Monday, September 28, 2015

Food for Thought

By Sr. Laura Coughlin

This post is written as a thankful offering on the sixteenth anniversary of my entrance into the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill.  The vigil of St. Vincent de Paul’s feast day marks my entrance into postulancy along with that of Sister Karen Cunningham, who ministers at a home for the elderly run by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Pittsburgh.  Happy anniversary Karen!

Although this date is special to me personally for what it represents of my own history, I offer here a slice of life from my present experience as an MDiv student at Boston College.  Enjoy the ride through some of the more interesting quotations gleaned in readings during the last few years.  My commentary is shown in red. 

“We should be average preachers in order for all of us to be uniform; for each man can become average, but few can attain loftiness.”

St. Vincent de Paul, Correspondence, Conferences, Documents
* * *

“By vigils and fasts she mortifies her body…By a cold chastity she seeks to put out the flame of lust…by a deliberate squalor she makes haste to spoil her natural good looks  Let her treasures be not silks or gems but manuscripts of the holy scriptures…let her think less of gilding than of…accurate punctuation.  Let her begin by learning the psalter…Let her follow the example set in Job of virtue and of patience…Let her pass on to the gospels…Let her also drink in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles…the prophets…the books of Kings and…Chronicles…the rolls also of Ezra and Esther. 
When she has done all these she may safely read the Song of Songs…”

St. Jerome, advising his associate’s daughter-in-law on how to raise her little girl - Letter to Laeta
* * *

“It is possible to enjoy sad feelings.”

Augustine, Confessions, in a section entitled, Student Years at Carthage, Sex and Shows
* * *

“To put it as simply as possible: the old Easter Vigil was a very sexy affair, and the modern one looks as if Mrs Mary Whitehouse has been getting at it.”

Herb McCabe, O.P., in God Matters (Such a great book)
* * *

“Freedom cannot be sustained without a certain amount of dogmatism.”

Philosopher Slavoj Zizek in Spiegel Online, March 31, 2013
* * *

“Do you remember the beautiful penultimate scene in Manhattan where Woody Allen is lying on his couch and talking into a tape recorder? He is writing a short story about people who are creating unnecessary, neurotic problems for themselves, because it keeps them from dealing with more unsolvable, terrifying problems about the universe.”

Bill Joy in a Wired Magazine editorial, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us”, April 2000
* * *

“To liberals, fundamentalists and evangelicals often seem like na├»ve Bible thumpers.  Haven’t they heard about modern science or biblical scholarship?  Don’t they care about the truth?  Yet in the broad perspective, the fundamentalist stance – occasional anti-intellectualism and all – has succeeded in preserving much of what is most basic about the Bible, the ancient approach to reading it.”
(good Jewish news for my Adventist relatives)

James Kugel in a chapter entitled After Such Knowledge, from his book, How to Read the Bible
* * *

“Thanks to the qualities of the Christian message itself and the many signs given in history, the Christian religion may be described as ‘evidently credible’ “ (Vatican I, DS 3013).
(evidently credible?!)

Avery Dulles in Systematic Theology, Roman Catholic Perspectives, Fiorenza et al.
* * *

“We who have gone out from the world to God, return with him in his entrance into the world, and are nearest to him there where he is furthest away from himself in his true love of the world; there and in this we are nearest to him because, if God is love, one comes closest to it where, having given itself as love to the world, it is furthest away from itself.”
(what a romantic vision of mission)

Karl Rahner, The Humanity of Jesus
* * *

“On falling from the horse, he lost consciousness; when he recovered it, the present was almost intolerable it was so rich and bright; the same was true of the most ancient and trivial memories.”

Description of Ireneo Funes, fictional character of Jorge Luis Borges’ Funes the Memorius
* * *
And finally, lest you should think I would leave Vincent with only one quote encouraging the religious order he founded toward a mediocre standard, I offer this final thought from our dear patron.   Let us notice that the saint’s desire for “average” preaching was yet one more way of acknowledging that….

“Our Lord had made vows, not as God, but as man.”

St. Vincent de Paul, Conferences to the Congregation of the Mission

To the Sisters of Charity – thank you for a wonderful sixteen years, and thank you for those still to come!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Becoming a Candidate with a Pioneer Spirit

By Melissa Fisackerly

Mother Catherine Spalding was the first leader and superior of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. Spalding also founded a few educational intuitions, first private hospital in Louisville, and social services for children. Mother Catherine is a model for the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth to imitate in daily living.

On September 19th, I was accepted into the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth candidate program. During the ceremony, I had scenes from Mother Catherine’s book, “A Pioneer Spirit” running through my mind. I was thinking about how she made her first commitment along with other like-minded young women. I have such great comfort knowing that Mother Catherine doubted and feared, and also had such great faith and joy for her community and the future of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. 

I was somewhat nervous until the provincial placed upon me a Mother Catherine necklace. Once I was wearing Catherine’s necklace, I felt my fears trickle away. For me, wearing this necklace is a true testament to Mother Catherine’s life history, dedication to prayer, her perseverance, and her steadfastness. I hope to carry out her legacy in my everyday life! 

Sr. Nancy Gerth (Vocation Director), Melissa Fisackerly, Sr. Betty Blandford (Candidate Director), Sr. Adeline Fehribach (Provincial)

Melissa Fisackerly, Eva Kowalski, Nancy Gerth, Isa Garcia, and Paris Slapikas 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Welcome to the Family!

Denise Morris, Whitney Schieltz, & Romina Sapinoso (3 on the left) were received as Affiliates with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati.

Melissa Fisackerly was received as a Candidate with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.

Join us as we pray for our newest members of the Future of Charity as they begin their formation journey with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Future of Charity Gathering: NOLA September 11-13, 2015

Participants from the Future of Charity Gathering share their reflections from the weekend:

During our Saturday morning prayer, one of the responses we used was, "We hear you.  We walk with you."  Each time we gather as Future of Charity, that sense of understanding and companionship is palpable.  In a world where sister-peers are hard to come by for newer members, this community is a gift that strengthens me and fills me with hope!  ~Sr. Tracy Kemme, Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati 

I came to the gathering because I enjoy being with other newer members in the Charity Federation.  We had an opportunity to share our experiences, ideas and dreams and to give and receive support from each other.  This weekend allowed me to deepen my relationship with others in the group and I returned home feeling inspired with a sense of joy and hope for our future as Charities.  ~Sr. Paris Slapikas, Sisters of Charity of Nazareth 

Gathering as a Vincentian Family and celebrating mass with 
Fr. Louis Arceneaux, a Vincentian Priest.
As I approach a milestone in my formation that requires significant transition, there's no greater support I could get than the opportunity to share my experience with other women who are in or have recently been in the same situation.  Even though each of our stories is unique, it is a blessing to be able to relate our challenges and hopes with one another, pray together, and know that we are not alone in our journeys.  ~Whitney Schieltz, Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati

[Something I have taken away from this weekend is] that there are women discerning with a similar heart and expressed differently. We are the future of religious life.  We desire a closer relationship with our God.  We are joyful women of faith, playful women, prayerful women, & women who seek the love of Christ in others.  ~Melissa Fisackerly, Sisters of Charity of Nazareth

Exploring the city on the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar.

It was such a gift to be together with younger, newer members of congregations within the Sisters of Charity Federation during the same weekend the 40th anniversary of the canonization of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was celebrated in Emmitsburg, MD.  Although we all belong to different branches, coming together during these gatherings is a reminder that we are all rooted in the same Vincentian charism.  We are all rooted in a deep love for Christ in the Poor.  ~Kara Davis, Daughters of Charity

I came to the weekend to nurture the bonds of friendship and support that have begun across the Charity Federation.  I leave with a renewed passion to share the Charity of Christ, to connect with those on the margins and to dream about our future in religious life.  #gratitude  ~Sr. Marie Flowers, Sisters of Charity of Nazareth

I come away from the Future of Charity gathering feeling nourished and energized by the companionship of my Sisters.  I am grateful that we are on the journey together.  ~Sr. Annie Klapheke, Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati

Enjoying some local cuisine. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

COMING SOON: Reflections from the September 2015 Future of Charity Gathering in New Orleans

Participants from the Future of Charity Gathering in New Orleans, LA on
September 11-13, 2015.  Front Row (L to R) Paris, Marie, Kara, Mallory,
Andrea, Vicki, & Melissa.  Back Row (L to R) Victoria, Judy, Whitney,
Annie, Tracy, Denise, Andrea, Yolande, & Celine.

Check the blog on Wednesday for reflections from the participants from the September gathering!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Community: Gathered and Sent

By Sr. Annie Klapheke

The Novitiate house community from January to August, 2015.  (Back row, L to R) Sisters Tracy Kemme, Andrea Koverman, Annie Klapheke and Nancy Bramlage.  (Front row, L to R) Sisters Maureen Heverin, Carol Leveque and Terry Thorman.  (Photo:  Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati Communications Office). 
“We are Sisters of Charity because we have been called by God to share in a common vision and sense of mission.  To respond to this call and to strengthen our dedication, we freely choose to live in community.”

- Constitutions, Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, para. 42

My local community recently went through a transition.  After professing first vows, Sisters Tracy and Andrea moved out of the Novitiate community, reducing our house population from seven to five.  To send them off, we gathered for an evening of prayer, food and laughter.  During our time of reflection and prayer, we recalled the blessings we had received from each other, and acknowledged the need to let go in order to welcome the new. 

Community living is a unique aspect of religious life which makes it distinctive from other vocations.  As stated in our congregation’s Constitutions, community life is meant to strengthen our dedication to the call.  However, at times, this source of strength also involves times of instability.

Move into an unfamiliar community.

Get comfortable.

Say good-bye.


This cycle of transition is especially true for women in formation, who may change local communities with each new stage of formation.  We are repeatedly gathered and sent.  And this transient lifestyle does not end with formation.  During our evening of prayer, the more “mature” members of the Novitiate house community recalled the many good-byes and transitions they have experienced in their lives.  The succession of being gathered and sent, both in community and in ministry, is a reality of our lives as women religious. 

Why do we do this? 

First, it is a very authentic imitation of Jesus’ life.  With “nowhere to rest his head” (Mt 8:20), Jesus was a man constantly on the move.  The vow of celibacy calls us to radical availability and the freedom to go where we are called.  Secondly, with each move, a store of grace awaits us.  From each new person we share life with, either in community or in ministry; we gather more gifts and blessings.  Like the slow creation of a giant mosaic or quilt, over time we contribute beauty to each other.  My picture is not complete without you, and your picture is not complete without me.   

We are gathered, and we are sent.  But even with frequent transitions, something remains stable.  As stated in our Constitutions, “we share in a common vision and sense of mission”.  The mission is the common thread that runs through each new local community or ministry experience.  As our Novitiate house gathered for our evening of prayer, I looked around the room and was baffled that God had caused all of our paths to converge.  Within the group, our ages span about 45 years, and we are quite diverse in terms of personalities and strengths.  But what causes such an assortment of women to gather together is the collective response to a common call and vision. 

Our physical homes transition and change.  Our driving force remains the same.  We are followers of Jesus, gathered and sent. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Labor Day

By Sr. Roberta Treppa, D.C.

I find it hard to truly celebrate Labor Day.  It was (originally) a “creation of the labor movement and was dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers - a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”  But I think the meaning was lost a while ago.  Now it’s a day off…a long holiday weekend at the beginning of the school year...picnics, races, and Labor Day sales.  
According to Catholic Social Teaching on the Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers, “the economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected--the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.”
The focus has become simply making a living.  Over 33% of the people in Macon, GA live below the poverty line.  Individuals who come to my ministry may have a job, but a full time job at minimum wage doesn’t always cover the rent, utilities, food and other BASIC needs, let alone school supplies, Christmas gifts, and other special (but not outrageous) things throughot the year.
Some of my clients rely on 2-3 jobs just to make ends meet.  Not only can this break the spirit of the worker, so much time away can weaken the bond of the whole family.  My ministry works to help families move ahead, but how can they in such a culture of poverty?  Prosperity and well-being are not what is celebrated here…getting by is.  This is not a true celebration of Labor Day.
Some people I serve are unemployed, and out of frustration find it easier to rely on charity – as undignified as that is to accept sometimes- as long as basic needs are met.  There are no social and economic achievements here.  This is not a true celebration of Labor Day.
Too many people experience injustices in labor- slave labor, unjust wages, harassment, discrimination, and other poor labor practices.  Basic rights of workers are not always respected.  This is not a true celebration of Labor Day.
Consider that labor (work) really should be a life-giving and nurturing act-a participation in God’s creation.  Labor gives the worker the opportunity to use the God-given gifts, skills, strength, and knowledge for the community at large.  We see several examples of labor mentioned in scripture- carpenter, fishermen, farmers, weavers, shepherds, tax collectors, scholars and scribes to name a few. And God uses all of us for HIS work- skilled or not. 
These are the Labor Days I celebrate:
When families who struggle to make ends meet always make time for family-not just man-made holidays, but in the God-given everydays.
When those who are unemployed continue to reflect upon their God-given talents, acquired skills, deep desire for work, and pray for the opportunity to be a productive member of society.
When someone finally experiences dignity and respect…and grows in self-esteem…and brings those values home in addition to their paycheck.

Bless the work of our hands, Lord…bless the work of our hands.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Sightseeing and Service

By Whitney Schieltz

Last year I decided to relocate from my home in Dayton, Ohio, to Cincinnati in order to immerse myself in the Sisters of Charity community.  For the past ten months I have been living in an apartment building with three Sisters as neighbors, and in our foyer hangs a poster reminding us each day to practice “humility, simplicity, and charity.”  So when I announced my summer vacation plans, I doubt anyone was expecting Dubai, a Middle Eastern city known for luxury and extravagance, to be the first stop on my itinerary.  After two nights in Dubai, I would board a 15-night cruise bound for Oman, Israel, Greece, and Turkey, followed by a week in Italy—not exactly a humble or simple trip!

As an architecture student in college, I had spent many hours studying modern and ancient landmarks around the world and dreaming about some day standing in front of them. Even as I began discerning religious life, I was still captivated with the history and beauty of the sites that filled my architecture books.  As I looked ahead at the years of formation awaiting me, and the many restrictions and commitments that would accompany religious life, I decided now was my chance to live out my dream.

I realized that it would not be easy finding a travel companion for such a long, exotic vacation, but I finally convinced my dad, a retiree, to join me on this once-in-a-lifetime voyage.  Before we knew it, months of planning and anticipation had passed and we were on our way to Dubai, where we embraced the “go big or go home” spirit of the city.  During our stay, my dad and I were treated like royalty at a five-star hotel, attended high tea at “the world’s most luxurious hotel,” and viewed the futuristic city from the world’s tallest building.  It was difficult at the time to imagine returning to a life where my future included a vow of poverty.  However, through all the opulence, my heart continued to yearn for a life of service rather than a life as the served.  After only two days in Dubai, I was already beginning to miss the modesty of my apartment in Cincinnati and the simple task of preparing my own meal or making my own bed.  Furthermore, I was feeling guilty about the excess surrounding me when so many people in the world have nothing. I was struggling with a range of emotions; but I was relieved that I had not been distracted by the few days living in luxury, and I was confident that my call to religious life remained strong.

The adventure continued next to Oman, where we experienced a more traditional Middle Eastern setting, then to Israel, where we went on a journey in the footsteps of Jesus.  Our excursions included a full day in Jerusalem and another day exploring Galilee.  It was hard to truly absorb the power of the sites we visited in such large tour groups on rigid schedules, and at times I even began to feel jaded.  However, I knew that I was blessed to have the opportunity for such an amazing experience, so I did not want to take anything for granted.  Whenever possible, and especially when visiting the sacred sites of the Holy Land, I tried to find a quiet place to sit and put myself in God’s presence, even just for a minute or two, and thank Him for all His graces and the beauty of His creation.  After three more stops in Greece and Turkey, my dad flew home while I proceeded to Italy where two of my best friends were spending the summer.

Brittany and Tyler, now married, became my friends when I was in graduate school, and both played a significant role in what I consider my spiritual awakening.  Therefore, much of our time together in Italy included discussions of our faith and relationships with God—a perfect segue from my lavish odyssey to my return to humility, simplicity, and charity.  Our time together began with a day trip to Assisi and concluded with a weekend in Rome, where we explored the Vatican together and continued to share and nourish our love for Christ.  After twenty-four days overseas realizing my lifelong dream, I felt like the prodigal child when I returned to Cincinnati.  Looking through all my photographs, I once again counted my blessings for being able to have such a life-changing experience; but more than anything, I felt excited to be back home in community and continue my pursuit of a life in service of God’s beautiful creation!