Friday, October 30, 2015


Displaying image1.PNGBy Cecilia Harriendorf, SC

What's your take on the number 13?  Does it make you a little uncomfortable?  Many people refuse to work or live on the 13th floor of a building.   Some won't travel far from home on Friday the 13th, fearing the worst will happen.  Other people respond quite differently.  Bars, restaurants, casinos and, at least, one clothing manufacturer have capitalized on "Lucky 13."

Personally, I never thought much about the number, until recently.

On August 28th, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton's birthday, I celebrated my 13th anniversary as a Sister of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul of New York.  Hard to believe that 13 years have passed since I joined the Sisters at their house of formation.  Still, I remember that day well - a sense of excitement, curiosity and expectation all rolled into one giant ball of uncertainty.  However, as the days and years unfolded, reality replaced excitement, understanding replaced curiosity and, as I grew comfortable with the idea that God was inviting me into a new and intimate relationship, awe replaced expectation.

So, here I am, 13 years later - living and working in Guatemala, absorbing a different culture, struggling with a new language and somehow certain that I am who I have been called to be
from all eternity.  And what a wonderful grace that is.

The idea of call is older than the hills of Galilee and women and men throughout the ages have struggled with it.  So, let me try to simplify the concept. Number 1.  Everyone has a vocation.
2.  Yours is uniquely yours.  And 3.  God does the calling.   So, relax and be confident that the God who created you will be with you as you explore your special role in life.

In the meantime, here are 13 things you can do, right now, to advance your desire to fulfill God's dreams for you:

1.  Pray every day.  Don't worry about it; just do it.  God hears your prayers whether you are in bed or on a bus, in a great cathedral or a tiny chapel.

2.  Ask questions.  Learn how others came to be where they are.  Find out what educational requirements and special skills are needed.  Would they make the same decisions today?

3.  Be attentive to your inner voice.  God isn't a divine trickster.  God is a divine lover who
longs for your love.

4.   Pray every day.   Tell God exactly what you want.  Then, listen carefully.  God may have something in store for you which is bigger and better than you could ever image.

5.  Develop the virtue of gratitude.  Life truly is gift.  Be grateful, for the not-so-good-days, as well as for the wonderful ones.

6.  Talk to your friends.  They know you better than most people.  Note how they respond to your hopes, dreams and desires.

7.  Reflect on your daily experiences using the Vincentian questions:  What surprised me today? Brought me joy?  Challenged me?  Gave me hope?

8.  Pray every day.  The stronger your relationship is with God, the stronger your relationship
will be with those around you.

9.  Volunteer.  Spend some time at a soup kitchen, a rehabilitation center, a homeless shelter or a hospital.  So many places and people need your time, talents and compassion.

10.  Ask yourself, "Where would I like to be four years from now?"  Start working toward
that goal today.

11.  Reach out.  The sisters on this blog site are cheering you on and praying for you.  Call one nearby.  She will be happy to explore religious life options with you.

12.  Have I mentioned, pray every day . . . The power of prayer is extraordinary.  Don't be afraid to let it change you.

13.  Enjoy the journey.  God is intimately close right now.  Allow that presence to lead your way and shape your choices.

As for me, I'm hoping for 13 more, never dull years, as a Sister of Charity of New York.  And you?  Whether you're 13, 31 or 103, know that your vocation, your call, is both personal and profound.  Be confident that the God who has called you longs for your happiness at every age.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Welcoming Christ in the Migrant

By: Sr. Roberta Treppa, DC

Pope Francis’ visit was inspiring on so many levels…and his ongoing example of love and acceptance - of seeing Christ in people who are the poorest, the most vulnerable, the least accepted - can be challenging.  He gives us an example of a counter-cultural, loving response to people that society and government shun …injustices that people have experienced for generations.  
His words to us regarding ministering to immigrants acknowledge the challenges, but urge us to not let these challenges become roadblocks to what God calls us to do.  Pope Francis encourages us to go deeper - beyond the observable facts and societal norms – to experience the mystery of the person, their pilgrimage, and how we connect.
Pope Francis said, “Perhaps it will not be easy for you to look into their soul; perhaps you will be challenged by their diversity. But know that they also possess resources meant to be shared…so do not be afraid to welcome them. Offer them the warmth of the love of Christ and you will unlock the mystery of their heart. I am certain that, as so often in the past, these people will enrich America and its Church.”
The Holy Family faced a life similar to today’s immigrants.  Several years ago, I wrote reflections on the mysteries of the rosary based on the immigrant, their families, the undocumented, and the advocate.  As October is the month of the rosary, let us pray these mysteries and respond to God’s urgings.
Written by Sr. Roberta Treppa, D.C.
Mary was chosen to be the Mother of God - of Jesus our Savior - of our Eternal Redeemer.  Every day in poor countries, family members are chosen-or choose-to do something so selfless as to leave family and homeland…all for a better life for their loved ones.  Their YES often means hardships along the way, but they offer hope for the future for those back home.  
Mary journeyed to accompany Elizabeth – to be with her when she needed support the most.   Many immigrants journey together to their unknown, yet hope-filled future, …encouraging, comforting, protecting and supporting one another through dangerous territory. Together they trust in God and thank and praise Him for His presence and protection.


Mary and Joseph struggled to find a “proper” place for Jesus to be born.  Similarly, the immigrant also often finds it difficult to find a “proper” place to settle…to start working.  They are often subjected to unjust wages and working conditions.  Despite the pains, the struggles, and the tears, the exhausting work of a new life and new beginnings brings hope to a suffering world back home.


Mary offered the Christ Child to God.  Think of all that immigrants offer to go through, understanding the risks…the arduous journey…the unforgiving desert…dangers of dehydration, injury, trafficking, being sent back home, or even death.  Immigrants put it on the line.  They put all trust in God, placing themselves and their journey under His guidance and protection.


What relief must have come to Mary and Joseph upon finding Jesus when you consider all the possible things that could have happened.  Immigrants travel in groups through treacherous lands.  Some fall behind…or get injured or dehydrated…or are victims of trafficking…or get caught and sent back to their country… or die.  What joy and relief come to family and friends when their loved one is found to be safe.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Love Wins!

By Sr. Andrea Koverman

The business of life since first vows makes me feel as though I’ve been swooped up into a whirlwind, making it hard to believe that only eight short weeks have passed since I became a program manager at the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center in Cincinnati. IJPC is a nonprofit organization that was established thirty years ago when Sisters from a few congregations, including my own, decided to work together on the social issues of their day. Though issues may change, the mission remains the same: to educate and advocate for change, challenge unjust local, national, and global systems, and to promote the creation of a non-violent society. I am responsible for developing the programming for three of the four focus areas including: ending the death penalty, eliminating human trafficking, peace and non-violence initiatives. Thankfully, we have a small but wonderful staff and lots of volunteers, interns, and partners to work with.

I love the work because it addresses systemic change, but that is also what can make it such a challenge. People have been working on these issues long before I came along, and there is still a long way to go. I am used to working with students and seeing the results of my efforts when their eyes light up with new understanding or by being able to see how much they’d grown by the end of a school year. This work doesn’t produce those kind of quick results, and I have to be satisfied with the little victories that faith tells me will someday culminate in systemic changes.

People often ask me what I think is the hardest part of being a vowed religious. In one of the psalms from our morning prayer this week, the psalmist wrote, “Blessed are they who carry the joys and the sufferings of the world.” I have found this willingness to do the heart-heavy work so many of us do to be one of the most defining characteristics of religious life, and for me, sometimes one of the hardest. “Caritas Christi urget nos,” is surely an integral part of every community’s charism, and indeed, it is the desire to share the love of God with those most in need of it that urges and compels us to act.  So much so, that we are willing to devote our whole selves to the endeavor. Teresa of Avila’s admonition that we are the only eyes and ears, hands and feet that Christ now has in the world tells us that we are called to look and listen, lift up, hold, and go out to the suffering in as best an imitation of Christ as we can. But, heaven help us, it gets hard sometimes.

After a few weeks into my new position, I was feeling assaulted and discouraged by the cruelty and injustices I encountered as I became more and more deeply immersed in the issues of human trafficking and capital punishment. As I usually do, I went outdoors in search of some solace. As I trotted along the sidewalk through the neighborhood-in-need that we’ve chosen for our new home, I was thankful for the cobalt-blue sky, the orangey-red tint of the fall leaves, and the breeze and sunshine playing on my skin. But my heart was still heavy. I prayed, asking God to help me know how to carry such profound sadness without succumbing to it. I began to think of the many people I’m blessed to know in and outside of my community that are experts at doing this. Stories from Sisters and friends of their experiences in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Peru, and all over the United States came streaming through my mind. In particular, I reflected on a powerful experience I had last summer with one of my best and dearest models of charity, my cousin, Sister Kateri Maureen Koverman, SC.

As a young Sister she felt called to go to Vietnam to help the civilians being displaced and devastated by the war, though she knew next to nothing about the country or the related politics. Defying the fear she felt and only knowing she could not deny what God was asking of her, she agreed to go. Kateri was still there when the United States decided to pull out of the country and South Vietnam was going to fall to the communists in the north. She was instrumental in orchestrating the safe evacuation of countless babies and children, most of them orphans, through President Ford’s Operation Baby Lift. She has kept in touch with many of these children, who have grown into adults over the forty years that have passed. 

In June, Kateri hosted a reunion of sorts for them at our Motherhouse. The adoptees came hungry for what only she can share with them. They wanted to hear her memories because they have none of their own but deeply long for them. I was Kateri’s assistant, doing airport runs and helping wherever needed. On the first evening, she showed them a PowerPoint of photos and painted for them a picture of what life was like for the people living in their homeland, the conditions that produced thousands of orphans and left thousands more homeless, wounded, or deceased. I sat in the front of the room across from Kateri, and though she had told me some of her experiences before, my mouth hung open in absolute astonishment at the narrow escapes and seemingly impossible feats she accomplished. It was crystal clear that God was with her and working through her, and she responded with an enormous faith and courage that left me speechless. I was so absorbed that I forgot the job I was supposed to be doing, and she had to give me a nod to remind me to go to the next slide.

Me in the back on the left with Kateri sitting second from the left, surrounded by some of her adoptees, spouses and parents.
I felt so weak in comparison, and wondered, how did she do all that without falling apart? How do the many others continue to do what they do working for healing, peace, and justice when it seems like the problems are just too big and beyond hope? Just as I was thinking these things, I crossed an overpass. The sidewalk was littered with bits of trash and some fallen leaves, but a few steps away, it registered that there had been something else on the pavement. Curious as to what it was, I stopped and retraced my steps. I threw my head back and laughed out loud as grateful tears blurred my vision-there in black spray paint was scrawled God’s answer to me…LOVE WINS!

Sidewalk Wisdom
No matter how hard things seem, how insurmountable the obstacles appear, or how far off the finish line awaits, believing that in the end, in God’s time and not ours, love wins keeps us going. And even more of a grace than that, we are joyful to be doing so!

My heart was markedly lighter and I felt the spring return to my step as I broke back into a run, making the turn and heading back home. A favorite quote of our foundress, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, echoed in my ears, “Only do your best, and leave the rest to God.” To which I exuberantly added, “Because love wins!”

Monday, October 19, 2015

Papal Visit 2015

By: Sr. Judy Donohue, SCN

So many cultures yet one faith
Filling the air with excitement
Committed to traveling together
Sisterly affection and brotherly love in a strongly felt unity
Sharing each other's stories
Time to grow in grace and patience

Sr. Judy with two sisters from the Charity Federation.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Worth Something

By: Sr. Tracy Kemme, SC

I pulled into Vidal’s driveway on Monday morning, stopping the car just before I reached a big split in the uneven concrete.  I was a few minutes early, so I decided not to go to the door right away.  Vidal has five children, the youngest of whom is just twelve days old!  I figured he and his wife would need all the time they could get to ready their little ones for the day.  However, the side screen door flipped open right away.  Vidal stepped out, dressed in a crisp, button-down shirt and nice pants, a contrast to the run-down house from which he emerged.  He smiled and waved, called, “Hasta luego!” to his wife, and walked toward the car. 

“Buenos días, Hermana,” he said as he climbed into the passenger seat. 

And we were off.  This morning, Vidal was going to share his story. 

I’d been asked to do a presentation about immigration for the intercommunity novitiate class in Cincinnati.  While I could offer insights from my years of working with migrants, I knew that nothing could replace the testimony of someone who has lived migration.  Vidal, a parishioner of the church where I minister, agreed to accompany me. 

Vidal started by telling us about his life in Guatemala.  He was born into economic poverty in a small town in the country.  Most people were subsistence farmers.  Vidal never knew his father, and his mother took little interest in him.  His grandparents raised him. He desperately wanted to go to school, but his family couldn’t afford the supplies.  He only went to first grade, and then, he began to work. 

He worked throughout his whole young life, making the equivalent of $1.50 per day.  As a teenager, he met his now wife.  The pair began planning a future together, but he knew he’d never be able to support a family with what he could make in his home country.  At eighteen, he decided to leave and travel north. 

It was a long, dangerous journey that involved walking through the desert for six days, being deported once, and being swindled and abandoned in an unknown place by a “coyote” who was supposed to help him.  He finally made it to Cincinnati, where some people from his hometown had settled. 

Here in the U.S., life has been better, but not easy.  Vidal described the difficulty of trying to make a life in a place where they don’t know the language, where they can’t get a real job, where they can’t get a driver’s license, and where many people wish he wasn’t here.  He, like many immigrants, has worked long hours for little pay, mostly in landscaping and janitorial services.  It is tough, but he hopes to stay here. The United States is all that his children know. 

Perhaps the most shocking part of the story is the resistance he and his fellow Catholic Guatemalans faced in trying to find a parish. One parish told them that they weren’t welcome because the parish “already had too many activities going on.”  A second parish offered a similar response, but the school principal, a Sister of Charity, welcomed them and at least offered them the school auditorium for worship. 

For about seven years, they hired their own Spanish-speaking priests and held Mass in the school, never setting foot in the church building.  Finally, three years ago, a new pastor came and began the process of welcoming them fully into the parish. 

When we climbed back into the car after the class, I thanked Vidal for his courage in sharing his profound witness. 

He said, “Thank you, too, Hermana, for giving me this opportunity.  I never imagined that someone like me, an immigrant with no education, would ever be invited to talk in front of anybody!”  He shook his head and then smiled, “Doing that made me realize that I’m worth something.” 

My heart broke and rejoiced in the same instance.  How sad that our world makes people feel like they aren’t worth anything; what a gift it was to be part of a moment that reversed that for one person. 

I thought of Pope Francis’ words to Congress just a few weeks ago, “We must not be taken aback by [the] numbers [of immigrants] but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.” 

I’m so grateful for the faces I’ve seen and the stories I’ve heard.  Walking with people like Vidal is a true privilege – and a call to never tire of working for justice.   

Thursday, October 8, 2015

All the Colors in the Box

By: Sr. Mallorie Gerwitz, SCL

In my ponderings, observations and experiences thus far in life and in community and in my ability to explain to each of you where I am along this journey; I began to think of the twisting and winding road that brought me here.  I resourced a book, by Robert Fulghum, whom I am sure some have read, entitled, “Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten.” 

One quote in particular speaks to me on this journey as to our uniqueness and to our spirit of charism as Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, We could learn a lot from crayons; some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, while others bright, some have weird names, but they all have learned to live together in the same box.” Each of us brings a color of uniqueness, individuality, skills and gifts to the group, and without all the colors we wouldn’t be…well colorful, a complete box of crayons.  I will expand on Fulghum’s quote to explain where I am on the journey and the crayon that I bring to the box.  

When you open a box of crayons for the first time, maybe in the fall before students come back to class, on retreat, in your artwork or just at home relaxing in front of the tv… you see the colors all lined up with their similar partners all in a row, those with the most similar attributes, similar life experiences etc.  Possibly similar to your best friend, someone you would choose to pal around with.  Then after a few uses, kids rushing to pick up after art class, moms at home needing to clear the table… the colors get all jumbled up, broken… and the red starts to bump into the black; orange, with blue and green; pink with white and yellow… the crayons lose some of their sharpness, the tips become rounded, smoothed out.  What is happening inside that box of crayons is that the crayons are beginning to experience the variety of the box around them.  The unique characteristics of that crayon or this crayon, the way they can add color just in the right place, at the right time, to the canvas and without all the colors, the artwork would not be complete.  As Edvard Munch once stated about life, “The colors live a remarkable life of their own after they have been applied to the canvas.”

I came into the world and through my baptism have brought my color and light.  I have added it here and there; I’ve bumped into other colors.  I thought about living with this color or that color, thought about choosing one color, but in my reflection and hope for my life, I wanted to experience all the colors. 

 Since I have entered community I have enjoyed experiencing the colors of each of my sisters, through shared meals, conversations and classes and experiencing each sisters individual efforts and unified efforts to create a just world led by the spirit.  I have been humbled and moved.  I have also found myself growing into a deeper understanding of my true color.   

I have seen myself grow in intentionality, commitments and the recognition that prayer and reflection assist me in being my best self.  I have had many opportunities to learn more about myself through prayer, classes, community, artwork, nature, and various ministries.  I have felt my heartstrings tugged in many directions, with the needs of so many who lack health care, those with disabilities, those on our streets, those with mental illness, those seeking housing or food, our immigrant brothers and sisters and the abused and neglected, just to name a few.  

Dorthy Day, I think, states this struggle with the human condition and the rights of all humans in the way that I would best describe my struggle: “What we would like to do is change the world--make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended them to do. And, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, of the poor, the destitute--the rights of the worthy and the unworthy poor – we can to a certain extent change the world”.

I hold all the needs of our brothers and sisters in my heart, and at this time, although unsure of which holds my heart the most, and where I will be called to serve, I know that I have witnessed and continue to experience in myself a deep commitment to wanting to be part of the vision and mission of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth.  I desire and hope to live up to the name, Sister.

 As I grow into community, in this special year of novitiate I hope to take time to deepen my prayer life, try to live one day at a time with openness and love to all that I may encounter, and to focus my intentions on where God is most calling me to live out this life as a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth. 

The SCL foundress, Mother Xavier Ross was the first one to add her color to the Canvas.   How blessed are we for her dream… her commitment and for all those who have followed, allowing their color to be added.  I thank each of my sisters for allowing the canvas to once again be changed and altered by my presence, as I add whatever craziness, love, life, ministry, dreams and hopes that God has in store for my life amongst each of you.  Let this color, live a remarkable life, on this SCL canvas. 





(Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth _ “Look forward to the Good that’s yet to Be”– S. Jennifer Gordon, Statue – Foundress – Mother Xavier Ross, S. Amy Willcott, S. Melissa Camardo and Canonical Novice S. Mallorie Gerwitz)