Friday, December 30, 2016

Looking Back at 2016

As another calendar year comes to a close, we thought it would be nice to look back at the graces that filled our lives throughout the past twelve months.  We prompted our bloggers to reflect on the standout moments and experiences of their year, what growth they noticed in themselves, what they were most grateful for, and if there were any common themes or mantras for them in 2016.  Below are the responses…

Laura Coughlin

What were the standout moments/experiences for you in 2016?
- Completing the MDiv degree at Boston College.

How did you notice yourself grow in 2016?
- I am growing in my ability to lift up my voice in a public space, and to have confidence in that endeavor.

What were you most grateful for in 2016?
- My mother's health
- My community (Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill) and the Jesuits for giving me access to such a marvelous education at BC

Were there any common themes, mantras, subjects of reflection, etc. for you in 2016
Concern about my ability to move into doctoral studies yielded to a firm sense of "yes" in light of a developing passion for a particular area of research.

Rejane Cytacki

I am most grateful for new experiences, new opportunities especially being Rooted in Hope at the Eco-Justice Center in Racine. (Racine is French for Root).  

Victoria Hood

My standout experiences all surround my entrance into the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth religious community. I had been discerning and spending time with the sisters and vocation director - Sister Vicki Lichtenauer - as she had activities in her schedule for over a year when I asked for an application in March of this year. I submitted the application in May and received my acceptance letter a couple of months later. I remember being anxious because following chapter meetings, our leadership team was changing, and I thought that this changing of office would delay my acceptance. I actually did a "happy dance" in my living room and then called my mother because I was so excited when I read my letter of acceptance. I moved into our formation house in September, started working at my new ministry two days after that,  and my Rite of Welcome was less than a month later. So much has changed in my life so quickly that even though I am excited about my vocation and where I am right now, it is still a little mind boggling. Also, the amount of adjusting and change is at times overwhelming, but I have a support system that I definitely take advantage of (my housemates, a couple SCLs that I am close to, spiritual director, and my parents). I thank God for this support system because I could not have done these past couple of months without them!

Tracy Kemme

As I look back on 2016, I feel God surfacing a short but powerful phrase in my heart: "Love wins."  This has been a painful year in our country, unleashing appalling hatred and fear.  The struggle has only just begun for many groups of marginalized people.  In the midst of this darkness, however, the counter-movement has been beautiful.  I see masses of people uniting around values of compassion, justice, and love - values embodied by Jesus Christ.  As we begin 2017, I pray for that force of Christ's love to grow stronger.  May we be agents of making, "Love wins!" come true.

Annie Klapheke

What were the standout moments/experiences in 2016?

I have so much to be grateful for in 2016.  I began the year by spending ten weeks in Guatemala studying Spanish, and ended the year by professing my first vows as a Sister of Charity - what a year!  I pray that I use all the gifts and graces of this past year to better build God's Kingdom in the new year to come.

Andrea Koverman

There were some wonderful gifts and joyous occasions in 2016 for which I am incredibly grateful: Sr. Janet's miraculous repeated recovery from cancer, Romina entering novitiate, Annie professing first vows, a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, sharing my office space with a beautiful and happy baby boy for the last few months, seeing our vision for our local community coming to fruition, to name just a few. But the year also held some deep disappointments and heartbreaking personal losses and near losses that shook me to the core. Looking back at those times while still processing their effects, I am overwhelmed by the role that both my relationship with God and my community have played in helping me not simply to endure, but to grow and heal. I am eternally grateful for them both. 

Meg Kymes

I have been reflecting mostly regarding my love for my vocation during 2016 as I prepare to make my vows for the first time in 2017.  I have become deeply grateful for being chosen for this life and my love for my Community has grown because of this.

Romina Sapinoso

In the novitiate year, spaciousness is necessary in the quieting of the mind and spirit to listen to God's call. However, I am finally, slowly living the awareness that discernment in this spaciousness is not just our work and ours alone. Sometimes, it is easy to fall into the idea of discernment as something we do by ourselves through the classes, the journaling, the reflections, etc. It takes a while to wake up to the realization that in the spaciousness, there is room for God to be my partner and say what God has to say about my call and my discernment. What a relief! It takes a load of pressure off me and invites me to enjoy the novitiate knowing God and I are in it together. I look forward to continuing the journey in 2017!

Whitney Schieltz

There were so many standout experiences for me in 2016, but the most memorable were the times when I traveled to new places (and some familiar) to gather with people of shared interests and missions.  Whether it was chaperoning a college service trip to the House of Charity in New Orleans, attending Catholics on Call in Chicago with other young adults discerning vocations in the Church, or joining hundreds of activists at the SOA Watch Encuentro at the Border in Nogales, I felt a stronger draw to community and service.  I was also extremely grateful for the opportunites to celebrate with several Sisters in the Future of Charity family as they entered the next stages of their formation!

Paris Slapikas

The year of mercy invited us to open our hearts -to grow our hearts to become more merciful and compassionate people.  My reflection this past year frequently centered around the increase in violence and tragedy and the seemingly greater divide among cultures and religions across our nation.

I was inspired by and often reflected on Pope Francis' reminder that "no amount of 'peace building' will be able to last, nor will harmony and happiness be attained, in a society that ignores, pushes the margins, or excludes a part of itself; it loses something essential.  We must never, never allow the throwaway culture to enter our hearts!....No one is disposable."

As we enter 2017, may we live up to our call to be expressions of love to all those we encounter.  May we seek out ways to advocate and support those on the margins.  May we continue to enlarge our hearts and embrace those who are suffering.

From all of us in the Future of Charity: Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday Jesus, Remember the reason for the season: The Incarnation.

By Sr. Judy Donohue

It use to upset me that people put up their Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.  Then I thought, let it be a reminder that Jesus can be born in our lives every day. Now I see them as a time to remember Jesus desires to be born in new ways in my life. I can allow Jesus to be born anew in me in many different ways.   May Jesus be born in our hearts every day. As we are preparing for Christmas, I’m reminded that as I let Jesus be born anew in a variety of ways in my life. Each morning I can ask Jesus to live and love through me. Open my eyes to see newness in my daily activities. God is in the ordinary. So much of life is ordinary. I was privileged to attend Annie Klapheke’s first vow ceremony at the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati motherhouse. Her theme was the incarnation. As we let our Baptismal take root, it grows into the abundant fruit. May God bless her decision to continue to let God reign in her heart, mind and life.  May God bless our daily decisions to let God reign in our hearts, minds and lives.

The Future of Charity group gathered for Sr. Annie Klapheke's vows in Cincinnati

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Word Becoming Flesh: Consent and Commitment

By Sr. Annie Klapheke

Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours, no feet but yours.
- St. Theresa of Avila

I professed my first vows with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati on December 10th.  

I chose this quote from St Theresa of Avila for the front of the program because it captures the image of the Incarnation – the theme around which I chose the readings and songs for the liturgy.  I have come to understand vocation as each person’s call to participate in the continuation of the Incarnation – that is, making God’s love physically present in the world.  By my vows, I have said ‘yes’ to continuing the Incarnation is a particular way, as a vowed religious with the Sisters of Charity.  Through my vow liturgy, I wanted to draw all those present into the Incarnation story, and hoped that it would lead them to consider how they, themselves, were being called to participate in this great story.  The mass was beautiful.  I am so grateful to the singers, readers, musicians, presider, and all those who participated.  By offering their gifts, they brought the liturgy to life, and God’s love was palpable in that chapel on that cold December morning.  

For the Gospel reading, I chose the Annunciation story from the Gospel of Luke.  Thirteen simple versus which capture the moment when the history of the world was changed; when Mary gave her ‘yes’ to allow God to take on human skin, through her.  S. Louise Lears offered a reflection describing the rawness of Mary’s consent to the angel.  Louise stated, “We don’t know the emotions Mary drew upon in her consent, her ‘may it be done to me according to your word’.  Perhaps she was the peaceful woman portrayed in some artistic representations.  But I wonder if she sang her consent to God through her tears, hands shaking in fear of the unknown future, yet trusting in God.”  Louise continued by pondering the moments following the Annunciation, “And isn’t it notable that, once Mary consented, the angel did not wait around to soothe Mary’s doubts, or go with her to tell her parents and Joseph, or stay behind to silence her critics.  The angel departed, leaving the ongoing work of discernment and discipleship to Mary.”

Mary gave her consent, and now she was committed to the vocation of bearing God to the world.

If I had to choose one word to describe how I felt after my vow mass, it would be ‘committed’.  Yes, of course, there was great joy, excitement and gratitude; but even stronger was a sobering sense of deep commitment to God, to my community, and to continuing the work of the Incarnation.  In the closing of her reflection, S. Louise stated, “[Annie], you are a God bearer, an identity and vocation that brings with it extraordinary privileges and significant burden – all of which are meant to be shared in solidarity and in community.  Your work of bearing God into the world as a woman religious will continue to require ceaseless discovery and ongoing consent.  Each trembling ‘yes’ that you whisper as a Sister of Charity into God’s heart will change you and us and the world.”  

As my consent and commitment to the work of the Incarnation sink deeper into my heart, I listen to the words of the angel Gabriel and gain courage, “Hail, favored one!  The Lord is with you.  Do not be afraid.”  

President Sr. Joan Cook receives the vows of Sr. Annie Klapheke. (photo: Romina Sapinoso)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Congratulations, Sister Annie Klapheke, SC!

Congratulations to Sister Annie Klapheke, SC, who professed her First Vows this weekend with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati!  The ceremony was held at the Motherhouse in Cincinnati, Ohio, with hundreds of Sisters, friends, and family members in attendance to help welcome Annie and celebrate with her.

Several Future of Charity members and wisdom figures were there to celebrate the occasion!

Friday, December 2, 2016

A Thanksgiving to Remember with People our Society Forgets

By Sr. Tracy Kemme

My Sisters and I spent Thanksgiving with refugees this year.

On Friday, November 18, I traveled to El Paso, Texas, looking forward to a holiday week with Sisters of Charity women in formation and other friends.  We converged at Casa Caridad, our affiliate (postulant) house, run by the three Sisters who introduced me to our congregation and inspired my vocation to religious life. 

The weekend I arrived, we found out that a wave of Central American immigrants would be released from Immigration and Customs Enforcement holding cells pending deportation proceedings.   They traveled from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, and presented themselves as asylum seekers to officials at the U.S.-Mexico border.  Now, they needed shelter.  Our friends, the Columban Fathers, would be hosting more than thirty of these migrants, mostly parent-child pairs, at their Columban Mission Center in downtown El Paso.  Fr. Bill called to let us know and advise us that he probably wouldn’t make it to Thanksgiving at our house as planned.

Over dinner Sunday evening, our community of Sisters and friends discussed moving our Thanksgiving celebration to the Columban Center and cooking for the refugees.  There was no question in our minds that this was God’s invitation to us, and what a privilege it would be to say “Yes!” By Monday morning, it was settled.

Thanksgiving meal prep in community

On Wednesday, the Casa Caridad kitchen filled with delicious aromas and a flurry of peeling potatoes, chopping onions and celery, whisking gravy, and cooking turkey.  On Thanksgiving Day, a Subaru and a Prius carried the feast downtown in countless crockpots and aluminum pans.

We began by sharing Spanish Mass together, thanks to Fr. Bill.  Throughout the celebration, many eyes filled with tears at the gift of being together, the strength of the migrants in our midst, and the sheer injustice and suffering that caused them to migrate in the first place.  When Fr. Bill invited each of us to share a prayer of Thanksgiving, several of our Central American sisters and brothers said they were simply grateful to be alive and to have encountered good people who received them with compassion and care.

Thanksgiving Mass at the Columban House

After Mass, it was “¡A comer!”  Our guests seemed to like the traditional Thanksgiving fare, right down to the pumpkin pie.  I sat across from a twelve year old girl who had spent fifteen days in a detention center with her father.  She scarfed down two whole plates.  Her father confided that he was worried about her stomach with her eating so much, since in the detention center they had three meals a day of only Ramen noodles.  He and others also shared that in detention, they slept crowded on the floor with one thin aluminum blanket for cover, air conditioning blasting at all times, and bright lights glaring twenty-four hours a day.  They were not allowed to shower.

I found it shamefully ironic to hear such stories on Thanksgiving.  In 1621, European migrants and Native Americans shared a meal celebrating the settlers’ successful harvest after their first unforgiving winter in an unknown land.  Only with the help and welcome of the local Native Americans did the migrants learn how to survive and cultivate the crops that comprised that first “Thanksgiving.”  Now, we treat pilgrims as “illegals,” and meanwhile, we continue to oppress the descendants of indigenous peoples like those who welcomed the early migrants.  I prayed as I listened to my migrant friends that our Thanksgiving encounter would add some small amount of goodness to the universe that day.

After the meal, many families packed their meager belongings in one or two plastic grocery bags.  It was time to set out by plane or bus to reunite with families and friends throughout the U.S.  Several had ankle monitoring bracelets, and all have pending court dates and uncertain futures.  One Guatemalan woman was eight months pregnant and undertaking a three-day bus journey.  She, to us, was Mother Mary on her way to Bethlehem. 

Only God knows where each of these beautiful people is now, scattered all over the country.  We pray that they arrived safely and that they find kindness in their new cities.  We promise to continue to support migrants and work for reform in an especially scary time.

The gift of religious life!

I’ll close my reflections in the spirit of Thanksgiving. I’m profoundly grateful for my religious vocation that: 1) puts me in places where I come to know people who are suffering and 2) surrounds me with compassionate women who could think of no better way to spend Thanksgiving than with refugees.

This week-after-Thanksgiving, may our gratitude propel each of us into an Advent of deep prayer and a lifetime of action for a better world.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Jesus: A Man Exemplary to Other Men

By Sr. Laura Coughlin

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.  Since experience is the best teacher, I felt challenged in writing on this topic because I have not in my lifetime been victimized by violence against my person.

A great many perspectives are available from the internet that explain the causes of violence against women and propose solutions.  These include evaluations of gender inequalities and the way in which war increases the experience of rape among women and girls.  Such information also frequently addresses the effects of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as of mental illness, on the experience of violence among women and children in the home. 

While eliminating violence against women should not simply be a matter of pointing the finger at men, it is nonetheless true that most domestic violence, as well as many crimes committed in wartime, are initiated by men against women, and often also against children in the care of women. 

Although somewhat knowledgeable about the statistics, I cannot address the sociological perspectives mentioned above because I lack the expertise to do so.  What I can contribute, however, is my perspective on who Jesus Christ is, as a man exemplary to other men.  This perspective is valuable because where a man’s anger intersects with genuine conversion, the potency of inflicted suffering is not only managed and reduced, but nullified.

So what do we find in Jesus that might call out the conversion of men who harm women, and often enough by extension, also harm children?  Here are seven perspectives on that question that are supportable from the Scriptures:

Christ’s authority is founded in the confidence he has in the heavenly Father.  His confidence is expressed in humility, not pride; his goal is not to dominate, but to serve.
Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Ph 2:5-7)

The Lord’s anger is consistently directed at the strong; his compassion consistently toward those who suffer.
Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger, and lead it away to water it?  And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?” Lk 13:15-16

Jesus is firm, discrete, and precise in both judgement and mercy.
“Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”…But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.” (Jn 8:9-11)

Jesus holds up children as exemplary of human trust and dependence on God; he holds up God, known by His beneficence, as the model of human fatherhood.
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them.  When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  Mk 10:13-15
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!  Mt 7:11

Jesus operates out of a revised family metaphor that obligates believers to loving behavior in all circumstances.
Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd.  Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”  He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”  Lk 8:19-21

The Lord empathizes with women regarding trials unique to their gender, and he understands the effects of those trials on children.
Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days!  Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath.  For at that time there will be great suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.  Mt 24:19-21

Jesus supports the freedom and intelligence of women to make decisions.
…the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’  Lk 10:41-42