Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Let's Get Creative

By Sr. Whitney Schieltz, SC Federation Canonical Novice

      Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

      Click HERE to learn more about Whitney

I often use the word creative to describe myself; and this past year as a canonical novice has been an opportune time to explore the importance of creativity in my life. When I think of what it means to be creative, the first activities that come to mind are painting, sculpting, writing, and even cooking—activities that are completely within my control and can be done in a short amount of time. However, this spring I have found a new creative outlet—one that requires patience, dedication, and letting go of control and the idea of perfection—and that is gardening.

As the arrival of spring evoked conversations about what to plant in the raised beds around our house, I began reading articles and watching online videos about how to plant and maintain a vegetable garden. During my research, I came across numerous discussions about the physical, mental, and spiritual health benefits of gardening; but it wasn't until I actually dug in and began planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting that I realized how miraculous gardening is. As a kid, we always had a garden in our back yard, but I was more of a harvester/consumer than a planter/grower. Now, however, I understand what drove my mom to spend hours at a time kneeling in the dirt, pulling weeds, and dragging a heavy hose around.

some of the raised beds outside the Novitiate House

While my earlier ideas of creative projects focused more on the final product, gardening reminds me of the importance of the creative process. When I'm working in the garden, all of my senses are engaged. I feel the sun beating down and the breeze blowing by; I hear the birds in the trees and the airplanes overhead; I smell the flowers in bloom; I taste the dirt being stirred into the air; and I see the arrival of new sprouts and blooms. I am hard at work, co-creating with God, but I am also still and silent. It is a perfect place for meditation and prayer.

I'm especially fascinated by the potatoes!

It’s no wonder there is so much imagery of gardens, cultivation, and harvest used in scripture to deliver the Good News. My previous spiritual director often referenced these terms, as well; but it didn't really translate until now. Now that I have experienced the literal cultivation and tending of a garden, perhaps I will better be able to heed the wisdom of St. Teresa of Avila and tend the landscape of my soul.

"Beginners must realize that in order to give delight to the Lord they are starting to cultivate a garden on very barren soil, full of abominable weeds. His Majesty pulls up the weeds and plants good seed. Now let us keep in mind that all of this is already done by the time a soul is determined to practice prayer and has begun to make use of it. And with the help of God we must strive like good gardeners to get these plants to grow and take pains to water them so that they don’t wither but come to bud and flower and give forth a most pleasant fragrance to provide refreshment for this Lord of ours. Then He will often come to take delight in this garden and find His joy among these virtues." 
– St. Teresa of Avila

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Ministry of Presence

By Sr. Judy Donohue, SC Federation Temporary Professed

      Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

      Click HERE to learn more about Judy

In my position as Life Enrichment (Activity) Assistant at Forest Springs Health Campus, in northern Jefferson County (Louisville, KY), I am very blessed to minister with residents during the Golden years of their lives. I also meet younger people during times of rehabilitation. All these people are vulnerable and are experiencing many of life’s transitions; the death of spouses, children or siblings, leaving your long time familiar home, health challenges, for instance: a stroke which may take away your right or left side muscle function, speech, etc. It can all be overwhelming.

It is a privilege to minister to these people and honor them as treasured children of God: to offer a smile, a hug or a listening ear to someone who’s world maybe turning upside down. This ministry is very challenging, diverse and fulfilling. My ministry includes leading exercises, arts and crafts, and sing-a-longs. I enjoy assisting with Happy hour when an entertainer comes in and preforms. I serve the snacks and refreshments. This is always an uplifting time. During Bingo, I may tell a joke to lighten the atmosphere. I do activity assessments as well as recruit people to come to all our activities. I’m getting to know the staff, offering them needed encouragement too.

God is showing me as I do activities for the residents I am also to be fully present to listening to their unsaid needs. What does “being present” mean anyway? I had a friend who was recently in the hospital. I visited her. I wanted to do things for her but she just wanted me to be with her. Deep down I knew being with her was what God was asking of me. God who is always fully present to us does not need to be doing anything. God does not need to achieve.

How can I be fully present to others without looking at my cell phone or wondering what is the next thing I need to get done? Let’s use Jesus as our example of being present to others. He gave his full attention, was interested in their needs. He knew their heart and provided for them. God is all ears. We are always in God’s full attention. S/He has no agenda nor distractions. I serve God by being present to others. I pray to be 100% interested in who I am being with today.

As I have often been challenged to live in the now, I’m understanding deeper what that means. To me it means not dwelling in the past or future but being fully aware and enjoying the present; making the most of today, this moment, enjoying the gifts of slowing down and taking time for the residents. One residents shared how she missed her church family, I affirmed how hard that is. Another resident’s daughter shared about her son’s overdose. I offered a prayer of comfort. By slowing down, I’m hearing what people need to say. Thank God for the gift of the ministry of presence.