Monday, July 27, 2015

Encountering Christ

By: Sr. Roberta Trepp, DC

John 20:11-18 shows Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, weeping in grief. Jesus had died, and now was missing from the tomb. Angels appear and ask her why she is crying. She doesn't understand why Jesus' body is gone. Then another character asks her why she is crying. Not recognizing Jesus, she responds to someone she assumes is the gardener. Only after Jesus calls her by name does she recognize Him.
Now, I've experienced situations of not recognizing somebody...maybe it had been a while since I saw the person, or they did something different with their hair...but the one story that I will never forget was one Sunday when I was lector at Mass. There was a large family sitting in the front, as someone in their family was being baptized that day. After Mass, a man from that family came up to me and spoke to me like he knew me. I didn't recognize him, but chatted with him. It took a while, but I finally recognized him - he was one of my managers from work! He was dressed much nicer than he did at work, and seeing him "out of context" threw me off.
Mary did not expect to see Jesus alive...she had just seen him crucified! But once she REALLY knew who she was speaking with, she didn't want to let go. But Jesus gave her a mission and sent her to tell the others the good news.
Daughters of Charity are called to see and serve Christ in the person of the poor. It's not always's not where one expects to encounter Christ, our teacher and master. On the surface, one sees the brokenness...the vulnerability...and the physical attributes. None very inviting, huh?
But think about Jesus...the betrayed, belittled, brutalized, broken...still the teacher and Lord.
It's about seeing the heart, seeing with eyes of love...and serving with love. The poor have much to teach us. Jesus has much to teach us through the lives of those living in poverty...if only we recognize Him.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ministry Teaches Us

By: Sr. Carlette Gentle, SCN

Are you crazy? That is what a couple of my friends asked me when I told them I wanted to become a sister. Are you crazy? Well, I’m here to say I am not! Actually I am enjoying my life as a Sister of Charity of Nazareth. I started my journey thirteen years ago as a pre-candidate with my community and I still continue to grow in appreciation for our sisters and mission.

But what keeps me going? In a world torn apart by war, by gangs… a world where families starve when others have too much…a world where human beings are sold as if a price could be placed on someone’s life…a world where children are their own guardians…where teenagers feel like there is no where to turn…a world where elderly people get no respect because they are seen as outcasts. This list can go on and on. But what keeps me going? What continues to give me life? What keeps a smile on my face and joy in my heart? It’s not something that can be bought or something I can keep to myself. It’s not something you can physically touch or see. This thing that keeps me alive has to be felt. So, what keeps me going on a day to day basis in religious life? The simple truth is: the way God works through my community and ministry.

At present I work with the elderly poor in south side Belize City that is plagued with gun violence, gangs and poverty. You might be asking yourself, “What gives you hope in that?” The hope comes from the people I work with. Let me share a short story with you. I went out one day to visit one of the elderly women who is a part of my program. In this story I will call her Rose. So I got to Rose’s house a little before lunch time just to visit and check in on her. “How are you doing, Rose?” I asked. Her reply,” Wonderful, just wonderful! God has gifted me with another beautiful day! Thank God I woke up this morning!”  What a reply. I said,”Oh that is great! It is a beautiful day.” We sat and talked about her health and her daily ministry of visits to the hospital. She walks about 3 miles to read the bible, to pray and to sing with some of the patients. After talking, I told her I had a bag of groceries in the car that was given to me by a friend, I asked her if she would  like it.  Her response was, “Yes, I will be grateful to have it. God always provides.” She then explained to me that she and her husband have not eaten anything from the night before as they had nothing in the house to eat. I was taken aback so I said, “Why didn’t you say something?” Her reply was, “God always takes care of us. We have nothing to eat, now God has gifted us with your visit and now even groceries. God takes care of us.” I gave her a hug and told her I loved her deep faith and then I left.

I visited my other elders but I could not stop thinking about Rose. I went home that night and she was my prayer. I thought to myself, I have everything I need: a shelter over my head, a warm bed, and food in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer. I have running water, electricity, and a sense of security that I don’t have to worry about where my next meal will come from, or if the landlord will put me out for not having money to pay the rent. I sat and thought what deep faith this woman has. I have had studies and workshops and lectures and this simple, wise woman is teaching me how to pray. Rose has no food, her house needs repair, and her stove doesn’t work so she cooks on a fire outside, her children don’t come around and still she thanks God for waking her up to another beautiful day. With her stomach growling she never complains, with no money for the bus she never complains.  She thanks God that she can walk to the hospital to visit the patients.  So now, taking her example of how to pray, I try not to complain and focus on the good.  When it is hard for me to find thirty minutes to pray, I think of Rose who has devoted every second of every day to thanking her God and I strive to do the same. She has taught me how important it is to focus on the blessings all around me and thank God for them. So, it is experiences like these that give me life.

I go home and share these stories with my community and they in turn share their ministry stories with me. The people we minister with teach us and it is up to us to be open to learning. My community life is nurtured by the people I live with, the support and care they give, the stories they share to keep us all grounded in the awareness of the realities of life.

Why am I not crazy for joining religious life and what keeps me going? Well, it is because I am grounded by the wonderful power of God who works through my community and my ministry with the poor.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Reflecting on Freedom

Clouds By: Mallorie Gerwitz
            What is Freedom?   What is your sense of Freedom?  This thought of Freedom has been running throughout my prayer in these days and weeks.
In this month of celebrating our Nations Freedom from England, on July 4th and thinking of all those, not only militarily, but martyrs, thinkers, philosophers, theologians, educators, scientists, the list goes on, who have shared knowledge and insight and as the saying goes, “Truth shall set you Free”. 
As a young woman in initial formation I look to the past and think of all of those mentioned above and our Founders and Foundress’ who I stand on the shoulders of and think, “If it were not for their strength, belief and providence in God – the freedoms that I have would not be here - for me to embrace, to rejoice and to be blessed with. 
As I think back through the ages of Christian History I think of the many voices who rose up to refine our practices of faith which we as Christian people practice today, the doctrines, the sacraments, the awe, reverence and deep freedom to be able to practice our beliefs as Christian Brothers and Sisters in this world.  There is a part of our history as Catholics where being able to have that Freedom was not always there, and even in our 21st century Christians around the globe are being persecuted for their belief in their God. 
  I was recently back East in upstate New York visiting family.  On my journey back from Albany, my dad and I stopped at Saint Kateri Tekakwitha’s birthplace  - The Shrine of Martyrs, located in the beautiful Mohawk Valley in Auriesville, NY,
As I was walking these holy grounds, I thought of Kateri’s life, of the Jesuit Priests, Isaac Joques and St. Hon Lalande, who introduced Catholicism to her, and ultimately were martyred. 
IMG_4779.JPGFreedom came at a great price for Kateri.  She was not able to practice her faith openly.  She learned in secret as her Native brothers and sisters were quite skeptical of the learnings and the priests.  She ultimately had to leave all she knew at the age of 18, and head for Canada.
Freedom to Kateri meant being able to go and live in peace praising her God.  She had already known great loss - losing both her parents and brother to smallpox. Could this loss have marked, for her, God’s profound strength in her life?  Her courage to stand in the face of what she knew to be true; which was, for her, freedom to love her God, as a Christian Catholic woman.
As I continue to pray with God, searching out my heart, asking myself more and more how the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience bring freedom to my life, as well as community life, I find that it allows me to be authentic, to focus on what’s most important.  Community binds us together in deep prayer, intention and focus as we work together to do our part in sharing in God’s plan.  Freedom for me is the everyday remainder that I am for God.  God chose me, God asks of me.  God Free’s me, to love, to serve, to follow. 
In light of our Nations Birthday and a tip of my hat to JFK, I quote: Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” – In my translation of JFK’s haunting and inspirational words I say and ask myself, with the freedom that God has given me, Ask not what God can do for you, But what you can do for God!
As we celebrate this month of our nations freedom Saint Kateri Tekakwitha’s feast day may we be mindful of the deep freedoms that being a woman religious in this 21st century frees us to.  May we be grateful for the shoulders we now stand on and may we face the future saying YES to these Freedoms with courage and deep reverence. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015


By: Sr. Andrea Koverman, SC

It’s hard to believe, but today is the first opportunity I’ve had to spend any measureable amount of time reflecting on my profession of first vows, which was a week and a half ago! We’ve had out-of-town visitors, birthdays to celebrate, the installation of our new leadership team, plus the business that comes with living in a lively community of seven. But the house emptied out for a few hours after Mass this morning, and I found myself with the gift of solitude that my spirit has been asking for. As I began to pray, it was no surprise where my thoughts settled!
It’s most certainly unlikely that any other day of my life will exceed that of June 27, 2015 in affirmation of my call and of my pure and unreserved joy in responding to it! Tracy and I were able to plan every detail of the ceremony, and to modify our vow formula to reflect a more personal expression of our commitment. It was deeply prayerful and absolutely beautiful because of the participation of many people who have shared in our journey, helping us believe and grow into the moment that we were able to vow our lives to God. From the presider, readers, musicians and choir, gift bearers and alter setters, Eucharistic ministers, and liturgical dancers to all the dear friends, family and community members that filled the chapel, each moment was a blessing!
And for me, nothing can express the meaning of that day as well as the words of Sr. Janet Gildea, who graciously did us the honor of writing and giving the homily. Because what she says applies to all of you who are discerning or responding to a call to religious life, I want to share it with you. Replace our names with your own, and just feel how your own heart leaps with its, “Yes!”
Blessed are YOU among women, Andrea!  Blessed are YOU among women, Tracy! Blessed are YOU who believed that God’s promises to you would be fulfilled!
What beautiful readings you have chosen for our Liturgy of the Word! They show us the journey of discernment that you have been on for these past several years.
The prophet Isaiah tells of the awakening of your hearts to God’s personal call. “Here is my servant whom I uphold. My chosen one upon whom I have poured my spirit. I have called you for justice-have grasped you by the hand and formed you.” God has chosen you, Tracy. God has chosen you, Andrea. You have experienced a deeply personal call. God has taken you by the hand and has formed you for mission.
In accepting the call you become God’s own instrument for justice, healing and liberation. Embracing the prophetic call, nothing can ever be the same again. Andrea and Tracy, you have been chosen by God to live a prophetic life!
The second reading expresses the deepening acceptance of that chosen-ness. These two years of novitiate have been a time to strengthen the inner self, to probe the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love for you, here in the heart of our home. You willingly entered into the mystery of the love of Christ that urges all of us as Sisters of Charity. You have had moments of break-down and moments of break-through, and within this sacred space, you have come to know the love beyond all knowledge that brings you to the profession of vows today.
And who are we that you should come to us? We are your Elizabeth!
We, the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. We, your sisters, welcome you with the same words that Elizabeth welcomed Mary. Blessed are you among women! Blessed are you who believed that God’s promises to you would be fulfilled! And blessed are we who believe along with you!
When Mary went running to her cousin Elizabeth, in the first flush of her secret “YES” to God, Elizabeth did not ask, “What? Why are you doing this? You have so many options for your life!” I know that you have each had that reaction from some people when you told them you were discerning a vocation to religious life. But that was not Elizabeth’s response. She exclaimed, “Most blessed are you among women! Blessed is the fruit of your womb!”
In Elizabeth, Mary found a kindred spirit. She found someone who “got it”. No explanations were needed. Elizabeth just knew- Why??? Because she had also responded to God’s call with the big YES! At the time of Mary’s arrival she held the great prophet within her own womb. She explains to Mary that no explanation is needed. “The moment I heard your voice, my baby turned joyful somersaults within me!” The little prophet brought the prophetic words to Elizabeth’s lips. What is the role of a prophet? To announce the breakthrough of God!
Blessed are you! Blessed is the fruit of your womb! Blessed are you who believed that God’s promises to you would be fulfilled!
Elizabeth affirmed Mary’s call and today we are your Elizabeth. Blessed are you- and blessed are we! This beautiful account of the Visitation shows us what happens when women of different generations affirm the breakthrough of God in their lives. Your “YES” recharges our hope. No matter how our backs might be aching and our energies on the wane in a late-life pregnancy, your arrival awakens a deep memory in the heart of every Sister here present. Like Elizabeth we can’t wait to hear you sing out in a strong voice:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my savior. For God has looked upon me in my lowliness.”
By now every one of us is joining you in the whisperings of our heart as we remember: The Mighty One has done great things for me! Holy is God’s name! Yes! The Mighty One has done great things for us- in us- through us. God’s mercy from age to age to age.
Holy is God’s name!
We have seen the wonders of which you remind us: the lowly lifted up, the poor filled with good things.
Gratitude is our song, from generation to generation!
Blessed is she who believed...blessed are we who believed
Called not just for ourselves but for the cause of justice
The Mighty One has done great things for us!
We can’t wait to see what more God will do with you and for you!
Tracy, in your social action outreach at the Archdiocese and at Holy Family parish ministry to the Spanish-speaking. Andrea, in your ministry at the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center, advocating to end the death penalty and human trafficking. In your efforts to create an intentional community and welcome women in discernment. In the ways you will continue to let the love of Christ urge you, networking across the Federation for a Future of Charity and with other young religious across the country for the evolution of consecrated life.
We are with you- in spirit if not in body- as you “see what Love can do” with your YES today. In the words of our other Elizabeth who blessed Margaret George on her way to her first mission in New York, we urge you to “remember all the little things that you have learned in this corner about kindness to strangers in the true spirit...for you have so much to do for our Lord.” As you leave this chapel today, know that you are accompanied by generations of Charity who headed out to mission after first profession, among them two very special Sister-Sisters.
Blandina and Justina Segale, intrepid Sisters of Charity, never said “No” to the Spirit. They lived the Magnificat, roaming the streets of this city, confronted by the same needs that you have already identified: immigration, human trafficking, ignorance and racial prejudice, and they wondered what two poor Sisters of Charity could do? Sister Justina recorded in her journal that one day they found a penny on the sidewalk. Stooping to pick it up she said, “A penny and two sisters is nothing. But a penny, two sisters and God...omnipotent!” The Mighty One did great things with them at the Santa Maria Institute- and God will do great things with and for you, Sister Tracy Kemme and Sister Andrea Koverman.
Blessed are you among women! Blessed are you who believe in God’s promises. Blessed are we who believe!

Thursday, July 9, 2015


“I’m Letting Go”
By: Sr. Meg Kymes, DC

During this 4th of July I thought it was timely to talk about freedom.  When many people think of freedom they think of liberty, democracy or maybe even fireworks and barbecues!  I thought of a different word however, obedience.
About a week ago all the Daughters of Charity who were in the community for less than 10 years gathered together in California (see Sr. Roberta’s post “Reflections from the Vow Institute”).  During the week as the group was discussing obedience.  During one of Fr. Patrick’s talks he mentioned, “Obedience does not involve the surrender of one’s freedom or one’s will…One chooses to act with openness and personal acceptance of responsibility.” (“Follow Me:  The Vows as Response to a Call: 4. Question and Response” by Fr. Patrick Griffin page 3)  At first I was a little taken aback by this, “I did give up my freedom!  I don’t choose where I live and where I minister.  How can he say we didn’t give up our freedom?”  After reflection though, I came to a deeper response.
Later in Fr. Patrick’s talk he said, “Obedience [is] an expression of our love in freedom.” (page 4).  While I was praying with this quote in light of the first quote, I realized the second part of the quote was where the truth was.  I chose to act in openness. No one forced my vocation.  I chose to trust my superiors are being guided by the Holy Spirit when I am being sent to a new house of Sisters and a new ministry.  Jesus calls us to listen to others around us including our superiors and the poor because that is where we hear his voice today.  Not many people hear Jesus’ voice like St. Margaret Mary Alacoque or St. Teresa of Avila rather we hear his voice from others and we are called to follow that voice, “When [the Good Shepherd] has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and sheep follow him because they recognize his voice…” (Jn. 10:4)
Something else came to mind when I was reflecting on obedience and freedom.  It was the Francesca Battistelli song, “I’m Letting Go” Enjoy!

Friday, July 3, 2015

No other way?

By Sr. Annie Klapheke

Photo:  Annie Klapheke
I recently spent 10 days in Guatemala visiting Sister Sarah, a member of my community who ministers at Clinica Comunitaria Daniel Comboni in Mixco, Guatemala.  The clinic offers a variety of health services and educational programs to indigenous people living in extreme poverty.  

On the last day of my visit, we left the clinic at the end of the day to find a major back-up on the main road due to a protest.  I looked up the hill, away from the direction of the protest, and as far as the eye could see, cars were at a stand-still.  I remember feeling grateful that we were not at the back of that line, and that S. Sarah’s house was only about a mile away.  But then Sarah spotted one of the clinic staff members standing on the side of the road, waiting for the bus to take her up the hill.  With the protest, no buses would be able to get through.  Without thinking twice, Sarah swung the car around, told our friend to hop in, and up the hill we went.  As we climbed the steep road, we passed mile after mile of single-file, stand-still cars trying to go the other direction.  I was sitting in the front seat and tentatively leaned over to Sarah and asked, ‘Is there another way home?’.  She smiled slightly and gave the answer I was expecting, ‘Nope’.  After dropping off our friend, we would join the line of cars trying to get back down the hill.

We ended up waiting in the line of cars for two hours.  During this time, I remained attentive to what was going on around me, and wrestled with many thoughts and reactions.  Many people were waiting on the side of the road to catch buses home, probably after an exhausting day of work.  Their faces looked weary and hopeless.  Many people were walking, a common form of transportation in Guatemala.  I was particularly struck by the women, burdened with large baskets balanced on their heads and babies strapped on their backs.  Their flimsy shoes surely did not provide much support or comfort for their fatigued feet.  The air was hot and smelled and tasted like the black plumes of fumes spewing from the tail pipes of motorcycles and buses.  I prayed for patience, but felt my irritation welling up inside of me as I longed for dinner and a bed waiting for me back at Sarah’s house.  As I sat with my own discomfort, I thought, ‘This is the daily life experience for these people.’ As I reflected on their daily toiling, which they endure year after year, I felt embarrassed by my own impatience after just two hours. 

Just as there was no other way for us to get home that night, for many people living in impoverished countries, there is no other way in life.  During my time in Guatemala, I visited women with young babies in their simple homes of corrugated metal walls and dirt floors, who struggle daily to meet their basic needs for survival – food, shelter and safety.  On top of this material poverty is the violence and political corruption that is prevalent through most of Central America.  I looked at the young babies and sadly wondered, ‘What hope does this child have for a bright future?  How could this child escape the extreme poverty and violence he/she is born into?’  As a Christian, I must take responsibility for the fact that these people are not strangers in a far off land, but my brothers and sisters in Christ, whom God calls me to love and care for.  This challenges me with several questions:  How will my life and actions bring hope to people in seemingly hopeless situations?  How will I hold our national and world leaders accountable for providing the conditions for a dignified life for all?  How will I treat immigrants who flee from dangerous situations?  These questions appear daunting, and can easily paralyze a person from acting because they feel so overwhelming.  But the point of these questions is not to take all the world’s problems on myself.  Rather, the purpose of these questions to help re-orient my world view, and to seriously consider how God might be inviting me to do my small part in bringing about the Kingdom.

I would be remiss not to mention the signs of hope that I did witness during my time in Guatemala:  the dedicated staff of the clinic, educational programs that empower women to care for themselves and their families, young people seeking an education and schools that provide the opportunity, generous hospitality from those who have so little to share, deep faith in God, and resilience. 

Yes, there can be another way for people living in poverty.  How will I, and how will you, help to create it?