Saturday, December 1, 2012

Meet the First Year Novice

Me with the new dog, Sammy
Hello everyone.  I'm the new 1st year novice.  My name is Sister Maria Louise Edwards.  I'm from New Jersey, but I don't have much of an accent.  Honestly not many people I've met from New Jersey have that accent.  It's more common the closer you get to Bayonne and Jersey City.  Anyway, I'm from Saddle Brook, New Jersey, which is a small town near Hackensack (the county seat) and about 20 minutes from Manhattan.  I have a degree in Theatre from NYU and I pursued a career in acting for about ten years.  My vocation story was recorded for our website when I was a postulant:

http://feliciansistersna.org/become-a-felician-sister/vocation-stories/louise-edwards

Since entering the community I have grown to love and deeply respect the Felician Sisters, not only in their commitment as Franciscan women, but also in their commitments to the Church, following in the footprints of St. Francis and Blessed Mary Angela, and committed to the spiritual renewal of the world.

As Franciscans the Felicians have helped me to be a better steward of the earth, making a conscious effort to choose a lifestyle that takes the environment into consideration.  I've learned to clean with vinegar and baking soda rather than products that hurt the environment.  As a house we rarely eat beef and try to buy locally grown produce, if possible.  Just recently we had a class on nutrition and since then I've been keeping a food journal hoping to make healthier choices in what I eat, praying to be a better steward of my body.  I've only been a novice for three months, but physically I feel much healthier than I have in years.


Photo of S Maria Louise taken by Sister Desire' at Talcott Mountain
I've been discerning a vocation to religious life for the past ten years.  It takes some of us longer to get to where the Lord wants us to be.  I felt the Lord calling me to the Felicians because I was drawn first of all to their love for Mary and for the Eucharist, two components in my spirituality that were not optional.  Also not optional was a community that was not only actively faithful to the Magisterium, but recognized the spiritual value in living this truth.  I've seen the Sisters grappling with a lot of the same issues that the Church is grappling with, but their hearts always move toward hopeful obedience.  As I study the letters of our foundress I realize that this was so important to Blessed Mary Angela that she mentioned obedience in nearly every letter she wrote.  This is a great grace and blessing that I think she obtained for our community.  May it always be so going forward.

If you are reading this know that you are in my prayers!
All through the Heart of Mary in honor of the Most Blessed Sacrament!


(Left to right) S Maria Louise, S Bridget Mary, S Desire' Anne-Marie and S Mary Angelise

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Day All Year Long

With Father Michael Blastic, OFM
One of my favorite events during the year is going to Graymoor, NY to spend time with other men and women who are also discerning their call to the Franciscan way of life.  This year our presenter was Father Michael Blastic of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM).  He spoke to us about Franciscan and Clarian prayer and included some of Saint Bonaventure and Blessed John Duns Scotus as well. One of the important points he made was about how most of the prayers we have from Saint Francis and Saint Clare are prayers of praise and thanksgiving.  He went on to say, "Francis and Clare believed with every fiber of their being that God was always there for them, to be with them and take care of them.  If we were to truly believe this, what would we really need to ask for?  I think that was the poverty of Francis and Clare, giving praise and thanksgiving, always aware of God's goodness."  This idea stuck with me and I am still considering how I can better implement this on a regular basis.
Four Future Friars

In my case, I would say that my prayers of both petition and thanksgiving are quite even in number.  However, I am now considering the fact that God does always take care of me, even when I do not ask, so should my prayers of petition really be as numerous as my prayers of thanksgiving?  To give an example of a time in which God took care of me without my asking for a specific favor, I will share a piece of my vocation story with you.

It was 2010 and I was finishing my Spring semester in college.  I was halfway through my Candidacy with the Felician Sisters, living on my own, going to school and working part time.  I was scheduled to enter Postulancy with the Sisters that Fall, but was facing some debt that would prevent my entering if I could not pay it off before then.  It was $3,000, but I still needed to take classes in the summer which would add on another $1,000.  It wasn't much compared to the debt that many of my classmates had, but to have to pay it off in about three months seemed nearly impossible, especially since I couldn't work full time in the summer.  I finally said to God, "I trust that You can do whatever needs to be done.  If You want me to enter the convent, You'll have to find the money for me because I don't have it."

Sister Clara Maria, my Poor Clare friend
Since it was the end of the semester I knew all the Scholarship money would be given away, so I applied for a loan to pay for my summer classes.  I turned in my application only a few days before the deadline and anxiously awaited the response.  I had never applied for a loan before (my previous debt was on a credit card), so I wasn't too sure what to expect.  Finally I received a bank statement showing that I had just over $4,000 in my account.  Was this my loan?  I didn't quite understand, so I looked online and the description next to the amount said something about a Grant.  "A Grant?" I thought, "I didn't apply for a Grant..."  I told my mom and she said not to touch it, thinking it might have been a mistake, so I decided to call the school.  "Your loan was approved," they told me, "You will receive the check in the mail shortly."  I was so confused.  "But I received money from the University in my account already," I explained, "Is that not the loan?"  Then the woman on the phone delivered an answer that I knew came straight from God, "No, there was leftover money in our Grant fund, so we awarded you a $2,000 Grant for each of the two semesters you just completed.  That's what you have in your account, but you will also be receiving the check for your loan."

So this is what happened: I never even had to use the loan.  Instead, I cashed it and then paid the University right back.  The Grant money they had given me for the past two semesters (I never knew you could receive money for classes already completed) added up to the exact amount I needed -- $1,000 for my summer classes and $3,000 for my debt, and I didn't have to pay it back.  The $4,000 standing between me and the Felician Sisters had vanished just like that!

Praying Together
You may consider the prayer I had uttered to God a petition, but I do not.  To me, a petition would have been more along the lines of, "God, I want to enter the convent, but I need You to take away my debt.  Please find the money for me."  Instead, my prayer was more directed toward what God wanted for me, not what I wanted for me.  It is true I wanted to enter the convent, but rather than focus on the obstacle to my hopes, I trusted God would take care of me even if that meant I wasn't going to be able to enter the convent.  There is nothing wrong with prayers of petition, but because of Father Michael's comment, I am learning how to fashion my prayers based on a deep sense of trust in God and His goodness.  Whether that means saying, "Alright Lord, do what You gotta do," or "Lord, I praise you for knowing my needs and always caring for me," I know that this has begun to shape my relationship with God in yet another new and exciting way.

How about you?  How does God care for you?

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, dear friends!  May this holiday be a special reminder for you of God's goodness as well as preparation for the many blessings yet to come :)

With much love and many blessings,
Sister Desire' Anne-Marie

November 2012 Graymoor Group

Sunday, October 28, 2012

You've Got a Call... Answer It!

 
Our new vocation poster!  It lists all of the dates for vocation events we have going on throughout the year of 2013.  If you are looking to discern your call, these events help to provide time for prayer along with the opportunity to talk with other women who are discerning their call as well.  You can learn more about what life in a religious community might be like and even ask the Sisters about their own experiences of religious life.  During the Come and See experiences, you would be able to participate in some of the ministries that the Felician Francsican Sisters are involved in.  These events range from a couple of days to a week at a time and can be found all across North America.  If you think the Felician Franciscan life might be for you, attending any of these discernment opportunities would be of great benefit, and we would love to have you!  Sister Mary Beth is happy to answer any questions or provide you with more information at smarybeth@feliciansisters.org.

All of those discerning a call to the religious life remain in our daily thoughts and prayers!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Come and See 2012 - Enfield, CT

The "Come-and-See" Women with the Novices
This weekend we were fortunate to have five women visit us in Enfield, CT to "Come and See" the life of the Sisters.  In the back row, left to right, we have: me (Sister Desire' Anne-Marie), Suzanne, Sister Maria Louise, Michelle and Sister Bridget Mary.  In the front, left to right, we have: Tina, Sister Mary Angelise, Amy and Caitlin.  The women came from all over -- even as far as California! -- and stayed in the central convent from Friday to Sunday.  They spent Friday evening at the novitiate, asking practical and insightful questions after a delicious pizza snack.  One question was about travel.  Michelle asked how often we were able to go home and visit family.  As novices, we explained, we go home twice a year: at Christmas and again in August.  It comes out to about three weeks all together.  Caitlin was curious about what life in the postulancy was like.  We told her that it's very different from the novitiate because in postulancy the focus is on getting to know the Community, both through classes and through travel.  We went somewhere different almost every month, but in the end we felt that we really knew who our Sisters were and what sort of ministry opportunities were available.  In the novitiate focus is on our interior lives more and how to incorporate our prayer into our ministry.  We had a wonderful group conversation and we ended the evening by saying night prayer together.


Visiting with Sister Margaret, our 102-year-old :)
Before the group left on Sunday, they were able to stop in our care center and visit with the Sisters for a while.  Sister Margaret shared her enthusiasm and wisdom, promising to pray for them and Sister Anastasia asked the novices to serenade everyone with our musical instruments.  The Sisters really enjoyed having the women over.  Tina and Suzanne even received surprise gifts!  Sister Edmund, whose favorite past-time is crocheting, handed them her last two knitted caps, delighted to give them a good home.  They will all surely be missed!  Please keep them in your prayers too, as well as all those who are taking the time to discern what God may be asking of them.

Also, the next "Come and See" weekend will be held in beautiful Rio Rancho, NM from Friday, April 19 to Sunday, April 21.  If you have ever wanted to 1) visit New Mexico and 2) see what life as a Felician might be like, then this is the perfect opportunity for you!  Feel free to contact Sister Mary Beth at smarybeth@feliciansisters.org for details.  May God continue to bless and keep you!

Friday, August 10, 2012

This is My Life

It was suggested to me by a friend (Paula Binsol) to write a blog about my daily activities.  An excellent idea, dear Paula!  I will also mention, as suggested, my favorite prayers and/or ways to praise God.  This is for all the men and women out there discerning their vocation!
 
Our schedule is basically the same Monday through Friday with a few variations here and there, so I will share what a typical day is like:
 
• 5:15 a.m. -- (Not a requirement)  I go for an hour walk with any Sister who wishes to join me
• 6:40 a.m. -- The Sisters gather together in Chapel for 40 minutes of silent meditation
• 7:20 a.m. -- We pray Morning Prayer from the Franciscan Office together
• 8:00 a.m. -- Mass at a nearby Parish
• 8:45 a.m. -- Breakfast together, my favorite meal :)
• 9:45 a.m. -- Class with one of the Professed Sisters in the house
• 11:40 a.m. -- Common Rosary (on Mondays and Wednesdays)
• 12:00 p.m. -- Lunch together
• 1:00-2:00 p.m. -- Adoration in half-hour shifts  (on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays)
• If you are scheduled to cook, somewhere in here would be your prep time
• 3:00 p.m. -- Second class of the day
• 4:45 p.m. -- We pray Evening Prayer together from the Franciscan Office
• 5:00 p.m. -- Dinner together
7:00 p.m. -- Recreation (on Tuesdays and Sundays)
• Times may vary due to individual sleeping habits J -- Private Night Prayer

Sister Bridget hammin' it up for the kiddos!
That is our basic schedule, although as I said it does change from time to time.  For example, Tuesdays are our outreach days, so we do not have classes or Adoration.  When I say "outreach" I mean it is the day we go out for ministry.  Our ministries vary from spending time with children to visiting our older Sisters who live next door.  We also help tutor adults who are learning English and entertain our neighbors at the Adult Day Care.  In the fall and spring we also attend a Scripture class through the Archdiocese, which has been a wonderful source of wisdom and friendships.

 
As for the weekend, Saturday is usually a day of relaxation, so Morning and Evening Prayer is private.  Sometimes there are special events to attend, or we novices go shopping together for our monthly outing.  On Saturdays we are also given the option to attend 11 o'clock Mass with the Little Sisters of the Poor (Sleep in?  Oh yeah.), and on Sundays we spend time with our Sisters in the central convent.  We have breakfast with them as well as Morning Prayer and Mass, and then one Sunday a month we help at a local soup kitchen where the Sisters provide a hot meal for the guests.
 
At the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center
On occasion the novices and their directors go on outings together, or educational trips.  One such trip was a visit to the Pequot Tribe Museum; another was accompanying our Sisters to the Aquarium in Mystic; there were also a couple of trips to the water; even some trips to Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.  I have found that both our daily routine and the special events are equally exciting.  What we learn during our time at home seems to enhance our time outside of the house.  Due to what I learn through our novitiate classes, I am able to laugh with strangers, share myself with others and give from what I have received.  Although this year has not been easy, it has been a blessing.  I have struggled with confusion and frustration, but in the midst of it, God has taught me patience and communication.

A large part of our lives is prayer.  Beyond the prayer we experience together in Chapel, we are also encouraged to spend time in prayer on our own throughout the day.  Here are my favorite ways to praise God and to converse with Him:

• making rosaries
• praying outside, whether with a book, an Office (Divine Office, Franciscan Office, or Office of the Passion), or simply by enjoying the outdoors
• walking
• talking with my Sisters... and sometimes with plants, such as Joseph my tree
• journaling -- I love to write!
• making candles
• dancing
• drawing
• painting

Yup, I made that candle and those Rosaries!
When it comes to praying on my own, I have discovered that there are a multitude of ways to enjoy my time of reflection or meditation.  The type of environment I need to create for myself shifts from day to day, or even by the hour.  Sometimes I enjoy listening to music (Danielle Rose mostly) and sometimes I prefer silence.  Sunny weather and rainy days are both great for me; each have their own ways to inspire!  When I pray at night I usually enjoy a dark room with candles lit to remind myself of the mystery of God.  I consider sleep a prayer, too!  I love to sleep: it is the only time when all my senses have been quieted and I can be 100% open to the Lord.  I take my dreams very seriously and they usually end up becoming a large part of my prayer life as well.  Prayer is not always exciting or instantly gratifying, but faithfulness to prayer produces an abundance of grace which may not always be recognized or felt.  It took me a while to learn this, but I think I finally caught on ;)
 
I hope I was able to answer some questions or satisfy some curiosity, but if any questions remain, do not hesitate to post them in the comment box below!

~May God continue to bless and keep you~

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"Behold, I make all things new"... Even websites!

Pax et Bonum my blogging family!

I just wanted to share the new website for the Felician Sisters in North America. It is so well done! On the site you will see tons of inspiring photographs, learn a little more about us, be able to send prayer requests, and watch some videos. The videos are each about 2 to 3 minutes long and feature individual Sisters who share a brief summary of their vocation stories. Just in case you were wondering, one of the videos may feature someone you know... Hint hint ;) To access the videos, go to the dropdown menu that says "Become a Felician Sister" and it is under "Vocation Stories". Don't stop there, though, there is much more to enjoy!




Thank you for journeying with us!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Weekend of Retreat!

My fellow novices and I went on a wonderful retreat in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania for a whole week.  We stayed at the Villa of Our Lady retreat center and were taken care of by three super fun jolly Bernadine Franciscan Sisters.  They and their staff cooked meals for us all week long and made sure we were well fed.  The interesting fact I must share with you about these Sisters is that they began in Poland just like the Felician Sisters did.  Upon meeting them, I made the connection that these were the Sisters some of our own Sisters stayed with during the War in Poland.  Now here we were, generations later, reunited!  I really feel that they're family.

I made a few new friends of the feline class.  The Sisters feed families of stray cats that live in the woods nearby and I was able to coax a few kittens with some dangly things.  I also made some human friends at the grotto outside which is perfectly situated at the corner of two major streets, so people stop there all the time.  I talked to several visitors and learned that many of them were not even Catholic, they just wanted to spend some time with Mother Mary :)  They could light candles, sit in prayer, or go inside the retreat house to check out the gift shop.  Perfect!


I found the Mount Airy State Park nearby and the four of us novices went hiking a few times. I even rode my bike around. It was the first time I ever used that bike in the mountains -- it finally fulfilled its purpose! A mountain bike on the road is nothing like a mountain bike in its natural environment. I loved it! It actually provided for a neat reflection on allowing myself to fulfill the purpose for which God has created me. What is my natural environment? Am I made for the road or the trails? Married or religious life? That's what discernment is all about -- discovering where we work best!
While hiking and biking around, we caught glimpses of wildlife.  We heard about bears, but never saw one.  However, we did run across some toads, frogs, a couple of snakes, deer, a rabbit, squirrels, a beaver, a turtle and a few unknown creatures.  Not to mention mosquitoes... I came home with over 25 mosquito bites.



I have to mention the stream as well which was an icy cold relief from the heat and humidity.  We sat in it almost every day and made sure to submerge ourselves enough to make it last for the walk back home.  It was like a baptism, being embraced and comforted by my Sister Water.  Despite the trail's bugs and possible predators, the path was like a deep conversation with God.  With flower pedals strewn across the ground, we could feel the Lord drawing us closer to Himself.

May you be able to see God's love for you no matter where you are!  Amen.  Amen.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Using What God Gave You A NOVITITATE SURVEY

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Before I begin this next blog, I'm just letting you know I decided to stop typing out the readings and responses for the Fortnight for Freedom since I figure it is accessible enough from the link.  Plus I'm going on a week long retreat this Sunday (in the Poconos with my fellow Sister novices :D) and therefore will not have access to a computer.
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O n   t o   t h e   n e x t   !

So today I took a survey in the novitiate house under the title of  Using What God Gave You.  I asked each Sister what she did today with her physical God-given gifts and am now sharing the colorful responses with you.  However, some of what I write will be what I observed since humility kept them from telling me how they helped around the house in unseen ways :)

How did you use your  h a n d s  and/or  a r m s  today?

Picked up the dishes for a fellow Sister novice
Raised my arms in praise!
Made a delicious pancake lunch
Sewed an apron and helped move furniture
Set the table for a busy Sister

How did you use your  legs  and/or  feet  today?

Went on a walk at 5:20 a.m.
Drove a van full of novices to Church for Mass
They received a massage from my hands!
Danced around while doing chores
Operated the vacuum cleaner

How did you use your ears today?

Was attentive to a neighbor
Heard some birds outside the window at 5 o'clock this morning
Listened for Sister's footsteps so I could say goodbye before she left this morning
Listened to some fiddeling music to get into cleaning mode
Heard the alarm clock and woke up on time!

How did you use your  <mouth>  today?

Asked someone if they needed help
Prayed from the Franciscan Office
Complimented the cook
Suggested a game of Dominoes which resulted in the quickest dinner clean-up ever
Prayed the Rosary

How did you use your eyes today?

Did some reading: news first, which was depressing, then spiritual, which was uplifting
Saw mums and thought of my mom
Read about the high school memories of graduates from 1962!
Noticed the beauty of God in creation
Edited chronicles for a Sister -- "I saw it, and it was good!"

How did you use your nose today?

Smelled the soap I put in the bathroom
Smelled the garlic cooking! Mmm Mmm Mmm
Wrinkled it at the smell the Murphy's oil
Sniffed out the source of a flowery scent
Opened up its passageways! (Hint hint...)


How did YOU use your hands/arms, legs/feet, ears, mouth, eyes and nose today?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

FORTNIGHT FOR FREEDOM Day 8

Here are the readings for today...

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June 28, 2012: Day 8 of 12

Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 5
Since the family is a society in its own original right, it has the right freely to live its own domestic religious life under the guidance of parents.  Parents, moreover, have the right to determine, in accordance with their own religious beliefs, the kind of religious education that their children are to receive.

Government, in consequence, must acknowledge the right of parents to make a genuinely free choice of schools and of other means of education.  The use of this freedom of choice is not to be made a reason for imposing unjust burdens on parents, whether directly or indirectly.  Besides, the rights of parents are violated if their children are forced to attend lessons or instructions which are not in agreement with their religious beliefs.  The same is true if a single system of education, from which all religious formation is excluded, is imposed upon all.

Reflection for Day 8
The Council Fathers now address the religious freedom that is enjoyed by the family.  Families have the right to live out their faith within the family.  Moreover, parents have a natural right to religiously guide their families.  They are the ones who have primary responsibility for the care and education of their children, and this is especially true of the religious education of their children.  Thus, while parents are primarily responsible for the religious education, they are also free to choose the kind of religious education their children received.

From within the Catholic tradition, Vatican II stated that the family is a "domestic church", that is, it is within the family that children are first taught the Gospel, are taught to pray and to keep the Commandments.  Together the members of a family live out the Gospel life of love.  In keeping with this, the Council states that parents must be free to choose their children's schooling.  The exercise of this freedom should not be the cause of undue financial burdens upon the family.  Likewise, children should not be forced to attend instruction that is contrary to the religious belief of their families.  Lastly, if there is only one form of education within a country, this does not mean that all religious instruction should be forbidden.  Accommodation is to be made.  What we see here is the Church ardently wanting to assure a broad and extensive scope for families to live out their faith as families, and this extends to the education of children.

Why is the above important for parents and their families?  Are the above aspects of domestic religious freedom jeopardized today?

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When I read this, the public vs. private school issue came to mind.  My mom would have wanted to put my sister and I through the Catholic education system, but it was too expensive and I never understood why.  Eventually I discovered it is because the government denies financial assistance to institutions that wish to operate more fully under the convictions of their beliefs.  This not only occurs within education, but also in hospitals and other facilities providing much needed services.  If you look at the readings and reflections from Day 5 (you can access them through the link at the top of this post), it seems to me that these circumstances do not seem to lend themselves to building a better community as a country.  Then there is that saying which comes to mind also, "United we stand, divided we fall."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

FORTNIGHT FOR FREEDOM Day 7

Hello everyone!

I am posting the readings and reflections for the Fornight for Freedom, but I will also include the link to them in case you wish to go back and see what you missed ;)  They are not long at all, but they provide some wonderful things to think about!

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June 27, 2012: Day 7 of 12

Reading from the Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 4
Religious bodies also have the right not to be hindered in their public teaching and wtness to their faith, whether by the spoken or by the written word.  However, in spreading religious faith and in introducing religious practices, everyone ought at all times to refrain from any manner of action which might seem to carry a hint of coercion or of a kind of persuasion that would be dishonorable or unworthy, especially when dealing with poor or uneducation people.  Such a manner of action would have to be considered an abuse of one's own right and a violation of the rights of others.

In addition, it comes within the meaning of religious freedom that religious bodies should not be prohibited from freely undertaking to show the special value of their doctrine in what concerns the organization of society and the inspiration of the whole of human activity.  Finally, the social nature of man and the very nature of religion afford the foundation of the right of men freely to hold meetings and to establish educational, cultural, charitable, and social organizations, under the impulse of their own religious sense.

Reflection for Day 7
While the Council Fathers insist that religious bodies must be free to teach and bear witness to their faith, they equally stress that this freedom must never be abused.  It is not only governments  that can deny their freedom; in attempting to spread their own beliefs, religions should not force others, physically or psychologically, to convert.  Rather, each person's dignity and freedom must be maintained.  The accepting of religious beliefs must be an act of freedom, otherwise it is done not because it is believed to be true but rather out of fear and force.  The right to profess and proclaim one's own faith cannot violate the same right of another.

That being said, religious bodies should be free to provide reasons as to why their beliefs are true and why it would be of value for others to believe what they believe.  They should also be free to address how their beliefs contribute to the good of society.

What contemporary examples are there of religious bodies using coercion in an attempt to spread their faith or hindering others from exercising their faith?  What contributions does the Catholic Church make to society and culture?

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May God bless your day!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Crucify Him

So here's the thing... I think a lot, and God knows that, so when He wants to move me interiorly He often gives me something stimulating to ponder.  This past month I have had so many things to think about that I didn't know what to blog about!  "Should I write about the political issues surrounding our religious freedoms?" I wondered; "Or what about the powerful blog I came across?  Or maybe the Catholic video I saw on voting; no wait, maybe the trip to the Pequot Tribe museum..."  Ay ay ay! Thanks for all the stimuli, I told the Lord, but what am I supposed to do with it?  Well after a few hours of thinking and a good night's rest, I decided to write about all of it!  Besides, each of these topics is harmoniously connected in only a way that the Holy Spirit can map out, so get ready, get set, let's go!

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  • The first piece of food for thought I received was a blog I came across.  It is about a young man who is Mormon, has been married to his wife for ten years, has three lovely little daughters, and is homosexual.  The blog was lengthy, but I read the entire thing in one sitting.  I cannot describe the love I felt resonating from his words and sincerity.  The generosity with which he embraces himself, others and God is truly inspiring.  I hope that you will take the time to read his blog in its entirety.  It has changed my life forever.

Link to Josh Weed's blog:

http://www.joshweed.com/2012/06/club-unicorn-in-which-i-come-out-of.html?spref=fb

  • Next serving is of a Catholic video that speaks of the issues we must face in America as voters this coming November.  Although it is addressed to Catholics, I truly feel that it speaks to every Christian and anyone who supports life as well as the freedom to live their religious convictions.

Link to the Catholic video on voting:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9vQt6IXXaM

  • More to chew on... We went to visit a museum which had amazing displays and historical accounts of life in the Pequot Tribe.  There were quite a few informational videos, two of which were particularly fascinating.  The first was on their tool-making abilities and I was awed at how they made use of everything.  Nothing went to waste!  When they killed an animal for food, they used its furs for warmth and then its bones for weapons and/or eating utensils.  Amazing.  The second video was about the Pequot War which last from 1637-1639 between the Pequot Tribe and the English who came to the land.  It was so well done, but the disunity among the tribes and the people in general was very hard to watch.

Links to Pequot Information:

http://www.mashantucket.com/

http://www.pequotmuseum.org/

  • The rest of my ruminating was done on the latest proposals being made in regards to health insurance in the United States.  I  read an article by Mary Ann Glendon, a professor at Harvard Law School, about Catholic Bishops who had filed lawsuits against the mandate being made by the Department of Health and Human Services.  The mandate is attempting to dictate that even Catholic sources of health insurance must supply means for sterilization, abortifacient and birth control.  The article is below as well as a Litany for Liberty composed by the U.S. Catholic Bishops which we are encouraged to pray as we fight for our religious freedoms.

Link to Article by Mary Ann Glendon

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303610504577418201554329764.html?KEYWORDS=mary+ann+glendon

Litany for Liberty
For use during the Fortnight for Freedom (June 22 - July 4, 2012)
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

INTRODUCTION

Christ the Lord has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Let us turn to him in humble but fervent petition, seeking the grace to root out from our hearts all trace of darkness, and all that holds us back from walking in the full freedom of the children of God.  As Christ is our great model for that innder freedom, which enables us to do the right, let us turn to him with confidence that we, too, may follow him to the fullness of spiritual freedom.

Lord, have mercy; Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy;  Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy;  Lord, have mercy.

Jesus, victor over sin and death... Free our hearts.
Jesus, source of light and hope... Free our hearts.
Jesus, fullness of truth and mystery... Free our hearts.
Jesus, teacher of seeking hearts... Free our hearts.
Jesus, healer of body and soul... Free our hearts.
Jesus, bringer of mercy and justice... Free our hearts.
Jesus, who humbles the heart and mind... Free our hearts.
Jesus, release of captives... Free our hearts.
Jesus, voice against violence... Free our hearts.
Jesus, courage for the lowly/downtrodden... Free our hearts.
Jesus, origen of all authority and power... Free our hearts.
Jesus, true lawgiver... Free our hearts.
Jesus, unity of order and passion... Free our hearts.
Jesus, freedom of the Spirit... Free our hearts.
Jesus, obedient Son of the Father... Free our hearts.

For the freedom to love... Give us your grace.
For the freedom to believe... Give us your grace.
For the freedom to hope... Give us your grace.
For the freedom to worship... Give us your grace.
For the freedom to serve in charity... Give us your grace.
For the freedom to care for the suffering... Give us your grace.
For the freedom to comfort the sick... Give us your grace.
For the freedom to feed the hungry... Give us your grace.
For the freedom to shelter the homeless... Give us your grace.
For the freedom to proclaim the Gospel... Give us your grace.
For the freedom to walk in chastity... Give us your grace.
For the freedom to live in peace... Give us your grace.
For the freedom to work in good conscience... Give us your grace.
For the freedom to stand in solidarity... Give us your grace.
For the freedom to seek justice... Give us your grace.

For the freedom to reject sin... Give us your grace.
For the freedom to reject coercion... Give us your grace.
For the freedom to reject falsehood... Give us your grace.
For the freedom to reject evil temptations... Give us your grace.
For the freedom to reject injustice... Give us your grace.

CLOSING PRAYER

O God, who gave one origin to all peoples and willed to gather from them one family for yourself, fill all hearts, we pray, with the fire of your love and kindle in them a desire for the just advancement of their neighbor, that, through the good things which you richly bestow upon all, each human person may be brought to perfection, every division may be removed, and equity and justice may be established in human society.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.  Amen.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Homosexuality, voting, indigenous people, health care mandates... How do these all connect?  If you noticed, the title of this particular blog is "Crucify Him".  Here's the icing on the cake: We not only crucified the Son of God, but we are continuously and constantly crucifying one another.  When we make men and women of homosexual orientation feel that they should be ashamed of who they are; when we vote without giving thought to the issues that may impact someone else's life besides our own; when we forget that there were people who lived on in this land before it was "settled" and that we have no more of a right to it than anyone else who wishes to enter; and when those in authority are attempting to deny the rights of Christians and all peoples of faith across the country to practice the values that we hold in highest esteem, we condemn one another as we condemned Christ.  "They shouted..., 'Crucify Him!'  Pilate said to them, 'Why?  What evil has he done?'  They only shouted the louder, 'Crucify him!'" (Mk. 15:13-14).

What will it take for someone who is attracted to people of the same sex to find an environment in which they can feel safe and loved?  Is it so difficult for us to deny ourselves that 46.9 million people in the U.S. live in poverty while the rest of us live with more than enough?  When will we realize that all of us are immigrants, moving from one place to another, that this land does not belong to any of us?  And why does it seem that suppression of cultures, beliefs, etc. is always thought of as the solution?

People who are gay are loved by God just as much as the rest of us.  They too have stories and experiences to share that could bring others closer to God.  The best dancer I know is a friend of mine who struggles with her sexual orientation; our friendship has taught me how to be sensitive to the needs of others.  People who live in poverty deserve our attention because they also help to make this country run and have unique perspectives to offer.  The most beautiful poem I ever received was written by a homeless man who was simply happy I'd taken the time to listen to him.  The people who lived on this land before us have done so much to get us where we are today.  What would our food, land and traditions be if not for their hard work and joy for life?  My own grandmother, an orphan who never received an education past the 8th grade, raised twelve children by herself.  Because of her hard work, many of her children and grandchildren have been able to go to college in pursuit of their dreams.  It is not necessary to oppress others just because we do not agree with their way of life.  It is necessary, rather, to love one another unconditionally so that we do not beg others to change, but find freedom instead in the change we make within ourselves.  When I learned to accept that a young boy I tutored would never meet the mental demands made upon him by the school's curriculum, I was able to appreciate what he did have to offer, which was a heart more loving than I could ever hope to imitate.

Let us learn from one another rather than form enemies out of people who simply did not grow up in the same environment or with the same beliefs that we did.  Let us remember that working together rather than against one another will enable each of us to live freely as God intended.  Respect life; respect one another.

YOU ARE LOVED
(pass it on)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

To be Mother

I Wonder
A reflection

When I had the chicken pox,
my mom powdered my face
and applied some lipstick;
the powder stopped the itching
and the lip color helped me feel better.

I brought a dog home from the pound once
and tried to keep it a secret from my mom.
She wasn't too happy about that
but three days later, smile and all,
she was helping me pull tics off the new pup.

I used to paint and draw all the time
and my mother was very encouraging.
She would give me boxes galore to decorate
but one time I found some nail polish
and painted the bathroom sink...

During my birth, and even after,
the doctors continued to tell my mom,
"Your daughter will not make it.
You need to let her go; she's going to die,"
predetermining the loss of her first child.

When my mother accepted this and took me home,
she loved me completely despite the circumstances.
During this time, I grew healthier
and the little child she held in her arms
came back to life.

I wonder what Mary did when Jesus got sick --
let Him sleep in? Skip some chores?

I wonder how often Jesus came home saying,
"Look mom! Can we keep him?!"

I wonder what messes little Jesus made for Mary --
food on the floor? Mud in the house?

I wonder what Mary felt when Simeon said,
"And you yourself a sword will pierce."

I wonder how many emotions ran through Mary
when her crucified Son was raised from the dead.

Monday, May 7, 2012

New Life


Jeremiah was born on April 19, 2012 at 5 lbs. 9 oz.  He was a month early, so there were a few things that still needed to be taken care of in the hospital before he could go home.  There was a tube to pump out the liquids that had made their way into his stomach during delivery; he wore an oxygen mask to help him breathe; and then he ended up contracting Jaundice.  Finally, my sister Johnele and her husband Andrew were able to take Jeremiah home on May 3rd.  When I talked to Johnele on the phone she said, "It hasn't quite hit me yet that I'm an adult, married, and have a son; but it's so exciting to know that this is my life now!"  It's hard for me to believe as well that the one who watched me zoom around the house as she crawled behind; who believed in my every word; and who has been my little companion for 22 years is entering into a life of her own as a wife and mother.  It's not surprising, though, that two little girls who did everything together but were complete opposites would be saying "Yes" to the Lord's call at the same time, yet in very different ways.

It is equally not surprising, then, that around the same time my sister is bringing home one of God's creations, I would be doing something similar.  When I was in Lodi, NJ a few weeks ago I attended a celebration in honor of Earth Day. There was a table set up with free things, so of course I had to check it out.  My eyes scanned the scene: there were some magnets, some wild flower seeds, some baby trees... What!  I had to look twice; baby trees?  Yes, miniature Norway Spruce trees.  I had never seen a baby tree before, nor had I ever planted a tree.  "It'll grow anywhere in the Northeast," said the guy standing behind the table who must have noticed my obvious fascination.  "What if I can't plant it for about another week?" I asked him.  "That's fine," he said, "just make sure it gets plenty of sun and that the soil stays moist."  Hmm... I've got a window and some water, I thought to myself, why not?  "I'll take it!" I said, and I walked away with a baby Spruce tree.  One of our council members, Sister Nancy, happened to be in Lodi at the same time.  She saw me walking around with the little tree and told me about one she had planted in Livonia, MI.  "I used to decorate it all the time," she said, "but now it's too tall for me to even reach any of its branches!"  The idea of nurturing something to such growth made me even happier about my choice.  I finally planted the little tree, which I named Joseph after St. Joseph the Worker, and he is now outdoors getting plenty of sun and water.

The wonderful thing about life is its diversity.  Nurturing a child and growing a tree both fall under care for God's creation.  In Jeremiah, Johnele is experiencing her part in the Lord's love for His people and for His creation.  As my tree grows and provides shelter for the Lord's creatures, I too can experience the love of God.  It's all around us!  How often we choose to take part in it determines how well we respond to love.

Friday, April 27, 2012

From the Desk of Sister Heather Marie Deneen...

Petitioning -- I Can't Believe Vows are so Near!


My name is Sister Heather Marie Deneen.  I am a second-year novice with the Felician Sisters and I am guest blogging for Sister DesirĂ©.  The second year is called the apostolic year, and it is designed to help a novice discern where her talents can be best used in the ministries of the congregation. It also gives the novice a real-world community experience outside the novitiate house, where community can be really intense.

I will talk about my apostolic experience briefly. In January, I lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and worked with our mission leader, Vicky. She is in charge of mission integration at Villa St. Francis, an assisted-living facility, and the Child Development Center of St. Joseph, both of which are Felician sponsored ministries.  Vicky is in charge of making sure all employees are trained to uphold our core values of respect and dignity of the human person, compassion, solidarity with the poor, transformation, and justice.  She also makes sure that these values are represented when decisions are being made and is in charge of Heritage Week (Oct. 4-10, the week between St. Francis Day and Blessed Angela Day).  I learned a lot about our corporate ministries from her and the staff of both ministries; it can be very challenging to make sure our values are always upheld in our decisions.  It is important to remind everyone at a Felician ministry they are not just doing a job but cooperating with Christ in the spiritual renewal of the world!


My other experience was in Kingstree, South Carolina at the Felician Center.  The Felician Center provides an after-school program, emergency food, assist with medical, dental, and prescription needs, visits shut-ins, and runs an affordable clothing closet where people can purchase gently used clothing for $2 a bag.  I loved the ministry in Kingstree because I really felt I was serving as Christ served, and I loved the people I served and served with. Kingstree has a wealth of volunteers from many Christian denominations and they are so committed to helping us be Christ’s hands and feet in rural South Carolina. I also loved the unpredictability of the ministries.  One never knows what kind of mood the kids will come from school in or who is going to come through the door to ask for help.


OK, this article is supposed to be about petitioning, so let me briefly describe what it is.  As a woman moves through the different stages of becoming a Felician, before she moves on to the next level of formation, she petitions, or asks her provincial for permission to move on to the next level.  The petitioning ceremony is usually preceded by interviews with the provincial minister and her councilors. They ask questions about how a candidate is growing in love with God, in prayer, in community life, and what her hopes are for ministry.  My interviews went well and I really enjoyed talking with my Sisters. Shortly after, the petitioning ceremony confirms that the woman is fit to move onto the next step of formation, which for me is first vows.
 

My petitioning ceremony for first vows took place at the Immaculate Conception Central Convent in Lodi, New Jersey.  It was a simple ceremony where I humbly asked Sister Christopher, the provincial, to be admitted to first vows.  It started with a short hymn, followed by me asking for permission to make vows.  A series of questions follow, reminding everyone I am freely choosing to answer Christ’s call to intensify my baptismal commitment as a Felician Sister. Afterwards, Sister Christopher gave me a message of encouragement, and I signed paperwork, making it official that I will be making first vows! The sisters who were around attended the ceremony as well as four of the provincial councilors and the entire novitiate house. They all hugged me and promised to pray for me as I start to plan my profession mass, await my first assignment, prepare to move, and spiritually prepare to profess vows.  For such a short ceremony, it really is packed with graces, which I’m sure I will need all that I can get.

So, please pray for me as I prepare for first vows.  I am excited to profess love for my spouse Jesus Christ, and to more fully become a part of the Felician community!  Know of my prayers for all of you too.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

3D Ultrasound of My Nephew!

My nephew, Jeremiah Joseph.  That sure is my sister's baby, he's got her cheeks and pouty face already!  I love them!


Now I realize that getting my face pinched as a kid wasn't some form of family torture, it was merely a result of irresistable chubby cheeks.  Poor Jeremiah...


This second photo is the one that reminds me of my sister when she was just a little babe.

When I was younger people would say that reproduction is all about raising kids for God, and that's true, but I think another part of it is the opportunity to reflect on life in its many forms and stages.  Being the oldest and watching both my 22- and 6-year-old sisters grow, and now watching my nephew as he begins his journey already in the womb, I realize that having all this life around me is raising me up toward God as well.  It's an opportunity to watch Him work in the life of another so that I can see how He has worked in my own.  Family, which is simply a small representation of the Body of Christ, gives us all the chance to watch one another, support one another and love one another.  When we can do that at home, we can do it anywhere.

May all our families be blessed and held together in the hands of a tri-fold love which is Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

Happy Easter, happy people :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

1,586 Sisters and Counting

"Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father"
(Mt. 5:16)

It was St. Joseph's Day and everyone was in good spirits.  The Sisters had an ice cream party, I won a prize for my nephew Jeremiah who has yet to come into the world, and I stayed up late pondering life, reflecting upon the person I am growing into and where God is taking me.  I finally began drifting into the comfort of sleep just past midnight when the quiet of our house was interrupted by a phone call.  Since it was so late I knew someone was in need of prayer.  "Hail Mary, full of grace..." I began, but in my mind I wondered who the call was for.  "I hope it's not for me," I thought, and I continued to pray.  I listened for the sound of footsteps in the hall just to make sure they weren't headed my way.  "Don't knock on my door, please don't knock on my door," I begged, and I sat up in bed to listen more closely.  Then it happened: TAP TAP TAP, "Sister Desire'?  Sister Desire', it's your mom."  The door opened before I even put my hand on the knob and I rushed to the phone.  "Iseverythingok?!" I asked and my mom had to comfort me before even telling me what was going on.  "It's alright," she assured me, "I'm sorry to call so late, but Johnele is in the emergency room because she's having contractions.  She's around 30 weeks, so she is two months early.  I haven't heard much else, but I'll call back if I need to.  Remember, it's Saint Joseph's day and the baby is supposed to be 'Jeremiah Joseph', so make sure to include the patron as you pray for your sister and nephew."  Sister Carlotta, who had answered the phone, stood eagerly in the hallway to see if there was anything I needed.  I shared the news and she assured me of her prayers as we parted to try and go back to bed.  I could hardly sleep, but around 2:00 a.m., as I began to pray a second rosary, I finally let myself rest.
<>
Johnele and Angelina:
The two sisters I started out with <3


In the days following I was able to maintain constant contact with my sister, Johnele.  She kept me updated and the Sisters in the house were eager to hear of any new information I had to share.  "It's wonderful to be surrounded by people who care," I thought to myself, but I still wanted to be there for my sister.  Then, in the midst of my self pity, the Lord reminded me of a Sister whose close relative had died while she was away.  Unable to attend the funeral, a few of the Sisters in the nearby area had offered to attend in her name.  It was such a touching story, and as I thought about it, I realized I could ask some of the Sisters in New Mexico to stop in and see my sister.  Would you believe that the very day I called and asked this favor of them, Johnele received a phone call and a visit from some New Mexico Felicians?  Not only that, but they spread the word and I ended up receiving emails from even more Felicians who assured me of their prayers.



The Felician Franciscan Sisters are 1,586 Sisters worldwide and I can say with pride that it is a joy to be among their members.  The kindness they have shown to me and to those I hold dear tells me that it is possible to live out the heroic love of Christ.

Flowers from the Felicians
I feel as though my life has been especially blessed; like no matter what challenges or difficulties present themselves, I will be well cared for.  I realize, though, that God would have walked with  me no matter where I went in life.  The only reason I am seeing this so clearly now must indicate that I am in the right place -- the place where His light is most visible to me.  How generous and perfect and loving is our God to provide us each with a path that simply leads us closer to Him.


"The path of the just is like shining light that grows in brilliance."
(Prov. 4:18)

Monday, March 12, 2012

For Your Entertainment

Have nothing else to do?  Check out some videos from our most recent Graymoor, NY experience!  There's nothing better than watching Franciscans praise God through song and comedy :)  May the peace, smiles and laughter brought to you by these performances remind you of the gifts and talents that God has called us all to share for His greater glory. God bless us as we each strive to build up the Body of Christ!


The first video is of Sister Agnes Therese who wrote the song she is performing based on the three loves of Saint Francis (the crib, the Cross and the Eucharist):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CF59fzatkB8

This skit may be lengthy, but it's worth every minute!  The OFM Brothers know how to do television.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3p3CQZ9yTRs

Another group of handsome OFM Brothers serenaded us with Salve Regina; I'm sure it pleased Christ to hear such a sweet melody sung of His Mother!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeBGFUpLRj4

This last one is of the Poor Clares -- I never knew cloistered nuns had so much fun. They're hilarious!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_3K-kzQDS8

Unfortunately, I did not get video of the skits that my fellow novices and I performed, but we're asking around to see if anyone else did.  If not, we'll put it on for our Sisters next door and get the video up later, so do not despair!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

COLOR ME HOPE

Color Me Hope

Black men and women
breaking the silence of fear and doubt

Green grass
piercing through layers of death

Cool blue waves
tearing down the structures of injustice

Yellow canaries
singing the hymns of freedom

Black men and women
showing the colors of hope

Rise to new life
Overcome adversities
Love courageously
Color me Hope

Sister Desire' Anne-Marie 

Dedicated to all men and women who have given their lives to build a world based on Hope.

Friday, February 10, 2012

And This Little Lady Sang Songs All the Way Home

My heart was moved yesterday, first by a great sadness and then by a steady joy.  As only God can do, these emotions took place in the midst of a single event, which was a day out at the Mystic Seaport Aquarium with our Sisters from next door.

God created OCEANS for them...
Countless individuals around the globe enjoy spending time with their loved ones at the zoo or aquarium, and I was one of them until I watched "The Cove".  Now I can't help but be turned off by what has been imposed upon our fellow creatures of the earth.  When we went to watch the sea lion show, I recalled what I had heard in the movie about the anxiety and anti-depression medication given to the stressed porpoises of Sea World.  Such information seems to have sealed itself in the part of me that acts as my conscience.  I do not judge, nor am I angry with, anyone who supports these things out of innocence or lack of information, but I do pray that for those of us who know better, we may use the knowledge, talents and hearts that God gave us to make a difference.

Sisters Marcia and Alexa :)
As for the steady joy that settled within me, it came from the laughter, adventure and companionship of my Felician Sisters.  At one point, a few Sisters and I journeyed over to the shops in Mystic which were separate from the aquarium.  We stopped in an Irish store, a fancy boutique, a general store, and a chocolate shop.  One man insisted upon purchasing my items and so I gave him a rosary that I had made. "Thank you," he said, "I haven't had one of these in years."  In receiving blessings and giving blessings, receiving kindness and doing our best to reciprocate it, and working as a team among ourselves and with those around us, we were able to find some gifts for a few friends and make a few friends along the way.



The famous Sister Angelise!
During our total of about three hours on the bus, we shared meaningful conversations, sat in contemplative silence, and made a few knotted rosaries.  Sister Angelise even brought her guitar and played everything from "If You're Happy and You Know It" to "I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane" as we sang along.  People truly are inherently good, and as I begin to see more of it wherever I go, I am more able to see the hope that comes from God by way of His creation despite the devastation I have also witnessed.

The Lord bless you and keep you!
The Lord let His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!
(Num. 6:24)