Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Fog and Silhouettes

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

El Nido, Palawan in the early morning
Back in 2012 on a trip home to visit my family in the Philippines, we went to a beautiful part of the country towards the south called El Nido, Palawan. If you are familiar with the screen savers that flash on your desktop of exquisite crystal blue waters and various rock formations creating beautiful lagoons, that’s exactly what El Nido looks like. Needless to say, it was a good time to be together in a paradise-like place. However, on one of our island hopping days, we had quite an experience as a family that none of us would ever forget.

The day started out with beautiful weather albeit with some clouds in the sky. Tourists usually contract with businesses that arrange for activities and transportation between the islands. Our family was being helped by four young men who cooked, provided equipment and navigated the groups of islands with a small wooden motor boat that fit about 20 people, just the size of our extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles. As we started wrapping up a day of snorkeling, swimming, building castles on the beach and eating, the skies darkened and a storm started brewing. Thinking it was still safe and we can reach our resort before the worst of the weather came, we all packed into the boat and headed out into open ocean. That’s when the fog descended and the waters became so choppy that without saying a word, we all started praying silently. Our small wooden boat powered by the increasingly struggling small motor was tossed helplessly by the waves. We couldn’t see more than five feet ahead of us and the motor sounded like it could barely keep going. At that point, turning back wasn’t an option anymore either.

After what seemed like an eternity of part keeping faith and part managing our fears, we slowly saw the silhouette of hills and mountains that signaled we were close to land. It didn’t even matter to any of us at that time which part of the island we were heading towards or if it was even the right one. We just wanted to be on land, any land, and out of the scary waves and deep fog. We collectively breathed a sigh of relief as we got to the beach. Only when we were safely on solid ground did our boatman tell us that for the most part, engulfed in the fog, he didn’t know which direction we were going. He just knew where we came from and that we needed to keep heading north. He hoped that the waves didn’t move us too far out of course. It worked.

Discussions during our Journeying Together gathering for our SC Cincinnati community last Super Bowl weekend made me reminisce this experience and how it felt. Our own community is preparing
for chapter this year. I think it is safe to say that just like many other communities in religious life, there are many unknowns and uncertainties for us. However, we are certain that there is a future for our congregation and it is a future of life and hope. In a world that is fast changing, we continue to ask ourselves the deeper "why" questions of our individual and communal religious life. What direction is our own congregation called towards as we reflect on our role as women religious, the needs we feel called to answer and the margins we are called to be present to? What do we do now so we can answer what is ours to respond to?

During the weekend gathering, one of the analogies offered for this time is being in a fog. There is
Journeying Together participants last February 2nd
something beyond the limits of what we can see. There is a place we are journeying towards and we know it is there though we have very little vision of it at this time. It is a future that might look very different but no less full of promise and hope. However, it is but natural that we as humans want to have as little time as possible in the fog just like my family and I longed to be back on solid ground ASAP. The fog makes it difficult to see. It’s scary. The choppy waters of uncertainty make us want to turn around to the safety of where we came from and what we know. But we know there is no turning back. So we sit tight and we wait in the quiet. We look around at those who are there with us. We pray and become vulnerable together as the fog calls forth feelings from deep within. There might be fear and discomfort at first. But hopefully, as we move forward through the haze, there arises openness and freedom to hold on to one another as well. And because we are people of faith, we latch on to the hope that somehow, we will get there.

May our memories of individual and collective journeys when God’s grace has held us through major changes and shifts in our own lives strengthen this conviction. May we trust that our Navigator, the Holy Spirit, knows and is with us all the way. May we stay the course with faith and openness and be assured that with every nudge forward, we will start to notice the silhouettes of the future taking shape before our very eyes.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Staying at the Table: Our Commitment to Community

By Sr. Annie Klapheke, SC Federation Temporary Professed

      Click HERE to learn more about Annie

      Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

Holy Father, Son and Spirit
Holy Communion, Three-in-one.
Come with your peace,
With your invitation
Bind us together in Holy love.

(Trinity Song by Sandra McCracken)

These words rang out, filling the center of a circle of twenty-six women religious, gathered for a weekend of prayer and fellowship. Each year in the middle of January, Sisters from a variety of congregations gather for the annual Giving Voice 20s and 30s Retreat. Giving Voice is a peer-led organization that creates spaces for younger women religious to give voice to their hopes, dreams and challenges in religious life. Praying with the image of the Trinity was the ideal way to introduce the retreat theme, Staying at the Table: Our Commitment to Community. The Trinity teaches us that God’s very existence is as community.

Circle of young Sisters at the Giving Voice 20s and 30s Retreat (photo: Giving Voice core team)

For women entering religious life today, community life is one of the biggest draws. Yet, as we immerse ourselves in this life, at times community is also one of the greatest challenges. Throughout our weekend together, we reflected on wisdom from Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche communities. One quote, in particular, seemed to ring true for many of us:

“We can choose to live in a community because it is dynamic, warm and radiant. We find happiness there. But if a crisis arises, with tensions and turmoil, we begin to doubt the wisdom of our choice: ‘Maybe I made a mistake.’ If we enter community because of our own choice, we will stay only if we become more aware that it was in fact God who chose us for this community. It is only then that we will find the inner strength to live through times of turmoil.”

The call to religious life, and the call to a particular community, can feel exciting, challenging, and totally mysterious. And at times of greatest struggle, as Vanier suggests, it may even feel like a mistake. At these times, returning to the core of who we are, which ultimately leads to returning to the core of who God is – the all-loving community of three who first chose us – helps to reaffirm that God makes no mistakes. God is always working for our good.

Gathering with Sister peers helps each of us return to our core. The weekend together was steeped in meaningful conversations, voicing dreams and struggles, laughter, prayer, kickball, and breaking bread together. As we listened to and affirmed one another, we created community among us. And it is in community where we find our belonging; our belonging to God and to each other.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Dawn-Bringer

By Sr. Rejane Cytacki, SC Federation Perpetually Professed

      Click HERE to learn more about Rejane

      Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

downy woodpecker in the tulip tree
I have come to love winter as it is the time the earth rests and renews itself, and I try to follow nature’s example. When we allow our minds, spirits, and bodies to slow down in the amount of activity we do, we open up time and space in our hearts to reflect on God.

In these winter months, I have been praying and reflecting with Joyce Rupp’s book, Open the Door. I was praying with Joyce’s meditation on pgs. 78-80 “Opening to Oneness” and the first line is “Opening the door to the inner self is reminiscent of a new day dawning”. As I began this day, I was greeted by my friendly little downy woodpecker who sits in the tulip tree outside my window welcoming the dawn. He is the only bird at this time of year in the tree and he chirps and chirps for his mate as he turns and looks every which way for her. As he calls for his mate, his chirping reminds me it is time for me to pray with my Beloved. Joyce uses a quote from James Finlay to express what God is saying and a typical response – (God) “Open the door and come in, so we can experience just how one we might become. (Instead I) stand outside the door reading one more book about how to open the door.”

How often do I do this! I say anxiously– I have one more thing to do, or let me read this book about prayer instead of actually opening the door. But once my heart’s door is opened there is interior space to sit and be with my Beloved. In the interior space of my heart, when I walk through the Divine door Jesus is waiting for me. I visualize him as surrounded by light emanating from his heart. If I can bring myself to grasp his hands I can feel the energy of his love flowing into my heart. I believe this is the oneness that Joyce writes about and this is my personal time with Jesus. I do not always succeed in oneness as exterior thoughts pull me out of my interior space. But just the commitment of time, space, practice and even failed attempts are valuable. These times teach me what being a religious woman is truly about: a personal relationship with the Divine. When I finally sit inside Jesus’ sacred heart, then I am able to explore my inner self with safety and security in the Dawning light of God’s love and find I have come home to my true self.