By Sister Andrea Koverman, SC
SC Federation First Professed
The season of Advent never fails to be a time of growth and deepening transformation when we dedicate ourselves to an extended and deepened examination of how well prepared we are to receive God. Our stumbling blocks emerge so that we can get to work making straight the path, clearing away whatever keeps us from being receptive and reflective of God so that we, too can honor the call to be Christ bearers in the world, birthers of God’s love and life.
But this Advent has been an even more intense period of discernment for me. Though I have been very happy in my ministry in Cincinnati, I began feeling a “holy dissatisfaction” several months ago that I couldn’t explain. I spent a significant period of time trying to ignore, suppress and pray my feelings away, thinking that I should be content with all that I had been blessed with and intensely ashamed of not feeling more grateful.
It wasn’t until my local community hosted a discernment weekend for young women exploring what God might be calling them to do with their lives, that I got some insight that helped me recognize what was happening with me. In a video clip used by a member of the planning team Fr. Michael Himes, SJ explained that God sometimes prompts us to move on from perfectly meaningful and fulfilling ministry into something new through feelings like the ones I was having. We experience what he calls a “holy dissatisfaction,” a sense that there is something else God is calling us to that helps us detach from what is, not to serve personal preferences or ambitions, but for a purpose only known by God.
It took months of intense discernment for me to grow confident enough that my feelings really were of God to share them with my community, but my heart had known at once when I heard Fr. explanation. It was not easy to communicate this leap of faith I felt so compelled to take, but my congregational leadership has given me their support, and I am truly grateful. I have left one loving local community in Cincinnati and come to another in a border town near El Paso. Though I do not know exactly how God will put me to use, I do know coming to this place where migrants and refugees are experiencing such pain and suffering is a crucial part of it. These sisters and brothers need to experience God’s love through us, Jesus’ disciples more than ever before. We are called to encounter the most marginalized among us and in coming I am following in the footsteps of our foundresses and predecessors who did what presented itself, going to the places where great needs were identified, not with a ready-made plan, but in obedience to their vows to go where God sent them, to trust God to reveal the way they were to minister and to depend on God to help them do it.
The season of Advent is full of examples of people who felt less than confident that they were the right choice to answer God’s call to be Christ-bearers, ushering in God’s kindom of justice, love and peace in a cold and suffering world. I am in the best of company in responding, “Who, me?” and “How can this be?” I am called to respond through the religious vows I have made. The vow of celibacy means that I am free to love beyond my immediate circle of family, friends and community and what enabled me to pack up and leave when I felt called to do so. My vow of obedience requires that I pay attention and respond to the way God calls me uniquely and particularly regardless of my own doubts and those of others. And my vow of poverty keeps me mindful and accepting of my dependency on God in all that I am and do. I feel a deep joy and inner peace as I put myself at God’s disposal and wait to see what good will come of it. I am confident, even in moments of questioning that as in Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord is saying to me, “I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” That sounds very good to me, so here I am, Lord!
May you all experience the joy of receiving God within and among us, and be filled with the joy of this love beyond all understanding this Christmas!
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