Sunday, April 26, 2020

Reflections From the Belly of a Whale

By Sr. Andrea Koverman, SC Federation, First Vows

It seems no accident to me that the COVID-19 pandemic reached proportions large enough to make the world take notice and stop it in its tracks occurred during the season of Lent. Always a solemn and sacred time to honestly look at ones life, to examine the ways in which one has or has not, does or does not live the faith they profess to believe. I ask myself how closely am I following the Way of Jesus, not just adoring but truly imitating him? What are the ways in which I disrupt the flow of love from God to me to others that I’m meant to participate in? How can I work towards detaching from those impediments, letting them go, turning away from the sin that they are and the suffering they can cause myself and others?

It’s ironic to me that I am writing for the Future of Charity when I’m wondering about the future of society, as I imagine most of us are. As I was praying about this, it occurred to me that maybe God is using COVID-19 as a sort of unwelcome prophet sent to warn us just as Jonah was sent to warn the Ninevites. Is it similarly spreading throughout the world to warn us of impending doom lest we change our evil ways of doing things? We can’t run away from the deadly virus that has moved its way through our cities, countries and continents bringing everyone from those in royal robes to the lowliest among us to our knees. Though not sporting sackcloth or sitting in ashes, it does feel as if we’ve been given a big time out, sent to our rooms to think on a grand scale about what we’ve been doing - how we treat each other and our God-given planet. Just a quick reflection of our current state of affairs seems to call for it: the masses of people in forced migration, the poverty and violence that compel them to flee, the greed that puts money first and the well-being of people be damned, the pollution that’s causing devastating changes in climate that destroy habitat and inhabitants of all kinds even as we stand idly by watching it all happen…We are at a fork in the road moment and how we proceed will determine everything.

Though this is now the third Sunday of Easter and Lent is meant to be over, it seems as if we’ve been given an extension of sorts. Perhaps that’s another of God’s graces, as I don’t know that we have yet learned the lessons the pandemic can teach us. A simple Google search provides evidence that the environment has improved since it started – carbon dioxide emissions are way down with stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions. Cities around the world long plagued by smog and air pollution are experiencing clear skies, revealing vistas of skylines and mountain ranges that haven’t been seen in years. Incidents of asthma and heart attacks have plummeted. Birds, sea creatures and animals of all sorts are returning to abandoned habitats - all in only a matter of weeks. We feel the paradigm shifting in our own homes and local communities, too. Families are spending quality time together, rediscovering the simple pleasures and gifts of family life. Relationships are more important than ever. We’ve had to acknowledge that we are responsible for not only taking care of ourselves, but also of our neighbors and dutifully wear masks and gloves to protect one another from the virus. We’ve been touched by the commitment and self- sacrifice of health care providers and first responders. We’ve realized that we can make do with less and with what we have on hand. We’re eating healthier and exercising more, appreciating it if we have healthy bodies and noticing the beauty of our surroundings. And we can’t escape the fact that some of us are moving through this time with relative ease and nothing much more than inconvenience, while many many more are suffering incredibly from lack of food, unemployment and inadequate health care. We’ve had to ask the uncomfortable questions of why this is so and how we have personally participated in supporting the systems that perpetuate these injustices.

An inspirational sunrise near my home in NM
But are we ready to come out of our rooms and behave ourselves? Change has been imposed on us by the pandemic, but will we choose to continue to better care for each other and the environment when it’s a choice again? Will we be better followers of Christ, loving ourselves, one another and our common home to a greater degree than in pre-pandemic times? I hope so. I believe so. After all and much to the ire of Jonah, our God is a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity (Jonah 4:2), even to the undeserving. We are resurrection people and the love of Christ can rise in and transform each of us. Amen? Amen. Alleluia!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Detoxing during Lent

By Sr. Carlette Gentle, SCN, Perpetually Professed

      Click HERE to learn more about Carlette

Click HERE to learn more about the SC Federation

I have been struggling to think of what my Lenten abstinence would be this year. I could give up chocolate, or desserts, or junk food in general but what would that do? Will it impact the lives of others? Will it help me to be humbler to others? As these questions ran through my brain the word detox kept coming to mind. Detox, a word I have been hearing often in the diet world. I took time in prayer to reflect on this word since it did not seem to be going away. An unusual word, I thought to myself, to take to prayer but I did. Detox, is defined as a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances. The more I reflected, the more this word made sense. It offered an opportunity for transformation and conversion. I spent time in prayer thinking what toxic or unhealthy substances should I rid my body, mind and soul of this lent? In quiet the list started to flow. I should rid myself of judgments, let loose of envy, hatred, anger and minimize stress. Will it be easy? Of course not but I will try. Working on ridding myself of these things through prayer, reflection and reaching out to others during this Lenten season will aid in the detox process that will help to transform me and empty me creating a place for God to dwell fully.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

From the FOC to the HOC: Happy Ten Years!

Compiled by Sister Tracy Kemme, SC

Last Saturday marked the ten year anniversary of the House of Charity (HOC) in New Orleans, and we at the Future of Charity (FOC) blog want to celebrate their milestone.  We dedicate this post to our visionary sisters who dreamed up the HOC and have sustained it over a decade, impacting countless young adults, the city of New Orleans, and the Charity Federation – including, in a very special way, us who are newer members of our congregations.
Our first FOC gathering at the HOC, August 2014
The FOC has its roots at the House of Charity.  The same sisters who dreamed up the HOC also dreamed of connecting newer members across the Federation, and they eventually did, at the HOC in 2014.  Sisters Claire Regan, Mary Lex Smith, Monica Gundler, and Renee Rose welcomed us with open arms.  Our beloved, now-deceased Sr. Janet Gildea led us in reflection on the movie Field of Dreams. Its famous quote, “If you build it, they will come,” took on special power at the HOC, where more than a thousand guests have "come" since our sisters “built” it in 2010.  In this sacred space, Janet invited us to dream about collaborating for the Charity mission – and one idea that emerged was this blog, now more than five years running. 
At the end of the weekend, another dear sister that we’ve since lost, Marie Flowers, gushed, “I finally feel like I have a ‘band’!”  For those of us who have entered our congregations with few peers, the FOC has been like our band,” our entrance group, and the HOC has been our our gathering place, our home-base to which we return yearly.  This past November, we were blessed once again by the hospitality of the HOC’s current community, Sisters Monica Gundler, Peg Johnson, and Vicki Lichtenauer.  As always, we were nourished for the present and energized for our shared future.
FOC at the HOC, November 2019
We are so grateful.  And as a small token of our immense gratitude, we, the members of the FOC, offer tribute here to the amazing HOC:

©     In gratitude for being that place that holds the past of our Charity Charism and the love of our sisters who have laid down our foundation, the present of who we are in this defining moment, and the future that might be uncertain yet is laden with a promise of hope and guidance from God, happy 10th year anniversary, HOC! I am grateful for what you represent for us women of Charity!    ~Romina Sapinoso
©     The House of Charity is a wonderful example of collaboration among the Charity Federation congregations. It weaves hospitality, community, prayer, and service together for those who stay there.  Whether I am visiting with the Future of Charity or a college spring break service trip, I can feel the positive energy and hope that emerges from the group experience, impelling all to continue building the Kindom here on earth.    ~Rejane Cytacki
©     When I first stayed at the HOC in 2017, I had already been accepted as a pre-postulant with the Daughters of Charity and knew I would be living in New Orleans for my first year. Meeting and staying with the Sisters at the HOC for that first service week was a blessing, as I continued to be in contact with them throughout my time in NOLA. Being able to pray, serve, and be involved in their activities added a lot to my year.  Thank you, HOC, for your welcoming arms, hospitable spirit, and atmosphere of invitation to me!    ~Josephine Lomasney
Federation Come and Serve, Sept. 2017
©     My first time to the House of Charity was for Nuns Build 2013, and it was also my very first experience of the Charity Federation.  I will never forget entering the house to a bustling kitchen and two long tables full of Sisters talking, laughing and breaking bread together.  I immediately felt I was among family, and continue to feel that way every time I return to a warm welcome at the House of Charity.    ~Annie Klapheke
©     Every moment that I have encountered through gathering at the HOC has provided a source of growth, hope and faith in the journey as sisters of Charity.    ~Hyeon Lee
©     The first time that I went to the House of Charity for the Daughters of Charity Search and Serve in 2016, I instantly felt welcomed and loved. It was there that I first got to witness the Vincentian Charism in action. The sisters there have always been so generous and supportive of anyone who would walk through those doors, and for that I am very thankful. To this day every time I visit the House of Charity it still feels like home.    ~Carissa Kulpa
©     The House of Charity has been an integral part of my discernment/formation journey. I initially experienced their warm hospitality when I was first exploring a call to religious life, and since then I’ve returned numerous times as a sister-in-formation and even as a companion for other young women in discernment. The HOC is one of many "second homes" that I am privileged to have, and I'm so proud to be in the Charity family with the devoted and inspiring women who live and minister there.    ~Whitney Schieltz
FOC at the HOC, September 2015
©     The House of Charity has been a place where we as younger sisters can gather under one roof and one name, no distribution is needed. Great hospitality is always offered and a feeling of being at home is always felt. Thank you HOC for always being there for us as younger members in the federation. We are truly blessed.    ~Carlette Gentle
©     I’ve been lucky enough to participate in two Nuns Builds and be hosted annually for Future of Charity gatherings. My first Nuns Build, during novitiate, was an enlightening experience for me and the other Federation Sisters present. After spending the week together, they proclaimed that Tracy and I were “their” novices, too; we didn’t just belong to the Cincinnati SCs. That was the first time I really knew it was true that my community includes all my Federation Sisters. I’m so grateful to the HOC for facilitating those kinds of encounters and giving the whole Federation a place to call home.    ~Andrea Koverman
©     I am so grateful for the collaborative ministry of the House of Charity because it introduced me to the Sisters of Charity Federation.  This house offers a homey, welcoming atmosphere where sisters from across the Federation can gather to build relationships with each other and deepen our call to the charism of Charity.    ~Kara Davis
©     I first came to the HOC in 2012, shortly after deciding to take the plunge to become a Sister of Charity.  I was still full of questions and, truthfully, upset with God for asking me to “give up” other life options.  That week praying, serving, and playing with the HOC community was a turning point, reminding me why I was drawn to religious life and setting my heart afire with courage and joy.  Thank you, HOC, for your contagious witness to Charity!    ~Tracy Kemme
©     As we celebrate this HOC anniversary, I would like to pay tribute to the wonderful hospitality offered by the staff! I started attending Future of Charity gatherings there over 5 years ago to deepen my Federation relationships, and getting to know the Charity charism lived among us has been inspiring. The HOC has been a refuge to build support, relax, pray together as well as to have a lot of fun together. May God continue to abundantly bless the efforts of this ministry!    ~Judy Donohue
©     The HOC has always been a place of welcome and hospitality.  I treasure the opportunity to come together with newer members in different stages of formation to share our dreams and ideas, and to pray, play and support one another.  I am also gifted by the many mentors throughout the Charity Federation who walk with us and share in the journey of Religious Life with spirit of Charity.    ~Paris Slapikas

Happy 10 years, House of Charity!  We love you!
And we say YES with you to the next ten wonderful years (and beyond)...

P.S.  If you’ve never had the chance to visit the House of Charity, check out Sr. Monica’s video tour (which she offered as part of the Charity Federation's series of Elizabeth Seton reflections) by clicking right here!