Sunday, June 26, 2016

Avanti - Moving Forward

By Rejane Cytacki, SCL

During these last six months, I have been searching for a new ministry, one that involves environmental education. The liminal space of not knowing where and what I would be doing is a hard space to be amidst the busyness of writing resumes and cover letters, job searching, and interviews. Yet, I knew I needed to remain in that uncomfortable space. So this spring when I received my copy of the LCWR reflective journal entitled “Avanti!”(Which means “forward” in Italian) many reflections resonated with me. 

There are two elements in the reflections that spoke to me about my liminal space. First that of waiting in hope and faith for the unseen future and second moving forward at the same time. While this may seem paradoxical both elements were present in my ministry search. I needed to be rooted in prayer and patient and yet doing the work necessary to allow the future to come to fruition.  I love the line from Bea Eichten’s, OSF reflection on page 17 that says, “God hears my “Yes” and draws me forward.” This is where my passion for care of creation intersects with God’s call. That call has drawn me forward to find a ministry at an eco-justice center allowing me to work in a life giving ministry in collaboration with another religious community.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Language of God

By Whitney Schieltz

Last week I went on my first directed retreat.  As I arrived at our Motherhouse in Cincinnati, I was concerned about how I was going to spend a full week in silent reflection and prayer.  Before the retreat began, I went over to the assisted living wing to visit with some of the community’s “wisdom figures.”  One of those Sisters gave me a piece of advice that converted my worry to excitement and stayed with me the entire week.  She told me to view this time in retreat as a honeymoon with God.  At those words, my attitude toward the retreat changed from a week that I “have to” go through to a week that I “get to” go through.

Since I’ve always felt closest to God in nature, I began my first morning by sitting in a small courtyard filled with birdfeeders watching the many birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits stop by for their breakfast. Within the first ten minutes, I sensed a direct message from God as a bluejay—my favorite bird—swooped down in front of me.  I knew it was going to be a good retreat!

That feeling quickly faded as I became increasingly frustrated by what I perceived as a lack of “messages” from God.  I sat outside, I kneeled in the chapel, and I walked in the woods, but most of the time I felt like God had left me alone.  One evening, I entered the labyrinth near the Motherhouse cemetery with high hopes of reconnecting to God, but there was still a tension inside of me as I watched my feet follow the winding path.  I soon realized, however, that I didn’t need to look down as I walked; but I could look around at the scenery while my feet navigated the labyrinth.

The tension suddenly eased, and I realized how perfectly that realization served as a metaphor for my discernmentand life in general.  I always try so hard to search for God and tend to expect a prompt and clear answer to my prayers, but it isn’t until I slow down, let go of control, and truly open my eyes to the world around me that I usually “find” God and the answers I need.  Instead of defining when and how I wanted or expected God to communicate with me, I had to just be present in the moment and ready to receive whatever message God was sending me, whether it be in the form of a bluejay or something less apparent.

Another day while exploring the grounds of the Motherhouse, I noticed something that was again such a perfect analogy for my situation that I couldn’t help but laugh.  Painted on the front driveway was the message “One Way,” but above it were two arrows indicating different lanes.  In that moment, it was a clear reminder that there is more than one way by which God communicates to me.  While I spent my time looking and listening for a specific answer, God might be trying to reach me in some other way or place, or through someone else.  I needed to discover the language of God.  I needed to be open to new and different ways of receiving God’s love and grace.

Just like a couple on their honeymoon—or at any other stage in their relationship—I was learning how to effectively communicate with my companion, or God.  Through the struggle to feel more connected to God, I realized that the connection was already there, I just had to be patient and more aware of it.  Looking back on the retreat, I decided that it may not have been a week of profound emotions and experiences, which is what I expected or hoped it would be, but rather a week of observation and awareness.  Going forward, I now have a better understanding of how I prefer to pray and how to be open to the response from God.  I have to lower my expectations, and instead of waiting for ecstasies and miracles, I just need to appreciate the beauty and love that surrounds me every day, because that is the true language of God.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Celebrating my Mission of Love

By Sr. Marie Flowers

This past weekend I had the best day of my life!!  The many circles of my life all collided in a celebration of love as I professed my perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as a Sister of Charity of Nazareth.   Surrounded in the church and connected via live webcast to sisters, family and friends around the world, I proclaimed my perpetual YES to God's invitation.

As I've reflected on this commitment, I prefer the term perpetual vows over final vows. It's not like a final exam in school where you show what knowledge or skill has been mastered. My commitment is not finite.   The commitment is perpetual into the unknown future.  For me, perpetual means each day for the rest of my existence here on earth and in heaven, I commit myself in love, to love, to be love.  

A few months back I had the privilege of gathering with our Future of Charity group for a weekend of sharing and deepening of our relationships.  During our closing prayer, we gave to each other and received from each other a blessing. The song lyrics playing in the background were "I send you out on a mission of love..."  In planning my vow liturgy, I wanted to concretely witness my mission of love, so I borrowed Jesus' model and washed the feet of my brother and my community provincial. 

How I'd love to know what the future holds and what plans God has.  My perpetual yes to this mission of love, calls me to trust that God's mysterious plan for a future full of hope will unfold in new and surprising ways.  I am so grateful to be on this amazing journey! 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Lessons from a Snail

By Sr. Tracy Kemme

A few weeks ago, I was jogging down the sidewalk when I noticed four adorable children playing in their driveway.  I had talked with them on a walk once before, when they “sold” me popcorn from their lemonade and snacks stand, even though I had no cash on me to pay.  Today, I slowed and waved.

“Hi, girls!  You’re the nice people who gave me popcorn, aren’t you?”

One who was crouching over something intently peered up at me.  “You remember us?”

“Of course!” I assured and crouched down myself. “What’re you up to today?”

“Well,” started the oldest and apparent leader of the little troupe, “we have a snail.”

She pointed, and I saw the little creature in a shoebox lid on the driveway.  The crouching girl was still bending over the snail, and a chubby toddler in a romper and diaper sat staring, too.

“Cool!” I said.  “Do you have a name for the snail?”

“Yep,” declared the ringleader, matter-of-factly with her little hand on her hip.  “God.”

A snail named God.  My whole face burst into an amused smile, and then, retracting my laughter inside, I nodded with serious agreement: “Great name.”

I turned to watch the snail with the little ones, mesmerized, as it has been ages since I’ve taken the time to do so.  We all smiled, perched on our knees, eyebrows raised in delight.  It was amazing to see tiny “God” stretch out her stocky neck and then pull the rest of her body along.  The small movements didn’t look like much, but they were steady.  Before I knew it, “God” was clear across the shoebox lid.  I was genuinely surprised.

“Wow, wasn’t that cool?” I exclaimed.  “We think of snails as very slow, and watching it, it didn’t look like it was doing very much.  But it was moving!”

Later, I chuckled to myself as I considered my comment about the snail named God.  Of course, this encounter had something to teach me about my own relationship with God.  In the day to day, it’s easy to feel like God isn’t doing much.  I get impatient.  But, if I stop and look back, I can see that God has brought me from one corner of the shoebox lid clear across to the other.  God is always at work, moving in our lives in both discreet and pronounced ways, getting us just where we need to be.  If we take a moment to stop and observe, like the girls and I crouched over that little snail, we might be surprised at how far God’s steady, faithful hand has carried us.

It’s a good moment to stop and peer intently at how God has been working in and through this Future of Charity Blog.  In August of 2014, we met as the Future of Charity for the first time.  During the course of the weekend, as we shared our hopes and dreams, the idea for a collaborative blog surfaced.  Three of us agreed to begin work on it.

In October, we found ourselves together on a Google Hangout, connecting from Cincinnati, Louisville, and New Orleans.  Across the miles, we began praying about what God was calling forth.  Many questions had to be answered:  Where will we create the blog?  What will it look like?  What is the mission?  Who will write?  When?  How often?  About what?  How will we post and maintain the blog?  How will we advertise?  Who will read?  And more.

Over the following month, the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the collaborative work of many shaped the nebulous idea into something concrete.  By the end of November, the blog existed, we had an idea of how it would work, and almost fifteen Future of Charity sisters were on board to blog!  We launched on November 30, 2014 – the opening of the Year of Consecrated Life.  We Future of Charity sisters hoped that our blog would help to “wake up the world!”

Since then, we have committed to making time to share on this blog what God is speaking in our hearts and lives.  We’ve had wonderful support from the Sisters of Charity Federation.  Now, looking back, we know that God, “the snail,” has been on the move!  In eighteen months, we’ve offered 140 posts.  We have 23 bloggers from different congregations.  And, you all have viewed our blog 41,372 times.  When we spoke out loud that we hoped to start a blog, we didn’t know where it would go.  But God did.

As with the snail, I find myself saying, “Wow!  Wasn’t that cool?!”

You’ll notice a few changes on the blog as we come back from a month of transition.  The beautiful layout is updated to include and echo our brand-new Future of Charity logo, created by Future of Charity sisters.  There is a new blog team to carry on the ministry.  And, we’re changing our posting schedule to once per week on Fridays.

We are grateful to be a part of this collaborative ministry.  We hope it has enriched your journey, and we invite you to continue to walk with us and share our blog with whoever would appreciate it.  In the midst of our lives, it is good to stop, crouch down, and wonder and our God at work and on the move, even when it doesn’t feel like it.  As for the Future of Charity Blog, we know that God brought us here, and we trust that same God is creating the path before us!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Wait is Almost Over!

The May-cation is finally over, and the Future of Charity Blog is back in action!
Check back tomorrow for our newest reflection by Sister Tracy Kemme, SC.

Also, be sure to catch up on previous posts
by clicking through the Blog Archive menu to the right.