Friday, February 17, 2017

Casting My Lot

By Sr. Meg Kymes

On January 7th I made my vows for the first time.  Some of my family was able to come to celebrate this next step with me.  My mom’s cousin, Mary Margaret, came from Kansas City to Emmitsburg for my celebration.  After the Mass, Mary Margaret came up to me and gave me a huge hug.  With tears in her eyes she said, “I’m so proud of you!  I’ve never seen so many joyful women in one place.  I can see why you cast your lot with them.” 

In the weeks following my vows Mary Margaret’s words resonated with me.  I thought of the Apostles leaving their nets to follow Jesus.   The Gospel of Matthew tells us that, “Going on from there, [Jesus] saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”   Like the Apostles, I chose to follow Jesus call to me to leave my family of origin to “cast my lot” with the Daughters of Charity.   

I wanted to share the joy of Christ’s presence in my life in a special way.  In our vows, the Daughters of Charity pray, “In response to the call of Christ who invites me to follow him and to be a witness to his charity to the poor, I ... vow to God for one year, chastity, poverty and obedience ... and to devote myself to the corporal and spiritual service of the poor.” 

Like all the Apostles, I chose to cast my lot through God’s call to me to be a witness with others to God’s love.  I chose to cast my lot with the example of the Sisters I live with, the Vincentian Saints and Blesseds, and the other smaller saints that have influenced my journey.


From left to right:  Brent, Mary Margaret, Steve (Dad), Mom (Martha), Myself, 
Edwin (Brother), Natalie (Sister-in-law), and Margaret (Grandmother)

Friday, February 10, 2017

On Immigration, Formation, and Companions On The Journey

By Sr. Romina Sapinoso

Religious life formation is not for the faint of heart. I have come up with a long list of figurative language with which to illustrate the experience of formation. Novitiate is like being in timeout… for a whole year. Timeouts in the classroom are meant for a wrongdoer to have the opportunity to ponder and reflect on his/her faults. Just like timeouts, the space in novitiate allows for shadows to come up and be more glaring for an individual. Most novices, to begin with, might already be slightly at a loss with recent physical relocation, being away from typical support groups, culture shock, and a host of many other factors. Novitiate is like being in a pile of compost… it’s murky, dark, and smelly, with every inch of space filled with creepy crawlies. Novitiate is like… you get what I mean.

Besides being a novice, I am also an immigrant. The experience of being uprooted and replanted are not new to me. However, the uprooting and replanting in novitiate involves much more than a physical and emotional reorientation. The inner attentiveness to the spiritual work can sometimes feel so intense that one will suffer the urge to run away… for good. Still awaiting my US citizenship, being an immigrant during this time of President Trump is especially daunting. In addition to the limitations of the novitiate year to studies and prayer (with no real active ministry), being a permanent resident instead of a citizen of this country limits my political and civic participation as well. It is especially hard for someone who has been, for long stretches of time, all of the above: full time employee (teacher), active parish minister/community volunteer, and a full time graduate student. It is even more difficult when issues arise about matters I am most concerned about and prepared to contribute my voice to especially as a member of a religious community: immigration, climate change, education, human rights and all other life issues. The feeling of not being able to do much looms over like a cloud.

Though the space in novitiate may initiate feelings of aloneness, it is always good to remind myself that novitiate is not an individual journey. It is a process I am undertaking with supportive members of the community I am discerning with. Besides this wonderful group of women, my novitiate has also been a journey with intercommunity communities -- other novices from other religious congregations who are in the same boat as I am. Just in our small group of five women and three men last semester, 4 continents in the world -- Asia, Africa, North, and South America, and six countries -- the United States, South Korea, Philippines, Kenya, Canada, and Guatemala were represented. Each week, every person in the group grew more into a strong source of support for the others. At some level, we all knew what each is experiencing and are able to be in solidarity without need for explanation. Novitiate is an instant bond that we share this year as we continue to navigate the combined intensity of community life, prayer and study, as well as the complexities of immigration and being a foreigner in these lands during these times. Even sojourners need companions on the journey.

For all my rant about this period of novitiate, I can appreciate that it is, most of all, a time of transformation. Timeouts give an agitated or angry student some much needed time to cool off. Composting, as disgusting as it is to look at, smell, and feel, can produce a great deal of richness and nutrients to make fertile soil that will eventually bring good harvest. Even the creepy crawlies have the important role of being useful catalyst friends-- there to hasten the breakdown and radical change of the muck. Feelings of helplessness bring to front the difficult yet fundamental lesson that I am nothing but dependent on God’s mercy and grace. Sandra Maitri has some wise words to help with my novitiate journey at this time: “When we have stood in an unprotected way in God’s light… we are marked by an awareness that characterizes a traveler in a new land… have a heightened sense of the realities of our lives… able to name who we really are and who we are not-- our limits, traps, affections, falseness and unfreedoms come clear as do our beautiful gifts.” As vocal as I am about the challenges of this process, I also need to proclaim that I am truly and honestly grateful for this time of formation and God’s work in me. There is definitely more than enough good here to, in the words of our founder St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, “Hazard yet forward!”

Friday, February 3, 2017

Cognitive Dissonance

By Sr. Laura Coughlin

The state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.

With most of America, I’ve been watching the news carefully these last two weeks.  Images of marching women – more than a million of them gathered together to assert hard-won rights – impressed me. 

I was energized by their solidarity, amazed by their command of an audience, humbled by their support in other countries.

I was NOT convinced by their insistence that a woman’s freedom relies on the right to end her unborn child’s life.

I’ve also watched the airport protesters chanting their outrage over the seven countries ban

Five days ago, those inconvenienced by the executive order were greeted with a sea of friendly faces in various American ports of call. 

“No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here!” they chanted here in Boston. 

Again I was filled with joy, and again I thought about my own resistance to welcoming large numbers of people who seem to threaten our identity as a Christian nation, something I have more or less taken for granted most of my life.

What do we do with cognitive dissonance? 

…with feeling sorrow because a coming together of women in a show of power can’t eliminate the most self-destructive, disempowering act a woman can make?

…with feeling joy that people are leaving their autonomy to step out with others in favor of more others in order to eliminate the word, and the experience, “other”? 

…with feeling fear that new arrivals will move from there to here, but will not adapt to here?

…with feeling hope that they will?

…with knowing that Elizabeth Seton once described herself as a citizen of the world.

…with knowing that Elizabeth Seton wanted her sisters to be children of the Church.

…with wondering how to make these two dispositions of our foundress a holy solidarity in my own life.