principle and Foundation”.  The goal of this first week is to recognize that the total purpose of one’s life is union with God, and everything in one’s life should be ordered to God’s plan.  One of the women on the ISP team has been in recovery for three years, and she often gives the witness talk on retreats.  One of her most compelling lines is, “I wake up every morning and as soon as my feet hit the floor, my prayer is, “God, today I’m doing your will, your way; your will, your way.”  She relies 100% on God to maintain her sobriety. 

As a healthy, well-educated, white, middle class US citizen; it can be easy for me, from my privileged vantage point, to fall into a pattern of self-sufficiency and independence – ‘I have it all together, and I can go it on my own’.  This mindset is the antithesis to my vow of poverty as a woman religious.  The women in the ISP program have taught me what it looks like to admit total helplessness, and to live a life totally reliant on God.

Lesson 3:  Gratitude
On the most recent retreat I led, I spent Saturday evening hanging out in the kitchen chatting with one of the retreatants.  She amazed me with her attitude.  “Every morning my alarm goes off and I just pop right out of bed with a big smile on my face.  I go bounding down the hall saying good morning to everyone I pass,” she said, “I am just so happy to be alive and to be where I’m at.”  These women’s lives are not easy.  The recovery programs are often very rigid and structured, and the women have very little autonomy or privacy in their day to day lives.  Even once they are living on their own again, many of them work exhaustingly long hours, with long commutes via bus or walking, making just enough money to make ends meet.  Not to mention that many of them bare the wounds of trauma and carry burdens of guilt and shame from their past.  Yet they live each day with such gratitude; grateful simply to be alive, to be sober and to wake up each morning in a clean, safe, warm bed. 

After making an ISP retreat, the women can continue attending monthly reflection nights for support and sustained spiritual nourishment.  So many times I have arrived at these Monday evening meetings feeling stressed or cranky about something petty going on my in my own small world.  But after two hours with these women, I’m reminded that the only acceptable attitude for the gift of life is complete gratitude, every day. 

Maybe one day these three important lessons will take root in me, and I’ll finally learn to be like one of my new role models. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Living Water

By Sr. Tracy Kemme

The Gospel for this Sunday gives us a wonderful image for our Lenten journeys: living water.

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  Jacob's well was there.  Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.  It was about noon.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water.  Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink."  His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.  The Samaritan woman said to him, "How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?"  For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.
Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."
The woman said to him, "Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water?  Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?"
Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water." (John 4:5-15)

We prayed with this portion of the upcoming reading yesterday as a parish staff in a simple Lectio Divina style.

I have to admit, the first time we read the passage, the phrase that jumped out at me was, “Jesus, tired from his journey…”  The words brought me relief: “Oh, Jesus, you felt tired, too.”  March madness seems to have hit not only NCAA basketball but my calendar, too.  There is an overload of activity – Lenten commitments at the parish; activism, education, and accompaniment in the current immigration climate; continuing to settle into our new home and dedicating energy to build a new intentional community.  I’ve been feeling my resources wane and allowing myself to be irritable and negative.  I feel guilty confessing my exhaustion.  I know it’s a privilege to do meaningful work, and those who are the victims of oppression and injustice don’t have the option to give up because they’re tired.  Still, in my humanness, I sighed, “Jesus, I’m tired from the journey, too.”

The second time we read the passage, I imagined myself in the scene.  I became the Samaritan woman, my skin tingling under the high-noon sun and sweat dribbling down the side of my face.  I came to the well, wearily lugging my bucket as I had done so many other times, fetching the liquid of life from the only source in the village.  There sat a man with the kindest face I’d ever seen.

 When Jesus spoke to me, everything around me seemed to stop.  I felt overcome by peace and drawn to the compassion in his eyes.  For a moment, anxiety and fatigue subsided.  The focus moved from my weakness to his strength.  I sensed that he had something real and sustaining to offer me, something as real as a quenching swig of water on a sweltering day.  As Jesus described living water, I felt the urgent thirst that the woman in the story gives voice to, “Sir, give me this water.”

The third time we heard the words of the Gospel, I listened for the message Jesus might be trying to speak to my heart this day.  I heard one phrase so clearly, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."  It was not said in a disparaging way to make me feel little, but rather, it was a loving invitation to my jittery heart: “Tracy, remember who I am.  Look into my eyes, and see all of the gifts that I want to give to you.  I mean it.  Do you believe me?”  I realized that I did believe it somewhere deep down, but I had forgotten how to trust it.  I figured that with so much need in the world, I shouldn’t dare bother Jesus with something so petty.  Then, tenderly, he assured me, “Ask me for what you need.”

Something in my heart shifted, and even though my eyes were closed, the whole room felt lighter, glowing with golden warmth.  In my own preoccupations, I had latched on to a burdensome illusion that I had to do all of this on my own.  Here, Jesus brought me back to truth:  I am your source, a well inside of you that will not dry up.  Come to me, and rely on me.  As my spiritual director reminds me often, “If Jesus calls you to something, he gives you what you need to respond to that call.”

More powerful than a dismal reminder of our own weakness, Lent is an opportunity to remember, again, who Jesus is.  Yes, it is important to look sincerely inside ourselves throughout to season to see where we are missing the mark and how we can grow.  But we must do it in the context of knowing the “gift of God.”  As the Gospel so beautifully reminds us this Sunday, we don’t go the journey of transformation alone.  Lent is a call to believe, again, that Jesus is our source, an eternal spring welling up inside of us.  He wants us to return to him with our whole heart and ask him for our deepest longings.  He wants to nourish us, sustain us, refresh us, cleanse us, and fill us with hope.

Our Living Water is inexhaustible; there’s enough to go around for every person, for every day of life.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Prayer To End Slavery and Human Trafficking

Infographic from the Walk Free Foundation
According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, an estimated 45.8 million people are in some form of modern slavery across 167 countries. That means that there are more people in slavery today than at any time in human history.

Today we commemorate the life of Harriet Tubman (c. 1822 – March 10, 1913), a celebrated abolitionist and humanitarian who escaped slavery and guided hundreds of other slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad.

In honor of Harriet Tubman Day, we hope you will join us in praying for an end to slavery and human trafficking.

Loving Father,

We seek your divine protection for all who are exploited and enslaved.

For those forced into labor, trafficked into sexual slavery, and denied freedom.

We beseech you to release them from their chains.

Grant them protection, safety, and empowerment.

Restore their dignity and provide them a new beginning.

Show us how we might end exploitation by addressing its causes.

Help us reach out in support of victims and survivors of human trafficking.

Make us instruments of your spirit for their liberation.

For this we pray through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.


Prayer from the USCCB's World Day of Peace 2015 handout

Friday, March 3, 2017

Planting Seeds of Contemplation in Our World Today

By Sr. Rejane Cytacki

In our current social and political climate I think it is important to stop and reflect on two values that are important to building healthy relationships and stem from the core of what religious life is all about: Community and Contemplation. These are not unique to Christianity but are found among all the world religions. Below is an excerpt I wrote for a planning retreat at my ministry site, the Eco-Justice Center.


Freedom, responsibility, dialogue and integrity are key ingredients to building community. They provide a context for sharing experiences with others in grappling with common issues.  These shared experiences help build relationships of trust through hospitality. Once community is built it offers companionship and support.  In today’s world we are called to broaden community to a diverse group of people: those who are present, those virtually connected, those of different faiths or no faith, and those of different cultures and races.  Dialogue helps strengthen a community that will welcome all with respect.

Here at the Eco-J we see community built among our volunteers and participants in our programming. We believe community includes both human and all life. We nurture relationships which enhance the wellbeing of persons, the earth, and all beings. All life is dependent on earth for nourishment and physical survival.


Contemplation means the act of looking or gazing attentively. Contemplation allows you to draw closer to the mystery of life through active silence. It helps integrate body, mind, and spirit. It can make you more attentive to being in the moment.  When you take time to contemplate in a group there is a sense of connection with others while you are sitting in silence. Often times a deeper dialogue results from a group spending time in silence first.  The silence allows us to be with others who share a similar contemplative openness and offers the hope that each will be led to new perspectives, mutual respect and understanding. We need more of this in our world today.

As part of National Catholic Sisters Week, a group of sisters who live in Wisconsin got together and created a Transformative Circle process and events are being hosted called Come Sit with Us during March 8-14.  This whole process revolves around contemplation and dialogue. I will be facilitating a circle at the Eco-Justice Center that explores Laudato Si and inviting youth to participate as well.  This is one way of planting seeds of contemplation in our world today.

Content paraphrased from brochures “Meeting the Charism Again/For the First Time” Dominican Values-Building Community and The Contemplative Tradition 2003.