Monday, December 30, 2013

The Love of the Incarnation


Do you see?
Do you believe?
A little baby,
our God!
Outside
it's cold
and yet He chose
to be among the lowly.

With me?
Like me?
A perfect love,
oh, God!
This world
it's cold
and yet He chose
to be among the lonely.

Son of man?
Born of Mary?
A human being,
and God!
The night
it's cold
and yet He chose
to be among the weary.

In me?
Through me?
A merciful Savior,
my God!
This soul
it's cold
and yet He chose
to make this creature holy.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ode to Ordinary

Perhaps you know, and perhaps you don't know, but the Catholic Church has just begun a new year.  It is called the Season of Advent.  Advent is one of seven liturgical seasons celebrated by the Catholic Church.  Just like January begins the calendar year, so Advent begins the Church year.  And just like December ends the calendar year, the season known as Ordinary Time is what sums up our Church year.  That means the Church year for 2013 came to a close on Saturday, November 30th, the last day of Ordinary Time.  I am excited for Advent.  Advent prepares us for Christmas as it is meant to be a time of anticipation - we are longing for the birth of Jesus as well as for His second coming.  However, I must admit that I feel a little sad about having to say goodbye to Ordinary Time.

I just came back on Saturday from New Mexico after having celebrated Thanksgiving with my family.  When I had first moved away and started returning home for vacations, I expected everyone to gather together so we could run around and do as many exciting things as possible.  "We can go on a hike," I'd say, and a friend or my sister would say, "Yeah!  And then we can do dinner and a movie in the evening!"  "Maybe we can squeeze in a short road trip, too!" my mom and I would suggest.  But as much as we talked about these things, they almost never happened.  Mostly we would just have simple meals together, play with the dogs outside, go for walks, fall asleep to movies at home... Nothing outside of the ordinary.  I wasn't quite sure how I felt about that until recently.

Thanksgiving has never been one of my favorite holidays.  It seemed like nothing ever happened, like it always moved so slowly.  Plus, I never really enjoyed the turkey.  "No, no," someone would promise, "You'll like it this year," or "You'll like the way this person makes the turkey," but I never did.  So, Thanksgiving, not my favorite.  However, I was really looking forward to it this year since I hadn't been home for Thanksgiving in a while.  I had forgotten about all the unexcitement and the turkey; I just wanted to see my family.  Ideas of great big adventures didn't really creep in, either.  We did the usual: played games, ate, helped take care of my nephew and niece, bought some toiletries, visited the convent, and slept.  When I got back on the train I carried with me a vacation that had been just right.  Not thrilling, not boring, but Ordinary.  It was perfect.  I got to be a part of my family's daily comings and goings, to be immersed in what they live on a regular basis.  I could breathe in their smiles, touch their weariness, walk with their triumphs.  For five gorgeous days their routine was mine.  Somehow, I didn't recognize the beauty of that before.

After several months of Ordinary Time, I am having difficulty letting go.  Holding on to the ordinary has enabled me to welcome the imperfections of life; it has been stability in the struggle, and now it is gone.  But a new season is here, one which can help me appreciate the surprises in life and the patience of waiting for those surprises.  Advent.

Advent
as in "arrival" or "coming"
you demand my attention
tugging
seeking
from every direction

Advent
as in beginning
not end
your purpose, to renew
to seek all people of good will
that Christ may dwell within

Advent
the truth
that is past future present
you cry out
as a woman giving birth
you promise us Emmanuel again


Saturday, October 26, 2013

of Bikes and Men

This week I finally started riding my bike to and from school!  To my absolute delight, it has been everything I expected and more.

When I started this past Monday, I smiled just thinking about the work-out I was getting, but then I began to notice the people around me.  When I rode in the car they had been so distant, but now I could see and hear them so clearly.  On Tuesday morning I started paying attention to the rest of the world's activities: mothers loading children into cars, sleepy teenagers waiting for the bus, the impoverished digging through trash cans... I felt like I had been separated from such a struggling yet beautiful world, but I had now been immersed back into it because I was no longer hiding behind a windshield.  While pondering this on my way to school Tuesday morning, I heard a man yell out, "Que Dios le bendiga!" which means, "May God bless you!"  I turned and saw him waving at me from his porch, so I waved back and kept on riding as I returned the greeting.  It made me smile the rest of the way to school and I secretly hoped it wouldn't be the last time we encountered one another.  Thanks be to God, it wasn't!

I saw the man again the following day and the same event unfolded.  The next day another one of the men who had been out on the porch was now standing by the sidewalk.  He greeted me with a great big smile, so I stopped and spoke with the two of them.  As the conversation continued, we discovered that we had met before.  Kyle, the one who had greeted me on Tuesday, was living on the streets a few years ago, so we had crossed paths when I was here in Pomona ministering to the homeless.  Now he and his friend Dan (who was the man standing near the sidewalk on this particular day) live at what I believe is a group home for men who are recovering from an addiction to alcohol.

Almost every morning now, Dan will fling the screen door open as soon as I pass by on my way to school just so he can say hello.  On my way back, of course, he is usually sitting out on the porch or standing near the sidewalk, excited to tell me about his day or offer me some afternoon coffee.  Kyle is not around as much, but when I do see him he usually asks for prayer.  He suffers from gout, but he also told me that his son, who was my same age, was recently murdered and so I have promised to keep the prayers coming.

I had no idea that when I chose to ride my bike I was choosing to enter into a whole new reality.  I have posted a little note on my wall which came from a single bag of tea.  It says, "Your choices will change the world."  I truly believe it, not only for me, but for everyone.  For all of us, each and every one of our choices will change the world.  If not the world across the ocean, then the world which is the neighborhood we live in.  What will your next choice be?  Who will it affect?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Reading from the Blog of Lamentations

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you may have heard the brief story of my very temporary pet fish.  Well, here is the story at length and in detail:

One of my students brought her goldfish to school on Thursday, August 29th and gave it to another
one of my students.  The student who received the fish then brought it to me saying, "Sister, look what I got today!"  Holding up a Ziploc bag with a fish swimming around inside she asked, "Do you want it?"  I couldn't refuse the little creature (the fish, that is), so I accepted.  I had a vase sitting behind my desk from a bouquet of flowers the Sisters had brought me during my first week of school, so I gave it to her to fill up with water and we plopped the fish inside.  Sister Feliz and I went immediately after school to pick up some fish flakes and when I got home I smiled at my luck upon receiving this little surprise.  "God must've wanted me to have a pet," I thought to myself.

On Friday I transferred the little guy to a large juice container since his water was already pretty dirty.  I watched him swim around and dart about, but as I watched him throughout the day his behavior seemed to be a bit odd.  That evening I browsed through Google to better understand my new pet and discovered that putting a fish straight into tap water is not a good idea.  I resolved to run errands Saturday morning so that I could get all the necessary supplies and give him a better home.  It turned out that Saturday morning was too late.  I woke up to a floating fish.  Needless to say this did not make me happy.  In fact, it put me in terrible mood.

Attempting to go to Mass now before running errands, I reverted back to trusty Google so I could find a late morning Mass in the area.  I found a site that said there was a 12:15p.m. Mass nearby so I got ready and was in the car by 11:40 a.m.  I got out my phone to pull up the site again so I could get directions.  I found the same link, but for some reason it wasn't opening.  I sat in the car attempting to find another Mass, but to no avail.  "Fine," I resolved, "I'll just run errands now and go to Mass in the evening."  By this time my own personal rain cloud had already formed.


I was in need of some pots for my plants as well as some potting soil, so I looked up "plant nurseries" in the area.  I found one about 6 miles away, so I finally put the car in drive and got going.  As I pulled up to my destination I found that I had arrived at the botanical gardens.  I might have stayed to browse a bit if they had been open, but they were closed.  Of course.  The next Google search led me to a wealthy neighborhood where the plant nursery I had hoped to find (again) was closed (again).  Frustrated and fully enjoying the presence of my rain cloud by now, I tried searching one more time.  This time when I arrived at my destination I could let out a sigh of relief.  I had finally found a real, live plant nursery.  And it was open!  I skipped happily around until I began to find that all the fancy pots I admired were made in China.  I finally found a little plastic green pot that said it was made in Canada, but I couldn't find any more.  Annoyed that no one had asked me if I needed help, I trudged up to the front for assistance.  The guy there showed me where I could find some more unexciting plastic green pots and offered to take a bag of potting soil up to the front for me.  As I picked out my pots, my eyes were drawn to some simple terracotta pots.  Read the label... Made in the USA!  I excitedly exchanged the plastic for the terracotta and went up to the front to make my purchase.  I was feeling a little bit better, but decided maybe a trip to PetSmart would help.


It didn't.  All I got to do was look at every pet I couldn't have and think of the many I had left behind.  After about an hour of sulking in PetSmart I went over to Staples for some very necessary classroom supplies.  I found some whiteout - made in China.  Looked for a stapler - made in the Philippines.  Checked out the binder dividers - made in Mexico.  As much as I really could have used all of those things and as much as I could have come up with good excuses to override myself, I wouldn't do it.  I couldn't, especially because I had just told my students about this shopping practice of mine.  In knowing that buying these products was going to perpetuate the poverty of others, there was no way I could allow myself to ignore my conscience.  No whiteout, no stapler, no binder dividers.  I walked away annoyed with Staples and the rest of the world.




Not wanting to further upset myself, I made my way to a thrift store.  While there I found a nice water bottle for a Sister who had lost hers as well as a small flower pot and a fancy watering vase.  Everything totaled $3 and I left feeling satisfied with my shopping items despite the fact that I hadn't actually found what I needed.



I returned home and relaxed with the Sisters a bit before going back out to attend a 7 p.m. Mass down the road.  I was excited not only about the time of the Mass, but also about the fact that it was in Arabic!  I understood nothing of what was spoken during the Mass, but it was absolutely divine to listen to and be a part of.

As Mass ended I just stood in my pew watching everyone reverently file out of the church.  Eventually, people started coming over to me, excited to see me as if we had been friends forever and hadn't seen each other in a long time.  I received warm greetings, handshakes and kisses on the cheek
from people I'd never met before in my life; it was beautiful!  One young girl, about 9 years old, ran over and held something out to me.  "Please accept this from me," she said, and waited until I stopped being confused so I could open my hands and receive what she was holding.  As she placed the item in my hands I noticed it was a bill of some sort.  I figured it was about $5 and smiled at this happy child who was giddy with excitement because she had just given me something.  "Thank you so much," I said, and I gave her a big hug which I could tell she was thrilled to receive.  She darted off as others continued to greet me.

As I turned to finally exit the church myself, I decided to take a peek at the bill since I hadn't recognized the face on it when I glanced at it earlier.  I thought maybe it was a $10 bill, but I soon found out that it was actually a $100 bill!  My heart leapt in thanksgiving to God as I quickly folded the bill back up and put it in my pocket.  As I did so, my fingers touched the rosary which was also in my pocket and I knew exactly what that meant.  Walking to the main entrance, I spotted the girl with her father.  I went up to her with my hand out this time and said, "Please accept this from me."  I placed the rosary in her hands and she immediately clutched it to her chest as she gasped through an instant open-mouthed smile.  "It's very special; it came all the way from Rome," I told her.  She thanked me, still smiling, and I thanked her father for the gift.  "It's just a small gift," he replied.  "Oh no it's not," I said, "I just looked at it."  He only smiled and asked that I pray for them.  I promised to do so and returned home singing praises to God.

I had sulked all day because of my dead fish and because I couldn't find what I needed at the store, but I felt like this $100 was God's way of saying, "Look, your efforts alone are enough.  Don't be so hard on yourself."

An excerpt from the Book of Lamentations 3:20-24
 
"Remembering [my afflictions] over and over
my soul is downcast.
But this I will call to mind;
therefore I will hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is thy faithfulness.

'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul,
'therefore I will hope in him.'"

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Knock knock! Who's there?

It's me!

Me, who?

Good question.

Who is this "me" that is otherwise known as "Des", "Desire'", or "Sister Desire'"?

I must say that lately I have been questioning my authenticity.  "Who am I to be a teacher?" I wonder, or "What on earth am I doing in a convent?"  I feel sometimes like I am participating in a sort of game, like I am playing dress-up or teacher as I secure my knee-high stockings and put on my shiny black shoes before sauntering off to school.  "Is this really my life?" I ask.  "Am I really a 'nun'?  A teacher?"  Everyone seems to think so, plus I publicly professed my vows and signed a teaching contract, so I guess it's true.  But what does that mean?  What does it mean to be a 'nun'?  How am I supposed to be a teacher?


That's not me.

Sister Desire' the teacher:

She gives quizzes, assigns homework, tells her students to please stop talking, attends staff meetings, has to create lesson plans on a regular basis, sits behind a big desk during her prep period to catch up on attendance and never sleeps.








Absolutely not me, either.


Sister Desire' the 'nun':

Prays at 5:50 a.m. Monday through Friday, wears a habit, doesn't own a car, is responsible for contributing to community life, also tells her students to please stop talking, and is uninterested in popular music.







Why question my authenticity, you ask?  Because none of that feels like me.  The real me does NOT want to torture students with quizzes and homework, nor does she want to torture herself with the grading.  The "real" me would also love to chatter with a classroom full of teenage girls especially if it would decrease the amount of time I had to spend on lesson plans.  I don't mind the big desk and the attendance, but I would prefer a lot more sleep than I've been getting... Which brings me to the next point: prayers at 5:50 in the morning.  That is most definitely not me.  The habit is nice, although I wish I could wear a Franciscan cord with it; I don't mind not owning a car either, but it is tough to remember that I'm also supposed to put gas in it like the other Sisters kindly do.  And in regards to the popular music, I think perhaps the real me wouldn't want to know what's currently happening with popular music either, even though I still enjoy the rhythm it has that just makes me want to get
up and dance!



So if I am not those things, then what things am I?

Well, I know I love to ride my bike.  I love to feel the wind greeting my face and running down my back when I race down a hill.  Jumping on a big trampoline when the winds are strong also thrills me to no end.

Making rosaries and giving them away is one of my favorite hobbies.

I smile and laugh as much as I can, but it's hard to do when I haven't had enough sleep.  Sleep.  Ohhh, I love my sleep.  Sleep is like a prayer for me.

Shoes.  Those are fun.  I like to shop for shoes, but mostly I like to shop for gifts that I plan to give to my friends and family.

My favorite color is purple.

Mornings, as beautiful as they are, are my least favorite time of the day.  Can people be nocturnal?  I'm pretty sure I'm nocturnal.  To me the dark is like peace and quiet for my eyes.

Shopping at big businesses bothers me.  I love to shop at thrift stores!  Recycling everything is fun, especially clothing.  I recycle almost every scrap of paper I don't use.  If a plastic container is labeled as 'non-recyclable' in my area because of a number on the bottom, I send it in anyway.  Recycling food would be fantastic, too.  I wish we had a compost pile at our house.  One day I might try using handkerchiefs instead of tissue, but I haven't gotten brave enough just yet.

My secret dream, which is now not so secret, is to live on and operate a farm with lots of food and lots of animals.  It MUST include horses.  I could definitely do composting there.


ME
I am a writer
and a dreamer.
I am a sister, a friend, a daughter.
I am compassionate
and imperfect.
I love God and His creation, especially people and animals.
I love to dance and sing, even if
I'm not the best at it.
I love the ocean
the desert
the mountains.
I love my family
which includes my friends
and the Felicians.
I love to be silly and laugh
as often and as frequently as possible.
Simply,
I love to be.


This is the real me, the me who has been called to religious life and who is being challenged to develop gifts and talents that she didn't know she had, or didn't know she'd have to have.  I was scared that this "me" was trapped inside of the teacher and the 'nun', but I think I've figured out that the real me holds within her a Felician Sister who is learning how to be a teacher.  Yeah, that's me :)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

To be Consecrated


Sister Claire processing in with the cross
On Thursday, August 15, 2013, I made my first profession of vows as a Felician Franciscan Sister.  I deepened my baptismal commitment by professing the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience (explained here in another blog).  I was surrounded by Sisters, family and friends, all of whom have been and continue to be a wonderful display of God's affection for me.

Depiction of the Assumption at RR convent
August 15th is a major day for our community and for me in many ways.  Our Felician community is particularly fond of the Blessed Virgin Mary because of her selfless "Yes" to God which gave flesh and bone to God's own Son, making Him a brother to the entire human race.  The 15th of August is known as the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary because it is that day the Church celebrates her assumption into heaven.  Each of our central Felician convents is named after Mary in her honor; the convent in Rio Rancho is named The Convent of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which means that August 15th is the day they celebrate their own special feast.  Each of the Sisters has her own personal feast day as well, so any Sister who has the same name as a saint would celebrate her feast day on the feast day of the saint.  For example, a Sister named Rose would typically celebrate on August 23rd because that is the feast day of St. Rose of Lima.  Because there is not (yet) a St. Desire', I chose a Marian feast.  I could have picked any day on which we celebrate the Virgin Mary, but I chose the Feast of the Assumption.  So not only is August 15th the feast day of the convent where I met the Felicians as well as my own personal feast day, but it was also my grandmother's birthday -- the woman whose faith has been a large part of my own faith formation.


As I stood in front of my ever-growing family, I spoke these words in order to profess the vows I have chosen to live:

I, Sister Desire' Anne-Marie, vow to Almighty God chastity, poverty and obedience for one year
according to the Constitutions of the Sisters of St. Felix of Cantalice,
and I promise to live according to the Rule of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis.
 
I choose Jesus for my spouse and Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary for my mother and lady,
the seraphic St. Francis for my model of evangelical life,
and this Congregation for my family.
 
I make my profession into the hands of Sister Mary Christopher, Provincial Minister,
and I entrust my vows to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
 
To which the presider said:
 
And I promise you on the part of Almighty God and in the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
that if you observe all this, you shall receive life everlasting.
+In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
 
And I responded with "Amen"!
 
After professing the vows, I received the symbols of my religious profession.  I was given a black veil to replace my white one which proclaims that I now belong entirely to Christ and am dedicated to the service of the Church.  I received the crucifix which serves as a reminder to me of God's infinite love for His people.  I was given the Rule of St. Francis and the Constitutions of our community that I may maintain them as my way of life.  The candle I received represents the light of Christ, which serves to enlighten those who chose to be His apostles.  This all took place throughout the Mass, and as a final blessing, all raised their hands over me to pray in the words of Blessed Mary Angela, our foundress:
 
 
 "May the Lord give you a humble love which expands itself, a generous love which forgets itself, a strong love which is not afraid of pain, a stable love which does not change, a patient love which can bear everything, a fervent love which never weakens, a constant love which never falters.  Amen."
 Afterward we took many pictures (posted below), followed by good food and company!
 
With Council members, my former director, and Mass celebrants
My sister Johnele and her lovely family!
Aunts, Uncles, Cousin, Mom and baby sis :)

Dad and Grandparents

Viola who, with her daughter Rachel, played for the Mass
Linda who also did a lot for the music of the Mass!
All photographs posted on this blog were taken by Evelyn Hornbarger, a young woman of the LDS church whose own faith and kindness have been an inspiration!  She also wrote a blog on the event which you can access here.  I will post more photos from the ceremony itself when I have a bit more time as well as some antics from recent Pomona Catholic high school adventures.
 
Thank you for continuing to be a part of my journey!  May we bring one another to heaven :)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Room Number 203

That's me!  I officially have my own classroom: Room 203.  I will be teaching Religion, Spanish and Dance at the Pomona Catholic All Girls High School (PC) in Pomona, CA.  I can't believe it!  I have been waiting to return here since my visit in February of 2011 and here I am.  It seems as if California has been my home, as if my heart has been waiting here for me all along and we've finally come back together again.  Since I know God manifests His love for us in guardian angels, I have asked the Lord for special help from the angels this year, so I know this will be a blessed time indeed!  So far Sister Feliz (who is in administration at PC) has been by my side, introducing me to people, helping me set up my classroom and sharing her experiences with me.  Help from the angels has already come!  Thank You, God, and thank you everyone who has been praying for me and supporting me all this time.  Below are some photos of my classroom and the lovely dance room next to it :)


View from back, left corner of the classroom.
View from front, left corner of the classroom.



View from front, right corner of the classroom.


View from back, right corner of the classroom.


Main door is on the right in this photo, with the windows along the wall behind the student's desks.

 
My favorite bulletin board (Papal blessing in bottom corner).
My other favorite bulletin board.

Bulletin board with Spanish calendar and world map.

Teacher's Desk... I mean, my desk :)

The Dance Room!


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Two Months, Three Vows

As a novice with the Felician Sisters (much like a novice in any religious community), I am currently practicing the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, but have not yet officially professed them.  That is what I am getting ready for in just two short months!  With God's consent, I will make my first vows with the Felicians this August at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Convent in Rio Rancho, NM.  Soon enough I will have an update on how everything goes, but at the moment I am in prep mode, which is what I'd like to share with you now!

As you may have read in my previous post, I spent six weeks ministering at an early childcare center and elementary school in Milwaukee, WI.  I had many wonderful experiences there -- which is no surprise when God is in charge! -- and found that these experiences extended into my daily routine as well.

Very close to our convent were three healthcare facilities: a hospital, a rehabilitation center and an assisted living home.  Several of our Sisters minister in each of these capacities, so I had the opportunity to visit a couple of them.  I went to evening Mass regularly at Villa St. Francis, which is the assisted living home.  Sometimes I was able to stay afterward and talk with a few of the residents and once in a while I helped them to their places at table for dinner afterward.  I eventually began helping at Mass as a Eucharistic Minister as well.  On one such occassion I made my way with Communion through the rows and came up to one small lady in the back.  I held up the Host and said, "The Body of Christ."  To my surprise and delight she responded, "And you are His forever."  It is a rare occasion in which someone will respond with something other than "Amen", since that is the practice, but never have I been greeted with a response so unexpected and loving as this one.  When I went home that evening, I continued to reflect on her words, and I still do, as they speak of the commitment into which I am entering as I prepare for my first profession of vows.

The vows, as you may or may not know, are basically three promises we make to God in order to deepen our relationship with Him, ourselves and others.  The vows we take (which are the vows most religious communities take) are poverty, chastity and obedience.  In promising to live a life of poverty, I will promise to God to live a life of simplicity so that I can fill my life with His presence.  It does not mean that I must live with nothing, but it does mean that I should not be concerned with obtaining more than I need and that I should be willing to share what I do have.  In vowing chastity, I am entering into a spousal relationship with God alone.  My family will be the family He chooses for me, the people with whom and to whom I minister in my daily life.  The vow of obedience asks me to listen to the teachings of the Catholic Church.  If there are teachings that I do not understand, or even teachings that I do not agree with, it is my responsibility to learn more about the root of those teachings so that I may live with them in patience.  In terms of community life, the vow of obedience invites us to listen to one another and consider prayerfully what the Lord might be asking of us as individuals and as a community.

You see, then, why this woman's words had such an impact.  Basically she was saying to me, "You
are committed to the Body of Christ forever."  What a commitment!  This means I am to serve my brothers and sisters -- that means all of you! -- in simplicity (poverty), charity (chastity) and humility (obedience).  The words themselves do not sound daunting until I really think of what that means.  It means that I must be willing to give my whole life, my very self, in the same way that Jesus did.  There is a reason He asks, "Can you drink the cup that I ... drink?" (Mt. 20:22).  He knows what courage and fidelity this requires!  If I belong to His body, then this is what I am called to do for the rest of my life as a way of life.  There are two things that give me hope 1) the Resurrection and 2) the fact that "for human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible" (Mt. 19:26).

Although this first profession of vows is not quite permanent, since they only last for one year until I renew them again, I know I need to be prepared to live these vows fully for the year that I do profess them.  They will add a new dimension to my life in community and to the discernment process as I attempt to deepen the relationships I have been working on interiorly throughout these past two years in the novitiate.  I trust all of you will continue to pray for me as I do for you!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Life Lived in Milwaukee

I arrived in Milwaukee, WI on April 1st and remained in ministry there until Thursday, May 16th.  I spent most of my days at St. Joseph’s Academy where a high percentage of the students and their families speak Spanish.  We accept children for childcare from the age of six weeks to three years old.  The school, located on the upper levels, begins with Kindergarten and goes up to the second grade.  Four of our Sisters in the area minister there as well.  Sister Mary Brendan helps guide the mission and ministry team; Sister Mary Camille goes in early every morning to open the building and greet all with smiles from the front desk; Sister Mary Susan happily spends her days with the infants; and Sister Mary Victoria brings joy and organization to the library.

As for me, I got to visit almost every classroom!  Each morning at St. Joseph’s I began in the childcare area with infants and toddlers, helping to feed babies and wipe runny noses when needed.  I was always greeted with tiny hands holding up books for me to read, but try as I might, I could never keep up with the high demand.  In the afternoon I would go upstairs to work with the school-aged children where I either floated among small-group activities, or worked one-on-one with students who needed the extra help.  The children and I would work on letter and number recognition and I enjoyed watching them improve as the weeks went on.  José is one of the students with whom I worked regularly.  When we first started out he said to me, “I have to learn this so I can go to first grade,” but he was never unhappy about the extra work.  In fact, one Friday he said to me, “This is fun!  I wish it was school tomorrow so we could do this again.”  For learning a second language while at the same time adjusting to a school environment and new concepts, these children never seem to believe it is impossible or even too difficult.  They are true examples of perseverance.

Other than the classroom, I got to spend time with Sister Victoria in the library where I was able to read with the first and second grade classes.  Many of the children began asking about the Bible and wanted me to read them stories about Jesus, or explain to them how to make the sign of the cross.  I also had an opportunity to attend a Brewer’s baseball game as a chaperone with a kindergarten class.  It was wonderful just to watch them on the bus ride over and see them simply enjoying life as children.
 
Praying the rosary at Holy Wisdom Academy
From May 6th – 10th, I was with Sister Mary Rosalie at Holy Wisdom Academy.  I got to know Sister Rosalie’s 4th grade homeroom class as I helped with art projects and homework.  By the end of the week I gave a total of nine vocation talks.  It was extremely enjoyable!  Thanks to the help of many Sisters in Chicago, I was able to give out several water bottles, hundreds of rosaries, buttons, lanyards and a few Felician magazines.  The students, in turn, gifted me with hundreds of questions!  In speaking with grades 3 – 8, I am sure you can imagine the questions I received: “Are you allowed to go to the mall?”; “Can Sisters paint their nails?”; “Do you have a cell phone?”  I also received a question I had never gotten before.  A fourth grade girl with her hand raised asked, “If you weren’t a Sister, what do you think you’d be doing now?”  It was a question I attempted to answer at the moment, but one I think I will continue to reflect upon as I consider how much I feel I have grown during my time in community.

Overall, I enjoyed getting to know the Sisters in Milwaukee by spending time with them in ministry and in their homes.  It was difficult to leave, but I look forward to whatever God has planned in the coming months, especially as three of us novices prepare to make our first vows.  Please keep us in your prayers and thanks for all of your support thus far!


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Discernment Retreat 2013 - Enfield, CT


Four of the women last year with famous bread maker, "Sister Apples"
Ever thought religious life might be for you?  If you would like to get to know the Felicians and  spend some time in prayer to consider the possibility, there will be a Discernment Retreat from May 31 to June 2 in Enfield, CT! You will spend some time with the four of us novices and get to meet our lovely Sisters at Our Lady of the Angels Convent.  Last year we had dinner and prayers together and plenty of time to visit.  There will be time for quiet and time for you to talk with other women who are also considering the possibility.  If you're interested you can call Sister Mary Beth at 815-200-2393 or email her at smarybeth@feliciansisters.org.  She can answer any questions you may have concerning transportation, food, or lodging.  So don't be shy, we would love to have you there!

Praying together in Chapel
The women who come to visit always enjoy the company they find in the Sisters and with each other.  No one ever wants to leave!  In fact, two of the women who attended in October 2012 decided to become Candidates, so they are now journeying together with us.  The retreat is not meant to be a commitment of any sort, just some time for you to see if this might be where God is calling you.  In praying about whether or not this might be the place for you, you will definitely find friendship and insights that will last beyond the weekend.  I always enjoy getting to know the women who are thinking about religious life and oftentimes we stay in touch afterward.  It's exciting for me to talk with others about how God is working in their lives, especially when we find similar patterns in our stories!  If you have any questions about religious life in general before attending the retreat weekend, I would be glad to try and provide some answers.  You can post a question in the comment section below or send an email my way at desimarie@feliciansisters.org.

May God continue to bless and keep you during this Easter season!



Thursday, March 28, 2013

Heaven Is Not Far From Earth

On the Feast of St. Joseph, which was Tuesday, March 19th, I had the opportunity to travel into Pittsburgh and visit one of its treasured sites.  I visited the Shrine of St. Anthony which is home to almost 5,000 relics -- the second largest collection in the world outside of the Vatican.

Not assuming that all readers would know what a relic is, it is a piece of an object that was either owned by or a part of someone who was deeply connected to God.  For example, there are relics of Saints which hold threads that come from a part of their clothing.  Other relics might include strands of hair, or a cloth that simply touched the person.  We do not worship relics, only hold them sacred because they connect us to someone who was so connected to God, therefore bringing us the feeling that we ourselves are a bit closer to Him through the good example of their lives and their faith.  Even in Jesus's day people didn't have to touch His person to be healed, as we recall from the story of the woman with the hemorrhage.  All she did was touch His cloak and her ailments of twelve years disappeared forever (Mk 5:25-34).

On my way to the Shrine, I didn't really think much about what I might find there.  I hardly knew the number of relics they had, assuming it was merely in the hundreds.  The first half of the small Chapel held the Stations of the Cross, reminding visitors of God-made-man who came to be with us and eventually died for us.  The second half of the Chapel was full of the relics, but even as I walked in I didn't fully understand what I had just become a part of.

The tour guide was a young Seminarian studying to become a Priest.  He spoke about the history of the place and the man who started it all, Father Suitbert Godfrey Mollinger of Germany.  He went on to talk about the relics in the Chapel -- how they got there, how many there were, their authenticity, etc. -- and then began to tell us about the specific ones we might be interested in.  Even when I heard him say there were almost 5,000 relics in the Chapel, it never really occurred to me as to what sort of relics I would encounter.  He led us to a case which was neatly displayed and had small images inside.  "As you might know," he began, "today is the Feast of St. Joseph.  Inside here, we have a relic which is a piece of his cloak."  My eyes widened, "St. Joseph?!" I thought to myself, "The man who raised Jesus?!"  But the tour guide continued, "And up here, where you see the image of Our Lady, is a relic which holds a piece of her veil."  I almost fell to my knees!  And yet, I was not done being overwhelmed, because then he said, "And in the middle here is a piece of the cross on which Jesus was crucified."  I had to sit down.  I went away to a pew in the first part of the Chapel and just put my face in my hands.  My mind was so full I could hardly think!

"Calm down," I finally scolded myself, "Be quiet and breathe a little already!"  I let my heart pound it out for a few more minutes and then was reminded of a book I had recently finished.  The book had placed Jesus in our times, forming words and actions He might produce based on the words and actions of His life from Scripture.  In this book, the figure who represented Jesus was explaining to His friends that "heaven is where God is, and God is everywhere, so heaven is everywhere, all around you.  [It] is in a world... just on the other side of a thin veil of time.  If you could close your eyes and walk through that veil, you could be there.  It is that close."  I realized then, that I had come up to the edge of that veil.  I was now standing before pieces of the life of our Savior, in the midst of the holy prayers and sacrifices of others who had come before me: and they were not dead.  They are alive and fully experiencing God on the other side of that veil, and here I was, being drawn into that life!  A life where God's love is unmasked and without end.  Yes, I was overwhelmed.

I think some people in our lives can sometimes be like living relics, bringing us closer to God through their kindness and good examples of faith, hope and love.  Entering into this Holy Week, Jesus shared a bit of His cross with me and I began to feel its weight pressing down upon me.  As I reached out to new friends and seasoned role models, I received a wealth of wisdom.  More than being comforting, the words these saints had to offer were words that spoke of God's commitment to me and mine to Him.  "JUMP, Sister!  Jump in with both feet!" said one of these great women, reminding me that commitment involves wholehearted sacrifice.  Another said to me, "If God is asking this of you, then He must trust you can handle it."  In the midst of everything, I received much affirmation, but I also received insights as to how I could grow through this in order to become more of the woman God is calling me to be.

"A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; He who finds one finds a treasure."
This Holy Week has been a very unique experience, and though like Simon I was reluctant to help Jesus carry His cross, I now know what it means for God's love to be eternal.  His love flows forth from the lives of people who jumped in with both feet and from the lives of those who continue to do so every day.  It is this unending love of past and present that ignores time and brings a piece of our heavenly home to earth.

http://www.saintanthonyschapel.org/