Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The gift of Catholic schools

By Sr. Sandy Howe

During this Catholic Schools week, I find myself reflecting on my Catholic education.

I was blessed to attend Catholic grade school, high school and college, and I believe that is where my faith formation and love for my Catholic faith began and continued.

I am most grateful to be in a ministry where I can share my faith with other young people.  As the community service coordinator and working in campus ministry at Seton High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, I have the privilege and blessing to work with others who are active with their faith.

Students are able to pray, discuss, share their faith and beliefs and love of God and others with one another; whether it is during retreats, days of reflection, liturgies, prayer services, community service, mission trips, March for Life, National Catholic Youth Conference, workshops, and more.  It provides many life-enriching and life-changing experiences for them and for myself.  We also start each day and class with prayer.  Staff and students are very grateful for this daily practice.

Last week, we planned an all day experience called "Spark the Sisterhood.”  We had an inspirational speaker, Nick Jackson, activities like “minute to win it” games, sharing questions and answers, faith-sharing and a communion prayer service.  The day and experience was AWESOME for students and staff alike – one of the many true blessings of being in a Catholic school.


This week, some will attend the Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Week Mass with the archbishop.  At school, we’ll have Catholic trivia during lunch, cake for all students, and a movie, God is Not Dead.  It’s a gift to share all of this with our wonderful students.

Some students decided this week to put caution tape over all religious articles in the building, as well as anything that wouldn't be there if we weren't a Catholic school: the chapel, my office, campus minister’s office, religion class spaces, etc.  It was a great conversation piece!  Many students wondered as they walked in Monday morning, "What is all the caution tape for?"  They were intrigued once it was explained to them.  It really made them realize how much they would be missing without the gift of Catholic school.

I took the opportunity to ask a few students what it means for them to be able to go to a Catholic school:

"Going to a catholic school has shaped who I am morally.  I have been allowed to express my faith in the classroom, through opportunities my school has provided and through sports.  It is amazing that I am able to express myself fully with no constraints." (Jessica)

"Going to a Catholic school means the world to me.  Everyday I thank God that I am able to attend a religious school and have a catholic education; especially a school as great as Seton High School."  (Mary)

"I am blessed to have been able to attend a Catholic school.  Through mission trips, March for Life, National Catholic Youth Conference, Saints for Life, campus ministry, retreats, religion classes, community service and others I have come to realize  how strong my faith has grown throughout the past 3 1/2 years.  With each one of these experiences I have been able to truly see the blessings of being a child of God.  The Catholic education provided here has shaped and strengthened me into a better person and better Christian.  I cherish my faith and the people of faith whom I have been so blessed to have in my life.  Not only do they educate my mind, they educate my heart as well.  These people have become my biggest support, mentors, & life coaches.  Without them, and without my Catholic education, there is no way I would have become who I am today."  (Phuong)

I am grateful to have received the gift of a Catholic education and now to contribute to giving that gift to a new generation of Catholics.  Happy Catholics Schools Week to all!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Here we are

By Sr. Tracy Kemme
for Global Sisters Report

“Those who were in the dark are thankful for the sunlight . . .”
I chuckled quietly as we sang this line from “Behold the Lamb of God” during Sunday’s liturgy at Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery in sunny Phoenix, Arizona. Twenty-one sisters under 40 years of age had escaped more wintry parts of the country and traveled here for the annual Giving Voice 20s/30s retreat. We were, indeed, thankful for the sunlight! During Mass, the chapel of this beautiful Benedictine retreat center overflowed with our group and the regular Sunday crowd. Radiant sunbeams flooded the room, reflecting the warmth and joy of the community gathered. As we joined our hearts in prayer, I wished I could bottle up the moment – and the weather.
Sisters at the Giving Voice 20s/30s Retreat in Phoenix
The liturgy came to life with beautiful scripture. In the first reading (1 Sm 3:3b-10, 19), we heard the famous call of Samuel, and in the Gospel (Jn 1:35-42) Jesus’ invitation for his disciples to “come and see.” Psalm 40 sings of a joyful response to God’s call, and the second reading from St. Paul to the Corinthians (6:13c-15a, 17-20) reminds us that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. Gratitude bubbled up in me as I savored God’s word standing among 20 “young nuns” who, like me, have taken Jesus up on his beckoning to “come and see” about religious life. These women have entered in ones and twos and often into undefined or evolving formation processes. These women have risked a joyful “yes” to a road not often traveled. Each woman draws strength from the Spirit of God within her. Each woman continues to say, “Here I am, Lord,” wherever she finds herself on the journey, from pre-novitiate to having professed final vows...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Carrying on the Dream

By Sr. Paris Slapikas

Martin Luther King, Jr., was a man whose commitment to ridding the world of social sin resulted in discrimination, defamation of character, and ultimately his death.  Dr. King is one of the most influential men of our times.  His life and ministry continue to remind our nation and the world that the acts of injustice we confront daily require the faith-filled and faith-guided engagement of our heads, hearts, and hands.

Dr. King's prophetic call is just as urgent today as it was over fifty years ago. Instead of continuing this post in my voice alone, I invite you to pray the following with me and others.  Let us lay aside the cares of the day and connect with God’s grace that nourishes us to care for those in need.

A Litany of Celebration

Leader:  Dr. King had a dream. The ideals of justice and freedom and the belief that all are created equal in the eyes of God are noble principles.  But they are meaningless unless we embrace these ideals.
All:  I will not keep silent.  I will struggle with myself.  I will not rest until the dream of justice and freedom become my personal dream.  I must realize that I am not an innocent bystander.  I can help bring about the dream by my action, or delay it by inaction.
Leader:  Dr. King dreamt of a day when people from all races and nations, even the offspring of slaves and former slave owners, can sit at a table as brothers and sisters and find ways of transforming their differences in the common good. That was Dr. King’s dream.  What is your dream?
All:  My dream is that one day soon I will find a way to stop just celebrating the dream and start living it.  It must become a part of my daily life or nothing much will change.
Leader:  The dream is not about the ideal world.  It is about the real world.  Dr. King’s poetic refrain, “I have a dream,” is a call for us to remember the real world where injustice rules.
All:  When I am in the shelter of my home, I must remember the homeless.  When I eat, I must remember the hungry.  When I feel secure, I must remember the insecure.  When I see injustice, I must remember that it will not stop unless I stop it.
Leader:  I have a dream!
All:  I also have a dream.  I have a dream that the Holy Spirit will arouse in me that very flame of righteousness that caused Dr. King to become a living sacrifice for the freedom and liberation of all of God’s children.  Then I will be able to resist racial injustice everywhere I see it, even within myself.
(Adapted by the United Presbyterian Church Prayer on Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Closing prayer:

God of Hope, as we venture forth to become women and men of service,
go before us as our Guide.

Renew us with the spirit of service and sacrificial love
exemplified in the life of Dr. King
May we be vessels of hope and justice in a world
inundated with countless forms of violence and injustice

May we never stand on the sidelines as we witness injustice
done upon our sisters and brothers,
but walk with eyes open to the needs of our communities,
with ears open to the needs of our world and
with hands open in helpful service to our neighbors.

Then we will not only be blessed, but be a blessing to our world.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord!

By Sr. Annie Klapheke

On January 11th, I was received into the Canonical Novitiate with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati.  This joyous celebration coincidentally coincided with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  Just hours away from becoming Sister Annie, I sat in the unpacked, cluttered bedroom of my new community home and reflected on the profound call of Baptism.  I re-read the day’s Gospel, which paints the picture of Jesus’ Baptism. 

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John.  On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.  And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11)

I put on some music to help guide my prayer; a song that I had been praying with over the past month – “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” from the musical Godspell.  The lyrics simply repeat the phrase, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord.’  As I listened to the music, I closed my eyes and began imagining the scene of Jesus’ Baptism.  I pictured the crowds parting as Jesus approached John on the banks of the Jordan.  I pictured Jesus and John both smiling, anticipating that something great was about to happened.  I imagined myself going with Jesus under the water, and as the music swelled, breaking through the water’s surface and gasping in a deep breath of new life.  And then a voice, ‘You are my beloved; with you I am well pleased’.  At the moment of Baptism, we are changed, and things will never be the same again.

Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati novices and formation directors.  Top, L to R: Sisters Donna Steffen (Novice Director) and Janet Gildea (Affiliate Director).  Bottom, L to R: Sisters Andrea Koverman (apostolic novice), Annie Klapheke (canonical novice), and Tracy Kemme (apostolic novice). (photo: S. Marty Dermody)

My entrance into the Novitiate was celebrated with an evening prayer service.  As the deep sounds of a single cello filled the air, I processed into the chapel along side four inspiring women who have and continue to accompany me on my discernment journey:  community President S. Joan Cook, Councilor S. Lois Goettke, my former Affiliate Director S. Janet Gildea, and my soon-to-be Novice Director S. Donna Steffen.  After stating my commitment to embrace the year of Canonical Novitiate as a time of prayer, study, and a deepening awareness of the living God; I received the community’s Constitutions and medal and was proclaimed Sister Anne Klapheke.  I looked out to the sea of faces beaming back at me:  many Sisters, my family, my Affiliate community who has nurtured me over this past year, and my Novitiate community who is ready to welcome me into their home and hearts.  I was overcome with love, joy and gratitude.  The heavens in front of me opened up, and through this community God spoke, "Annie, you are beloved; and with you I am well pleased."

Blessing of the Novitiate community.  Back, L to R:  Sisters Terry Thorman, Carol Leveque, Maureen Heverin, Tracy Kemme, Nancy Bramlage, and Andrea Koverman.  Front: Sister Annie Klapheke. (photo: S. Marty Dermody)

Just like the Baptism moment, I am now standing at the threshold of a new beginning and a new life.  My parents said ‘yes’ for me when I was baptized as an infant.  Now, I choose to say ‘yes’ for myself to God’s invitation:  an invitation to step into the unknown with trust and faith, an invitation to encounter the person and teachings of Jesus Christ, an invitation to immerse myself in the history and charism of the Sisters of Charity, and an invitation to sink my roots deeper into my loving God.  This year of Canonical Novitiate will be dedicated to the inner work that is necessary to prepare for becoming a vowed member of the Sisters of Charity, if God so wills.

As I think about the year ahead, the lyrics “prepare ye the way of the Lord” echo through my head.  I imagine a space in my inner self hollowing out to create room for the graces that will fill me.  The clearing of the space within me will be supported by the clearing of the spaces around me.  My day-to-day life will be slower, quieter, and more contemplative in order to "prepare the way of the Lord."  This does not mean that I will be living a life of solemn isolation.  Rather, I will spend my days relishing in the places where I find God’s presence.  For me, this includes hiking in the woods, watching the sun rise, meditating on Scripture, celebrating Mass in our Motherhouse chapel, sharing meals and laughter with my community, spending quality time with family and friends, and soaking up the wisdom of older Sisters.

I feel hopeful, excited and joyful as I begin my new life as a novice.  But most importantly I feel beloved; beloved by the members of my community, both past and present, and beloved by my God who walks each day with me on this journey.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


by Mallorie Gerwitz

            Today, on January 6, the Church traditionally celebrates the feast of the Epiphany, the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles in the form of three Magi.  It is a moment of great light piercing the darkness.  How our world hungers for that light! 

            The joy of the world frequently seems overshadowed by the news of another shooting, a woman being raped, women being held captive by ISIS or the lack of services to those living on the margins of society.  I often call on my friend John (as in…the Gospel of John) when I feel the weight of darkness.  “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” (John 1:5, 1:16)

            I found a glimmer of this surmounting light recently at the Catholic Worker house in Kansas City.  That particular evening, I was tired, overextended and really wanted to be back in my bed sleeping from the busy workweek I had just had.  Still, I went.  While at the Worker, a group of men and women were playing dominoes.  Dominoes, I quickly found out, was a big thing for this group.  Getting in on the next game, I realized that this game wasn’t the Dominoes I was familiar with.  Even after a few rounds, I was struggling to catch on to how the “money,” as they called the points, was earned.  As the dominoes were slapped onto the table and “money” was gained right and left but not by me, I sat wondering, “How in the world does this work?”
            An onlooker came up behind me and said, “I haven’t seen you in here before.  Who are you?”  I introduced myself, and he shook my hand.   The game of dominoes went on, and my new friend intuitively caught onto the fact that I did not have a clue.  He was not shy about his discovery, either, as he exclaimed, “What are you doing?!   You want to play this…”  He quickly exchanged out the domino I had laid down and placed another on the table instead so I finally could get some points.  He emphatically told the score keeper, “Give her the money… Write it down!”

            I realized that this onlooker, this person whom I had met only moments ago, was looking out for me.   He was advocating for me, making sure I wasn’t getting the wool pulled over my head.  He was making sure I wasn’t being taken advantage of.   Granted, it was just a game of dominoes, but it became something more.  The Love that this man extended to me revealed “the light shining through the darkness.”  Christ was shining through this man, who came in to the Catholic Worker to get out of the cold and to eat a hot meal.  He showed unto me the Love of Christ on this night that I almost didn’t come because I was tired and wanted to be in bed.

            At this Epiphany time, I pray that I remain awake to those who are the light of Christ among us.  Just as the Magi didn’t expect to find the sought-for “King” in such a humble setting, Jesus reveals himself to us in surprising ways.  We can see Christ in the poor and the marginalized, like the onlooker who became my friend in a simple game of Dominoes.  He taught me not just how to earn points in Dominoes, but he awoke in me the importance of Loving our neighbor, looking out for one another, and being community.  He reminded me that I am not always the one to teach, but to be taught.  He showed me that, sometimes, just showing up is enough.

            The Magi traveled far to look upon the face of the newborn Jesus.  We know that He is in our midst daily.  The Epiphany reminds us to show up, to put ourselves in places of darkness, and to be ready to be surprised by the Light that always overcomes.